More stories

  • in

    Champions League winner ‘could be awarded Ballon d’Or FOUR YEARS late’ in never-before-seen move

    ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI could win the Ballon d’Or FOUR YEARS late – in a move almost as remarkable as his 2019-20 season.Covid restrictions robbed the striker of football’s top individual gong – despite his 55-goal campaign helping Bayern Munich win the Treble.Robert Lewandowski might get an extra gong after helping Bayern win the Treble in 2019-20, including beating PSG in the Champions League finalCredit: GettyInter Miami’s Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or for an eighth time last yearCredit: AFPBayern icon Lewandowski, 35, is still going strong, albeit for BarcelonaCredit: GettyLewandowski, now with Barcelona, is arguably the greatest modern-day men’s star never to have picked up the award.And in 2021, when Lionel Messi picked up the seventh of his record eight Ballons d’Or, the Argentine revealed everyone believed the Polish goal machine had been cruelly denied 12 months earlier.Messi told the ceremony: “Robert, you deserve your Ballon d’Or. Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that you were the big winner of this award.”Now Diario Sport journalist Ivan San Antonio claims France Football are considering handing Lewandowski the gong retrospectively. READ MORE TOP STORIESIt’s understood no final decision has been made over such an unprecedented step.But Lewandowski would reportedly be delighted to get the award – rather than frustrated at missing out when the prestigious occasion was ditched for the first time in 64 years.OneFootball quote the 35-year-old as saying: “If I won the Ballon d’Or four years later, I wouldn’t feel offended. “It would be a great honour and I would accept the award.”Most read in Champions LeagueCASINO SPECIAL – BEST CASINO WELCOME OFFERSBALLON D’OR WINNERS THIS CENTURYLIONEL MESSI and Cristiano Ronaldo of course have dominated the men’s award this century – but the last British winner also sneaks into the list.

    2000: Luis Figo (Real Madrid)
    2001: Michael Owen (Liverpool)
    2002: Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
    2003: Pavel Nedved (Juventus)
    2004: Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan)
    2005: Ronaldinho (Barcelona)
    2006: Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid)
    2007: Kaka (Milan)
    2008: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
    2009: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
    2010: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
    2011: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
    2012: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
    2013: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
    2014: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
    2015: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
    2016: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
    2017: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
    2018: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
    2019: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
    2020: Cancelled because of Covid-19
    2021: Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
    2022: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
    2023: Lionel Messi (Inter Miami)

    Lewandowski’s 2019-20 term has few equals for goalscoring.He failed to net when Bayern completed the Treble with a 1-0 victory over PSG in the Champions League final – the only time he has won that tournament.Ex-Man Utd star HEADBUTTS Robert Lewandowski and then scores own goal as Barcelona suffer epic collapseBut Lewandowski’s 55 goals in all domestic football was 16 more than his nearest rival in Europe’s big five leagues – with 34 strikes coming in his 31 Bundesliga matches.Apart from winning the European Golden Shoe, he was also named Fifa’s Men’s Player of the Year – which only added to the anger from many fans and pundits when the Ballon d’Or awards were cancelled.The 148-cap hero won the German crown eight times in a row and, since joining Barca in 2022, has added one LaLiga title.And apart from his own record-breaking, he stands to become his country’s first ever Ballon d’Or winner – if France Football does opt to roll back the years.ALL-TIME TOP 10 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SCORERSROBERT LEWANDOWSKI is third on the all-time list – behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
    But Lewandowski, former Bayern team-mate Thomas Muller and Kylian Mbappe are the only top-tenners still with clubs playing Champions League football.
    140: Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd, Real Madrid, Juventus)129: Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain)94: Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona)*90: Karim Benzema (FRA, Lyon, Real Madrid)71: Raul González (ESP, Real Madrid, Schalke)56: Ruud van Nistelrooy (PSV Eindhoven, Man Utd, Real Madrid)54: Thomas Muller (GER, Bayern)*50: Thierry Henry (FRA, Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona)48: Zlatan Ibrahimović (SWE, Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United)48: Kylian Mbappé (FRA, Monaco, Paris)*
    * Includes 2023/24 More

  • in

    I fled in horror as merciless hooligans stormed Wembley Stadium like ‘zombies’ & hurled glass at my terrified daughter

