Former Barcelona great Xavi Hernandez saiys he hope to return to the Spanish club as head coach when the timing is right and that his technical team are already preparing for it.
Spanish media had reported that Xavi, who coaches Qatari club Al Sadd, had been approached by Barca to replace Ernesto Valverde before Quique Setien was appointed in January.
Barca are two points behind leaders Real Madrid with six matches remaining in the campaign.
“The biggest hope I have now is to be Barca coach and get Barca back to winning ways,”Spanish daily Sport quoted Xavi as saying in a video call where the 40-year-old outlined his plans for the future.
Xavi said he hoped to begin from scratch if he took over.
“I’m a club man. I would like to return at the right moment to start a project from zero.
“I’ve said it a lot of times but I want to take footballing decisions at Barcelona.
“It’s clear that after the elections the stage would be set, of course. I’m not ruling anything out.
“They came for me in January, we were speaking. I told them the circumstances and timing weren’t right,”he added
Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)
Xavi undecided on offer to coach Barca, club source says
A club source told Reuters on Sunday that Xavi, coach of Qatari club Al Sadd, is focused on Friday’s Cup final against Al Duhail.
“He has decided against accepting or declining Barca’s offer,” the source said.
Current club coach Ernesto Valverde has come under pressure since FC Barcelona’s 3-2 defeat by Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup last week.
But he will still take charge of their next training session on Monday, the source added.
Valverde has led Barca to back-to-back league titles and his side top the standings on 40 points after 19 games, level with second-placed Real Madrid.
The coach’s position has long been fragile, however.
This was due to his presiding over shock UEFA Champions League exits to AS Roma in 2018 and Liverpool in 2019 after taking a three-goal lead in each tie.
Xavi, who had a glittering 17-year career with Barca and is their leading appearance maker, has only been in management since July when he took over Al Sadd.
He had joined them as a player in 2015 after leaving the Catalans.
The 39-year-old’s record in charge of the club reads 15 wins, 10 defeats and two draws in all competitions and his side are third in the 12-team top-flight.
Xavi confirmed on Saturday that he had spoken to his former Barca team mate Abidal.
He admitted his desire to coach the Catalans while also committing to Al Sadd and saying he respected Valverde.
“I cannot hide it’s my dream to coach FC Barcelona, I’ve said it many times in many interviews, everyone knows I support Barcelona from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
The former midfielder is known for his passion for a style of football based on possession famed by ex-Barca coaches Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola.
He made a record 869 appearances and scored 97 goals for his boyhood club.
(Edited by: Olawale Alabi)
FC Barcelona sell Arthur to Juventus for 72m euros, buy Pjanic for 60m euros
The La Liga title-holders said in a statement on Monday they have however gone on to sign Bosnian Miralem Pjanic from the Italian champions for 60 million euros.
The 23-year-old Melo, generally known simply as Arthur, will remain at the Camp Nou until the end of the 2019/2020 season before moving to Turin.
Pjanic, 30, will also move to the Camp Nou at the end of the campaign.
He will sign a four-year contract containing a release clause of 400 million euros, Barca’s statement said, adding that the Bosnian’s transfer fee was worth an additional five million in variables.
The transfer helps Barca meet their target of a further 70 million euros in revenues from player sales before June 30.
This is in line with the budget the club’s members approved last October which forecast income of 124 million euros from transfers.
The pandemic had affected ticket sales, television rights and merchandising, leading the club to enact a 70 percent pay cut for players in April.
“The deal once again proves the board’s absolute priority is to balance the books by letting key players go.
“The financial situation has been bad for many years, long before the pandemic,” he said on Twitter.
Barca did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Font’s words.
Arthur joined Barca from Brazilian side Gremio in July 2018 and was initially hailed as the heir to former club great Xavi Hernandez.
Lionel Messi had said then that he was surprised by the player’s similarities to the side’s former puppet master.
But in spite of a promising opening spell, Arthur made only 19 league starts in his first season with the club and 14 this campaign.
Coach Quique Setien said earlier this month that he had not lived up to expectations.
There were also issues off the field.
In March 2019, he apologised for travelling to Paris during the season to attend the birthday party of Brazil team mate Neymar.
