SEMENYIH, Feb 20 — Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said Malaysian squash legend Datuk Nicol Ann David will be offered more than a coaching role after her retirement in June.
“This is not the end for her. She is an invaluable asset for all Malaysians and there are still many plans that she wishes to undertake.
“Definitely more than a coaching role, but we will wait for her official announcement on her future plans,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting with Pakatan Harapan Youth leaders here.
On Tuesday, the 35-year-old eight-time world champion announced her retirement from squash through a Twitter post.
Syed Saddiq said whoever comes next after Nicol will have big shoes to fill, but was optimistic about the upcoming 20-year-old Sivasangari Subramaniam's chances.
He also said the ministry and the National Sports Council have informed Nicol of their wish to offer a special RM1 million incentive for her continued fight to have squash recognised as an Olympic sport.
“Unfortunately, due to Olympic politics, it did not materialise. At the same time we will discuss with her to come up with ways to develop the squash community.
“I grew up idolising Nicol like all of us and she will continue to be a heroine for all Malaysians,” he said.
LONDON, Feb 20 — Harry Kane is back in training ahead of schedule as the Tottenham striker targets a return to action at Burnley on Saturday.
Kane has been sidelined since suffering an ankle injury in the closing moments of Tottenham’s Premier League defeat against Manchester United on January 13.
It was initially expected the England captain wouldn’t be fit to play again until March.
But, after posting a social media picture of himself working with his team-mates today, Kane now looks set to feature at Turf Moor this week.
“Great to be back with my team,” Kane tweeted.
Kane, who has scored 20 times in all competitions this season, will give a major boost to Tottenham as they enter a crucial stage of the campaign.
Tottenham have won all four league matches in his absence and stand on the brink of the Champions League quarter-finals after a last 16 first-leg 3-0 victory against Borussia Dortmund.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side also trail Manchester City and Liverpool by just five points in the Premier League title race and face London derbies against Chelsea and Arsenal in the next two weeks.
Kane, winner of the Golden Boot at last year’s World Cup, had scored seven times in his last seven appearances before his latest ankle injury. — AFP
PARIS, Feb 20 — Karl Lagerfeld will be cremated without ceremony and his ashes are likely to be scattered with those of his mother and lover, his label said today.
“His wishes will be respected,” a spokeswoman for his Karl Lagerfeld brand told AFP a day after the legendary designer died at the age of 85.
The “Kaiser” — who was known for his rapier wit — had long insisted that he would “rather die” than be buried.
“I’ve asked to be cremated and for my ashes to dispersed with those of my mother... and those of Choupette (his cat), if she dies before me,” he said in one of his last major interviews.
Lagerfeld had previously said that his ashes would be mixed with those of his longtime lover, the French dandy Jacques de Bascher, who died of AIDS in 1989.
He told de Bascher’s biographer Marie Ottavi that he had kept half of his ashes so they be together again at the end.
The German-born Chanel supremo had put them away “somewhere secret. One day they will be added to mine,” he told Ottavi.
Lagerfeld fell for the dashing de Bascher when he was 19 and looked after him until his death at 38.
This was despite de Bascher, a notoriously philandering party animal, having an affair with Lagerfeld’s great friend turned rival Yves Saint Laurent.
Horror of burials
The other half of de Bascher’s ashes was given to his family, the French daily Le Monde reported today.
Lagerfeld believed that burial “was horrible. I just want to disappear like the animals in the virgin forest. It is awful to encumber people with your remains,” he told a French television in 2015.
Nor did he want to be mourned at a grandiose funeral like the one France granted its rock legend Johnny Hallyday in 2017.
“What a horror!” Lagerfeld declared. “With all the in-fighting in the Hallyday family (over the singer’s will), the funeral felt like a farce.”
Speculation was also mounting about who would inherit the designer’s fortune, estimated at around US$200 million (RM813.5 million).
Lagerfeld confirmed to the French review Numero last year that although doctors “can’t find anything wrong... (after) every test under the sun”, he intended to leave his money to Choupette, his beloved Burmese cat “among others”.
“Don’t worry, there is enough for everyone,” quipped the self-confessed “cultural bulimic” who admitted “throwing money out the window” as soon as he earned it on art, 18th-century furniture and gifts to friends.
Doted-on godson Hudson
“It’s not like I have €72 billion (RM332 billion) in my current account,” he added.
His 10-year-old godson Hudson Kroenig, who the designer doted on in his later years, is also likely to be remembered in his will.
“Hudson is a modern version of Jackie Coogan, the child actor who starred with Chaplin in The Kid,” Lagerfeld said of the blond boy, the son of American model Brad Kroenig.
“His face is open like a window. There is something like sunshine in it, like Mary Pickford when she was just starting out,” Lagerfeld said.
