Russian clubs will be banned from signing Turkish players during the upcoming winter break. Relations between the countries have been strained since a Russian warplane was shot down by Turkish forces on the Syrian border, killing one pilot. Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport news agency that clubs had “already got the message”. “If anyone wants [to sign a Turkish player] during the break, there will not be such a possibility,” he said. Mutko said the sports sanctions would not affect Turkish players currently playing for Russian soccer clubs, such as Rubin Kazan’s midfielder Gokdeniz Karadeniz, who joined the Tatarstan outfit in 2008. “Everyone who has an existing contract will carry on working,” Mutko said. “They won’t be here in the future but at the moment they have contracts and these will not be looked into.” Mutko added that Turkish companies already involved in constructing stadiums for the 2018 World Cup in Russia would be allowed to continue. The sports ministry has also recommended that Russian football clubs cancel winter training camps to Turkey. Several sides, including Lokomotiv Moscow, Spartak Moscow, FC Krasnodar and Kuban Krasnodar, have said they would heed the advice. In addition, Mutko has confirmed that Russian athletes will be able to participate in tournaments organised in Turkey, with maximum security ensured. He said that the measures that Russia is taking against Turkey will not impact on the calendar of international sports federations.
Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, will retire at the end of the season. Bryant has scored 32,683 points during a 20-year career with the LA Lakers to rank third on the NBA’s all-time list. The two-time Olympic gold medallist, 37, has been hindered by injuries in recent seasons and has been below his best this year for the Lakers. He told the Players’ Tribune: “My body knows it’s time to say goodbye.” Bryant has averaged more than 25 points per game in his 1,293 NBA matches. Should the Lakers fail to make the end-of-season play-offs, his final game is set to be at home against Utah on 13 April. In a poem entitled ‘Dear Basketball’, Bryant announced “this season is all I have left to give”. The Philadelphia-born player added: “You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream. And I’ll always love you for it. But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.”
Tunisia’s Etoile Du Sahel beat South Africa’s Orlando Pirates 1-0 in the second leg of the African Confederation Cup final in Sousse to triumph 2-1 on aggregate. Captain Ammar Jemal scored the winner for the Tunisians to add to his late equaliser in the first leg, which had finished 1-1. Sunday’s game was played amid tight security, following Tuesday’s bomb attack in Tunis, with a reduced crowd and an earlier kick-off time. Jemal – the 28-year-old centre back, who previously played in the German Bundesliga with FC Cologne and Ajaccio in the French Ligue 1 – emerged as his team’s star, as Etoile won Africa’s second-biggest club competition. His bundled finish in the 24th minute of Sunday’s decider at the Olympic Stadium in Sousse added to his vital equaliser in the final minutes of last Saturday’s first leg in Soweto, which cancelled out Thamsanqa Gabuza’s strike. Jemal’s second goal of the tie came after Pirates defender Happy Jele miscued a cross and the ball spun viciously back towards goal, with the centre-half managing to bundle the ball over the line. Originally scheduled for an 1830 GMT kick-off, the last major match of the African continental club season was brought forward by four-and-a-half hours.
Coach Samson Siasia’s Dream Team VI (Nigeria’s uU-23 side) yesterday recorded a win in their first in Senegal in their quest to pick a qualification ticket for Rio 2016 Olympics. Two goals from Junior Ajayi and a third from Muhammed Usman inspired Nigeria to a 3-2 win over Mali at the 2015 Africa U23 Cup of Nations in Senegal on Sunday. Adama Niane had his 37th second effort kiss the cross bar as the Malians dominated the early part of the game. Soon, Samson Siasia’s lads woke up from their slumber and gradually came alive and got rewarded in the 16th minute when Ajayi gave Nigeria the lead. The CS Sfaxien forward converted with a back heel after Stanley Dimgba had laid a cross into Les Aiglons‘ 18 yard box after his terrific run down their defence. All efforts from Cheick Kone’s side to equalise proved futile as Souleymane Sissoko and Adama Traore forced goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel to a couple of saves.
Jamie Vardy broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record as he became the first player to score in 11 consecutive Premier League matches. The Leicester striker netted in the first half of his side’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United. Dutchman Van Nistelrooy achieved his feat for Manchester United across two seasons in 2003. Vardy’s run has included 13 goals, making him the league’s top scorer with 14 goals in total so far this season. Vardy, who four years ago was playing for Fleetwood in the Conference in front of 768 people, said he was “taking each match as it comes”. He added: “The record was not in my mind, it would have affected my performance and the team’s, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. “I can think about it when I am home but as soon as I cross the white line all I should be concentrating on is my football. “That’s what I have been doing and exactly what I will continue to do.”
Britain’s Tyson Fury pulled off one of the great boxing upsets as he outpointed Wladimir Klitschko to become heavyweight champion of the world. It was a dour and often messy fight but Fury, courtesy of his superior boxing skills, fully deserved to be awarded a unanimous decision. Ukrainian Klitschko, whose nine-year reign as champion was brought to an end, simply could not work the challenger out and did not do enough to win. Fury, who was awarded the fight 115-112, 115-112, 116-111 on the judges’ scorecards, is now the WBA, IBF and WBO champion. The 27-year-old Manchester fighter is only Britain’s fifth bona fide heavyweight world champion after Bob Fitzsimmons, Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno and David Haye. Herbie Hide and Henry Akinwande both held WBO versions of the title at a time when the organisation’s title holders were not widely recognised as genuine world champions. “You’re a great champion Wlad, thanks very much for having me,” said Fury, moments after his win was announced in Dusseldorf. The self-styled ‘Gypsy King’ had taunted his opponent before the fight and even dressed as Batman at one news conference. “It was all fun and games in the build-up, I just wanted to be confident, young and brash,” said Fury, who had complained about the thickness of the foam under the ring canvas before the bout. To the delight of British fans in the 50,000-capacity Esprit Arena, he burst into a rendition of Aerosmith’s hit ballad I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, dedicating it to his wife and his fans in Ireland, the UK, the United States and Germany.