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Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona dead at 60

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BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - MARCH 07: Diego Armando Maradona head coach of Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata smiles prior to a match between Boca Juniors and Gimnasia as part of Superliga 2019/20 at Estadio Alberto J. Armando on March 7, 2020 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images)

Legendary Argentine soccer player Diego Maradona, who helped bring his country a World Cup in 1986 with the infamous “hand of God” goal, died on Wednesday. He was 60.

The Argentine Football Association confirmed the passing of Maradona with a statement on Twitter expressing “its deepest sorrow.”

“You will always be in our hearts,” a translation of the statement read.

Steelers-Ravens Thanksgiving Day game postponed over Baltimore COVID-19 outbreak

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The NFL will have only two Thanksgiving Day games, announcing Wednesday that the primetime matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens is postponed until Sunday due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Seven Baltimore players and a number of coaches have tested positive since Sunday night, delaying the heavily anticipated game, despite earlier hopes that the NFL would be able to keep the schedule intact, the NFL Network reported.

“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts,” the Steelers said in a statement.

The Athletic reported on Tuesday that at least 10 players and staff in the Ravens organization have tested positive.

This isn’t the first time the Steelers have been forced to adjust their schedule because of COVID-19 issues with opponents. Their trip to Nashville Oct. 4 to face the Titans turned into an unexpected bye week when Tennessee was hit with an outbreak.

“First the NFL takes away our bye week because another team can’t get their Covid situation together, now they take away our Thanksgiving primetime game for the same reason,” star wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was questionable for Thursday’s game with a foot injury, said on Twitter.

“What a joke,” rookie Chase Claypool tweeted.

Inside the Botched Sign-and-Trade Clouding Giannis’ Future

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For months, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s brother and a Milwaukee Bucks guard, stayed in regular contact with Bogdan Bogdanovic. They spoke numerous times over the phone, sources said, with Thanasis hoping to eventually court the guard’s services this offseason. During a few calls, Giannis communicated his desire in teaming with Bogdanovic.

Aside from the obvious spacing Bogdanovic’s shooting would provide Milwaukee’s offense, Giannis admired his fellow European’s toughness and swagger, sources said. He viewed Bogdanovic as someone you could go to war with in the postseason.

Antetokounmpo grew increasingly focused on teaming with Bogdanovic. The Sacramento guard quickly presented Milwaukee’s greatest option as the Bucks dealt with a hamstrung cap sheet and limited trade assets.

When word arrived last week of the Bucks’ Monday night coup—agreeing in principle to acquire both Jrue Holiday and Bogdanovic in the waning hours of the league’s renewed transaction window—there was an overwhelming sense around the organization, and people with knowledge of Antetokounmpo’s thinking, that he would accept the Bucks’ supermax extension offer—the ultimate objective of the franchise’s 2020 offseason.

A week later, Bogdanovic plays for the Atlanta Hawks, not the Bucks. And there has since been a categorical step back in the Bucks’ confidence in getting a long-term commitment from their superstar, even if Antetokounmpo ultimately accepts the franchise’s offer of a five-year, $228 million supermax extension.

There has long been optimism Giannis Antetokounmpo will re-sign with the only franchise he’s ever known. Any figure around the Bucks, or who has spent time around Antetokounmpo, has always spoken of the superstar’s unwavering loyalty. This is a person who once refused to attend the NBA draft unless his brother could come along with him. By all accounts, he enjoys the decibel levels of Milwaukee’s market. He does not yearn for the lights of New York or Los Angeles.

It’s also said that Antetokounmpo values being not just the face but the bedrock of the franchise. That is not to characterize him as brimming with ego, rather pride in carrying himself like an organizational pillar. He relishes the responsibility of leading Milwaukee to a championship, like the stars he grew up watching before a wave of player empowerment swept the league.

And while he may indeed commit to the Bucks before his Dec. 21 deadline, at this juncture, no news is not good news for Milwaukee. At the moment, Antetokounmpo remains in Greece, where he’s been training ahead of the regular season.

