Hundreds of Iraqis flee militants’ advance

Hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children are fleeing their homes, fearing clashes, kidnapping and rape after Islamic militants seized swathes of northern Iraq.

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About half a million people have fled their homes since Monday, according to a UN estimate.

Fighters of al-Qaeda breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, seized the northern city of Mosul in a stunning assault on Monday.

Since then, the militants have moved southward towards the capital, Baghdad, in the biggest crisis to face Iraq in years.

“Masked men came to our house and they threatened us: ‘We will get to you.’ So we fled,” said Abed, a labourer who abandoned his home on the edge of Mosul.

“They kidnapped other people. They took away some people for interrogation.”

He said rumours were spreading that ISIS fighters – as well as masked bandits taking advantage of the chaos – were seizing young women for rape or forced marriage.

Many of the displaced said they were on the move because they feared retribution by Iraq’s military – underscoring the grave sectarian tensions that have allowed the ISIS fighters, who are Sunni extremists, to conquer so fast and deeply.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is mostly Sunni, and many residents have long complained of discrimination and mistreatment by the Shi’ite-dominated central government.

“We were worried the struggle would get bigger, that Maliki’s army would shell us,” said a middle-aged Sunni woman, referring to the country’s Shi’ite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

“Whoever will rule us – let them rule us,” said her husband Talal Ahmad, 62. “We just want our children to be safe.”

In Kalak, Kurdish forces took possession of at least a dozen Iraqi military vehicles abandoned by soldiers as they fled their posts ahead of the advancing ISIS fighters.

One fleeing Iraqi soldier said he was ordered by his officer to abandon his post even before ISIS fighters reached the area.

“We didn’t even raise our weapons,” said 38-year-old Shaker Karam. “We didn’t even see a terrorist.”

UN children’s agency UNICEF said thousands of displaced, particularly children, were sheltering in schools, hospitals and mosques outside Mosul, many without adequate water, sanitation or shelter. The Red Cross said it had distributed food and relief to 8000 people near Mosul.

Many fled with little more than the clothing on their backs and, arriving without money, said they would have to rely on donations.

Talal Ahmad’s family of 12 was sleeping in the back of a pick-up truck that was lined with thin mattresses.

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Fake flower delivery robber gets two years

An armed robber who posed as a flower delivery man before tying up two sisters and ransacking their home has been sentenced to at least two years in jail.

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Kyrillos Ghaly was an active member of his Coptic Christian community in Sydney and a model student when he graduated from high school in 2005.

But after relocating to Adelaide to study dentistry his life went into a downward spiral, Judge Anthony Blackmore told Sydney’s District Court on Friday.

He moved into a share house where his flatmates were taking drugs, dropped out of university and accumulated debts with loan sharks.

Then in November 2012, Ghaly armed himself with knives and broke into a home in Sylvania Waters in Sydney’s south and another in Minchinbury in the city’s west.

At Minchinbury, the court heard Ghaly posed as a ‘Roses Only’ flower delivery man, telling the two sisters that the blooms were for “finishing your HSC”.

Once inside, he tied the two girls up and stole jewellery and cash from their home, before saying “All right, it’s been fun”, as he left.

At the Sylvania robbery, the court heard Ghaly held a knife to his victim’s neck, telling him: “If you speak out of turn I will slit your throat”.

He later turned to the man and said: “I’m sorry for what I have put you through, I wish we could have met under better circumstances”.

Judge Blackmore said the robberies had clearly been terrifying for the victims and involved a degree of planning by Ghaly.

He said the 27-year-old had since undergone extensive rehabilitation, had entered an early guilty plea and was clearly contrite for what he had done.

Ghaly, who is now studying physiotherapy, previously told the court that he was on drugs at the time of the offences.

Judge Blackmore sentenced him to a maximum of four years for two counts of armed robbery and one count of break and enter.

Taking into consideration time served, he is eligible for parole in July 2015.

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Where did Friday the 13th come from? (And where is it going?)

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, and combined with the full moon tonight anyone suffering this niche phobia will likely face compounded trauma.

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Fortunately, the internet is here to help. No matter how obscure an interest, belief or phobia, the digital recesses of the web are likely to provide solace, and the The Friggatriskaidekaphobia Treatment Centre is drolly demonstrative of this phenomenon.