Hudson and his scampish smile was a fixture of almost all of Lagerfeld’s later shows for Chanel.
Lagerfeld was also very fond of his younger brother Jameson.
“I consider them like my family,” Lagerfeld said of the Kroenigs.
The designer had said he felt estranged from his sister and her family, who also live in the US.
“Her children never even send me a Christmas card,” he once complained.
The deluge of tributes to the workaholic designer — the most prolific of the last century — continued Wednesday as fans left white roses outside Chanel’s main Paris boutique.
US Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour called Lagerfeld “a giant among men”.
“Karl was brilliant, he was wicked, he was funny, he was generous beyond measure, and he was deeply kind. I will miss him so very much,” she added.
His absence is likely to dominate Paris women’s fashion week, which begins Monday.
Chanel, now led by his friend and former studio chief Virginie Viard, who stepped into his shoes as creative director yesterday, will unveil its autumn winter ready-to-wear collection on March 5, the last day of the shows. — AFP
LONDON, Feb 20 — Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is planning for the long-term despite the club’s fans booing his side during Monday’s FA Cup defeat by Manchester United at Stamford Bridge which has fanned media speculation about his future.
“I have to think that I will be the manager of Chelsea for a long time, otherwise I cannot work... I’m not sure but I have to think this,” Sarri told a news conference ahead of the League Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday.
Chelsea had looked like title contenders when the Italian guided them to a 12-game unbeaten Premier League run but six defeats in their last 14 league games — including a 6-0 reverse at champions City — has seen the club drop out of the top four.
The 2-0 defeat by United that saw holders Chelsea exit the FA Cup in the fifth round led some supporters to chant that their coach faced being “sacked in the morning” just seven months after Sarri arrived at the club.
“As you know it’s not easy as we have no time, we are trying to solve our problems. It’s not easy because we have to play every three days so we have no time on the pitch,” said Sarri who has not had any talks with the club’s owners this week.
Sarri has refused to tweak his 4-3-3 system and possession-based style known as ‘Sarri-ball’, which has come under scrutiny in recent weeks and on Monday saw the fans resort to expletives to voice their mounting disapproval of his tactical approach.
“The system is a false problem,” the 60-year-old added.
“I know very well that when we lose I have to put a striker on the pitch. When we win I have to put a defender on the pitch. But I want to see football in another way.”
When asked what he could do to restore the supporters’ faith in his tactical methods, Sarri said: “It’s very easy: we need to win three or four matches in a row.
“I can understand very well the frustration of our fans because they are used to winning.
“Of course, in this moment, it’s very difficult... But, in football, everything can change in one day.”
Chelsea host Malmo in a Europa League last 32 return game on Thursday, holding a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Sweden.
Italian full back Davide Zappacosta (illness) and winger Pedro (stomach problem) are unlikely to be involved, while goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has a hamstring problem.
Sarri is uncertain whether Kepa will recover in time to face City at Wembley this weekend, which could mean a chance for Willy Caballero to deputise against his former club. — Reuters
KUTKAI (Myanmar), Feb 20 — Mobs of stick-wielding church-goers in Myanmar’s northeast used to descend on dealers and addicts in a desperate effort to save their communities from a meth-induced health crisis sweeping the country.
But anonymous death threats brought the vigilante operations to a halt.
“It simply became too dangerous for us,” says Zau Man, leader of the local Baptist church in Kutkai, a town in Shan State scarred by addiction.
Myanmar is the second-biggest producer of opium in the world after Afghanistan and is now believed to be the largest source of methamphetamine.
The multi-billion dollar industry outstrips rivals in Latin America to feed lucrative markets as far away as Sydney, Tokyo and Seoul.
Shan is the epicentre of production in Myanmar, with a network of local armed groups linking up with transnational trafficking gangs.
Kutkai sits between Mandalay and the militia-riddled town of Muse on the China border, a key entry point for precursor chemicals heading to Myanmar’s illegal meth labs.
Trucks carrying illicit goods roar through the town in both directions, past a Chinese temple and streetside restaurants with signs in Mandarin.
Heroin and meth use here are rampant. Zau Man says nearly every household has at least one drug user, dealers work out in the open and often violent meth addicts have turned parts of Kutkai into no-go zones.
“In some areas, you can only get food until 10pm, but you can get drugs 24/7,” he says.An illegal poppy field is seen in Hopong, Shan State February 3, 2019. — AFP pic
‘Smart and ruthless’
Myanmar is facing a “public health disaster” because of meth and few villages in the country are left unscathed, Jeremy Douglas, regional representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, tells AFP.
But the crisis is at its most acute in the poppy-covered hills of Shan State, where a landscape overrun with armed rebel groups, militias and security forces is an ideal breeding ground for meth labs.