Antetokounmpo was pulling levers to help the Bucks help themselves. He had listed several wing players he hoped the Bucks could land in order to fortify his surrounding cast for a better effort at the 2021 championship. Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal was never a realistic option. Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo was discussed in numerous trade scenarios, sources said, but Indiana ultimately declined Milwaukee’s advances. At one point, that included a discussion of Donte DiVincenzo, George Hill and the No. 24 pick in the 2020 draft.

After agreeing to the parameters of a deal for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, the Bucks made a series of free-agency signings to replenish Anteotkounmpo’s supporting cast. Milwaukee added a premier backup point guard in D.J. Augustin, a dangerous shooter in Bryn Forbes and a defensive specialist in swingman Torrey Craig. Bobby Portis will also join the Bucks on a one-year deal.

The sum of these additions simply doesn’t equal the impact landing Bogdanovic would have made for Milwaukee, both in terms of adding firepower to the Bucks offense and earned goodwill from Antetokounmpo.

Sacramento had every reason to engage Milwaukee in trade discussions. Bogdanovic was set to hit restricted free agency this season, and by all accounts, the 28-year-old was searching for an optimum payday the Kings were not entirely prepared to match. The Bucks, sources said, were hoping to agree to a framework of a sign-and-trade that could effectively take Bogdanovic off the market right when free agency was set to open Friday.

Early conversations centered on sending Eric Bledsoe and the No. 24 pick to Sacramento, sources said. But the Kings insisted on guard DiVincenzo being included in any deal, just as the Pacers did in the talks regarding Oladipo, according to sources.

Any deal that brought Bledsoe—and the three years, roughly $54.4 million remaining on his contract—back to Sacramento would have cleared the necessary room under the $139 million apron for the Bucks to offer a competitive salary to Bogdanovic. Sacramento brass had known from conversations with Bogdanovic’s representatives that the guard was seeking an average annual salary around $18 million.

Yet all the while, Milwaukee remained in aggressive pursuit of Holiday. And by all accounts, New Orleans management successfully engineered a bidding war for Holiday’s services. The Boston Celtics offered Gordon Hayward plus their three first-round picks in last week’s draft, it is said. Atlanta is known to have discussed the No. 6 pick, Dewayne Dedmon and sharpshooting youngster Kevin Huerter. Denver and Dallas were also rumored as significant suitors.

The clock was ticking. Only 48 hours remained before the draft. And despite Bledsoe’s salary number being an apparent necessity to match Bogdanovic’s preferred number in free agency, Milwaukee moved forward with its Holiday acquisition.

Bledsoe was also always a centerpiece in any trade for Holiday, one source said.

Milwaukee went forward in swapping Bledsoe, Hill and three first-round picks, plus two pick swaps, for Holiday. And with limited remaining draft capital to play with, the Bucks returned to talks with Sacramento by reluctantly bringing DiVincenzo onto the table. Milwaukee officials remain bullish on the Villanova product, sources said, but they viewed Bogdanovic as a necessary target in line with Antetokounmpo’s wishes.

Adding Holiday was an obvious upgrade, but Bogdanovic was communicated as Antetokoumpo’s preferred addition all offseason. The Antetokounmpo brothers had tried to lure him with the promise of forming a Big Three with Giannis and Khris Middleton. Holiday was an added bonus.

So with DiVincenzo made available, sources said, the Bucks and Kings agreed in principle early last week. Along with DiVincenzo, Milwaukee would send Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson to Sacramento in exchange for Bogdanovic and Justin James. Come that Friday, the Bucks would have been able to negotiate contract terms with Bogdanovic’s representatives once the free-agent market opened at 6 p.m. ET.

All players included within the trade framework were notified, sources said. Over the next two days, one Bucks player and his girlfriend were already searching for new homes in Northern California. A real-estate agent even visited one of the properties and sent pictures of the interior.