Friday the 13th is widely considered an unlucky day in Western folklore. The idea of such superstition seems like a relic from ancient mythology; an irrational belief borne of ignorance in a time when gods were trusted to provide answers to the universe. Despite years of scientific and technological advancement and the evolution of human culture, superstition lives on in the digital age – it may even be resurgent, thanks to the internet.

With increased connectivity and digital communication allowing faster and ever more transactions – both economic and interpersonal – superstitions have the potential to accelerate and influence ever larger swathes of the population.

An early example of thirteen signalling bad luck is found in Norse legend, when mischievous Loki arrives as the thirteenth dinner guest at Valhalla, and ultimately causes the death of the god Baldur. This event is echoed in Christianity’s Last Supper, with Jesus and his twelve apostles making up the unlucky thirteen.

Yet widespread superstition around Friday the 13th being unlucky has only been commonplace since the early twentieth century. The 1907 publication of Thomas W Lawson’s novel Friday the Thirteenth has been isolated as a catalyst that combined the portentous nature of thirteen with the historically unlucky day of the week Friday in the popular imagination.

The novel tells the story of an unscrupulous stockbroker using superstition to cause panic on Wall Street on the inauspicious date. A fitting start to the Friday the 13th myth, considering that the condition of financial markets depend in large part on superstition and emotion, or as economist John Maynard Keynes called it, ‘animal spirits’.

Keynes coined ‘animal spirits’ to describe the instincts, appetites and feelings that guide human behaviour around economic transactions, with superstition playing a substantial role. Superstitions often arise due to a lack of control, and money markets are a good example despite economics being regarded as one of the more rational disciplines.

With increased connectivity and digital communication allowing faster and ever more transactions – both economic and interpersonal – superstitions have the potential to accelerate and influence ever larger swathes of the population.

Digital communication has caused superstition to grow rather than retreat in our scientific, technological age. The intangible nature of the web means that our everyday communications now exist in a space between the physical and the ethereal. This space is allowing more room for both fantasy and delusion.

But is the growing feeling of lack of control – of ceding power to technology – making us more paranoid with good reason? We used to scoff at conspiracy theorists who claimed that the government is watching everything we do, but the Snowden revelations proved them right.

Widespread surveillance might be the fantasy proved very real, but there is inherent danger in indulging all manner of paranoia. Sociologist Gerald Bronner warns that the internet is an “incubator of contemporary mythologies”, saying that ease of access allows people with fringe beliefs to congregate and disseminate misinformation at an accelerated rate.

This phenomenon is giving rise to a trend of asserting belief in facts rather than merely accepting them as read. “I believe in global warming” or “I believe in immunisation” are common utterances, as if the actuality of the earth heating up or modern medicine preventing the spread of disease were fabulous stories that one can choose to believe. This proves problematic when the flipside is considered – that one can also choose not to.

Modern mythmaking is on the ascent. Instability and lack of control has always driven superstition – ~feelings~ as it would be termed on social media – and the continuing anxiety around Friday the 13th is merely one example. As anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss observed, superstition has been so prevalent throughout disparate human cultures that “we should ask ourselves if we are not confronted with a permanent and universal form of thought”.

How else to explain ever-emerging mythology like The Slender Man or Smile Dog, which incorporate tech elements combined with superstitious beliefs and horrors. Facilitated by digital subcultures congregating on forums like 4chan, Reddit and Creepypasta, the internet is our new collective nightmare.

Yet the internet has the power to dispel superstitions as well as encourage them. Black cats were once regarded as unlucky, particularly if one happened to cross your path. Yet with the advent of the internet of cute animal photos, black cats cross our digital paths every day with not a hint of superstitious distress. Friggatriskaidekaphobia sufferers too now have hope that their superstitious anxiety can be cured with the help of the internet, freeing them to focus on more logical paranoia, like scopophobia – the fear of surveillance.

Anne Treasure works in communications, is a recent survivor of the book industry, and exists mainly on the internet.

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Uruguay punish Japanese blunders in bad start for Aguirre

The Sagan Tosu centreback miscontrolled a pass in the 34th minute which allowed Edinson Cavani to open the scoring, with the 23-year-old then dallying over a clearance and allowing Abel Hernandez to double the lead in the 73rd.

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“Uruguay are a very strong team so you can’t afford to make mistakes against them,” Aguirre was quoted as saying by Kyodo.

“We made two defensive mistakes and that decided the match tonight.”

