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Nuno wants to build on Cooper's 'amazing legacy' at Nottingham Forest

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LONDON – Newly-appointed Nottingham Forest manager Nuno Espirito Santo said he wanted to build on the amazing “legacy” of Steve Cooper at the Premier League club.

The 49-year-old Portuguese coach has succeeded Cooper, sacked by Forest on Dec 19 after a dismal run of one win in 13 Premier League games left the club just one place, and five points, above the relegation zone.

Nuno has been out of work since leaving Saudi Pro League club Al-Ittihad in November.

But he has now returned to English football following a two-year absence since his departure after an ill-fated four-month spell at Tottenham Hotspur which featured a mere 10 Premier League games.

Cooper’s exit from the City Ground came with Forest having lost five of their past six games.

The 44-year-old Welshman led Forest to promotion to the Premier League in 2022, ending a 23-year absence from the top flight for a club twice crowned champions of Europe under celebrated manager Brian Clough in 1979 and 1980.

Cooper had retained the support of Forest fans after taking them from the bottom of the Championship to Premier League survival last season.

But with Cooper’s summer of heavy investment in new signings failing to deliver the required results, Forest’s Greek owner Evangelos Marinakis finally lost patience with the former Swansea boss before appointing Nuno on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

‘Fantastic work’

Nuno, speaking at a press conference on Dec 21, said Marinakis had not given him any specific targets.

“We didn’t mark ourselves to expectations. That’s a day-to-day process,” he said of his conversation with Marinakis.

“What he told me was that what Steve did here is huge. Getting Forest back in the Premier League is fantastic work. We are trying to improve his legacy, which is amazing.”

Nuno, whose first game as Forest boss will be at home to Bournemouth on Dec 23, also had four years in charge of Wolves, guiding the club to promotion from the Championship in his first season in charge.

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Forest appoint Nuno as new manager after Cooper sacked

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Wolves enjoyed consecutive seventh-place finishes in the Premier League and a run to the Europa League quarter-finals under Nuno’s leadership.

Nuno added he had no regrets over his time at Spurs, saying he had learnt lessons from both his time at the north London club and at Wolves.

“No, no regrets, it happened,” he said.

“It was a pleasure to be at Spurs. Things didn’t go well so we move forwards. But no regrets.

“We learn everything, ourselves everything, you learn everything every day. Different situations.

“What we did in Wolves is totally different to what happened at Tottenham. In Saudi Arabia it was a new experience for me, new learning process for me, new culture, so we are always learning.

“I think we have to prove ourselves every day, as players, as coaches, everybody, it is a constant pressure to prove.

“What I expect is to help, try to transmit my knowledge and work ethic.” AFP

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Club World Cup has given Man City chance to reset, says Rodri

Chelsea show fighting spirit to progress to League Cup semi-finals

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Messi and Inter Miami to kick off 2024 MLS season on Feb. 21

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Argentine great Lionel Messi will launch his first full Major League Soccer (MLS) campaign on Feb. 21 when Inter Miami kick off the 2024 regular season at home with a match against Real Salt Lake, the league announced on Wednesday.

Messi’s club, which he joined in July after signing a two-and-a-half year contract, will be thrown back in the spotlight four days later when Miami visit LA Galaxy in a match that will highlight a full slate of opening week action.

Among their 34 regular season games, Messi’s club will also visit Orlando City SC on May 15 during MLS Rivalry Week. Miami’s final regular season game is Oct. 19 at New England Revolution.

The matches were announced along with the full schedule for the 2024 MLS regular season, which ends on Oct. 19 followed by the MLS Cup Playoffs and culminating in the MLS Cup on Dec. 7.

Messi, a World Cup champion and record eight-time Ballon d’Or winner as best player in the world, has made an immediate impact with Miami both on and off the field since his arrival.

The Argentine forward scored a stoppage-time winner in his Miami debut and had 11 goals in 14 appearances across all competitions for the MLS side while leading the club to their first-ever trophy by winning the Leagues Cup final.