    ENGLAND’s outing in the Euro 2020 final was a day that went down in sporting history – but for many, it was for all the wrong reasons. Instead of the nail-biting match – where England lost in a 3-2 penalty shootout to Italy – it was the anarchy and carnage that unfolded at Wembley Stadium that remains in the minds of many.The 2020 Euro final was dominated by scenes of inebriated Brits outside Wembley StadiumCredit: RexScores of ticketless fans ‘punched’ their way through security barriers and guardsCredit: NetflixSome England supporters clashed inside the stadium with the ticketless mobsCredit: NetflixIt followed more than 2,000 ticketless fans storming the ground and thousands more outside – many of whom were drunk and drugged up – causing danger and destruction.Footage from the day, July 11, showed people with injuries from fights and glass bottles being wantonly lobbed into the air, as well as broken traffic lights, lamposts and trees. Baroness Louise Casey’s review into violence at the 2021 final found a “series of near misses” could have led to “significant injuries or even death” and that Wembley’s security had been breached 17 times. Now the Netflix documentary The Final: Attack On Wembley, which airs on May 8, reveals the “carnage and chaos” that unfolded on the day that was compared to “a warzone”. READ MORE ON SPORTThe terrifying scenes, which resulted in 19 police officers suffering injuries and 86 arrests, left many fearing for their safety as they tried to navigate through the inebriated masses.Among them was Gianluca Santoro, an Italian who lives in South London, who was forced to shield his daughter Maya, then 10, from projectiles lobbed at them by England fans.The tennis coach, 51, told The Sun: “I remember walking towards the stadium and the floor was full of broken glass. It was like a bomb had gone off.“I had to stop bottles and cans hitting us with my hands, which was painful, and some were open so the beer was spraying all over us.Most read in Football“I was really scared for my daughter’s safety because the bottles were flying at us from all over the place and people were yelling abuse and swearing at me right to my face.“We found a group of Italians and we all surrounded Maya to create a protective barrier. I took off my rucksack to cover her face and they put jackets and hoodies around her.The Final: Attack on Wembley Netflix Trailer“I felt silly, naive and guilty that I took her but I imagined a different atmosphere, I thought people would be happy to be at Wembley and in the final. I wasn’t expecting so much abuse.” ‘Like a warzone’On the day of the final, there were 67,000 ticketed fans but more than 6,000 others showed up at Wembley Stadium – some arriving as early as 8am, 12 hours before kick-off, to bask in England’s glory. But soon, amid drunkenness and reported cocaine use, “scenes of carnage and chaos” unfolded according to Chris Whyte, Director of Operations at Brent Council.He told the documentary that drinking levels were “very, very high” early on and “bad behaviour… had taken hold” due to a low police presence and security and stewards being vastly outnumbered. Gianluca Santoro had to shield his daughter Maya, then 10, from glass bottles lobbed by England fansCredit: Netflix /Gianluca SantoroInebriated fans climbed on top of traffic lights, buses and lampostsCredit: NetflixCharlie Perry, 25, from Sunbury-on-Thames, became known as ‘a*** flare man’ after this stuntCredit: 2021 Elliott FranksGianluca recalls being ‘really scared’ for his daughter’s safetyCredit: Netflix /Gianluca SantoroMetropolitan Police, who later apologised for the “unacceptable scenes of disorder”, had sent the majority of officers to Central London, where previous antisocial behaviour had taken place.The force’s main deployment was due to arrive at Wembley by 3pm – five hours before kick-off – but were called in early due to the danger presented by fans. It was a scene of devastation. There were broken traffic lights, lamposts, trees. It was just like a bomb had gone off and there was debris everywhere.Carolyn Downs, then Chief Executive of Brent CouncilSocial media footage from the day showed some fans climbing onto traffic lights, lamposts and a bus, others lit flares and several scuffles broke out. “Bottles and cans are sort of crashing down all around, full bottles of beer, empty bottles…” Whyte recalled. “People [were] clearly unaware of and uncaring about where these bottles might land and what damage they might cause…“I’ve got very vivid memories of seeing glass injuries, there was blood and bandages… it did resemble a bit of a warzone.”Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive at Brent Council, added: “[It] was a scene of devastation. There were broken traffic lights, lamposts, trees. It was just like a bomb had gone off and there was debris everywhere.”Onlookers described how security and stewards “didn’t really have a chance” of clamping down on the dangerous behaviour due to the sheer number of people around the stadium. Shameless invadersTo prevent ticketless fans getting in, a security perimeter around the stadium had been set up but it didn’t prove enough. Chris Bryant, Director of Tournaments and Events at The FA, says many of the “thugs” were “putting their own and others’ lives in danger” during their attempts to break in.Among them was England fan Dan, who joined a mob that stampeded their way through security and managed to bypass the turnstiles by hiding behind a ticketed fan.Nearly 90 people were arrested on the day of the finalCredit: NetflixThose without tickets charged through turnstilesCredit: NetflixMobs raced up stairs to get closer to the stadium after evading securityCredit: NetflixDespite the damage caused and the risk to life, the Manchester United fan, from Shropshire, told the documentary: “I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done.”He had taken “what I earn in a month” – around £2,000 – hoping to buy a ticket from a fan, believing “it would be difficult for them to say no” to such a large sum. But when Dan’s offer “fell on deaf ears” and he realised he could end up “not even having anywhere to watch it at all,” he made a drastic decision.We’ve never locked down the turnstiles there’s never been a need to… but I’ve just witnessed something I’ve never seen before.Liam Boylan, Director of Wembley StadiumHaving spotted that Wayne Rooney had entered without having to battle through the crowds, he started to scope out the ground for weak spots.Dan noticed a large crowd gathered at the Spanish Steps and after hearing them yell “Are we ready? Are we ready?” joined the masses who forced their way through security guards and barriers.Liam Boylan, Director of Wembley Stadium, who was watching from the control room, described seeing the crowd “punch their way through” as “antisocial, reckless behaviour turned to violence”.Recalling a steward was knocked down to the ground, he said: “It catches your breath when you’re watching that… [and] thinking, ‘What the hell is going on.’”Dan, who had to do a “roly-poly over the bodies” on the ground, added: “I wasn’t really aware of what was going on around me, violence-wise. “I was so focused on my own little mission, that’s all it was for me, it was just complete desperation to not miss this event.” Later, Dan managed to bypass stewards for a second time by jigging – where someone walks closely behind a ticketed fan to squeeze through a turnstile without paying.One man was kicked multiple times in the head after entering the stadiumCredit: NetflixInside the stadium several fans clashedCredit: NetflixMetal gates were piled up by irate, drunk and drugged up fansCredit: NetflixEuro 2020 final: a timeline of the chaotic events