Sakai was one of a number of changes that Mexican made to the Japanese line-up as he attempted to shake up a side that woefully underperformed at the World Cup in June.

Their group stage exit led to the resignation of the attack-minded Alberto Zaccheroni and the introduction of the more cautious Aguirre, who cast away a number of the World Cup strugglers.

The Mexican opted for a back four and played defender Masato Morishige in an unfamiliar defensive midfield position, with playmaker Keisuke Honda starting down the left and taking over the captaincy in the absence of Makoto Hasebe.

Another Aguirre debutant, Yusuke Minagawa, came close to giving the former Atletico Madrid coach the perfect start but the Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker could only aim his free header from eight yards out over the bar in the 17th minute.

The miss proved costly as Sakai’s heavy touch was picked up by Cavani who was then put through by Diego Rolan to finish past Eiji Kawashima after the ball deflected off the rookie Japanese defender and over the goalkeeper.

The home side were lacking some creative flair as Uruguay, without suspended striker Luis Suarez and injured coach Oscar Tabarez who stayed home after a back operation last month, kept the hosts comfortably at bay.

The visitors then profited from another mistake by Sakai as Nicolas Lodeiro’s shot was parried by Kawashima but the defender tried to take a touch instead of hook clear and the ball squirmed to Hernandez, who swiftly knocked it through the keeper’s legs.

FC Tokyo striker Yoshinori Muto came on as a late substitute and almost marked his international debut with a sensational strike but his left foot effort from distance hit the inside of the post before bouncing clear.

Aguirre will have a quick chance to rectify the issues when Japan take on Venezuela on Tuesday as they continue the build up to their Asian Cup defence in January in Australia. Venezuela lost 3-1 to South Korea on Friday.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Justin Palmer)

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Button "massively relaxed" about his F1 future

The 2009 world champion’s current contract with McLaren expires at the end of the year and the team have yet to announce their lineup for 2015, when they are starting a new partnership with Honda.

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Button, the most experienced driver on the starting grid, has been with McLaren since 2010 and this year has Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen as his team mate.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who has reportedly been making overtures to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, recently fuelled speculation about Button by saying he was keeping an eye out for other top drivers who might become available.

Alonso has, however, said that he wants to extend his Ferrari contract beyond 2016 while Vettel is also tied to champions Red Bull for 2015 and has indicated he is not about to move.

“My situation has not changed. I am happy where I am,” Vettel told reporters at Monza. “But you never know what is happening in the future. Right now, I don’t feel the need to do something different.”

Asked ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix whether he felt relaxed about 2015, Button replied emphatically: “Massively relaxed.”

The Briton played down a recent television interview in which he had appeared to acknowledge that there was a possibility he could be facing retirement.

“If I’m not racing at the end of the season, so be it. I can’t do much about that,” he grinned. “But it’s not that I’m getting ready because I definitely don’t want to retire for many years.

“But when you’re asked the question so many times you’ve got to say something different else it gets boring. Not for you guys, but for me it gets boring. I’m SO bored of answering the same questions.”

Button, who made his debut with Williams in 2000 and is now 34, said he had heard a lot of nonsense in his time when it came to the driver market.

“Initially it’s annoying, but then you’re like ‘You know what, I’ve been here before, been in this situation before, heard it before’,” he said.

“So you just get on with your job, and I love racing in Formula One. Every time I jump in a car I do the best job I can – and it doesn’t matter who it’s for or where it is – I do the best for myself, the team and the fans.”

Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who drives for Lotus but has also been linked to other teams including McLaren, suggested that Alonso held the key to opening up the driver market but Button scoffed at that.

“That surprised me, actually,” he said. “I don’t really think he’s the key to the driver market. The two McLaren drivers are probably the key to the driver market, I would say.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Shahzad may face action for religious spat

The head of Pakistan’s cricket board says batsman Ahmed Shahzad could face disciplinary action over a religious spat with Sri Lankan opener Tillakaratne Dilshan.

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Television footage showed Shahzad passing a religious remark at Dilshan after the third and final one-day international in Dambulla last week.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has set up a committee to look into the matter despite Sri Lanka Cricket and Dilshan not making an official complaint.

“Shahzad has breached the central contract in which it is clearly written that you will not involve in any religious spat with others so there can be disciplinary action against him,” PCB chief Shaharyar Khan told reporters on Friday.