Last December, Catalan television network said Arthur had gone snowboarding while sidelined with a groin injury.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)
California officials probe 2 separate hanging deaths of African American men
City and county officials have called for an independent investigation into the death of Robert Fuller, 24, who was found hanging from a tree early Wednesday near the city hall of Palmdale, Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.
Protesters marched from the site of Fuller’s death to the Sheriff’s Department station to demand an investigation.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner’s office initially called the death a suicide. Fuller’s family and civic leaders quickly pushed back, insisting that it be investigated as a homicide and demanding an independent probe and autopsy. Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger also requested that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra conduct an independent investigation into Fuller’s death, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fuller is the second African American man whose body was found hanging in a tree in Southern California in less than two weeks.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said the investigation into the death of Malcolm Harsch, 38, is ongoing, reported the newspaper.
Harsch’s body was found on May 31 near the Victorville City Library.
The County Sheriff’s Department said Saturday that foul play was not suspected in the death of Harsch. But in a statement to a Southern California news outlet, the Victor Valley News, Harsch’s family said they find it hard to accept his death was a suicide, noting that Harsch had recent conversations with his children about seeing them soon and that he did not seem to be depressed to anyone who knew him.
“Two Black men were found hanging from trees in California in the last 2 weeks… Authorities are calling them suicides. What Black man do you know who hangs himself from a tree? These are lynchings. Not ‘modern day lynchings,’ old school ones,” tweeted Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles on Sunday.
Porches, popcorn and social distancing at Dubai drive-in cinema
Movie-goers in Dubai frustrated by the closure of cinemas during the coronavirus pandemic will soon be able to watch films from the comfort of their own car at a new drive-in cinema created on the roof of one of the world’s largest shopping malls.
With social distancing mandatory in the United Arab Emirates to help curb the spread of the virus, VOX Cinemas says viewers will be limited to two per car at the open-air venue, which opens on Sunday and can accommodate up to 75 cars at a time.
Tickets cost 180 dirhams ($50) per vehicle inclusive of popcorn, snacks and drinks.
“We keep our social distancing so it’s a brilliant idea in my opinion,” Porsche driver Xavier Libbrecht told Reuters during a pre-opening event at the drive-in cinema on Wednesday.
Dubai, the UAE’s business and tourism hub, has been easing coronavirus closures and restrictions since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began three weeks ago, allowing malls and dine-in restaurants to reopen at limited capacity.
However, children aged 3-12 and people over 60 are still barred from such venues, including the outdoor cinema, which sits on the roof of Majid Al Futtaim’s Mall of the Emirates.
The screen stands under the peak of the mall’s indoor ski slope.
“Any excuse to get out of the house during coronavirus times,” said Patrick, another member of a Porsche car club invited to Wednesday’s event, at which an action comedy film was shown.
“In the comfort of your own car you don’t have to worry about chewing too loud,” he added.
Cinema-goers caught a cool evening breeze, but were still switching car engines on and off for the air conditioning. Temperatures can rise above 40 degrees in Dubai during the long summer months and the humidity is oppressive.
Dubai, a major shopping and entertainment destination, has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic due to travel disruptions and closures to contain the spread of the disease.
The UAE has so far recorded 20,386 coronavirus infections and 206 deaths.
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)
Roundup: COVID-19 cases climb in U.S. prisons, nursing homes
As nearly 20,000 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in Colorado, the western state’s newest emerging battlegrounds are prisons and nursing homes, a trend also seen across the United States.
On Monday, a second inmate, 61, died at Sterling Correctional Facility in northeastern Colorado, and the number of active cases among inmates there has swelled by more than a third to 327, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC).
The update was posted online on Monday as part of a new state prisons database reporting the results of coronavirus testing at prisons across the state.
Last week, an 83-year-old inmate died from COVID-19, CDOC officials said.
Since May, the pandemic has been hitting prisons hard. In Ohio, more than 20 percent of the people infected with coronavirus were prisoners. In Arkansas, almost half of the state’s cases were in prisons and nursing homes, according to a CNN report.