    8.00AM – Fans begin to arrive at Wembley, 12 hours before kick off. Some head to pubs, others surround the stadium. Many do not have tickets. 
    10.00AM – One London Underground official claims to have “never seen drunkenness like this so early on in the day”. Stewards and security staff report high levels of drug use.
    11.30AM – Met Police Service (MPS) Silver Commander requests officers are sent to the stadium earlier than their deployment time. One officer has been punched in the face. Crowds gather at the Olympic steps, near Olympic Way.
    12.00PM – Fans climb onto the roof of a bus on Fulton Road, near the stadium. It’s considered the first “red flag” for those on the ground. Officers, requested at 11.30am, arrive and rescue the stranded bus.
    1.00PM – Flares are set off, fans climb traffic lights, lamposts and trees, and bottles are “getting chucked into the air”. Half an hour later British Transport Police deploys officers from Central London.
    2.30PM – 175 Met Police Service officers are deployed. Fireworks, smoke bombs and glass bottles are being thrown on Olympic Way. 
    3.00PM – Volunteers and council workers are withdrawn for their safety. An additional, 50 public order officers and 100 specialist officers from the MPS Territorial Support Group arrive.
    4.00PM – Police stop barriers being kicked down at Bobby Moore Bridge, near Olympic Way. Police advise ticketless fans not to travel to Wembley. Every 15minutes, an extra 3,000 fans arrive at Wembley Park Underground Station.
    4.30PM – The Outer Security Perimeter (OSP) entrances open. Police fear swathes of unticketed fans “will try to push onto the concourse”. It’s feared the OSP fence will not hold.
    5.00PM – Doors and gates are open. Within minutes a first person has been detained for ‘jigging’ – closely following behind a ticketed fan to gain entry – at Gate A.
    5.30PM – One group has breached the Spanish steps. The Safety Officer has locked all turnstiles. “Loutish” behaviour and “hand-to-hand combat” with “groups of 40-50 men at a time” occurs. MPS sends more reserves to Wembley, making a total of 553 officers.
    5.45PM – Violence erupts outside a Co-op on Olympic Way. One police officer is attacked. The crowd fails to smash the shop’s windows. Soon, turnstiles are unlocked due to concerns over crowd density. 
    6.30PM – A fence line has been knocked down, allowing crowds to breach Club Wembley’s outer security perimeter. Police and stewards battle to stop a group entering through a disabled pass gate at Gate M. Several more gate invasions follow including 90 people storming an emergency fire door. Police are deployed to all turnstiles. 
    7.30PM – Crowds attempt to breach more gates. During one, multiple fans are trampled amid a stampede of 100 unticketed fans. Police are dispatched to the bottom of the Olympic Steps when a fence collapses. 
    7.55PM – A large group charges at the Olympic Steps Outer Security Perimeter as England’s national anthem plays. Police wield batons and ‘fast walk’ to force them back. By 8.02pm, when Luke Shaw scores for England, crowds charge an outer gate near the South West Ramp.
    9.15PM – Urgent repairs have been called for on emergency exit doors at Turnstile G due to breaches.
    10.00PM – Fans continue to look for points where they can break in as extra time begins. 
    10.50PM – Fire doors at Gate G are breached for a third time – around 30 people enter. Two minutes later, exit doors are opened for fans to leave the stadium. By 10.54pm, Italy has beaten England on penalties. Fans outside the stadium start to leave the area.
    12.30AM – Portable toilets have been pushed over on Olympic Way. Railway officials report having protected Italian fans. The beginning of a five-day clean-up operation begins, as 31 tonnes of rubbish – 10 times the normal amount – is removed. 