After Sri Lanka notched a seven-wicket win to take the series 2-1 and the players were walking off the field, Shahzad was seen on TV footage saying to Dilshan: “If you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life, straight to heaven.”

Dilshan replied he doesn’t want to go there, to which Shahzad replied: “Then be ready for the fire.”

The remarks stemmed from reports that 37-year-old Dilshan was born to a Muslim father and a Buddhist mother and was originally named Tuwan Mohamed Dilshan.

The footage went viral on the Internet, prompting the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to summon Shahzad on Wednesday.

Dilshan said he didn’t even remember what was said.

“I have no issues at all. I was just quite happy with the win at the time,” Dilshan said in Colombo.

Shahzad, 22, has a history of disciplinary problems, having been fined 50 per cent of match fee after an altercation with Dilshan in the series last year.

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Rebels agree to Ukraine ceasefire

Ukraine’s Russian-backed separatists say they have agreed with Ukrainian officials on a ceasefire at peace talks in Minsk.

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“Representatives of Ukraine and Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic signed a ceasefire protocol from 6pm on Friday,” the Twitter account of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic said, without providing further details.

Officials on the ground in the Belarussian capital Minsk were not immediately available to confirm the statement.

The OSCE, which hosted the talks, said the ceasefire would begin at 1500 GMT on Friday (0100 AEST Saturday).

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on Friday that Russia must withdraw its forces from the war-torn country for the proposed truce with rebel insurgents to hold.

“The peace plan must include a ceasefire, the withdrawal of the Russian army, bandits and terrorists, and the re-establishment of the border,” Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting shortly after talks on the ceasefire plan opened in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

He also called for the United States and Europe to act as guarantors to a ceasefire with pro-Moscow rebels.

“It must be supported by the United States and the EU. We will not manage with Russia on our own… we need guarantees,” Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting moments before rebels announced that a truce deal had been agreed at talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

Also shortly after the rebel announcement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his envoy had signed a “preliminary” truce deal with pro-Russian militants aimed at halting the five months of fighting that has claimed 2600 lives.

“A preliminary protocol to the ceasefire agreement has been signed in Minsk. This protocol should enter into force on Friday,” Poroshenko wrote on his official Twitter account.

He also ordered his army commander to halt fire in Kiev’s campaign against pro-Russian insurgents at 1500 GMT on Friday (0100 AEST Saturday) under the terms of a new truce deal.

“I am ordering the head of the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine to halt fire starting at 6 pm (1500 GMT),” Poroshenko said on his website.

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Hawks finish strongly to defeat Cats

Defending premiers Hawthorn moved a step closer to a third consecutive grand final appearance with a 36-point win in a high-pressure qualifying final against Geelong on Friday night.

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Geelong surged late in the second term to level the scores at 6.5 (41) each at halftime.

But the Hawks kicked nine goals to the Cats’ four in the second half to win 15.14 (104) to 10.8 (68) in front of a crowd of over 74,000 at the MCG.

Jordan Lewis and Jack Gunston kicked three goals each and Sam Mitchell and Bradley Hill were outstanding in midfield for the Hawks, who advance to the preliminary final in two weeks’ time.

Geelong, who were superbly led by tireless skipper Joel Selwood, will face the winner of Saturday night’s North Melbourne-Essendon elimination final next weekend in a knockout clash.

The Cats started the game full of running and kicked the first two goals of the game with Steve Johnson dominant. However playmaker Sam Mitchell had an impact for the Hawks who scored the last three goals of the first term to lead 3.4 (22) to 2.1 (13) at quarter-time.

The Cats kicked four goals in the second term including Josh Walker’s 51-metre effort after the siren to level the scores at halftime.

Gunston kicked two of Hawthorn’s four goals in the third term and the Hawks went to three-quarter time with a 14-point advantage, 10.8 (68) to 8.6 (54).

Luke Breust’s goal early in the final term put the Hawks ahead by 20 points but Mark Blicavs responded with a goal for the Cats at the 11-minute mark.

With less than eight minutes left on the clock, Jarryd Roughead weaved one through from the boundary as the Hawks went 22 points clear.

Lewis put an exclamation point on the win with two last-quarter goals, prompting a fist-pumping celebration from Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.

Hawthorn kicked clear with a five-goal last term to Geelong’s two.

