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Ronaldo wins FIFA's player of the year award ZURICH, JanUaRy 10 (ReUteRs): Cristiano Ronaldo won FIFA's player of the year award for the fourth time on Monday, beating his old rival Lionel Messi who was pulled out of the ceremony only a few hours earlier by his club Barcelona. Italian Claudio Ranieri won the coach of the year award for leading rank outsiders Leicester City to the English Premier League title. Ronaldo was rewarded for his performance in 2016 when he won the Champions League with his club Real Madrid and then Euro 2016 with Portugal. Fivetimes winner and fourtimes runner-up Messi was second and Frenchman Antoine Griezmann third. Barcelona said that We d n e s d a y ' s g a m e against Athletic Bilbao would take priority over the ceremony and that none of their invited players would travel, which

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with the trophy. (Reuters Photo)

disappointed Ronaldo. "I would like Messi to have been here today but they have an important game on Wednesday and we can understand that," he said after accepting the

award from FIFA president Gianni Infantino. "I don't have much more to say, I think the awards speak for themselves," he added. "I'm very happy and I can say that

2016 was the best year of my career, the trophy shows that people aren't blind and watch the games." FIFA, which organised the award jointly with France Football magazine

from 2010 to 2015 when it was named the Ballon d'Or, rebranded it as "The Best" this year after splitting with the French publication. France Football continued with its own award which was also won by Ronaldo last month. The ceremony, previously held at the Kongresshaus theatre in central Zurich, this year took place in the much more modest setting of a television studio on an industrial estate near the airport. Ronaldo previously won in 2008, 2013, 2014 with Messi second on each occasion. Messi won from 2009-12 and then again in 2015 with Ronaldo second on every occasion except in 2010 when Andres Iniesta was runner-up. Ranieri said he was "crazy" after winning the coach's award ahead of Fernando Santos, who led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title. "I am crazy now," he

said. "What happened last season in England was something strange. The football gods said Leicester must win." Colombian side Atletico Nacional were given the Fair Play Award for conceding to Copa Sudamericana title to Brazilian side Chapecoense, whose team was decimated when a plane taking to the final crashed, killing 71 people. "We did nothing more than what we had to do.... handing them this trophy as a gesture of hope," said club president, Juan Carlos de La Cuesta. American Carli Lloyd won the women's player of the year award for the second year in a row. Mohd Faiz Subri, of Malaysian Super League side Penang, won the goal of the year award for a 35-metre free kick in which the ball dipped and swung in a bewildering fashion to leave the goalkeeper stranded.

Ronaldo lambasts media campaign against him

MaDRID, JanUaRy 10 (aFP): Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo claimed he had to overcome media "campaigns" against him to winFIFA's inaugural "The Best" prize for the world's best player in 2016. Ronaldo lifted the award at a star-studded ceremony in Zurich on Monday after a glittering year on the pitch saw him lead Madrid to Champions League glory and captain Portugal to their first ever major international triumph at Euro 2016. However, Ronaldo's year was blighted by reports from an international consortium of media organisations in December that claimed a huge data leak involving 18 million documents showed the Portuguese hid 150 million euros ($160 million) from image rights in the British Virgin Islands. Ronaldo, 31, has strongly denied all claims of wrongdoing. "There were many doubts, many campaigns against me from inside and outsidefootball," Ronaldo told Spanish radio station COPE. "They wanted to hit me from all sides and the truth is The Best was The Best and that is me, so I am very happy. "They wanted me to feel bad, but as I have said 'he who owes nothing, fears nothing in life'. As always, I have shut up a few mouths once again." The Spanish tax authorities have committed to investigating the allegations against Ronaldo and a series of other Spanish-based sports stars named in the "Football Leaks" investigation.

Kerber loses her opening match in Sydney Sharapova to make comeback after doping ban in Stuttgart C M Y K

syDney, JanUaRy 10 (aP): Top-ranked Angelique Kerber lost her opening match at the Sydney International on Tuesday, upset 7-6 (5), 6-2 by Darya Kasatkina in a setback ahead of her Australian Open title defense next week. Kerber, who won last year's Australian and U.S. Open for her first major titles, has opened the new season with one win in two tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney. The Australian Open starts Monday in Melbourne. Kasatkina broke Kerber's serve five times and registered her first win ever against a top five player. She moved into a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Johanna Konta, who beat Daria Gavrilova 6-1, 6-3. Eugenie Bouchard continued her resurgent run heading into the season's first major with a 6-4, 6-3 win over WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova to reach the quarterfinals in Sydney. Bouchard improved her career record to 4-1 against Cibulkova, who was ranked No. 5 and was voted the WTA's comeback player of the year in 2016 after her title win at the seasonending championship. Bouchard had an early break in the second set, but dropped serve and allowed Cibulkova, a finalist at the 2014 Australian Open, a way back into the match. But the Canadian star broke again quickly and