More than 1,000 inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to the Arkansas Department of Health, and 876 of them were in one prison facility.
Recent weeks have seen a rapid jump of infectious cases in nursing homes across the United States.
CNN last week reported that more than 30 percent of Arkansas’ coronavirus deaths were nursing home residents. In New Hampshire, long-term care facility residents accounted for around 80 percent of the state’s fatalities.
Last week, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that 688 nursing home residents had died and an additional 50 deaths were reported among residents of other adult residential facilities.
Louisiana recorded 30,399 COVID-19 cases and 2,167 related deaths, Johns Hopkins University’s data showed.
In the country’s northwest, more than 50 percent of New Jersey’s deaths came from long-term care facilities, according to data posted by the New Jersey Department of Health.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he spoke with the National Guard over the possibility of using non-medical members to assist nursing homes.
“Based on our numbers in long-term care to date, we took some very aggressive action early on and I think at this point it’s time to take further steps to address some of the long-term care testing issues,” New Hampshire Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette was quoted by CNN as saying.
“To date, we have tested over 1,000 nursing home residents across the state, which is a great number, we want to test more,” Shibinette said.
About 111 people have died in New Hampshire, near 80 percent of whom were related to long-term care facility outbreaks, said Shibinette.
With the caseload from nursing homes growing, officials have been addressing requests from family members for greater transparency and communication.
“As the coronavirus continues to isolate families from their loved ones, providing swift and accurate information on coronavirus cases should be the bare minimum we expect from nursing home facilities,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a letter to the federal government last week.
“These facilities house some of our most vulnerable populations, we must do everything we can to protect them,” Becerra wrote.
“While California is already taking steps, it’s important that CMS act immediately to implement and enforce new national guidelines that will increase transparency and ensure family members are notified by nursing homes as coronavirus cases occur,” he added.
Ecuador reports 1,103 recovered COVID-19 cases, as total number reaches 23,240
Ecuador‘s Ministry of Public Health reported on Monday that 1,103 people have recovered from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as the total number of cases reached 23,240 cases, with 663 deaths.
Romo added that so far, 61,529 samples have been tested for the novel coronavirus; among which 23,240 were confirmed cases.
The vice minister of governance and health surveillance, Francisco Xavier Solorzano, called the results “excellent news. This reveals all the effort that the health services in the country are making to meet the demand of the population and to fulfill our commitment to life.”
He added that the 1,103 people that have recovered have been “verified by the laboratory that they no longer have the virus.”
On Sunday, the government stated that it would begin evaluations of areas of the country that are ready to move from the confinement phase to the distancing phase starting on May 4, when activities will gradually resume and some sectors will reopen under rigorous sanitary protocols.
Ecuador doubles COVID-19 cases to 22,719 after processing backlogged tests
The number of cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ecuador has doubled to 22,719 after results from thousands of backlogged tests were obtained, Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said on Friday.
Romo explained that to date, 56,513 tests had been administered for COVID-19, of which 22,719 came back positive.
Romo said that the number of those infected grew significantly due to tests being backlogged, but that this “does not mean a resurgence of the virus.”
According to Romo, the South American country “has already passed the peak (of contagion) in most of the country’s provinces,” although she clarified that “the virus is going to be around for many months,” so citizens should not lower their guard when it comes to preventive measures.
The country has registered 576 deaths from the virus so far, an increase of 16 deaths in the last 24 hours. And 1,060 deaths potentially caused by COVID-19 have also been reported.
Ecuadorian vice minister of governance and health surveillance, Francisco Xavier Solorzano, said that the current trend of contagion is the same as before.
“Just because we have an increase in cases between yesterday (Thursday) and today does not mean that we have an outbreak, as the new cases are distributed over time, because there was an obstruction” in the processing of cases, he said.
Solorzano added that Ecuador has multiplied its test processing capacity with the incorporation of new laboratories into the testing system.
Jazz great Ellis Marsalis Jr. dead at 85, fought virus, says Son
Ellis Marsalis Jr., the jazz pianist, teacher and patriarch of a New Orleans musical clan, died late Wednesday after battling pneumonia brought on by the new coronavirus, leaving six sons and a deep legacy.