Geelong coach Chris Scott revealed star forward/midfielder Steve Johnson is in doubt for next week’s sudden-death semi-final with an ongoing foot problem.

Johnson missed the last three rounds of the home-and-away season and returned on Friday night, picking up 17 disposals including nine in the first term.

Scott said Johnson had been cleared to play by the club’s medical staff but struggled to get through the game and was now in doubt for next week.

“That foot’s going to be a problem for us,” Scott said.

“He struggled through the night with that issue … he was sore.”

Geelong skipper Selwood’s 31 disposals included a game-high nine clearances.

Hawthorn’s 2013 Norm Smith Medallist Brian Lake completed another superb shut-down role, holding Geelong’s spearhead Tom Hawkins to seven possessions and one goal.

“He was pretty good tonight. He reads the ball in flight so well off the opposition’s kick,” Clarkson said.

The Hawks dominated possession and also led the tackles 81-59.

“To put real pressure on the Geelong ball-carriers is just crucial for us,” Clarkson said.

“We were able to turn the ball over and give ourselves a chance in the middle of the ground.”

Wingman Bradley Hill (27 disposals including 18 in the first half) was one of about a dozen key contributors for the Hawks but Mitchell, with a game-high 36 touches, was a stand-out.

“We’ve got a good running group and a good balance of inside and outside players,” Clarkson said.

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More to come, promises record-breaker Zlatan

In the arena that he has made his own since scoring four goals against England on its opening night in 2012, the powerful striker took off his shirt to reveal another underneath with a message to his fans – “You Made It Possible”.

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Ibrahimovic’s double in a 2-0 friendly win over Estonia on Thursday surpassed the mark of Sven Rydell, who scored his last international goals in 1932.

“That I scored with a back heel was probably a little lucky, but it was the only way I could score there,” Ibrahimovic said of his record-setting goal.

With the milestone reached, the 32-year-old seems determined to continue adding to his tally.

“I want so much, I want even more,” he told a media conference in Stockholm on Friday.

“Even if I’ve said there’s a couple of years left, I’m going to do the maximum in those years. Now I’ve gone past the goal record, we’ll keep going. It’s not over yet.”

Having scored his first goal for Sweden in a World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in 2001, he might have broken the record even sooner, but the various coaches of the national team used him sparingly at times.

Fast-forward to 2014 and a Sweden team without their tall, talismanic striker is now unthinkable and fans dread to imagine a future without their captain, who has said he will most likely retire after the 2016 European Championships in France.

Until then he intends to continue adding to the enviable haul of silverware he has amassed from some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Ajax, Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Barcelona.

“That’s what you look back at when you’ve finished,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have 23 collective titles and some individual titles, so the more I can gather, the bigger my list of merits will be.

“That’s what you play for. You play to win, and no-one can complain that one hasn’t won anything. It’s the other way around,” he said with a smile.

“It’s my will, my desire to be better. I train hard to be better, I want to be better than last season, I want to go forward all the time.

“I broke the record yesterday, but now I’m going to continue scoring goals to make it even harder for the next one who wants to break it.”

Sweden open their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Austria on Monday when Ibrahimovic is due to win his 100th cap.

(Reporting By Philip O’Connor; editing by Martyn Herman)

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Lion King scores twice as South Korea maul Venezuela

The 35-year-old marksman’s brace in his first match for the national team in over a year could not have come at a better time with South Korea appointing former German international Uli Stielike as their new boss hours earlier.

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Former Korean international Shin Tae-yong was one of three coaches who took charge for the game against the Venezuelans and gave the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker, who is top scorer in the K League classic this term, another opportunity.

Lee showed his gratitude by almost opening the scoring in the eight minute with a clever backheel that edged just wide as the hosts, spurred by a livewire display from forward Son Heung-min, took control of proceedings.

But they fell behind against the run of play after a horrible error by understudy goalkeeper Kim Jin-Hyeon in the 21st minute.

Kim’s attempted kick from his hands lacked height and direction and was easily controlled by Mario Rondon who lobbed the ball back over the shamed stopper’s head.

The Koreans, who had a disappointing group stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil in June, were quickly back on level terms though when midfielder Lee Myung-joo curled home.

Son had fed midfielder Lee Chung-yong whose attempted cross from the left rebounded back to Lee Myung-joo who curled a right foot effort into the corner of the net in the 33rd minute.