held onto the advantage, and later attributed her recent improvement to a reunion with coach Thomas Hogstedt. Bouchard had a breakout season in 2014, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open before making the final at Wimbledon. But she has only gone past the fourth round at a major once since then and slipped to No. 46 at the end of last year. After winning back-to-back matches at a tournament for the first time since August in Cincinnati, she will play a quarterfinal against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki beat Yulia Putintseva 6-0, 7-5 to move into a quarterfinal against Barbora Strycova, who ousted No. 9-seeded Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-3. No. 2-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska had a 7-6 (1), 6-1 win over Christina McHale and will next play Chinese qualifier Duan Yingyang.

In men's first-round matches, Alex De Minaur beat Benoit Paire 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (1), Andrey Kuznetsov was leading 2-6, 6-1, 3-0 when No. 7-seeded Martin Klizan retired, and No. 6 Gilles Muller advanced over Alexandr Dolgopolov. At the Hobart International, third-seeded Monica Niculescu moved into the quarterfinals by beating Kirsten Flipkens 6-3, 6-2, and Veronica Cepede Royg had a 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 win over Andrea Petkovic. At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, fifth-seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinola lost 6-1, 7-5 in the first round to friend and training partner Joao Sousa, and No. 8-seeded Marcos Baghdatis beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-4. Ramos-Vinola, ranked 27, and Portugal's Sousa, ranked 44, are both based in Barcelona and are supporters of the city's rival football clubs and Sousa described their match as "a kind of a derby."

Nagaland fighter wins Gold at Federation Cup Muay Thai C’ship Shührazhüo A Mao Dimapur | January 10

Hemavi Ayemi (25) of Shozukhu Village, Khaghaboto area, Dimapur, has won the 5th Federation Cup Muay Thai Championship, 2017. Trained at The Combat Academy (TCA)-Nagaland, Hemavi represented Nagaland at the Championship held at the Tepesia Sports Complex in Sonapur, Assam from the January 5 to 8. "I thank my friends, my TCA team and my Coach Khriemelie for training and preparing me for the fight. Thank you Jesus for this victory," Hemavi said after winning the competition. He won three bouts en route to his gold medal in the senior division lightweight (under 71kgs) category. He knocked out his final opponent in 1 minute 20 seconds of the first round itself. Hemavi works as administration co-worker at Faith Harvest Church Naharbari, Dimapur. He lives

Hemavi Ayemi (Right) with his Gold Medal at the tournament.

at The Combat Academy gym itself and helps coach its members as a form of livelihood to support his sporting activities. He first competed in Mixed Martial Arts in 2014 at the first ever Yoddha fighting championship event in Dimapur. He has previously won Bronze at the Evolution Grappling Indian Open (Brazilian Jiu-jitsu) tournament in Mumbai and silver at the Nagaland state Taekwondo championships in 2014.

Khriemelie Metha, proprietor of The Combat Academy, said, “I always believe good things happen to good people and Hemavi is among the nicest hearted people I’ve had the privilege to meet. The strength he takes from the Lord Almighty God is truly inspiring.” He also added that he and everyone from the TCA team heartily congratulate him on his much deserved victory. (The writer is currently an intern at The Morung Express)

LOnDOn, JanUaRy 10 (aP): Maria Sharapova will return from her 15-month doping ban at a tournament in Germany in April. Car manufacturer Porsche, which sponsors both Sharapova and the event in Stuttgart, said Tuesday that Sharapova has been given a wild-card entry into the tournament. It will be her first official competition since she tested positive for meldonium at last year's Australian Open. "I could not be happier to have my first match back on tour at one of my fa-

vorite tournaments," said the 29-year-old Sharapova, who won the Stuttgart tournament from 2012-14. "I can't wait? to see all my

IOA apologises, revokes Life Prez posts to Kalmadi and Chautala new DeLHI, JanUaRy 10 (Ians): The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has revoked the decision to appoint scam-tainted former chiefs Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as its Life Presidents. In a letter to the Ministry of Sports dated January 9, IOA President N. Ramachandran claimed that the national Olympic body has not passed any resolution to honour the controversial duo. The IOA's decision to appoint Kalmadi and Chautala as Life Presidents invited severe criticism from various quarters with the sports ministry issuing a show-cause notice before suspending the deemed recognition of the national Olympic body. Following the suspension, the IOA has ceased to enjoy the privileges and prerogatives bestowed on it by the government as the National Olympic Committee (NOC). All government assistance, financial or otherwise, to the IOA has also been stopped. However, following Ramachandran's letter, Sports Minister Vijay Goel welcomed the IOA's decision to reconsider installing Kalmadi and Chatala as Life Presidents. The IOC also annulled Chautala's election for a second term as the IOA chief. He too faced corruption charges. Chautala is currently in jail over corruption in recruitment of teachers for government schools in Haryana.