    ‘Massive crush’Near the Club Wembley entrance, groups of ‘30 to 40 people’ were collectively barging into metal railings and tipping them over in a bid to get closer to the stadium. Former rugby union star Ugo Monye, who observed the chaos, recalled: “There was an avalanche of people coming through.” He said observers were “terrified” and had to shield themselves from projectiles, adding: “The chaos and carnage was happening all around us.”Meanwhile, Bryant and his colleagues reconstructed the metal barriers only for others to be knocked down further away.  He said: “It did feel like whack-a-mole for the best part of 45 minutes.”Amid the chaos, Boylan says the decision was made to “lock down the turnstiles” – preventing fans with tickets, as well as those without, from entering the ground. I’ve never seen anything of that sort in my life. This horde of zombies come running in, falling over, people trampling over them. It was madness.Taz, Wembley Security GuardHe said: “We’ve never locked down the turnstiles, there’s never been a need to… but I’ve just witnessed something I’ve never seen before.”Security guard Taz says he knew “something bad must have happened” for them to take such drastic action and while waiting for the turnstiles to reopen received a barrage of abuse.He recalled being told: “When I get in I’m going to f*** you up,” along with racist abuse.Soon after, the turnstiles were reopened for “the safety of the majority” after concerns there could be a “massive crush”.Downs, who was at the south side of the stadium, said: “It felt really scary. This could really end up being quite serious. I just kept thinking, ‘Please don’t let anyone get hurt.’” After the turnstiles opened, more ticketless fans began forcing their way in. Some broke in through fire escape doors, which had been deliberately opened from the inside, and others forced their way through gates.Large barriers were knocked down by ticketless mobs trying to get into the stadiumCredit: NetflixWembley security guards were praised for their braveryCredit: NetflixMakeshift medic stations had to be erected to treat spectators with glass injuries from thrown bottlesCredit: NetflixSecurity guard Taz said: “I’ve never seen anything of that sort in my life. This horde of zombies come running in, falling over, people trampling over them. It was madness.“If I had thrown myself in front of all those people I probably would not be sitting here today.”While Taz focused on trying to close the fire escape doors, ticketed and unticketed fans clashed.  Boylan added: “There was a conflict between those people that have got in legitimately and those people that have got in illegally… there are scuffles, fights and all sorts of stuff breaking out.” Social media footage revealed brutal scenes including one fan being kicked multiple times in the face and several others being punched. Seat thief laughedHaving an extra 2,000 people illegally in the stadium meant many fans, some of whom had paid thousands to watch the game, struggled to get to their seats.Kevin, from East London, who forked out £1,000 for two tickets, recalled being laughed at after confronting someone who had nicked his seat.You look at what could happen if England win and the safest outcome is England losing.Liam Boylan“He turned to his mate and goes, ‘Oi, these two paid for their tickets!’ and he started laughing,” Kevin said.“He and his friend described how they had a minibus of 10 or 12 of them who had come down with the intention of breaking in and they all managed to.” Shortly before kick off, the turnstiles were locked down again and police dressed in riot gear lifted their batons and “walked with purpose” at revellers outside the stadium.They created a perimeter around Wembley, which prevented further ground invasions but didn’t help to disperse the crowds, as hoped. Officials compared scenes to ‘like a warzone’ due to the amount of debris and broken glass around the stadiumCredit: ReutersSome fans arrived at Wembley Stadium at 8am – 12 hours before the match was due to beginCredit: GettyFor Boylan, his focus was on the 67,000 fans inside the stadium and he admits hoping that England would lose in order to keep fans safe. He feared more of the unruly mob outside would try to break in, especially when exit doors opened before the end of the match.Recalling his fear, he said: “I’ve got this blue line with 6,000 people out there, if they see that doors are opening and then they hear the roar going up because England have won, are they coming inside?“This lot are not England fans, this lot are not football fans, I don’t know what they are. They’re just a bunch of people that are going to punch their way through.“You look at what could happen if England win and the safest outcome is England losing.” Boylan admits he was overwhelmed with “relief” after England lost 3-2 on penalties and those outside the stadium finally started to walk away from the ground. ‘Perfect storm’Reflecting on the day, he said: “I never ever want to go through what I faced on that day again… I’m not still fully over it because it hurt, it really, really hurt. We saw things that we’d never ever seen before.” Baroness Casey’s review would later conclude there was “a perfect storm of lawlessness” on the day of the final – caused in part by it being a major event after coronavirus lockdown restrictions had been relaxed. It praised the bravery of stewards and police officers as well as staff from Brent Council, the FA and Wembley in what was described as “extraordinary aggression”. Metropolitan Police later apologised for the ‘unacceptable scenes of disorder’Credit: NetflixIn addition to 67,000 ticketed fans, thousands gathered around Wembley StadiumCredit: NetflixFA CEO Mark Bullingham said: “No event is set up to deal with such disgraceful behaviour from thousands of ticketless fans. Collectively we must never allow this to happen again.”Some of the ticketless fans were prosecuted. But it’s likely many do not regret their actions – including Dan.He told the doc: “I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done. In 2020, we were all locked away in our homes couldn’t go anywhere, could only go outside for a little bit of exercise and the whole time we’re doing that, the leaders of our country were partying.“How can I feel like I’ve done something wrong? To witness England [potentially] winning their first trophy since 1966, I wasn’t missing that for nobody.” As for Gianluca, while the finals were far from the day he envisaged with his daughter, he says it made her appreciate her Italian heritage more. READ MORE SUN STORIESHe says: “I often think they did me a favour. Maya, whenever she talks about something related to Italy, she says, ‘But daddy, we Italians, us Italians’. For me it was more than football.”The Final: Attack On Wembley, which was filmed by Rogan Productions, is available to watch on Netflix from May 8. More

