With virtual fans and daily matches, football returns to Spain

(FILES) In this file photo taken on December 18, 2019 Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos (R) challenges Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (C) next to Real Madrid’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois during the “El Clasico” Spanish League football match between Barcelona FC and Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

MADRID— With virtual crowds, daily matches and lots of testing for the coronavirus, football is coming back to Spain.

The Spanish league resumes this week more than three months after it was suspended because of the pandemic, becoming the second top league to restart in Europe. The Bundesliga was first. The Premier League and the Italian league should be next in the coming weeks.

The Spanish league will kickstart in empty stadiums on Thursday with the popular Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis, though the season will officially resume on Wednesday with the second half of a second-division game between Rayo Vallecano and Albacete, which was interrupted in December after Rayo fans called a Ukrainian player from Albacete a Nazi.

The title race will resume over the weekend with leader Barcelona visiting Mallorca on Saturday and second-place Real Madrid hosting Eibar on Sunday at its training center because the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is undergoing renovations for the rest of the season.

Defending champion Barcelona has a two-point lead over Madrid with 11 rounds remaining.

The league expects to play matches every day until its conclusion on July 19, and all players and coaches will be tested before every game.

Virtual crowds and chants — similar to those in video games — will replace fans on the television broadcasts. Viewers will have the option of watching the matches with the empty stadiums or with the virtual fans in the stands.

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Wave of World Cup 1990 nostalgia must inspire and guide UAE to better times

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing.

Sepia-tinged memories of the UAE’s landmark run-outs at World Cup 1990 have been, vividly, brought back to life by this week’s 30th anniversary.

A special time – and one that, painfully, hasn’t been repeated in the subsequent decades.

Sentimentality, however, does not have to be a one-way street. Recollections about a glorious past can be channelled into a catalysing force for present change.

This is the juncture the Whites currently find themselves in as they seek a fifth manager in three, fitful, years. Thoughts about their heroes of Italia ‘90 must shape this looming – and critical – decision if a hallowed berth at World Cup 2022 can be salvaged.

The proud tones of Ishy Bilady (‘Long Live my Country’) filling the air at an expectant Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in Bologna. A nation’s finest lined up for the first time on a global stage in the debut 2-0 defeat to an electric Colombia side flavoured by the joyful talents of Rene Higuita, Carlos Valderrama and Freddie Rincon.

Versatile Al Nasr midfielder Khalid Ismail striking his country’s opening goal at the global tournament in a 5-1 loss to eventual champions West Germany. Sharjah attacker Ali Thani producing his wonderful headed effort in Group D’s final 4-1 defeat to Yugoslavia.

Achievements that, rightly, remain heralded until this day.

They also exemplify a standard that must be met by UAE Football Association decision makers if cherished repetition is to be, belatedly, achieved.

Rudi Voller scoring against the UAE for West Germany in June 1990.

A four-man shortlist for the top coaching job in the Emirati game has been finalised. Overachieving Al Dhafra tactician Vuk Rasovic – and he could be a stalking horse at a stage when a final decision is expected this month – is

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ONE Championship making deliberate plans for return to cage

FILE – In this Tuesday, July 30, 2019 file photo, Chatri Sityodtong, Chair and CEO of ONE Championship, center, gestures as Reece McLaren, right, of Australia and Danny Kingad, left, of the Philippines face off during the media presentation for this Friday’s ONE Championship mixed martial arts fight dubbed: Dawn of Heroes. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong watched with admiration while UFC President Dana White rushed his mixed martial arts promotion back into competition last month amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Sityodtong still plans to be a bit more measured on his own path to get ONE Championship back in the cage during this unprecedented public health crisis.

ONE Championship definitely will return to action this summer, Sityodtong told The Associated Press on Wednesday. But the promotion has not finalized a date or location for its first fights.

Sityodtong is working with government officials and health experts on the fastest path back in China, Thailand and Singapore, ONE Championship’s hometown. Once he finalizes his plans, Sityodtong plans to speed up ONE’s calendar to hold as many events as prudently possible in 2020.

But ONE Championship, which held its most recent show Feb. 28, is proceeding down this difficult path more deliberately than the UFC.

“Of course I give mad respect to Dana White for having the courage and the vision to pull off events in such a tricky time,” Sityodtong told the AP. “At ONE Championship, we have the same level of intensity, but I would say we are a little more prudent, because safety is our highest priority. We are not in a rush to come back just for the sake of coming back due to our financial commitments to broadcasters and brands and whatnot. We want to come back in an environment where we are

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