great fans and to be back doing what I love." Sharapova will be eligible to return on April 26, the third day of main-draw

play, which could leave her facing a busy schedule of matches in order to win a fourth Stuttgart title. "I'm sure the fans will be excited to see her play," WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. The Russian will have to rely on wild-card invites to tournaments, including Grand Slams, for a while because her ban means she has fallen out of the world rankings, which only count tournament performances over the preceding 12 months.

Sharapova was originally banned for two years but that was reduced on appeal in October. She said she had used meldonium for years for medical reasons and was not aware it had been banned for 2016. During her ban, she has played in some exhibition events. Known for setting up her own confectionary brand and for an interest in the commercial side of tennis, Sharapova also enrolled in a two-week program at Harvard Business School last year.

Phek Area sports tourney underway Our Correspondent Kohima | January 10

The 27th meet of Phek Area Sports Association (PASA) got underway today at Tuzatsii village with minister for school education & SCERT Yitachu as the chief guest. Speaking on the occasion, Yitahu stressed on the need to promote games and sports in the state. He also urged upon the sports lovers to actively involve in the field of games and sports and bring laurel to the community. The minister also expressed the need for improvement of road connectivity in the area. Guest of honour Kupota Khesoh, ex-chairman Phek Town Council also addressed the inau-

Minister for school education & SCERT Yitachu addressing the 27nd meet of Phek Area Sports Association (PASA) at Tuzatsii village on January 10.

gural function. Earlier, PASA president Vehiivo Rhakho delivered presidential address while welcome address was delivered by Veshehii Chizo, chairman

Tuzatsii Village Council. The inaugural function was chaired by Kevikho Vese, president Lozaphuhu Sports Association. The meet will go on till January 14.

FIFA agrees to expand World Cup to 48 teams ZURICH, JanUaRy 10 (aP): FIFA will expand the World Cup to 48 teams, adding 16 extra nations to the 2026 tournament which is likely to be held in North America. President Gianni Infantino's favored plan — for 16 three-team groups with the top two advancing to a round of 32 — was unanimously approved Tuesday by the FIFA Council. It meets Infantino's election pledge of a bigger World Cup, and should help fund promised raises for FIFA's 211 member federations. With 80 matches instead of 64, FIFA forecasts the equivalent of $1 billion extra income at current rates from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5 billion revenue forecast for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. FIFA projects an increased profit of $640 million despite some extra operating costs and prize money for teams. FIFA's six continents should find out by May how many extra places they will each get. UEFA wants 16 European teams at the tournament, which is strongly favored to be played in North America. The CONCACAF region has not hosted the World Cup since the 1994 tournament in the United States.

American, Canadian and Mexican soccer leaders have had informal talks about a co-hosting bid. Africa and Asia could be winners in a bigger World Cup with up to nine places each. They had only five and four teams, respectively, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Still, FIFA said it expects the standard of soccer to drop compared to the 32-team format locked in for the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. The "absolute quality" of play, defined by high-ranked teams facing each other most often, is achieved by 32 teams, FIFA ac-

knowledged in a research document sent to members last month. It made 10,000 tournament simulations to reach that conclusion. Instead, Infantino wants to create fervor and months of anticipation back home in the 16 extra nations which would qualify, some probably making their World Cup debut. FIFA has pointed to Costa Rica, Wales and Iceland as examples of teams which overachieved at recent tournaments. FIFA must break with soccer tradition to make its new format work after an original 48-team plan — with an opening playoff round

sending 16 "one-and-done" teams home early — was unpopular. Instead, three-team groups will replace the usual groups of four to create simple progress to a knockout bracket. However, it leaves one team idle for final group games and could risk collusion between the other two teams. FIFA said it could guard against result-rigging by introducing penalty shootouts after group games that end in draws. Despite the 16 extra games, FIFA believes the current maximum of stadiums needed will stay at the 12 used by Brazil and Russia. However, the demand for more training bases and hotels means developed countries would be better equipped to win future hosting contests. North America is the strong favorite for 2026 because European and Asian countries are blocked by a FIFA rule excluding continents which hosted either of the two previous tournaments. Russia will host the World Cup next year and Qatar in 2022. South America has been focused on a centenary tournament including original 1930 host Uruguay, and African nations are seen as lacking existing capacity and unlikely to fund multi-billion dollar infrastructure spending.

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January 11th, 2017  

The Morung Express Dimapur, Nagaland, India

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