Lee Chung-yong should have put the hosts ahead right before halftime but his header from Son’s cross went high over the crossbar as the Koreans grew in confidence.

Six minutes after the break Lee Dong-gook showed him how it’s done as the striker’s near post powerful header from Kim Min-woo’s 51st minute corner sailed past the visitors goalkeeper.

The Venezuelans then gifted Lee an opportunity to bag a second when two defenders failed to deal with a cross from the right and the ball fell to the striker, known at home as the ‘Lion King’, who swept home off the post.

It was his 30th goal for South Korea and there was enough in his display to give him hope of making the squad for the Asian Cup in January.

Lee last played for the national team when he skippered the side in their 1-0 home loss to Iran in their final World Cup qualifier. He didn’t make the squad for the tournament in Brazil but was recalled after Hong Myung-bo stepped down as head coach following the early exit.

Stielike is expected to be in the stands when the Koreans host Uruguay in another friendly on Tuesday with Shin and his two fellow coaches continuing in temporary charge.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing bt)

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Sprint king Adrian unafraid of Phelps

Two years ago, at the London Olympics, the American was chasing Australia’s world champion James Magnussen for the gold medal in swimming’s blue-riband event.

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Adrian got his fingernail on the wall first, winning by one one-hundredth of a second, the smallest possible margin in swimming.

As the gold medal was draped around his neck, it was almost as though a giant target was painted on his back, the price every swimmer pays when they go from predator to prey.

Adrian has been unable to scale those dizzy heights since London, finishing third to Magnussen at last year’s world championships in Barcelona and second to Cameron McEvoy at last month’s Pan Pacific Championships on Australia’s Gold Coast.

With three Olympic gold medals – he also won a relay in 2008 and 2012 – the 25-year-old has nothing to prove but remains committed to a sport that involves gruelling training and requires total discipline.

“My drive is just to improve, it’s not necessarily about increasing my medal count or beating this person or that person,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“I get the greatest amount of happiness from just seeing that I worked hard for something and it paid off.”

The pay off for swimmers is dubious. Standing 6ft 6in (1.98m) and weighing 227 lbs (103kg), Adrian might well have made a fortune as a basketballer or American footballer but chose a sport where there are few multi-million dollar contracts on offer and most competitors are happy just to have their university fees paid.

A few months before the London Olympics, Adrian graduated from Berkeley with an honours degree in public health.

DISCO LIGHTS

On Friday, he was in south-east Asia, competing at the inaugural Singapore Swim Stars, an innovative meet where competitors race for cash prizes, under disco lights with pop songs blazing away in the background.

It was all in good fun and Adrian was the big winner, taking out the men’s freestyle sprint double and pocketing $20,000, a pittance perhaps for Tiger Woods or Roger Federer, but a good night’s work for most swimmers.

Adrian was a clear winner of the 100m, which was held as a one-off final, but had to dig deep to win the 50m dash, which was held over a three round shootout, with the slower swimmers dropping out until only the last two were left.

“I think there is a lot more strategy that goes into this meet… it’s about energy management,” Adrian said.

“It was tough. All the guys that swam in the 100m first were struggling to touch the wall.

“But that was a blast. That had to be some of the most fun I’ve had at a swim meet since I was a little kid.”

The exception in swimming, of course, is Michael Phelps, who has always been a team mate of Adrian on the American relays but may become one of his rivals in the future.

Since making his comeback earlier this year, Phelps has been competing in 100m freestyle and qualified, along with Adrian, for the event at next year’s world championships in Russia.

Phelps has not outlined which events he plans to swim at the 2016 Rio Olympics but if his past is any guide, he will keep his programme a closely guarded secret until he steps onto the starting blocks in Brazil.

For Adrian, the prospect of racing against Phelps holds no real fears, although he doubts it will happen, suspecting Phelps will probably choose 100m butterfly and 200m medley as his individual events – races which he won at each of the past three Olympics.

“I wouldn’t bet against him, anybody who has in the last 12 years has lost a lot of money,” Adrian told Reuters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see him perform at a high level but I wouldn’t say he’s performing at his peak or close to it quite yet, and I think he’d be the first time to tell you that.

“If he’d had a little bit more time to train I think he’d be right on his fastest times ever, so that’s exciting to see.

“I think the 100 free is probably his auxiliary event where he will train for the 100 butterfly but the training he does for the 100 fly will translate well to the 100 free and he’ll certainly be capable of doing a good 100m free.”