Late that Monday evening, just minutes after the agreement was struck, word reached the news media of Milwaukee and Sacramento’s intended sign-and-trade. And during the board of governors’ call on Tuesday, several league sources indicated that Bucks governor Marc Lasry stopped just short of bragging about Milwaukee’s impressive Monday evening of transactions. However, multiple league personnel participating on the call said they did not remember any Bucks official gloating or any noted behavior or conversation out of the ordinary.

Either way, at least one rival team filed a formal complaint to the league office Wednesday, sources said. And by that afternoon, the league informed both Milwaukee and Sacramento that it would open an investigation into an alleged sign-and-trade already being agreed to four days before free agency had begun. The league also sent a memo to all 30 teams that afternoon reminding franchises of the NBA’s anti-tampering policies, encouraging teams not to “jump the gun” in contacting players under contract with other teams and warning punishments of up to $10 million and draft-pick forfeiture.

At that juncture, it became clear Milwaukee was no longer a possible landing spot for Bogdanovic. He could have engaged with Bucks leadership Friday, but moving forward with Milwaukee instantly became untenable for the 28-year-old. It would be far too precarious to move forward with the Bucks at the risk of the NBA ultimately determining foul play and blocking the transaction.

Bogdanovic’s camp insisted they never discussed the particulars of an agreement with Bucks officials and that they were only made aware of the negotiations. Bogdanovic even phoned the Antetokounmpos and reiterated he had never agreed to any contract with Milwaukee.

No matter the intent, no matter the news of Milwaukee and Sacramento’s agreement, all indications are the league office would have investigated such a transaction. Commissioner Adam Silver has been as stringent on eliminating evidenced tampering as Giannis has been in wanting Milwaukee to improve its roster.

And all indications suggest the scale is still tipping in the Bucks’ favor. Yet the collapse of this Bogdanovic sign-and-trade leaves the door far too open for a possible Antetokounmpo departure than Bucks officials would like.

SOURCE

ATP Finals: Novak Djokovic beats Alexander Zverev to make semi-finals

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Novak Djokovic moved past Alexander Zverev in straight sets to reach the last four of the ATP Finals.

The Serb world number one beat German Zverev 6-3 7-6 (7-4) at the O2 Arena in London.

Djokovic, seeking a record-equalling sixth title at the end-of-season tournament, was pushed much more in the second set but raised his level at the crucial time in the tie-break.

He will play Dominic Thiem in the last four on Saturday at 14:00 GMT.

That match is live on BBC One and the BBC Sport website.

US Open champion Thiem progressed as winner of Group London 2020 with Djokovic going through in second position in Group Tokyo 1970.

The other semi-final is between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, who first plays a dead rubber against Diego Schwartzman at 20:00 GMT on Friday.

“I felt great. In the first set he had a couple of break-point chances and I managed to serve well in the important moments,” said 33-year-old Djokovic.

“In contrast to the match against Daniil, I found the right shots at the right time. I have tremendous respect for Sascha, who is a great player and it is not easy to return 140mph first serves.

“It was anybody’s game for most of the match.”

Djokovic quells Zverev fightback in second set

Their five previous meetings had all been won in straight sets without any of them going to a tie-break and it seemed as though this match would follow the pattern as Djokovic, who was victorious in three of them, dominated the early stages.

He was into the groove with a love hold, while Zverev gave up his first service game in predictable fashion, conceding the break with a double fault.

Zverev did bring up two break-back points at 2-4 but first serves and clean hitting from the baseline helped Djokovic see them off with little fuss, before the Serb sealed the set with a trademark backhand down the line.

The second set was much more competitive with Zverev twice shouting “come on” when saving two break points at 2-2. As ever, though, the differential between his first and second serves was key to the match, with the 2018 champion winning 83% of points on his first delivery and only 35% on his second.

Zverev twice came within two points of the set when Djokovic was serving but the 17-time Grand Slam champion remained solid at key moments, as they eventually played their first tie-break together.