  • in

    Paris Olympics to lift sex ban with 300,000 condoms to be delivered to Olympic village

    OLYMPIC chiefs have lifted the ban on athletes having sex ahead of this summer’s Games.A sex suspension was implemented ahead of the 2020 Games Tokyo, which took place in the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.The 2024 Olympic Games take place in Paris this summerCredit: ALAMYOlympic chiefs have lifted the sex ban they had in place for the 2024 GamesCredit: REUTERSThe ban was imposed in a bid to stop events from being scuppered by Covid outbreaks.But those preventative measures have been lifted ahead of this summer’s Games in Paris – meaning athletes can get up to as much rumpy-pumpy as they like.Olympic Village director Laurent Michaud said: “It is very important that the conviviality here is something big.”Working with the athletes commission, we wanted to create some places where the athletes would feel very enthusiastic and comfortable.”READ MORE ON PARIS 2024The Olympic Village , according to TMZ, will be stocked with a whopping 300,000 free condoms.So athletes will have no excuse for not practicing safe sex during the tournament.There won’t, however, be any free champers for them to drink during the competition.Although they will have a wide array of food from around the globe available to them every day.Most read in AthleticsCASINO SPECIAL – BEST CASINO WELCOME OFFERSThe Olympic Village will be stocked with 300,000 free condomsCredit: GETTYFormer Center Parcs head-honcho Michaud said: “[There will be no champagne in the village, of course, but they can have all the champagne they want also in Paris.”We will have more than 350 metres of buffet with the world food.We’re twin sisters, 27, who both secretly battled same disease… now we’re plotting Olympic gold at Paris 2024 together”And I’m sure that the athletes will be very happy to have some French specialties made over here.”But the variety will first respond to the athletes’ needs for their nutrition and their performance.”The Paris Games – which get underway on July 26 and end on August 11 – are expected to attract the largest crowds since London 2012.Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi told Sky News: “It has to be a celebration and it is a celebration.”We’ve had many challenges in the past. “In Rio, we faced situations that were amazingly complex.”But what you see is that with a bit of goodwill from everyone – starting with the organisers.”But also as far as the Olympic community is concerned – meeting with the challenges and coming up with solutions… is in the greater interest that the Games represent.READ MORE SUN STORIES”What we all want is for unity, peace and a celebration of the best athletes. “This is how this creative family works together. Any challenge? We will win.” More

  • in

    Watch Conor McGregor land brutal shot on sparring partner in his garden… leaving Ebanie Bridges in awe