Like every swimmer, Adrian has been in awe of what Phelps has done in the pool but he said he has found a new inspiration, his 17-year-old team mate Katie Ledecky, who has been ripping up the record books in women’s middle and long distance freestyle events.

“She’s incredible, just look at the way she swims,” Adrian said.

“She absolutely attacks the water and is not timid in any sense of the word.

“When she swims, she’s such a little animal and I want to be like that too.”

(Additional reporting by Yaocheng Lee; editing by Justin Palmer)

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Boycotting Russian World Cup would be an empty gesture – former UK minister

Russia, who won the right to stage the soccer tournament in a 2010 vote by football’s world governing body FIFA, is allegedly backing pro-Russian rebels against Ukrainian forces in a war in eastern Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula five months ago.

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“You’ll end up having the world split down the middle, and that is the worst of all worlds,” Caborn was quoted as saying by the BBC on Friday.

“No one condones what is going on in Ukraine but it would be merely empty-gesture politics from those that did boycott the World Cup,” he said.

A large number of countries led by the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow over the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the previous year but others including Britain took part.

Russia followed suit by boycotting the next Games in Los Angeles in a move followed by most of the other Eastern Bloc nations.

Caborn, who held office from 2001-2007, differentiated such a move from the sports boycott of South Africa during apartheid. South Africa was barred from the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1988.

“The sporting boycott of South Africa worked because there was a total consensus between sports and politicians, but there is not over Russia,” Caborn said.

Several western European countries boycotted the Melbourne Games in 1956 over Russia’s invasion of Hungary and Middle Eastern nations did the same over Britain and France’s invasion of Suez.

There was also an African boycott of the 1976 Montreal Games in protest at New Zealand’s presence despite their All Blacks rugby team’s tour of South Africa that year.

FIFA does not intend to change the venue for the 2018 finals with FIFA president Sepp Blatter saying in March the tournament would go ahead in Russia regardless of the country’s annexation of Crimea.

A boycott by black players might occur, however, if racism in Russian football is not stamped out.

Manchester City’s Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure said as much last year after complaining he had been racially abused during a Champions League match against CSKA Moscow.

“If we aren’t confident at the World Cup, coming to Russia, we won’t come,” Toure said. CSKA were punished with a partial closure of their stadium at their next home match in the competition.

(Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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FIFA completes probe into 2018, 2022 World Cup hosting

The report, which has not been made public, will be submitted to the ethics committee’s adjudicatory chamber, headed by German judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, to decide on whether any wrongdoing was committed, football’s governing body said on Friday.

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FIFA said they could not comment on when Eckert might reach his decision.

During the course of the year-long investigation, Garcia and his deputy Cornel Borbely interviewed “more than 75 witnesses and compiled a record that, in addition to audio recordings from interviews, includes more than 200,000 pages of relevant material,” FIFA said.

“The report sets forth detailed factual findings; reaches conclusions concerning further action with respect to certain individuals; identifies issues to be referred to other FIFA committees; and makes recommendations for future bidding processes.”

The hosting rights for the two tournaments were awarded simultaneously by FIFA’s executive committee in Zurich in 2010 after a turbulent campaign.

Spain/Portugal, Belgium/Netherlands and England had also been bidding for 2018 while United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan had bid for 2022.

The executive committee which took the decision was reduced to 22 members instead of the usual 24 after two of them were suspended by the ethics committee one month before the vote.

Nigerian Amos Adamu was banned for breaches of five articles of FIFA’s ethics code including one on bribery and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti for breaching articles on general conduct and loyalty.

The case followed allegations by The Sunday Times that the pair offered to sell their votes to undercover reporters posing as lobbyists for an American consortium.

FIFA said that all bidding nations were interviewed during the investigation. Borbely took responsibility obtaining information from the U.S and Russia as Garcia is a national of the former and was barred from visiting the latter.

Shortly before this year’s World Cup in Brazil, the Sunday Times reported that some of the “millions of documents” it had seen linked payments by former FIFA executive committee member Mohamed Bin Hammam to officials to win backing for Qatar’s World Cup bid.

Bin Hammam has not commented on his involvement since he was banned for life from football in 2012 and Qatar has denied all allegations of corruption.

Qatar has also been criticised for its alleged treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Justin Palmer)

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