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UEFA investigates Turkey for military salute in Euro qualifiers

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Turkish players saluted at the end of their draw against France at the Stade de France. © AFP / Alain JOCARD

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Oct 15 – UEFA announced on Tuesday that it is opening disciplinary proceedings against Turkey into “potential provocative political behaviour” by their players after making military salutes in their last two matches.

In both their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Albania on Friday and France on Monday, Turkish players made the salutes — seen as supporting Turkey’s current military operation in Syria — as they celebrated late goals.

UEFA said in a statement that it has appointed an ‘Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector’ to investigate.

On Friday in Istanbul, players saluted after Cenk Tosun scored the only goal against Albania in the 90th minute. On Monday in Paris, they repeated the gesture after Kaan Ayhan equalised with nine minutes to play and again after the final whistle.

France and Turkey drew 1-1 amid mounting tensions after Paris condemned Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria.

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey’s sports minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu voiced support for players who saluted the country’s soldiers during their game at the Stade de France.

Kasapoglu said the controversy was unwarranted, and pointed to the fact that French star Antoine Griezmann had also given a military salute to French President Emmanuel Macron in June.

“Those who remained quiet about Griezmann’s military salute are trying to distort our national footballers’ nice salute,” Kasapoglu said in a televised press conference, holding up a picture of Griezmann’s salute.

He said critics were trying to distract from Turkey’s success in staying top of the qualifying group.

“Those who are trying to block out their failure on the pitch should give up on their efforts. The result is clear,” Kasapoglu said.

Kasapoglu also warned UEFA to be “prudent” in its investigation of the salutes.

European football’s ruling body UEFA had already said it would “examine” the salute against Albania.

“Personally, I have not seen this gesture, which could be considered a provocation,” UEFA’s press chief Philip Townsend told the Italian Ansa news agency on Monday before the France game.

“Does the regulation prohibit references to politics and religion? Yes, and I can guarantee you that we will look at this situation.”

In Turkey, it is common for celebrities, including footballers, to show their support for the security forces after attacks or during military operations.

At the world gymnastics championships in Stuttgart on Saturday, Ibrahim Colak made a military-style salute on the podium after winning gold in the men’s rings event.

Turkey’s operation against Kurdish militants in Syria, launched a week ago, has been widely criticised by the international community but has drawn widespread support at home.

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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