    CONOR McGREGOR looked razor sharp in a sparring session held in his GARDEN – leaving the likes of Ebanie Bridges in awe. McGregor is gearing up for his anticipated UFC return and has spent the past year ramping up training.
    Conor McGregor looked razor sharp in a sparring sessionCredit:
    Ebanie Bridges was in awe of McGregor’s sparring clipCredit: @ebanie_bridges
    McGregor and Bridges have struck up a friendshipCredit: Instagram @ebaniebridges
    During the Covid-19 pandemic, with restrictions on public gyms, the Irishman built a fully-sized UFC cage on the site of his mansion.
    And McGregor still uses it to this day as he released footage from a recent sparring session.
    He captioned it: “The double goat, I have the full scale octagon in my garden with the canvas covered in billion dollar businesses.”
    In the clips, McGregor lands a series of stinging counter shots and one kick to the stomach had his sparring partner wincing in agony.
    His comment section was full of praise, with boxing legend Evander Holyfield replying: “Ok then.”
    Ex-champion Bridges followed up with three fire emojis and one lovestruck face.
    The Aussie has struck up a close friendship with McGregor and is even sponsored by his Forged Irish Stout beverage.
    McGregor’s return to the cage has continued to be delayed since his last fight in July 2021, when he broke his leg.
    Most read in Boxing
    The former two-weight UFC champion, 35, had eyed the headline spot on the historic UFC 300 card on April 13.
    But he then brazenly announced he would return on June 29 against Michael Chandler, 37, in a middleweight bout.
    Seven sports stars who started an OnlyFans including ex-footballer and British boxing icon
    UFC president Dana White was quick to shut down McGregor’s claim and even said his comeback fight was more likely pushed back till the winter.
    And White recently spoke out to try and clarify the confusion behind McGregor’s dragged out talks to return.
    He told Kevin Iole: “Only Conor knows [when he’s ready].
    “These are questions for Conor McGregor, not me. I know he’s training. I don’t know what level of training he’s doing.”
    White added: “I don’t know what level of kicking he’s doing right now. I don’t know any of that stuff.
    “I need to know the guy’s in a full camp and he’s ready to go. Conor McGregor has a movie coming out.

    “He’s got businesses that he’s built. It’s a completely different dynamic when you’re dealing with a guy that has this kind of money.”
    McGregor is in training for his UFC returnCredit:
    The UFC star has not fought since July 2021Credit: More

  • in

    I worked in McDonald’s after leaving uni – now I make six-figure salary after turning football side hustle into my job

    OLLIE JENKS has come up trumps after turning his love of football nostalgia into a lucrative career selling player cards.Rather than get his stickers in a twist during the Covid lockdown, he used the extra time online to collect them and become a TikTok phenomenon.
    Cards for players like Beckham and Messi fetch huge sumsCredit: TikTok @paolo.panini
    Ollie Jenks’ finds from around the world go back six decadesCredit: TikTok @paolo.panini
    The former University of Surrey media student, 32, has unearthed a David Beckham Rookie card from 1996 worth £7,000 and also sold a Grade 10 signed Lionel Messi card for £3k.
    Ollie, from Devon, worked in McDonalds when he had little idea what career to pursue.
    But then his addiction to footie facts and figures took him back to the future – via vintage cards and stickers.
    Ollie fronts told card-breaking channel Paolo Panini, whose posts include a four-hour live stream on Friday that averages 35,000 viewers.
    He told SPORTbible: “We grew quite rapidly over the first six months… in the first year, our sales were around the £300,000 mark.”
    And he revealed how his obsession set in at school where he beat all the teachers in the Fantasy Football Leagues – eventually emerging as a vocation where he searches for tiny pictures from the past.
    Ollie said: “My earliest memory is going to a swap shop at Exeter’s Westpoint Arena for the 1998 Premier League sticker album
    “It was a bit of a weird experience as it was in a giant cowshed. The idea of the event was to swap your duplicates for ones you need, but it stank of cow c**p, to be honest.
    Most read in Football
    “I also fell in love with the story arcs of a player’s ups and downs throughout their career, especially in the ’90s or ’00s, when it felt like anything could happen.”
    He finally settled in Dublin, working with foreign students – only for Covid to force him into new ideas.
    He said: “I wanted to combine my love of storytelling and what I knew about ’00s football, so Team Of Our Lives was born – a niche 2000s-based football podcast.”
    In particular, Ollie switched from making short football documentaries on YouTube to an even more popular form of social media in 2020.
    He said: “I uploaded a few of those vintage pack-opening videos from the podcast to TikTok and it blew up.
    “Seeing so many people interested in football nostalgia was huge, and with some modern rare cards going for big money I attempted to make a living out of it.”
    Ollie now calls himself a Football Treasure Hunter and explained: “Some of the greatest players such as Pele have football cards that could be worth as much as $1.3million (about £1m).
    “So there is real value to be had in finding rare packs that have been sealed for 50 years and potentially finding some footballing history – that’s why I love it so much.”