Messi’s arrival was also credited with a surge in ticket prices, merchandise and subscriptions to Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass, which streams live matches. Miami have also said season tickets for their 2024 campaign are already sold out. REUTERS

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Singapore golfer Shannon Tan earns card to play on 2024 Ladies European Tour

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SINGAPORE – In a year which saw Shannon Tan writing her name in the golf record books after becoming the first local amateur to win the Singapore Ladies Masters, the 19-year-old has made yet another mark for herself.

This time her achievement was even more significant, as she finished eighth in the final stage of Lalla Aicha Q-School to earn a card on the prestigious Ladies European Tour (LET) in 2024 – again a first for a Singaporean golfer.

Competing at the Royal Golf Marrakech in Morocco, she posted a 69 in her fifth and final round on Dec 20 for a 15-under 348 total to finish eight strokes behind winner Nataliya Guseva of Russia.

With the top 20 and ties qualifying for the LET, Tan – who won the Dec 10-12 pre-qualifier at the Noria Golf Club to make the final stage – finished joint-eighth to earn a coveted spot.

Speaking to The Straits Times shortly after completing her round, Tan struggled to find the words to describe the moment and settled on “just very happy”.

She added later: “It means a lot to me. When I first started, I always wanted to do this as a career. I have tried to improve my game daily and take those small steps and those steps have led me to this stage.”

The full card will grant Tan access to all the events on the tour. There were at least 29 tournaments on the 2023 LET calendar, with prize purses ranging from US$300,000 (S$399,000) to US$7,300,000.

The 45-year-old tour has produced a number of success stories in women’s golf. Swedish great Annika Sorenstam, a 10-time Major champion who has won 90 titles, turned pro in 1992 and started her career on the LET. She won the LET Player of the Year honour in 1995 and 2002.

In 2017, Thai golfer Atthaya Thitikul became the youngest winner on the LET after clinching a two-shot victory at the Ladies European Thailand Championship aged just 14. She went on to claim three more titles on the LET before moving to the prestigious LPGA Tour, where she won twice in 2022 and reached the pinnacle of the world rankings in October that year.

It has been a year of breakthroughs for Tan, who in May closed out her freshman year at the Texas Tech University by finishing tied-fourth on her maiden outing at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I golf regionals.

Two months later, she became the first Singaporean amateur to clinch victory in the inaugural Singapore Ladies Masters on the China Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour.

She is now looking forward to a family holiday in Zurich, Switzerland, where she will also have an important conversation with her parents. She said: “It has been an unforgettable year. I am looking forward to spending time with my family because I have not been able to do that much this year.

“And we also now need to look at whether studies have to be put on hold because you need full commitment for the LET calender.”

Her latest achievement marks a pivotal year for women golfers here.

In 2023, Amanda Tan became the first Singaporean to play on the LPGA Epson Tour, the second tier of the women’s professional circuit in the United States. She competed in 17 events during the season.

Lyn Yeo, former Singapore Ladies Golf Association president and founder of the Singapore Ladies Masters and Singapore Junior Development Tour, said: “For Shannon, it’s always been her goal to play pro golf… I believe this is only the first step. Her end game is not just earning a tour card on the LET.

“Every sport needs a hero to drum up local support. I hope Shannon will be the one to raise Singapore’s golfing aspirations and our juniors can aim further and higher than just representing the country at the SEA Games.”

While Yeo had targeted the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics for Tan, she hopes the latter can seize the “outside chance” to try and qualify for the 2024 edition in Paris.

According to Yeo, competing on the LET and accumulating enough points to make the top 350 in the world rankings will give Tan – who is currently ranked 700th – a realistic shot for 2024.

Yeo said: “My dream for her is to represent Singapore at the Olympics. This is a goal she can achieve, based solely on merit and I believe we have an outside chance to make it to Paris 2024. For now, my task is to get her into more tournaments, to earn the points to qualify for the Olympics.”

After unprecedented success in 2023, one would not rule out Tan from achieving yet another historic feat in the new year.

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Amateur Shannon Tan wins inaugural Singapore Ladies Masters

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Israeli FM backs plan to 'fast track' Gaza aid via Cyprus

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LARNACA, Cyprus – Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen expressed support during his visit to Cyprus on Dec 20 for plans to send humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip from the Mediterranean island.