The 23-year-old moved to a 2-0 lead but Djokovic quickly levelled and then got the decisive mini-break with a backhand cross-court winner for 5-3.

“Novak served incredibly well, I thought,” said Zverev. “I had to go very far back to return his serve. It was very difficult for me.

“I started playing really well in the second set, so a few points decided the set.”

Looking ahead to his semi-final against Austrian Thiem, Djokovic added: “Obviously earlier in his career Dominic played his best on clay but being one of the hardest workers on tour, and most dedicated players, found his A-game on other surfaces, and his first Slam came on a hard court earlier this year in New York.

“I played him here last year and lost 7-6 in the third set, it was a thrilling match. Hopefully have another great match – with a different outcome.”

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IAAF bans former Diack lawyer Cisse for life

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REUTERS: Habib Cisse, former legal adviser to disgraced IAAF ex-president Lamine Diack, has been banned for life for corruption and fined US$25,000, the IAAF Ethics Board said on Monday.

The IAAF said its ethics panel had found Cisse guilty of helping to cover up doping violations by Lilya Shobukhova "and other Russian athletes".

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Cisse was accused by independent investigator Dick Pound in 2016 of being part of a clique run by Diack that covered up organised doping in the sport.

Diack, who is to be tried in France on charges of corruption and money laundering, diverted the handling of Russian doping cases to Cisse, who was serving at the time as the Senegalese's personal lawyer.

"The decision (to ban Cisse) enters into force on 9 September 2019, being the date on which the decision was communicated to the parties," the IAAF said in a statement on its website.

The world governing body added that

Haas F1 team parts company with title sponsor Rich Energy

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MONZA, Italy: Haas F1 and title sponsor Rich Energy have parted company after 14 races together, the U.S.-owned Formula One team announced on Monday.

A Haas spokesman said the cars would retain the black and gold livery for the rest of the season but without the energy drink company's branding.

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"Haas F1 Team and Rich Energy have amicably agreed to end their partnership together in the FIA Formula One world championship with immediate effect," the team said in a statement.

It said Rich Energy needed a revised global strategy due to a 'corporate restructuring process' and a termination of the agreement was best for both parties.

The title sponsorship had been in doubt for some time, with Rich Energy posting on Twitter in July that they had terminated the contract.

Shareholders later said in a statement issued by the team that those comments were unauthorised and the 'rogue actions' of one individual.

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Haas, the only U.S.-owned entry in Formula One, are ninth of 10 teams after Sunday's It

Great Eastern and ActiveSG launch personal accident protection plan

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SINGAPORE – Life insurance firm Great Eastern and ActiveSG have partnered to launch Active Care, a personal accident protection plan, on Monday (Sept 9) to encourage people to lead healthy lives without worrying about accidents and injuries.

The plan offers 24/7 coverage, which is not limited to sports, for those between three and 70 years old.

Active Care is available exclusively to ActiveSG members for $9 annually and the scheme includes accidental death or permanent total disablement protection of up to $20,000 and medical expense reimbursements of up to $200.

George Chan, whose son Gabriel is a participant in the ActiveSG Football Academy, said: "Active Care is a convenient initiative that offers parents like me an added peace of mind whenever we decide to participate in sporting activities ranging from a simple jog around our estate to group zumba workouts at the stadium."

For every plan purchased, members earn a rebate of $2 that is directly credited to their ActiveSG Wallet. Members can enjoy additional $2 rebates for a limited period of time.

In support of local athletes, each purchase will see a donation of $1 going to the One Team Singapore Fund, an initiative that assists Team Singapore athletes in their training

Football: Belgium boss Roberto Martinez backs ‘focused’ Romelu Lukaku to fire for new club and country

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(REUTERS) – Leaving Manchester United for Inter Milan has reinvigorated Romelu Lukaku and the striker is happy and hungry as he enters an important phase of his playing career, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has said.