He was 85.
He said he drove Sunday from Baltimore to be with his father, who was hospitalised Saturday in Louisiana, which has been hit hard by the outbreak. Others in the family spent time with him, too.
Four of the jazz patriarch’s six sons are musicians: Wynton, trumpeter, is America’s most prominent jazz spokesman as artistic director of jazz at New York’s Lincoln Center.
Branford, saxophonist, led The Tonight Show band and toured with Sting.
Delfeayo, a trombonist, is a prominent recording producer and performer.
And Jason, a percussionist, has made a name for himself with his own band and as an accompanist. Ellis III, who decided music wasn’t his gig, is a photographer-poet in Baltimore.
“He went out the way he lived: embracing reality,” Wynton tweeted alongside pictures of his father.
“My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father. He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be,” Branford said.
Branford’s statement included a text he said he got from Harvard Law Professor David Wilkins.
“We can all marvel at the sheer audacity of a man who believed he could teach his black boys to be excellent in a world that denied that very possibility, and then watch them go on to redefine what excellence means for all time.”
In a statement, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said of the man who continued to perform regularly until December: “Ellis Marsalis was a legend.
“He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz. He was a teacher, a father, and an icon — and words aren’t sufficient to describe the art, the joy and the wonder he showed the world.”
Because Marsalis opted to stay in New Orleans for most of his career, his reputation was limited until his sons became famous and brought him the spotlight, along with new recording contracts and headliner performances on television and tour.
“He was like the coach of jazz. He put on the sweatshirt, blew the whistle and made these guys work,” said Nick Spitzer, host of public radio’s American Routes and a Tulane University anthropology professor.
The Marsalis “family band” seldom played together when the boys were younger but went on tour in 2003 in a spinoff of a family celebration, which became a PBS special when the elder Marsalis retired from teaching at the University of New Orleans.
Harry Connick Jr., one of his students at the New Orleans Centre for the Creative Arts, was a guest. He’s one of many now-famous jazz musicians who passed through Marsalis’ classrooms.
Others include trumpeters Nicholas Payton and Terence Blanchard, saxophonists Donald Harrison and Victor Goines, and bassist Reginald Veal.
Marsalis was born in New Orleans, son of the operator of a hotel where he met touring black musicians who couldn’t stay at the segregated downtown hotels where they performed.
He played saxophone in high school; he also played piano by the time he went to Dillard University.
Although New Orleans was steeped in traditional jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll was the new sound in the 1950s, Marsalis preferred bebop and modern jazz.
Spitzer described Marsalis as a “modernist in a town of traditionalists.”
“His great love was jazz a la bebop — he was a lover of Thelonious Monk and the idea that bebop was a music of freedom. But when he had to feed his family, he played R&B and soul and rock ‘n’ roll on Bourbon Street,” Spitzer said.
The musician’s college quartet included drummer Ed Blackwell, clarinetist Alvin Batiste and saxophonist Harold Battiste, playing modern.
Ornette Coleman was in town at the time. In 1956, when Coleman headed to California, Marsalis and the others went along, but after a few months Marsalis returned home.
He told the New Orleans Times-Picayune years later, when he and Coleman were old men, that he never figured out what a pianist could do behind the free form of Coleman’s jazz.
Back in New Orleans, Marsalis joined the Marine Corps and was assigned to accompany soloists on the service’s weekly TV programmes on CBS in New York. There, he said, he learned to handle all kinds of music styles.
Returning home, he worked at the Playboy Club and ventured into running his own club, which went bust. In 1967 trumpeter Al Hirt hired him.
When not on Bourbon Street, Hirt’s band appeared on national TV — headline shows on The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, among others.
Marsalis got into education about the same time, teaching improvisation at Xavier University in New Orleans.
In the mid-1970s, he joined the faculty at the New Orleans magnet high school and influenced a new generation of jazz musicians.
When asked how he could teach something as free-wheeling as jazz improvisation, Marsalis once said, “We don’t teach jazz, we teach students.”
In 1986 he moved to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. In 1989, the University of New Orleans lured him back to set up a jazz studies programme.