Cyprus has proposed establishing a corridor to collect, inspect, and store aid on the island before shipping it to Gaza.

Mr Cohen, after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos, emphasised the need for an “organised and well-inspected” transfer of aid.

“We aim to create a fast track for humanitarian aid to Gaza through this corridor,” he told reporters.

The ministers visited a search and rescue coordination centre in Larnaca, discussing logistical details for the plan.

Mr Cohen also inspected facilities at Larnaca port, the departure point for aid shipments.

Cyprus was ready to deliver large quantities of aid through this “maritime lifeline” expected to provide “a sustained flow of high-volume humanitarian assistance to the civilians” in Gaza, Mr Kombos said.

“We look forward to your green light for the first voyage,” he told Mr Cohen.

Under the plan, the aid would checked in Cyprus by a joint committee, including representatives from Israel.

The initiative aims to enhance humanitarian relief to Gaza by importing large volumes by ship instead of the limited deliveries by truck through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Israel is facing mounting international pressure that could speed up the dispatch of much-needed aid to Gaza, subjected to months of sustained Israeli bombardment.

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Gaza children dizzy from hunger as war impedes food deliveries

High civilian toll in Gaza is cost of crushing Hamas, say Israeli military officials

Israel has vowed to dismantle Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza, in response to the Oct 7 attacks in which around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, were killed and about 250 abducted, according to the latest Israeli figures.

Its retaliatory aerial bombing and ground offensive has killed 19,667 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The Israeli response also left swathes of Gaza in ruins, including hospitals. The United Nations says it has also displaced 1.9 million of the territory’s 2.4 million people.

Forced into overcrowded shelters, the displaced have struggled to find fuel, food, water and medical care.

Cypriot President Nicos Christodoulides has promoted his Gaza initiative among fellow EU leaders and friendly Arab states, and Larnaca was chosen due to its proximity to the Middle East.

The city is also home to the island’s international airport, expected to receive aid from other countries. AFP

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Israel battles Hamas on streets of Gaza city as UN delays vote again

Hamas leader visits Egypt amid intensive talks on new ceasefire

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Biden says new Gaza hostage deal not expected soon

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MILWAUKEE – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he did not expect an Israel-Hamas deal for the release of hostages held in Gaza to be struck soon.

“We’re pushing,” Biden told reporters during a trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Efforts are under way to try to arrange for the release of more hostages, with the heads of the U.S. CIA, Israel’s Mossad and Qatar’s prime minister expected to meet and discuss the issue. REUTERS

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UN vote on Gaza aid further delayed as US works 'intensely'

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UNITED NATIONS – A United Nations Security Council vote on a bid to boost aid to the Gaza Strip and ask the UN to monitor humanitarian aid deliveries in the Palestinian enclave has again been delayed at the request of the US, diplomats said on Dec 20.

“Negotiations are ongoing and need more time. A rushed vote does not seem like it will end well,” a UN diplomat familiar with negotiations told Reuters, referring to a possible US veto of the draft resolution.

It was not immediately clear when a council vote might be rescheduled.

The text – drafted by the United Arab Emirates – essentially aims to dilute Israel’s control over all humanitarian aid deliveries to 2.3 million people in Gaza.

Washington traditionally shields its ally Israel from UN action.

“We continue to engage extensively and constructively with a number of countries to try to resolve some of the outstanding issues in this Security Council resolution,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Dec 20.

Mr Blinken said the US had been working “intensely” on the issue and that he had been “on the phones about this for the last the last couple of days.”

“We want to make sure that the resolution … doesn’t do anything that could actually hurt the delivery of humanitarian assistance, make it more complicated. That’s what we’re focused on,” Mr Blinken said. “I hope we can get to a good place.”

After more than a week of negotiations and several days of vote delays, diplomats said the US is unhappy that the draft asks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a UN mechanism in Gaza “to exclusively monitor all humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza provided through land, sea and air routes of those States that are not parties to the conflict.”

Washington is also wary of a reference to a cessation of hostilities and a demand for Israel and Hamas to allow and facilitate “the use of all land, sea and air routes to and throughout the entire Gaza” for humanitarian aid deliveries, said diplomats.