Accurate figures of production of high-quality crystal meth, or “ice”, and low-grade meth, known in South-east Asia as “yaba”, are unavailable.
In January 2018, Kutkai police seized 30 million yaba pills, 1,750kg of crystal meth and 500kg of heroin with a domestic value of some US$54 million (RM220 million) in the country’s largest-ever drug bust.
But huge raids leave street prices unaltered, suggesting they are only a small slice of production, according to the International Crisis Group, which says the business now “dwarfs” Shan’s formal economy.
Crystal meth is smuggled via sophisticated trafficking networks to more developed markets like Australia, where it can fetch a wholesale value of more than US$180 million per tonne.
Yaba is distributed to Myanmar’s neighbours, particularly Thailand and Bangladesh.
But the pink pills are increasingly being dumped at rock-bottom prices on a domestic market in what Douglas called a “smart and ruthless” strategy to build demand.
“It’s a nasty business and they’re really pushing it out into the population,” he says.
Users and health workers in three different towns in Shan state — Lashio, Kutkai and Muse — told AFP pills go for just 500 kyat for three, or around 10 cents each.
As the price falls, so does the user age, with reports of children as young as nine taking yaba.
Many miners, long-distance drivers and shift workers mix narcotics — smoking meth to keep them awake, and injecting heroin to bring them down.A drug user reads a book at a drug rehabilitation centre in Lashio, Shan State January 9, 2019. — AFP pic
Ashamed to go home
Arr San, a gaunt 27-year-old with matted hair, rummages round his roadside shack in Muse and pulls out a bong crafted from a plastic bottle he uses to smoke yaba.
He has been hooked since he was 18 and now consumes around five pills a day.
For Arr San, like many others in the region, there are few opportunities to avoid the cycle of poverty and violence — two years ago he fled his home in a nearby town for fear of being forced into an ethnic armed group.
Narcotics can provide an escape from the often-grim reality of life in Shan.
“I take drugs because I get depressed and they help stabilise my mind,” he says.
Arr San is one of 300 heading daily to the local hospital for methadone, a powerful opioid used to wean people off heroin.
But the problem is not limited to the poor.
Among Myanmar’s urban elite, addiction to high grade crystal meth is already taking root.
Usually in powder or crystal form, “ice” is commonly snorted or smoked. It can also be injected, which increases the threat of disease transmission through needle-sharing.
A UNODC-backed policy launched in February 2018 champions depenalising users and treating drugs as a health issue while tackling the trade’s kingpins.
But the law has yet to catch up — anyone caught with even one yaba pill still faces a minimum of five years behind bars.
It is estimated that around half of Myanmar’s prison inmates are jailed for minor drug offences and arrests of drug users are rising.
A lack of funding for prevention work and treatment means Myanmar’s meth problem may only get worse.
Arr says: “I want to go back home and see my mother’s face, but I just can’t.”
He added: “I don’t want to trouble her as I’m so sick.” — AFP
NEW YORK, Feb 20 — Former world number two Steve Stricker will captain the 2020 United States Ryder Cup team, the PGA of America said today.
Stricker, 51, was clear favourite to succeed Jim Furyk as captain for the biennial event against Europe, which will next be played at Whistling Straits in his home state of Wisconsin.
A 12-times winner on the PGA Tour, Stricker captained the victorious US team at the 2017 Presidents Cup and served as one of Furyk’s vice captains at last year’s Ryder Cup in Paris where the US team suffered a crushing defeat.
As a player, Stricker logged three Ryder Cup appearances. He was on the winning team in 2008 before defeats in 2010 and 2012. His Ryder Cup record is three wins, seven losses and one half.
The European Ryder Cup team named Padraig Harrington as their captain in January. — Reuters
NEW YORK, Feb 20 — Wall Street stocks edged higher early today ahead of Federal Reserve meeting minutes that will shed light on last month’s dovish tilt by the central bank.
About 10 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up slightly at 25,901.57.
The broad-based S&P 500 rose less than 0.1 per cent at 2,780.25, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.2 per cent to 7,499.45.
Analysts expect minutes of the Fed’s January 30 meeting to illuminate the Fed’s rationale for signaling its recent series of rate hikes was on hold.
At the time, the Fed cited rising economic uncertainty and low inflation as reasons for its likely pause on additional rate hikes. Futures markets now see only a small chance of a rate hike in 2019.
American Airlines, United Continental and Delta Air Lines were all down about one per cent after smaller rival Southwest Airlines said the US government shutdown dented business more than previously thought.
Southwest now expects a negative revenue hit of US$60 million (RM244.2 billion), up from the previous projection of US$10 to US$15 million. Shares of Southwest slumped 4.9 per cent. — AFP