Van Dijk believes 'the time has come' for a defender to win Ballon d'Or

The Liverpool stopper puts team glory above personal gongs but is honoured to be considered in the hunt for the award given to the world’s best player

Virgil van Dijk has said ‘the time has come’ for a defender to get the Ballon d’Or as speculation builds that he is in the frame to scoop football’s top individual award.

The Liverpool defender has already collected the PFA’s Player of the Year award as his performances at the heart of the Reds defense inspired them to Champions League glory and a second-place finish in the Premier League.

The Netherlands international said he preferred his team’s win in the Champions League to personal honours, but admitted he was pleased to be considered for individual gongs as well.

“To get the PFA Player of the Year is a fantastic honour,” Van Dijk told Liverpool’s official website, “it’s the highest honour you can get because it’s voted by your fellow peers.

“I said it back then as well, I would trade it for the Champions League. Luckily, I didn’t have to.

“It’s an honour if people are talking about [the Ballon d’Or], but what can I do? I have no influence on anything.

“I can’t deny I had a pretty good season last year, so the only thing I can do now is just focus on the new season, getting fit, stay fit and hopefully get an even better season than I had last year.

“I can understand the fact that normally strikers or No. 10’s win these awards because it’s more attractive to see. But maybe the time has come to change it.”

The last defender to win the Ballon d’Or was Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

Looking forward to next season, Liverpool’s skipper said his team was focused on challenging on all fronts.

The Anfield club were pipped to the title by one point by Manchester City last time out, but Van Dijk believes his team have the drive and the ability to be in the hunt in 2019-20 as well.

“As a team, we’re going to try to compete in every competition and obviously it’s going to be hard because there are so many and the league is so tough as well,” the 28-year-old continued, “but the only thing we can do is try.

“We will give everything we’ve got and we have the quality as well. We’ll see where that leads us.”

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Zidane drops big Pogba move hint as he claims 'something could happen before the end of August'

The Manchester United midfielder has been linked with a switch to the Spanish capital, which the Blancos boss admits could happen

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has dropped a big hint about his club’s interest in Paul Pogba, suggesting a move could happen before the end of August.

The Manchester United star has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford this summer, three years after rejoining the club from Juventus.

The Serie A champions have been mentioned as a possible destination for the France international, while Madrid have made the midfielder their top transfer target.

Zidane’s side are looking to rebuild after a disastrous 2018-19 campaign that saw them finish well off the pace of Liga champions Barcelona. 

Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo have already been brought in after a season that also saw the Blancos fall to Ajax in the Champions League round of 16.

When asked about Pogba’s possible arrival, the former France international gave a strong indication his side could be looking to continue their spending spree by bringing the 26-year-old to the Bernabeu. 

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. 

“Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

Pogba himself has said that he could be looking for a move away from Old Trafford, saying last month : “I think for me, it can be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else.” 

The player’s agent Mino Raiola also added fuel to the fire, saying that he is ” in the process ” of securing Pogba a transfer away from his current side.

For his part, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he is planning on keeping Pogba, having used the midfielder in his side’s recent friendlies against Perth Glory, Leeds United and Inter.

“I can give him a new challenge,” Solskjaer said of Pogba earlier this week.

Pogba is expected to be involved again as United continue their pre-season preparations on Thursday against Premier League rivals Tottenham.

United will have to make do with Europa League football this coming season, having finished in sixth place in the Premier League table in 2018-19.

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'I'm better than him right now' – Vela hits back at Ibrahimovic after Swede's claim he's best in MLS

The Swede claimed that he was “by far” the best player in MLS before the Los Angeles derby on Friday, then backed his words up with a hat-trick

Los Angeles FC striker Carlos Vela has hit back at Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s claims that he’s “by far” the best player in Major League Soccer. 

The LA Galaxy striker talked a big game leading up to Friday’s derby against LAFC, dismissing comparisons to Vela by saying he is easily the league’s best player .

With his words as the backdrop, the 37-year-old delivered on Friday night with a hat-trick in the Galaxy’s 3-2 win over LAFC.

Vela, however, also got on the scoresheet multiple times as he notched a brace in a losing effort. 

Those two goals took the Mexican star to a remarkable 21 goals in 20 games played this season, to go along with 12 assists. 

Those totals have Vela atop the league’s Golden Boot standings ahead of Ibrahimovic in second place, with the Swede tallying 16 goals in 17 appearances. 

Vela was keen to highlight his lead in the scoring charts after Friday night’s game, taking his opportunity to hit back at Ibrahimovic. 

“Comparing would show a lack of respect towards him, but if we look at the stats and forget age and whatever, I’m better than him right now, that’s the reality,” Vela said. 

But the 30-year-old also took the opportunity to show respect for a striker who has put together a remarkable career. 

“And in terms of the rest, he’s been Zlatan and only [Lionel] Messi and Cristiano [Ronaldo] are better than him,” Vela said. “The rest of us aren’t in the same league.”