Marsalis retired from UNO in 2001 but continued performing, particularly at Snug Harbor, a small club that anchored the city’s contemporary jazz scene — frequently backing young promising musicians.
His melodic style, with running improvisations in the right hand, has been described variously as romantic, contemporary, or simply “Louisiana jazz.”
He was always on acoustic piano, never electric, and even in interpreting old standards there’s a clear link to the driving bebop chords and rhythms of his early years.
He founded a record company, ELM, but his recording was limited until his sons became famous.
After that he joined them and others on mainstream labels and headlined his own releases, many full of his own compositions.
He often played at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. And for more than three decades he played two 75-minute sets every Friday night at Snug Harbor until he decided it was exhausting.
Even then, he still performed on occasion as a special guest.
On Wednesday night, Ellis III recalled how his father taught him the meaning of integrity before he even knew the word.
He and Delfeayo, neither of them yet 10, had gone to hear their father play at a club. Only one man — sleeping and drunk — was in the audience for the second set. The boys asked why they couldn’t leave.
“He looked at us and said, ‘I can’t leave. I have a gig.’ While he’s playing, he said, ‘A gig is a deal. I’m paid to play this set. I’m going to play this set. It doesn’t matter that nobody’s here.’ ”
Marsalis’ wife, Dolores, died in 2017. He is survived by his sons Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, Mboya and Jason.
A Nigeria News Agency NAN correspondent who visited New Orleans during his vacation in 2019 reports that jazz remained a uniting force for people of all ages in the black-dominated city.
In Bourbon street jazz is a daily festival and children once able to lift their hands produced melodies using improvised implements such as cans and plastic containers for guests who showed appreciation with tips.
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Donald Ugwu
Coronavirus poses latest threat to battered health system in DR Congo
As the DRC has also been battling an Ebola outbreak in the volatile eastern region, UNICEF fears mounting cases of COVID-19 will further strain the public health system in a country that is among the most at risk in Africa.
“Coronavirus will most likely divert the available national health capacity and resources, and leave millions of children affected by measles, malaria, polio and many other killer diseases,” said UNICEF Representative Edouard Beigbeder, speaking from the capital, Kinshasa.
While the DRC has so far recorded nearly 100 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths, the measles epidemic has generated 332,000 cases and killed over 5,300 children since early 2019, making it the worst in the world. At the same time, 31,000 cases of cholera were reported during this period.
And although the Ebola outbreak garnered international attention and has been contained, UNICEF said it had “unfortunate side-effects” as resources to fight childhood killers like measles, cholera and malaria, instead went towards stemming the disease.
Health system ‘on life support’
Strengthening the battered healthcare system in the DRC is vital to protect young lives, a new UNICEF report titled On Life Support argues.
Medical services there are ill-equipped and underfunded, trained staff are in short supply, and around half of all facilities lack safe water and sanitation.
UNICEF estimates more than nine million children across the country require humanitarian assistance, including health care.
Most live in the three eastern provinces affected by the Ebola outbreak, where many doctors and nurses chose to take better-paying jobs in Ebola response.
Ongoing militia violence in these areas – including attacks against health centres –forced nearly one million people to flee their homes in 2019, thus making it harder for families to access health facilities.
“Unless health facilities have the means to deliver immunization, nutrition and other essential services, including in remote areas of the country, we risk seeing the lives and futures of many Congolese children scarred or destroyed by preventable diseases”, Mr Beigbeder warned.
Increase support for public health
UNICEF is calling on the Congolese Government to allocate more public funding for basic health care services that support pregnant women, newborns and young children, and to prioritise the strengthening of routine immunization.
Currently, less than six per cent of the annual budget goes towards healthcare, which must change, according to Xavier Crespin, the agency’s Chief of Health in the country.
“Instead of expending huge efforts and resources on an ad hoc response to individual health emergencies, those same resources should be directed towards strengthening the national health system,” he said.
“That means a big investment in routine immunization, in adequate staffing and salaries, and in equipment that is currently in extremely short supply, especially outside urban areas.”
UNICEF is also urging donors to support national efforts to improve routine health care services in order to better protect children against communicable diseases.
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