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British Queen celebrates


Arsene Wenger would love to silence his critics by making history when holders Arsenal take on Aston Villa  in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

Frustrated by Arsenal's failure to win the Premier League since 2004 and their inability to make an impact in the Champions League, even some Gunners fans have turned on Wenger over the last two years.Wenger heads to Wembley on the cusp of an historic double achievement that would go some way to answering the doubters who claim he has lost his touch in recent years.

Verbally abused at a railway station following defeat at Stoke and forced to endure the indignity of supporters holding banners calling for his sacking, the Arsenal manager has maintained a dignified stance in the face of extreme provocation this term.



But that isn't to say the jibes don't sting Wenger and, after a strong second half of the season saw Arsenal climb to a third place finish in the Premier League, the 65-year-old has an opportunity to further reassert his credentials by retaining the FA Cup.

A victory over Aston Villa would make Wenger the first post-war manager to win the FA Cup six times, taking him ahead of Alex Ferguson and level with George Ramsay -- the only manager to have won six FA Cups, with his last coming in charge of Villa in 1920.


There would also be a significant slice of history for Wenger's club if they lift the famous old trophy as it would make them the most successful team in the history of the competition with 12 Cup-winning campaigns.




Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said he does not envisage any "big investments" over the summer and is instead concentrating on keeping his league-winning side intact.

The English Premier League champions flew into Bangkok Thursday ahead of a match against a Thai All Stars team, the first stop on an end-of-season tour that will also take in Australia.

"Our group is top. The qualities are good. The most important thing in the market for us is not to lose players, I want to keep my players," the 52-year-old Portuguese manager said.

"The players I am looking for are my players. Of course, two or three players are always coming to the club, that's normal," he said.

But he added that the summer months would be "without big investments because we don't want to do that".

Mourinho's side, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, coasted to the title earlier this month finishing the season eight points clear of 2014 champions Manchester City.

The Blues will play against Thailand's All Stars on Saturday evening in Bangkok's stifling summer heat.

May is one of Thailand's hottest months with daytime temperatures in the capital this week regularly hitting 36C.

The team will depart on Sunday evening for Australia where they will face Sydney FC on Tuesday before heading home.

English football commands a huge following in Thailand.





Former world boxing champion Evander Holyfield used ex-presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a punching bag for two rounds -- all in the name of good fun and charity.

The 68-year-old Romney and the 52-year-old Holyfield squared off in the lighthearted spectacle that raised $1 million for Charity Vision, an organization that provides eye-sight operations.

The fight didn't have the hype of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao mega showdown earlier this month in Las Vegas or the historical value of the Ali-Frazier "Thrilla in Manila," but it did reach its goal of raising enough money to enable thousands of blind people to see again.

"Tonight @CharityVision raised $1 million which will help 40,000 people have their sight restored," Romney tweeted after the fight.

Romney entered the ring wearing a red silk robe and a pair of red boxing trunks after a ring entrance walk to the song "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, blasted through the loud speakers at the Rail Event Center in Salt Lake.



Only one percent of people feel that gays are "completely accepted" on the sporting field, according to a new international survey released on Sunday highlighting homophobia.

Close to 9,500 people were interviewed for the survey, initiated by the Sydney organising committee of a gay rugby event, which found few positive signs that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people were welcome playing team sports.

"Even in the most promising countries, such as Canada, discrimination and homophobia were still widely experienced by both LGB and straight participants," it said.

Participants in the study, who mostly came from Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States, were also largely unanimous in the view that spectator stands were not accepting of gay people.

About 78 percent of respondents said they believed LGB people would not be "very safe" if they visibly displayed their sexuality, for example by showing affection to each other.

Participants in the survey also said the most likely environment for sporting homophobia to occur were spectator stands (41 percent) and school sports classes (21 percent).

Although not an academic study, the survey, which used data collected by sports market research firm Repucom, was reviewed by seven leading experts on homophobia in sport, including Caroline Symons from Melbourne's Victoria University.




Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is refusing to write off their chances of finishing in the top four of the Premier League after their 1-0 defeat at Hull City.

However, it is significant that he is already planning how to strengthen his team ahead of next season.

