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Keeping his legacy alive

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BOGOTA-So-called sweeperkeepers such as Manchester City’s Ederson, his Brazilian compatriot Alisson Becker at Liverpool and Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer are all the rage in modern soccer.

But until FIFA changed the backpass rule 30 years ago, goalkeepers were rarely expected to use their feet to take part in the team’s build-up play other than to punt the ball upfield. They could take their time and throw the ball.

Former Colombia international goalkeeper Rene Higuita-famed for his outrageous overhead scorpion kick-claims he was responsible for the rule change.

“Football greats like Pele and (Diego) Maradona … (were) very good players, but they didn’t change a rule at FIFA,” Higuita told AFP by video call.

In Colombia, the decision to ban goalkeepers picking up a back pass with their hands is known as the “Higuita Rule”.

World soccer’s governing body FIFA decided to act after the 1990 World Cup in Italy came in for huge criticism for dull matches that produced a record low 2.2 goals per game.

Higuita, now 55, argues that in that tournament, he showed the way forward.

FIFA banned the back pass at the next Olympic Games in Barcelona in the summer of 1992, initially to confusion and ire.

“FIFA put an end to something that was awful, in the 1990 World Cup almost all the teams played backward, giving the ball to the goalkeeper,” historian Luciano Wernicke told AFP.

At that World Cup, goalkeepers such as Argentina’s Sergio Goycochea, Luis Gabelo Conejo of Costa Rica and Italy’s Walter Zenga “had the ball in their hands for a huge amount of time,” added Wernicke, an Argentinian.

Higuita stood out, not just for his frizzy locks, but also for his fearlessness with the ball at his feet and an ability to create attacking situations with his passes.

It was not all glory. Higuita’s ball-playing ultimately cost his side.

In the last 16, Higuita was tackled far outside his penalty box by Cameroon’s Roger Milla while trying to dribble past the forward.

Milla then raced away to score the winner and eliminate Colombia. His dancing celebrations of his two goals in that 2-1 win became iconic moments at the tournament.

‘Clueless’ keepers

Higuita, known as “El Loco” (the madman) also took penalties and freekicks, scoring 43 goals in his career.

“Now football is much faster, there’s more movement, every day the goalkeeper has to work a little more on his feet to give something to the team,” said Higuita, who is convinced that he was the reason for the rule change.

While Wernicke recognizes Higuita was unique, he disputes that theory.

“It’s not that the law changed because of Higuita but rather because of all the many goalkeepers who weren’t like Higuita.”

Many keepers, such as Barcelona great Andoni Zubizarreta, were against the new rule, arguing to El Pais newspaper in 1992 that it would “limit the goalkeeper”.

Higuita smiles mischievously when remembering how “clueless “keepers struggled to adapt.

Santiago Canizares, who played for Spain at the 1992 Olympics, recently spoke about how the back-pass rule made him nervous.

“It was a surprise for us,” he told Olympics.com. “We didn’t know that this could become part of our lives.”

The impact was immediate with the next World Cup in the United States in 1994 producing 2.7 goals per game, the highest figure since 1970.

“It is the best rule change in the last 40 years, it made football more dynamic,” said Wernicke.

Whether or not he was responsible, Higuita supports other measures that could help reduce time wasting in soccer-for instance, stopping the clock when the ball goes out of play.

“There is a lot of talk about introducing ‘real time’ like they have in basketball, and that’s not a bad idea,” said Higuita.

Should that happen, Higuita might take the credit.

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FIFA World Cup: Fans won’t need Covid jabs but negative tests required

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Qatari organisers issue World Cup guidelines to deal with Covid-19 as football’s governing body FIFA says they want the event to be a sign the world is getting over the devastating pandemic.

Coronavirus vaccinations will not be mandatory for the million-plus fans going to the World Cup in Qatar this year, the Gulf state has said.

But players and match officials may be forced into a secure “bio-bubble” if Covid-19 cases take off again, with the threat of expulsion from the tournament for those who breach the secure environment, the health ministry said on Thursday.

The 29-day tournament will be the first major global sporting event with fans since the eruption in December 2019 of the Covid pandemic, which has since killed more than six million people.

Qatar’s health ministry warned in its World Cup guidelines that special measures would be ordered “in the event of a worsening pandemic situation in the country”, such as the emergence of a threatening new variant.

With Covid-19 currently considered under control, “there will be no vaccination requirement for participants and visiting spectators,” the ministry said.