Third veto?

Currently, Israel monitors the limited humanitarian aid and fuel deliveries to Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt and the Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing.

On Dec 20, the first aid convoy entered Gaza directly from Jordan with 750 metric tonnes of food. The World Food Programme says half of Gaza’s population is starving and only 10 per cent of the food required has entered Gaza since Oct 7.

The US has already twice vetoed Security Council action since an Oct 7 attack by Hamas that Israel says killed 1,200 people and saw 240 people taken hostage.

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High civilian toll in Gaza is cost of crushing Hamas, say Israeli military officials

Blinken says US wants Israel to shift to targeted operations in Gaza focusing on Hamas leadership

Israel has retaliated by bombarding Gaza from the air, imposing a siege and launching a ground offensive. Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Most people have been driven from their homes and UN officials and aid agencies have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The US and Israel oppose a ceasefire, believing it would only benefit Hamas. Washington instead supports pauses in fighting to protect civilians and allow the release of hostages taken by Hamas.

Earlier in December, the 193-member UN General Assembly demanded a humanitarian ceasefire, with 153 states voting in favour of the move that the US had vetoed in the Security Council days earlier.

A seven-day pause ended on Dec 1. During that time, Hamas released some hostages, some Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails and there was an increase in aid to Gaza. REUTERS

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Nine wounded in Kherson as Russia targets Ukraine cities

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KYIV – Ukraine said on Dec 20 that nine people, including four children, had been wounded by Russian shelling in the southern city of Kherson, as drones targeted the capital Kyiv and the second-largest city Kharkiv.

“During the evening shelling of Kherson by the Russian occupiers, nine people were injured, four of them were children,” said Mr Roman Mrochko, head of Kherson, adding that the children were between two and 13 years old.

He said a mother and her three children had been hospitalised but were in a “moderate” condition.

Kherson was retaken by Ukrainian troops in November 2022 but the city remains within reach of Russian weaponry, and is regularly targeted.

On the same night, a Ukrainian Red Cross warehouse storing aid intended for residents of the Kherson region was destroyed.

The Ukrainian Red Cross said on social media that a fire – ignited by a direct artillery hit – had “wiped out” supplies.

It posted images showing the charred remains of the facility where a fire was still smouldering.

Moscow has stepped up its nightly attacks on Ukrainian cities in recent weeks, at a time when the West’s willingness to support the country seems to be waning.

The air force said a “total 19 Shahed (drone) launches were recorded, 18 of which were destroyed within the Odesa, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi, Kyiv, Chernigiv and Kirovograd regions”.

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Ukraine’s Zelensky says ‘no one knows’ when war will end

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Several Iranian-made Shahed drones were shot down by Ukrainian air defences as they headed towards Kyiv, according to the head of the capital’s military administration, Sergiy Popko.

“There were no victims or destruction in the capital,” he wrote on social media, adding that the attack, the fifth on Kyiv in December, was staged from the Black Sea.

In the north-east, Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov reported at least two strikes near residential buildings in his city.

The Ukraine air force said Kharkiv was hit with “two S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles” fired from Russia’s Belgorod region. No casualties were reported.

Ukraine has asked its allies to provide more air defence systems.

The Democratic and Republican leaders of the US Senate said on Dec 19 that Washington will not be able to approve new aid for Ukraine before the year’s end. AFP

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Danish firm to build huge wind farm off UK

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COPENHAGEN (fdwind21) – Danish renewable energy firm Orsted said on Dec 20 it will build the world’s single largest offshore wind farm off Britain’s eastern coast.

The company said it had made a final investment decision to build the Hornsea 3 project, which will have a 2.9-gigawatt capacity to power more than 3.3 million UK homes.

The wind farm is expected to be completed around the end of 2027, creating up to 5,000 jobs during the construction phase.

It will add 1,200 permanent positions, “both directly and in the supply chain in the long operational phase,” the company said.

It will be Orsted’s third gigawatt project in the Hornsea area, which are operated out of Grimsby.