The Belgium international joined Inter last month, ending a two-year spell at United, which began well, but ended with him battling for a place in the team.

The 26-year-old has scored two league goals in as many games in Italy and Martinez is confident Lukaku's bright start to life in Serie A can translate into success for the national team.

"This is the first time I've seen him free and happy. Going back to many camps, I've not seen Rom so focused, so happy, so refreshed by the new challenge," Martinez, who previously coached Lukaku at English Premier League club Everton, told reporters ahead of Monday's (Sept 9) Euro 2020 qualifier in Scotland.

"I think he's now ready to face one of the biggest chapters in his career with the Inter move. He's driven to be as good as he can for the national team… I've been impressed."

Lukaku's short time in Italy has not been without problems, however, with the striker subjected to racist abuse by Cagliari supporters last week.

But Martinez said the incident had not affected Lukaku's mood during international duty.

"I haven't seen a difference," he added.

"I

Football: Iranians should be safe for World Cup qualifier despite protests, says Hong Kong coach

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HONG KONG (REUTERS) – Iran's footballers have nothing to fear from anti-government protests in Hong Kong, said the head coach of the city's representative team, despite an unsuccessful bid by the visitors to play Tuesday's (Sept 10) World Cup qualifier at a neutral venue.

Last week, Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation turned down a request from the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran to move the game outside Hong Kong owing to the protests that have hit the city over the past three months.

But Hong Kong coach Mixu Paatelainen stressed that the visitors should not be affected during their stay in the Asian financial hub.

"One thing I know is that Hong Kong is a safe place for any team to come and play," said the former Dundee United and Bolton Wanderers striker.

"Protesters don't come to protest against these teams who come here to play sport. There's no problem at all.

"I know that the Iran team will be safe and they can prepare here and there's no problem at all.

"I'm aware of the protests, but we don't pay any attention to those things. We prepare for the task in hand and put the political issues aside," he said.

Iraq, Bahrain and Cambodia are the other sides in Group C of the Asian World Cup qualifiers.

Games involving the Hong Kong team have been a focal point for protests against the Chinese government in the past, with Fifa fining t

Tennis: Nadal survives five-set test by Medvedev to win US Open, his 19th Grand Slam title

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NEW YORK (AFP/AP) – Calling it one of the most emotional nights of his 18-year career, Rafael Nadal celebrated a dramatic US Open final victory over Daniil Medvedev for his 19th Grand Slam title on Sunday (Sept 8).

The 33-year-old Spanish left-hander grabbed his fourth career title on the New York hardcourts in thrilling fashion, squandering a two-set lead before outlasting the Russian fifth seed 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 after 4hr 50min.

"I more or less had the match under control," Nadal, the second seed, said. "The way he was able to fight to change the rhythm of the match was incredible."

Nadal's head was in his hands as he became emotional in the moments after his epic triumph, feelings compounded when a tribute video of his Grand Slam titles was shown in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"Has been one of the most emotional nights in my tennis career, with that video, with all of you," he told a cheering crowd that chanted his name several times in the intense final set. "There's no stadium in the world that's more energetic than this one."

Outside of the French Open, where he took his 12th title in June, the US Open is the Slam title he has captured the most in his career.

"That's so important," Nadal said of his fourth US Open crown. "This victory means a lot. "And the way it happened. It was hard to control the nerves. The nerves were so high after having the match almost under control."

Nadal has dropped only one Grand Slam match out of more than 200 when he has won the first two sets, that loss coming to Fabio Fognini in the third round of the 2015 US Open.

But he nearly became the first man since 1949 to lose the US Open final after winning the first two sets when Medvedev mounted a charge, shifting styles and rattling the Spanish veteran.

Medvedev broke in the last game of each of the next two sets to force a fifth. But his charge came up just short.

Nadal broke to lead 3-2 in the fifth and again for 5-2. But he failed to serve out the victory there, double-faulting on

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