All visitors aged over six will have to produce negative Covid-19 tests before taking flights to Qatar for the tournament that starts on November 20.

Fans will have to wear masks in public transport but authorities are only recommending the use of masks at the eight stadiums in the Doha region where matches will be played.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 in Qatar will have to isolate for five days, the guidelines added.

READ MORE: Qatar World Cup final stadium tested with first sellout crowd

READ MORE: FIFA increases squad limit to 26 players for 2022 Qatar World Cup

Bio-bubble ready

Organisers and FIFA are most worried about the first two weeks of the tournament when four matches a day are planned and the peak number of supporters from the 32 competing nations will be packing stadiums, fan zones and tourist spots.

Some estimates say there could be up to 350,000 visiting fans in Doha at the same time during the weekend of November 26-27.

Officials say Doha airport and the city’s roads will be facing peak pressure that weekend.

Because of the pressure on accommodation, only fans with tickets can enter Qatar from November 1, though each person with a ticket is allowed to invite three guests.

Each person entering the country must download a special fan pass, a Hayya card, and Qatar’s anti-Covid health application, Ehteraz.

The app has to be shown at the entrance to metro stations and most shopping malls.

“If metro stations and malls want to check the app, then people need to be ready for some queues,” said one tourism consultant who is advising a major chain of hotels in Qatar.

Other measures may also be difficult to enforce because of the sheer numbers, experts said.

The ministry is recommending one metre (three feet) space between diners in cafes and restaurants.

Virtually every team at the World Cup will have players who have refused to have vaccines, officials acknowledged.

England’s Premier League said this year that 15 percent of players had refused vaccines.

Qatar’s health ministry said it would force players, referees and officials to stay in a secure “bio-bubble” if coronavirus cases take off “to allow for the safe operation and continuation of the event.”

Hotel rooms, training facilities and transport to and from stadiums would all be sealed off.

“Breaching the bubble arrangement may result in an immediate dismissal of the violator from the event and removal from event hotel and accommodation,” the ministry said.

READ MORE: Qatar sends 1,300 buses onto streets in World Cup transport test

Source: TRTWorld

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Roger Federer hails ‘amazing journey’ as he bows out of tennis with defeat

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Tearful tennis star ends his remarkable career with an agonising doubles defeat alongside long-time rival Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup in London.

A tearful Roger Federer has said he had been on an “amazing journey” after the final match of his outstanding tennis career ended in a defeat partnering long-time rival Rafael Nadal in doubles at the Laver Cup.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, 41, and Nadal, playing for Team Europe, went down 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 9-11 against Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday and into Saturday.

“We’ll get through this somehow,” said Federer while being interviewed on the court at London’s O2 Arena by fellow Grand Slam winner Jim Courier.

“It’s been a wonderful day,” added the Swiss star, playing for the first time since Wimbledon 2021 because of a knee injury.

“I told the guys I’m happy, not sad. It feels great to be here. I enjoyed tying my shoelaces one more, everything was the last time.

“I didn’t feel the stress so much even though I thought maybe something was going to go, like a calf, but the match was great.

“Playing with Rafa and having all the greats here, all the legends, thank you.”

Having paid tribute to his wife and parents for their support, Federer added: “It does feel like a celebration…It’s been an amazing journey.”

Source: TRT World 

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Djokovic has no ‘regrets’ about missing Slams due to unvaccinated status

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Novak Djokovic has missed two of this year’s four Grand Slams due to not being vaccinated against the novel coronavirus but the Serbian said he has no regrets about his decision.

“No, I don’t have any regrets,” Djokovic told reporters on Thursday on the eve of the Laver Cup in London. “I mean, I do feel sad that I wasn’t able to play, but, you know, that was decision that I made.”

“I knew what the consequences will be, so I accepted them. That’s it.”

“I’m waiting for the news,” the former world number one added. “It’s really not in my hands right now. I’m hoping I can get some positive news soon.”

Unable to compete

Djokovic won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles in 2021 but was unable to defend his Melbourne Park crown this year after being deported on the eve of the hardcourt major due to his unvaccinated status.

The 35-year-old Serb, who has won 21 Grand Slam titles, was also unable to travel to New York for the US Open.

Djokovic has not played since winning Wimbledon in July after he was forced to sit out the ATP Tour’s North American hardcourt swing due to his unvaccinated status.

Djokovic received a three-year travel ban for Australia when he was deported, but then Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it could be waived to allow him to participate in later editions of the major.

READ MORE: Unvaccinated Djokovic out of Montreal ATP event

Source: TRT

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