    He reckons the most expensive packs currently in circulation are from the 1970 World Cup – including late legends Sir Bobby Charlton, Eusebio and Pele, plus Franz Beckenbauer.
    A complete album from that tournament in Mexico recently sold at auction for more than £2k. More

  • in

    I’m a Premier League star and champion of Europe – but I almost became a FARMER and still train on potato fields

    FOOTBALLERS tried many different things to keep in shape during the pandemic, but Jarrod Bowen trained on a FARM.Bowen has become a hero at West Ham since he joined the club from Hull City in January 2022.
    Jarrod Bowen trained on a farm during the pandemicCredit: Getty
    He won the Conference League with West HamCredit: Getty
    The forward scored on his first start for the club in a 3-1 win over Southampton.
    Bowen, 27, would have to wait a while for his next as the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to football across Europe.
    During the break from football, he maintained his fitness by training on a farm.
    Bowen claimed that the ground on a farm has helped him with muscle injuries.
    He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s a bit like running on sand, but a bit thicker.
    “I’ve found it really good for muscle injuries and, because I’ve had weak ankles, to work on them and stabilise them.
    “But also because it is really tough to train on because you feel so slow, when you go running on the grass you feel like you’re a sprinter.
    “It’s been my training method for years with my old man.
    Most read in Football
    “He is pretty old school, he doesn’t want me to just go running round a normal field doing football runs, he wants me to run around a potato field with weights in my arms.”
    Bowen also admitted that after rejection from clubs such as Aston Villa, Tottenham and West Brom he came close to quitting football.
    If he had he would have opted for a career in farming.
    He added: “Maybe in another life I could have been up all night on the farm. The way of life back home is very country-orientated. There’s a lot of farms.
    “There’s a lot of routes you can go…and football isn’t usually a route you go down.
    “I used to go to the farm with grandad. Now it’s my uncle who owns one. I’d like a farm but when I speak to him, it’s too much hassle.
    “The thought of it, ‘oh yeah, I want a farm to do things’, is better than the actual reality.”
    Luckily for West Ham, Bowen did get his break at non-league side Hereford and then Hull City.
    Bowen became one of the top performers in the Championship which saw the Hammers swoop in with a £25million offer.
    Read more on The Sun
    Since joining the East London outfit, Bowen has become one of the star players and scored the winning goal in the Europa Conference League final last season.
    The forward has also earned a call-up to the England team and made his debut against Hungary. More

  • in

    Emery’s Aston Villa could become the nation’s new Leicester and include players you might actually enjoy a pint with

    IT’S been eight long years since Leicester City shook the world.Since Jamie Vardy was having a party, N’Golo Kante was covering 30 per cent of the world’s surface and manager Claudio Ranieri was ringing his imaginary bell, while babbling ‘dilly ding, dilly dong’.Happier times, those. Before the pandemic, Brexit, the European Super League plot and the Saudi invasion of elite sport. And pretty much all of us loved Leicester back then.
    John McGinn celebrates his winner vs ArsenalCredit: Getty

    Unai Emery celebrates getting one over his old clubCredit: Getty

    Because Ranieri’s miracle men took the impossible dreams of every football supporter who didn’t support a filthy-rich club and played out the ultimate fantasy of winning the Premier League.
    These days, the Foxes are in the Championship, Ranieri is next to bottom in Serie A with Cagliari, while Kante and Riyad Mahrez are taking Saudi dosh and Vardy is a bit-part character in the Wagatha Christie drama.
    Good times are fleeting, but we’ll always have 2016.
    Not just Leicester fans, but all of us who enjoyed the journey from Nigel Pearson’s ostrich rant to Andrea Bocelli singing Nessun Dorma when they dished out the big silver pot.
    In the past seven seasons, there has been no true outsider with a sniff of winning the Premier League crown at any advanced stage of the season.
    Not until the emergence of Unai Emery’s Aston Villa.
    Do I think Villa will win the title? No. If Rodri plays every game for the rest of the season, Manchester City should do it.
    If not, Liverpool are grinding out undeserved wins like the champions of cliche.
    Most read in Football
    And if not them, then Arsenal went close last term and have improved since.
    Those clubs could stage a three-horse title race right down to the wire but, while us lot in the media would obsess about it, most neutrals wouldn’t really care all that much who won.
    City, Liverpool and Arsenal are breakaway Super League ‘snakes’, who sought to smash English football’s pyramid system and thought they were too good to play teams like Villa, Everton, Bournemouth and Fulham — probably the Premier League’s four most in-form teams.
    Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham showed that same ­arrogance and they cannot be reminded of it often enough.
    Sure, Newcastle disrupted the Big Six last season and will continue to do so but the oil-rich human-rights abusers who fund Geordie Arabia will never win the nation’s affections.
    Villa’s back-to-back victories over City and Arsenal — the first one impressively dominant, the second more fortuitous — leaves them two points off the top with the season almost halfway through.
    Even if Villa won the league, it would be no Leicester-style miracle. They have more history, money and quality than those 2016 Foxes.
    Ranieri’s men were relegation favourites, with their 5,000-1 price so fanciful that no bookie will ever offer such odds against anyone winning anything ever again.
    Ranieri’s Leicester made everyone believers for a while after their shock title winCredit: PA WIRE
    Villa are former European ­champions, who finished seventh last season, under a serial trophy-winner in Emery.
    But they are still the closest thing to Leicester since Leicester.
    And if they continue to be a part of the title argument, Villa would be a team for the nation — except for supporters of their immediate West Midlands rivals — to coalesce around.
    It’s easy to find things to like about Villa — from the atmosphere of their stately home ground, to an amiable manager who was wronged by plenty of us during his doomed spell at Arsenal.
    John McGinn — man of the match against City and scorer of the winning goal against Arsenal — is one of those rare ­current Premier League footballers you could imagine enjoying a couple of pints with.
    Ollie Watkins is not only an impressive striker but also a thoroughly decent bloke who has worked his way up through all four divisions at Exeter and Brentford.
    Along with Ezri Konsa, he’s a man from the pyramid Villa’s title rivals had hoped to destroy.
    Leon Bailey is a wonderful watch and a perma-smiled dude who seems to cherish his work.
    And Argentinian World Cup-winning keeper Emi Martinez is a lovable rascal who, when ­questioned about Villa’s title credentials by a Match of the Day interviewer, replied ‘I’m a believer, mate’, in something resembling a Cockney accent.
    Not many outside the Villa squad are believers just yet — their away record is patchy and their squad lacks a little depth.
    Read more on The Sun
    But Emery’s team are a force for good in a league too often dominated by sheer wealth.
    And, thanks to Leicester, none of us should ever again completely rule out anything.
    Martinez is a believer tooCredit: gETTY More