Rodgers is realistic enough to know that their Champions League ambitions are surely over as they lie seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with an inferior goal difference and only four games to play.

A place in the Europa League is also far from assured, underlining why Rodgers is under pressure after a season when they have not been able to cope with the sale of Luis Suarez and injuries to Daniel Sturridge, the two men whose goals were so important to Liverpool last season.

"You can't hide the fact we've lost over 50 goals," said Rodgers.


"Even with those players we weren't tipped to get in the top four and we haven't got those players now. We have to work with what we've got.

"Now we have to look to improve the squad and it's always great if you can get marquee players to come in and help you. The owners will support that.

"We want to be in the top four, but that was always going to be difficult because we were playing catch up for a lot of the season.

"We lost a couple of big games which dented our confidence a bit. I need to build a team that can get through the rough waters as well. We need a team that can get through the smooth and the rough.

"That will be my challenge - to rebuild a group that can get through the rough waters."





Reigning champion Kei Nishikori booked his place in the Barcelona Open final with a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of Slovakia's Martin Klizan on Saturday.

Klizan had won the only previous meeting between the two in a shock straight sets win over an injury-plagued Nishikori at last year's French Open.

However, there was never any danger of a repeat in the Catalan capital as the Japanese romped through the first set in just 28 minutes.

Klizan offered some more resistence at the start of the second set as he held onto his serve in a marathon opening game that included eight deuces.




Real Madrid have the unenviable task of beating city rivals Atletico Madrid at the eighth attempt this season if they are to progress to a fifth consecutive Champions League semi-final.
The European champions have failed to overcome Atletico in seven games since beating Los Rojiblancos in last season's Champions League final, including last week's 0-0 draw in the first-leg at the Vicente Calderon, and have also been struck by a series of injuries and suspensions to key players.
Luka Modric and Gareth Bale will miss out after limping off with knee and calf injuries respectively in the 3-1 win over Malaga at the weekend, whilst Marcelo is banned and Karim Benzema faces a race against time to be fit due to a knee problem.
Given those absences, the return to fitness and form of James Rodriguez is a huge boost for Los Blancos.
The Colombian World Cup star has scored twice in four games after a two-month injury layoff due to a broken foot to take his tally to an impressive 14 in his first season at the Bernabeu.
"Before I was out I was scoring goals, playing at a good level and now I think it is the same," he told Madrid's website.
"I want to continue like this, using my characteristics to help the team achieve important objectives.
"We are all dreaming of getting through this round and if I can score as well then it would be great. The most important thing is to win and get through this very difficult game, but we are in our own stadium with our own fans. I think it could be a great game."


Paul Downton's turbulent and brief reign as managing director of England Cricket came to an end after just over a year in charge on Wednesday when the England and Wales Cricket Board announced he would be leaving his post.

The former England wicketkeeper played a key role in the highly controversial decision to axe star batsman Kevin Pietersen from the national set-up after England's 2013/14 Ashes whitewash in Australia.

Downton's watch also coincided with England's woeful performance in the recent World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where the team exited before the knockout phase.

"The existing England team set-up will change with immediate effect, with Paul Downton leaving his position as Managing Director of England Cricket," an ECB statement said.

"A new leadership appointment, focused on performance will now be created and report directly to the chief executive."

The Pietersen affair and England's World Cup debacle made Downton's position precarious and he appeared to be undermined when incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves seemed to offer an olive branch to Pietersen.

Downton's lack of clarity over why the ECB had acted in the way they did in ditching former England captain Pietersen led to to widespread criticism.

It prompted months of speculation, culminating in South Africa-born Pietersen's damning autobiography, released in October last year, which prompted fresh blood-letting within English cricket.

Pietersen, who has spoken of his desire to play for England again, has rejoined Surrey for the 2015 county season in an attempt to boost his chances of an international recall.

The arrival of a new chief executive in Tom Harrison did little for Downton, who took charge 15 months ago when Harrison's predecessor, David Collier, was in post at Lord's.

- 'Accountable structure' -

Harrison, announcing the changes in the set-up, said Wednesday: "The England Cricket Department needs to deliver performance at the highest level and our structure needs to be accountable for reaching the standards we aspire to.