Since joining the Galaxy in the early portion of the 2018 season, Ibrahimovic has tallied 38 goals in 44 appearances, winning the league’s Newcomer of the Year award last term. 

This season, Vela has outpaced his scoring output as LAFC have raced to the top of the Western Conference standings. 

Despite Friday night’s win, the Galaxy are still nine points behind LAFC, sitting in second place in the West. 

Vela was keen to focus on that fact after Friday’s game.

“Today we didn’t have a good game,” Vela said. “We are still in first and we have to keep that place and forget this game.”

S. Africans mark Mandela Day with focus on poverty

On Thursday, South Africans marked the International Nelson Mandela Day with commitments to fight poverty.

Several activities, including donations and visiting the sick, took place across the country under the theme of action against poverty.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa started off his celebrations with a visit to RX Radio, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital radio station, staffed by children at the hospital in Rondebosch. Most of the children at the hospital have disabilities or are suffering from chronic diseases.

As a studio guest, Ramaphosa was interviewed by the young radio anchors. He said he was touched by the children’s hope, evident on their faces and their articulate questions as they interviewed him, despite the many health challenges they are grappling with.

Ramaphosa said Mandela, who would be celebrating his 101st birthday, acted like a father to many children across the globe. He admitted to having learned a lot of virtues from Mandela, which he is committed to applying in his leadership.

Patricia de Lille, minister for public works and infrastructure, spent Mandela Day at Athlone in Cape Town, where she donated 20 computers to Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children.

The minister also participated in various activities together with the women and the children at the center. The activities included gardening, crowning of trees, pruning of branches, weeding, mowing grass, and planting trees.

Noxolo Kiviet, the deputy minister, commemorated the day at iKhaya lo Xolo Old Age Home in Gugulethu, Cape Town, where she donated 30 curtains.

The department staff who had accompanied the deputy minister, spent the day painting, gardening and cleaning the old age home.

Barbara Creecy, the minister for environment, forestry and fisheries, together with volunteers from Bridgetown, Atlhone, and pupils from Cypress Primary School, braved the cold weather to participate in a World Wide Fund for Nature led cleanup.

Chinese companies operating in South Africa were also not left out of the donation activities.

Huawei South Africa, donated $144,190 in scholarships to ICT and engineering postgraduate students at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

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Graca Machel, the widow of Nelson Mandela, called on South Africans to view Mandela Day as their lifestyle, instead of an event.

“Mandela Day is a reminder that any one of us has the power to take initiative and drive transformation. Decide on the difference you can make to people throughout the year so that it becomes a lifestyle,” she said.

Mandela Day was officially declared by the United Nations in 2009, four years before South Africa’s first democratically elected president died at the age of 95.

They toll not, neither do they spin

We journey into the future, on a quest to return to the past. It is a time when nobody works and people may choose between everyday reality or virtual reality

Life is marvelous, in the virtual world of 1855. You are relaxed inside your gentlemen’s club, Pall Mall, Westminster, the City of London. It’s an opulent setting. You’d say palatial, with windows draped in plush fabric, and wall coverings in gorgeous, polychrome Italian silk damasks. The upholstered chair where you are sitting, almost absurdly ornate is ever so comfortable. It’s Gothic revival with Italian overtones. The food, the wine and civility of the place is unexcelled. Boy, the modelers must have gone to some lengths to recreate this place.

Victorian England is at the height of its glory. As a man of worth you have achieved mastery of manners, speech, attire, education, traditional values. In other words, you are the perfect gentleman, a member of the landed gentry.

Your family estates bring a handsome income. As a gentleman at leisure you have earned your place as a top sportsman, as a scholar, accomplished in philosophy, the classics, the sciences and natural history. These are the requisites to become a leader of men. It’s your birthright. No man of trade, no lawyer, stockbroker, factory owner of shipping magnate is your match – distracted as they are by pressures of business.

But just hang on a minute, and step back into the real world of 20**, whenever? There’s no need to own land and those pesky capitalists who ended up controlling the world, are gone. All the work is done by robots. That’s one of the problems of having nothing to do, there’s nothing to do.

Li’s legend keeps growing

NEW YORK — Li Na remembers first watching tennis on TV at her childhood home in Wuhan, Hubei province. Drawn to the unforgettable style of an American star with flowing locks who wore an earring and denim shorts, she became an instant fan.

“Andre Agassi is my role model,” Li said on Thursday.

The 37-year-old Chinese legend, who will be formally inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday, told Xinhua she has been dreaming of establishing a tennis school since her retirement in September 2014.

“Although that dream has not yet come true, I am engaging in training young players, with the collaboration of Nike and Mercedez,” she said.

“My training philosophy is interest-oriented, not title-oriented. It focuses on inspiring young kids who love the sport to play joyfully.”

Li went from idolizing Agassi as a role model to becoming one herself.

Her triumph at the 2011 French Open made her the first player from Asia to win a Grand Slam singles title and put her on course to tirelessly contribute to the sport’s growth in her homeland.