“Offshore wind is an extremely competitive global market, so we also welcome the attractive policy regime in the UK which has helped secure this investment,” Orsted chief executive Mads Nipper said in a statement. AFP

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Israel, Cyprus discuss 'fast track' maritime lane for aid to Gaza

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LARNACA, Cyprus/JERUSALEM – Israel and Cyprus agreed on Wednesday to pursue ways to set up a maritime aid corridor to Gaza, a move Israel said was an “important step” towards disengaging economically from the enclave it has invaded to wipe out Hamas militants.

Israel’s foreign minister was in Cyprus for talks on the corridor, proposed by Nicosia in early November. It will be subject to a security inspection coordinated by Israel, an Israeli foreign ministry statement said.

Cyprus, the closest European Union member state to the Middle East, has offered to host and operate facilities for sustained aid directly into the Gaza Strip once the devastating war between Israel and Hamas ends.

Should the plan materialise, it will be the first time an Israeli naval blockade on Gaza is eased since it was first imposed by Israel in 2007, after the Islamist Hamas seized control of the Palestinian territory.

“International aid, well supervised, will help the region gain more stability and prosperity,” Cohen said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos.

The announcement came with Israel facing increasing pressure from its international allies to rein in a military onslaught that has laid waste to much of the coastal enclave in retaliation for a cross-border Hamas killing spree on Oct. 7.

Until then, Israel allowed only heavily restricted trade with impoverished and isolated Gaza, and a limited number of permits for Gazans to work in Israel for much higher pay.

The overall objective, Cohen said, was to create a “fast track” for humanitarian aid to be delivered via a sea corridor. Technical teams from the two countries would be discussing the matter further on Wednesday and Thursday, he said.

“Our aim is to have all the details agreed as soon as possible,” Cohen said.

The two ministers visited the port of Larnaca, which is situated some 370 km (230 miles) northwest of Gaza and would be the security checkpoint on the Cypriot end of the maritime lane.

Gaza lacks port facilities but Britain has offered amphibious vessels able to access the enclave’s coastline without the need for special infrastructure.

Israel calls its long-standing Gaza blockade a precaution against arms reaching Hamas and other Palestinian militants by sea, and enforces it on any and all shipping.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said ships taking part in aid deliveries through the corridor would be exempted from the blockade. REUTERS

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Serbia to hold partial election re-run after row, says state media

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BELGRADE – Serbia announced plans on Dec 20 to re-run its recent election in certain areas, according to state media, just days after nationwide voting triggered protests and international condemnation over alleged fraud.

The parliamentary election will be repeated at 30 polling stations – out of over 8,000 voting places, said a statement published by state-run broadcaster RTS.

The re-run is set for Dec 30.

The announcement follows two days of protests that saw thousands rally in front of Serbia’s election commission following the weekend’s polls.

President Aleksandar Vucic claims his party had secured a commanding victory in parliamentary and local elections.

Criticism of the elections has been mounting after a team of international observers – including representatives from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – denounced a string of “irregularities”, including “vote buying” and “ballot box stuffing”.

Germany later labelled the reported allegations “unacceptable” for a country hoping to join the European Union, while the United States called on Belgrade to address the “concerns” of the election monitors.

Even though Mr Vucic was not personally on the ballot, the contest was largely seen as a referendum on his government.

Mr Vucic’s right-wing Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) earned roughly 46 per cent of votes in the parliamentary elections, while the leading opposition coalition secured 23.5 per cent of ballots, according to official results.

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Serbian elections marred by president's involvement, vote buying, say observers

Serbian opposition calls for new protest over election results

The SNS also said it won in municipal elections in the capital Belgrade, where the party faced their stiffest challenge from a loose coalition of opposition parties and candidates running under the Serbia Against Violence (SPN) banner.

The SPN movement was formed in the wake of back-to-back mass shootings earlier this year, which spurred hundreds of thousands to take to the streets in rallies that morphed into anti-government protests over several months.

Opposition groups have cast doubts over the validity of the contest in the wake of accusations that the government allowed unregistered voters from neighbouring Bosnia to cast ballots illegally in the capital. AFP

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EU, US urge Serbia to address concerns about electoral process

Serbia’s ruling party accused of buying votes ahead of polls

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