"The new role we are putting in place will deliver an environment where world-class performance is at the heart of everything we do."

Downton's time in charge also saw England lose a home Test series to Sri Lanka last season but, after falling behind, they recovered to defeat India 3-1 in a subsequent five-match series.

Harrison, who took over in January, had previously spoken of his desire to streamline the ECB, with Graves too calling for change.

Downton, 58, replaced Hugh Morris in October 2013, shortly before the Ashes whitewash.

His departure appears as much down to his strident public backing for England captain Alastair Cook, only for the opening batsman to be sacked as one-day skipper and dropped from the World Cup squad shortly before Christmas ahead of England's warm-up campaign.

England then endured one of their most humiliating World Cup campaigns, failing to beat a Test nation and defeating only Scotland and Afghanistan.

This led to renewed criticism of England coach Peter Moores, controversially brought back for a second stint in charge of the national side with Downton hailing him as the "coach of his generation"

Harrison paid tribute to Downton by saying he was a man of "great integrity".

Downton's departure from the ECB will inevitably shift the spotlight back on to Moores, with England currently on tour in the West Indies, where their three Test-series starts in Antigua next week.



History will be made on the dark waters of London's River Thames on Saturday when women's crews from Oxford and Cambridge universities attack the men's Boat Race course for the very first time.

Female teams from the prestigious universities first competed against each other 88 years ago, but this weekend will mark the first time they do so on the same stretch of river as the men.

In another first, the race will be shown live on BBC television, while a crowd of over 250,000 people is expected for what has been heralded as a triumphant moment in the history of women's sport in Britain.

"I think it's a symbolic breakthrough, because of the longevity of this race," Helena Morrissey, sponsor of the women's race, told AFP.

"It's 186 years since the men of Oxford and Cambridge first rowed competitively against each other and it's taken quite a long time to get to this point on Saturday. It shows anything is possible."

Saturday's race, over a 6.8-kilometre length of river between Putney and Mortlake in west London, represents a big step up for the female eights and their coxes, who previously raced over 2km at Henley, some 100km upriver.

But in stark contrast to the first women's event, they will take to the water on level pegging with their male counterparts, whose own race follows an hour later.

The inaugural women's race, in 1927, was preceded by detailed discussions about what those competing should wear.

According to contemporary accounts, the matter was only resolved when one of the Cambridge rowers sat on a stool in front of university staff and simulated the action of rowing to ascertain whether shorts or a tunic best protected her modesty.

When the day of the contest arrived, The Times reported that the two teams took to the river separately and were judged on "steadiness, finish, rhythm and other matters of style" rather than speed alone.

- Sponsorship deal -

It was not until 1935 that the two boats were allowed to actually race and there were several more false starts before the event finally became a permanent fixture.

Now, fired by a haul of three British gold medals in the female events at the 2012 London Olympics, interest in women's rowing is on the up, with the number of participants in Britain rising from 9,600 to 13,450 in the three years leading up to January 2013.

But this weekend's breakthrough moment would not have arrived had it not been for Morrissey, chief executive of race sponsors Newton Investment Management.

A Cambridge graduate (who coxed "very badly", but did not row while at university) dismayed by the imbalance between the men's and women's races, Morrissey donated £30,000 ($44,540, 41,070 euros) in 2011 to bring the latter event up to scratch.





The England under-19 women's team will replay the final seconds of their European Championship qualifier against Norway later on Thursday after UEFA accepted the referee had made a mistake in the original fixture.

Norway were winning 2-1 in Belfast on Saturday when the sixth minute of stoppage time saw England awarded a penalty by German referee Marija Kurtes.

Leah Williamson scored from the spot but Kurtes disallowed the goal because an England player had encroached into the box before the kick was taken.

The final minute of the match followed and Norway appeared to have won 2-1.

However, the laws of football state that Kurtes should have ordered the penalty to be re-taken and UEFA, European football's governing body, said Thursday it had no choice but to order the final moments of the match be replayed from the point of the penalty kick.

"We originally wrote that Norway had qualified", UEFA said on its website.

"But on 8 April the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body announced that Norway's game against England on 4 April will be replayed from the minute a penalty kick was awarded to England, who were 2-1 down at the time."