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Domestic meat supply enough for rest of 2019

Pork prices to continue rising in latter half of year as swine fever woes persist

The supply of meat can satisfy domestic demand in the latter half of the year as the decrease in pork production continues due to African swine fever outbreaks, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on Wednesday.

Tang Ke, chief of the market and economic information department at the ministry, said at a news conference that pork prices in China have kept rising since March, and at an accelerated pace recently.

The average wholesale price of pork-the most commonly consumed meat in China-reached 21.6 yuan a kilogram ($3.10) in June, an increase of 4.7 percent compared with that in May and a rise of nearly 30 percent compared with June last year, he said.

Prices of pork will continue rising in the latter half of the year as the effect of African swine fever on the industry becomes more prominent, Tang said.

More than 140 African swine fever outbreaks have been reported in China since the first outbreak in the country was reported in Liaoning province in August. The outbreaks have resulted in the slaughter of 1.2 million hogs for prevention and control, the ministry said earlier, adding that the frequency of the outbreaks has reduced greatly this year. The illness is deadly to pigs but there has been no report that the virus could affect humans, according to the ministry.

Xin Guochang, an information monitoring official at the ministry, said despite the overall transparency of information being disclosed regarding the outbreaks, it cannot be ruled out that some farmers deliberately concealed outbreaks from authorities for various reasons.

Tang said that due to the outbreaks, the stock of female pigs for reproduction in 400 counties under its monitoring decreased by nearly 6 percent in October year-on-year, higher than the warning line of 5 percent, and the decline has been accelerating since-reaching nearly 27 percent year-on-year last month.

It takes usually 10 months between the birth of a pig and the time that it’s ready to be slaughtered for the market, he said.

“Reduction in the reproduction of pigs since October has made the pork supply problem more prominent, resulting in a sustained increase in prices,” he said.

However, “the supply of meat in general will be guaranteed due to increasing production of other livestock meat, … and increasing imports of pork and its products,” he said.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the total meat production in China, according to the ministry.

Zhu Zengyong, a researcher in pork industry at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, predicted the stock of pigs may stop declining and the number of female pigs used for reproduction will start to rebound gradually before the end of the year once there is greater control of African swine fever outbreaks.

With the decline in the supply of pork, consumption has also started to drop, partly due to the psychological effect of the virus, which has made some people reluctant to eat pork and so they turn to other meat, he said.

“The supply of alternatives to pork, such as poultry, will increase in the next two years, which will help ease the gap between the supply and demand of pork.”

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International youth camp gets underway in Shanghai

Ninety-one students and faculty members from 16 foreign cities are participating in the 2019 Shanghai International Sister Cities Youth Camp which kicked off on Thursday.

The two-week camp, which aims to help foreigners better understand the city, also involves 57 volunteers from local high schools and teenagers from countries such as Australia, France, Belgium, Russia and Switzerland.

"I have never been to a camp like this before. I hope to be exposed to the Chinese culture, make new friends and learn something new here," said Matej Medveczky, a 17-year-old student from Slovakia.

Medveczky’s teammate Martin Simo echoed the same statement, adding that the camp is a chance for him to learn about the culture, language and habits of people in China.

According to organizers, foreign students will learn about traditional Chinese culture through lessons with local volunteers, a series of outdoor activities and tours at several famous tourist sites in Shanghai.

Youth forums, sports activities and costume parties will also be held in the following weeks to enhance the understanding and relationship between Chinese and foreign participants.

Yuan Sihui, a volunteer from Shanghai Nanyang Model School, said that the program offers them a chance to communicate with foreign students and improve their English.

"We will also be translators for our overseas counterparts during classes. They are friendly and enthusiastic and I’m looking forward to making friends with them," Yuan added.

Launched in 2009 as part of Shanghai’s efforts to promote greater exchange among international youth, the program has attracted 1,015 overseas teachers and students from 38 sister cities of 35 countries over the past 10 years.

Tang Xiaofan contributed to this story.

Peru’s ex-president Toledo arrested in US

LIMA – Peru’s ex-president Alejandro Toledo, who is wanted in his country on corruption charges, was arrested early Tuesday in the United States, Peruvian judicial officials said.

“The attorney general’s office … reports that the former president Alejandro Toledo Manrique was arrested this morning in the United States over an extradition request (by Peru),” the attorney general’s office wrote on its official Twitter account.

Toledo was being brought before US authorities “as part of the process aimed at securing his return to the country,” said prosecutors.

The former head of state, who has been living in the United States since 2017, is accused of various crimes, including accepting bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in exchange for a government contract to build the Interoceanic Highway linking Peru and Brazil.

Charges have also been brought against his wife Eliane Karp, and his former head of security Avraham Dan On, and his son Shai Dan On.

Extradition proceedings could take up to a year and a half.

Revelations that Odebrecht regularly bribed officials in Latin America to secure lucrative government contracts have tainted a string of Peruvian presidents, including Ollanta Humala, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and the late Alan Garcia during his second term in office.

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Humala was arrested in 2017 and is awaiting trial. Kuczynski resigned to avoid an impeachment trial in 2018.