EPL teams approve contact training as players’ fears linger

FILE – In this Sunday, May 6, 2018 file photo, the English Premier League trophy is displayed on the pitch prior to the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England.  (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, File)

MANCHESTER, England — The Premier League is on course to restart next month after clubs approved plans on Wednesday to resume contact training even as some players are concerned about taking to the field again during the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote by the 20 clubs came after gaining clearance from the government for players to work together as a squad as restrictions are eased across England.

For the last week, players have been working in smaller groups and avoiding contact. The next phase in training sessions still acknowledges the social distancing required in wider society.

“Squads are now able to train as a group and engage in tackling while minimising any unnecessary close contact,” the Premier League said in a statement.

The last game was played on March 9 before the competition was suspended.

Germany’s top division restarted on May 16 and Spain has government approval for games after June 8. England is hoping to resume in the second half in June.

“Discussions are ongoing as work continues towards resuming the season,” the Premier League said, “when conditions allow … when safe to do so.”

Players and staff members at clubs are being tested twice a week for COVID-19. Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and Watford defender Adrian Mariappa are the only players announced as testing positive for the disease in last week’s tests.

Some players still have reservations about playing — particularly at Watford, which is a place above the relegation zone.

“I’m not in favor of the Premier League returning, in a sense that not

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MMA legend Vitor Belfort lauds Mike Tyson comeback attempt

Brazilian fighter Vitor Belfort competes against Brazilian fighter Lyoto Machida during their middleweight bout at the Ultimate Fighting Championship 224 (UFC 224) event at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 12, 2018. (Photo by MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines — From one legendary fighter to another, Vitor Belfort lauded Mike Tyson as the former undisputed heavyweight champion attempts a comeback fight 15 years since hanging up his boxing gloves.

Tyson has been one of the most talked about athletes the past several weeks ever since he spoke about his willingness to fight again for charity last month.

“I think that (to fight again) is a decision Mike has made for himself. It takes a lot of courage to step back in the ring, especially at that age. I admire him for his bravery and wish him the best of luck,” said Belfort, the former UFC light heavyweight champion who is now signed with ONE Championship.

“He needs to train smart, because what used to work for him before might not work for him now. This is new ground he’s discovering for himself, and it’s a wonderful journey.”

During his heyday, Tyson was an unstoppable force. He became the youngest heavyweight champion ever at 20 years old.

But even at his advanced age, Tyson showed in his recent training videos that he can still pack a punch with his speed and power still evident.

As far as his ring return is concerned, nothing is final yet but he’s drawn interest from the likes of UFC legends Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock as well as fellow ex-boxing champions Evander Holyfield and Shannon Briggs.

“He (Tyson) needs to make smart choices,” Belfort said. “The right opponent is key. He needs an opponent that will bring value to

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Bafetimbi Gomis ends uncertainty about Al Hilal future and agrees extension until 2022 – reports

Bafetimbi Gomis (r) and his Al Hilal team-mates (EPA).

Lingering anxiety from Al Hilal supporters about the future of star striker Bafetimbi Gomis has been ended by “a broad agreement” about a contract extension until 2022, according to reports.

Gomis, 34, has fired home 63 goals in 81 appearances and helped lift the 2019 AFC Champions League since August 2018’s €7 million move from Galatasaray. The club’s failure to activate an option until June 2021 on the two-year deal originally signed had, however, caused consternation, amid repeat links with a switch back to the Super Lig.

Arriyadiyah calmed these fears on Wednesday when they stated positive technical reports had convinced the – suspended – 2019/20 Saudi Professional League leaders to offer terms for double the expected length. This gesture has been positively greeted by the ex-France centre forward’s camp.

Gomis departed on a private jet from Riyadh last month after coronavirus forced the cessation of sporting activity on March 14. He has continued to speak positively about his employers when in Europe.

“I am very happy in Saudi Arabia at the moment,” he told TRT Spor. “I have many goals I want to accomplish with my team.

“I do not think I will return to play football in Turkey, but perhaps I’ll live in a great city like Istanbul ahead. We will see what will happen in the future together.”

Organisers have set a provisional date of August 20 for 2019/20’s resumption, confirming a five-month hiatus because of the pandemic.

Hilal hold a six-point advantage over holders Al Nassr in the SPL and sit second in the postponed 2020 ACL’s Group B. Gomis is the latter competition’s joint-top scorer on three goals from two games.

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