  • in

    Who is Jamie Arnold and what crimes did he commit?

    JAMIE Arnold was found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence aimed at Rio Ferdinand while he was working as a pundit in May 2021.Here we take a look at the crimes Arnold committed and what Ferdinand has said about them.
    Rio Ferdinand was working as a pundit for BT Sport when Jamie Arnold racially abused himCredit: Rex
    What crimes did Jamie Arnold commit?
    In August 2021 Jamie Arnold, 33, of Norton Bridge, near Stone, Staffordshire, was charged with causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.
    The crime was committed during a match between Wolverhamption Wanderers and Manchester United on May 23, 2021.
    Arnold was also charged with making homophobic comments towards the referee.
    Rio was working as a pundit for BT Sport when Arnold racially abused the former Man Utd defender at Wolves’ home ground Molineux.
    Arnold’s attack happened at the first game where a reduced number of supporters were allowed in the ground following the easing of Covid restrictions.
    At a hearing in July 2021, Arnold pleaded not guilty.
    Rio was escorted by PC Stuart Ward — the UK’s first dedicated hate crime officer within the football unit — as he arrived at Wolverhampton Crown Court on August 26, 2021.
    Arnold was granted conditional bail after a 25-minute hearing.
    Most read in Football
    On November 1, 2023 Arnold was found unanimously guilty by a jury of racially abusing Ferdinand.
    Senior Crown Prosecutor Alistair Redford said: “Arnold made despicable racist gestures towards a victim who was just trying to do his job.
    “I would like to thank the stewards whose quick-thinking actions ensured they could identify and remove Arnold from the stadium that day, and for Mr Ferdinand and witnesses who came forward to help us build as strong a case as possible.”
    A spokesperson for anti-racism organisation Kick It Out said: “Kick It Out welcomes the guilty verdict handed to Arnold today.
    “It is imperative that perpetrators of discriminatory abuse are held to account for their actions and we hope this result sends a strong statement that racism has no place in our, or in society.
    “We commend the CPS and West Midlands Police for their work securing justice in this case and would urge authorities across the country to take similar incidents of discriminatory abuse just as seriously.
    “We continue to work with partners across football to tackle discriminatory abuse as it happens and to ensure that victims receive the support they need.
    “We would encourage anyone who witnesses discrimination of any sort in future to report it directly to us at Kick It Out.”
    Arnold will be sentenced on December 8, 2023.
    Has Rio Ferdinand spoken out about the crimes?
    At the time of the attack, Rio said: “The last couple weeks, it’s been unreal to see fans back.
    “However, to the Wolves fan who has just been thrown out… you need to be dismissed from football and educated.
    “Come meet me and I will help you understand what it feels like to be racially abused.”
    In response to Arnold being found guilty, Ferdinand said: “I’ve been involved in a Court case in Wolverhampton since May 2021.
    “Today [November 1, 2023] the guy who racially abused me has been found guilty and will now have to face consequences for his actions.
    “Racism will only be eradicated when we all work together as a society.
    Read more on The Sun
    “The prosecution wouldn’t have been possible without all the help/support from the witnesses, Wolverhampton fans and staff that came forward to testify in court.
    “Special thank you to Police Constable Stuart Ward [football hate crime officer], my Family and my team at New Era.” More