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Four things to look for as European football picks up speed this week



The European club football trophies should already be stowed in the cabinets, instead most of the top leagues are only just resuming after the coronavirus interruption.

While the Germans returned on May 16, the top two Spanish divisions have only just resumed, and the English Premier League and Serie A reappear this week.

AFP Sport picks out key issues as elite European club football gets back into its stride.

It’s all kicking off

The Premier League returns on Wednesday and Serie A on Saturday, joining the Bundesliga and La Liga in rebooting their seasons.

Aston Villa, who lost to Leicester on Match 9 in the last match before the lockdown, will kick off against Champions League chasing Sheffield United.

The potentially pivotal game on re-opening day pits Manchester City, clinging to their hopes of retaining their title, against visiting Arsenal.

Serie A makes a stuttering comeback with four fixtures called off when Italian sport was suspended on March 9 midway through the 26th round of matches.

Torino kick off at home to Parma in a mid-table battle on Saturday. On Sunday third-place Inter Milan and fourth-place Atalanta both have home games.

We are almost the champions

No peeking: While fans tried to get a glimpse of Liverpool training, police want them to stay away from the Merseyside derby. PHOTO: AFP/File / Paul ELLIS

Two of the leagues could be settled by the end of the week.

Bayern Munich have been in rude health since the restart, winning all six matches, five in the league and one in the cup, including a pivotal victory at challengers Borussia Dortmund.

They can clinch an eighth straight title with victory at struggling Werder Bremen on Tuesday. But Bremen showed signs of life on Saturday with a 5-1 victory in Paderborn.

It could be one and done for Liverpool. If Manchester City fail to beat Arsenal, Liverpool can clinch their first title since 1990 away to neighbours Everton on Sunday.

The prospect of Liverpool winning the title in their own city led police to briefly suggest the match be moved to avoid fans ignoring social distancing rules and gathering to celebrate.

On a knife edge

While Bayern and Liverpool await their coronations, there is plenty at stake elsewhere.

Juventus have usually burned off their pursuers in the final straight on their way to eight straight Serie A titles, but Lazio have been proving dogged, and the long break may change the equation.

In Spain, Barcelona, whose form had been erratic before the enforced break returned with a bang on Saturday, winning 4-0 at Mallorca to ensure they stayed ahead of Real Madrid.

One’s a crowd: the stands were empty but Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo drew a TV audience of more than 8 million when they returned to action in the Italian cup. PHOTO: AFP/File / Miguel MEDINA

The pace will be frantic. Barcelona return with three matches in six days.

The battle for precious Champions League berths is tight everywhere. In England it is complicated by the possibility that Manchester City will be banned from next season’s competition.

While Paderborn in Germany, Norwich in England, and SPAL and Brescia in Serie A need near miracles to escape relegation, every one of the four big leagues has at least half a dozen clubs embroiled in the survival battle.

Yet Espanyol, who returned in La Liga on Saturday by ending a run of six matches, and more than four months, without a win suggested the break may help some strugglers.

Made for TV

Camera opportunity: TV crews were among the few people allowed into the ground as Real Madrid kicked off on Sunday. PHOTO: AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

Having been starved of live games, fans still cannot go to matches but can suddenly choose from a crowded menu – if they have the right subscriptions.

When he gave the green light for Italian football to return, Sports Minister Vincent Spadafora said the sport was part of the country’s “return to normal life again”.

The first match suggested the appetite was there as a goalless cup semi-final between Juventus and Inter Milan on Friday drew the biggest football audience for more than a year. But it was shown free-to-air on national broadcaster RAI. When Serie A returns so will the pay wall, with most matches on Sky Italia.

In Germany, the local Sky arm owns the rights and broadcast live action free for the first two rounds.

In England, where the Premier League has become a political football for battered politicians, the schedule has been arranged so all the 92 games can be screened live.

Of those 33, 25 on Sky and four each on the BBC and Amazon, will be available free, including the Merseyside derby.

In Spain, the format is unchanged with one game a week available free, but Movistar, which owns the rights to the other nine matches, has reduced its price for the remaining games.

Reporting and photos: AFP


Mischa Zverev returns to JOALI BEING to host tennis workshops in August



JOALI BEING invites German tennis professional, Mischa Zverev, to host tennis workshops between 9th and 19th August 2024. Young guests are welcome to join the Ace Academy workshops this Summer, where they can learn to become tennis pros through a variety of class levels that focus on the fundamentals of tennis all the way up to exciting tennis matches. Zverev will also host a tennis workshop for teenagers from the local community, supporting youngsters with diabetes as part of the Alexander Zverev Foundation.

Mischa Zverev had achieved a career-high ATP singles ranking of world No. 25. At the 2017 Australian Open, Zverev defeated world No. 1 Andy Murray in four sets. Zverev began playing tennis at the age of two with his father, Alexander, a former ATP pro and his coach from who he drew inspiration. Zverev is the elder brother of Alexander Zverev, who was ranked by the ATP as high as world No. 2. Together, they were the first brothers to reach 3R at the same Grand Slam event since Byron and Wayne Black in the 1998 Australian Open.

The B’Kidult Summer Programme – Ace Academy Tennis Camp

The B’Kidult Summer Programme took flight on 1st July 2024, welcoming adventurers of all ages to embark on a shared journey of joy, discovery and connection. Mischa Zverev will lead two sessions of the Ace Academy camp in August; the first workshop on 15th August 2024 and the second workshop on 17th August 2024.These workshops will focus on hand and eye coordination, foot work drills and cardio. Guided by Zverev, young players can start their tennis journey on the right foot, to develop essential life skills and a love for the game in a fun, supportive environment. Along with boosting speed and agility, the tennis workshops will also foster resilience and teamwork. Youngsters can learn to command the court with confidence and share their progress with the rest of the family.

Community Wellbeing and Inspiration

Following a successful local community workshop with the Zverev brothers in 2022, JOALI BEING is excited to welcome back Mischa Zverev to further inspire a group of teenagers from a neighbouring local island. “I am deeply honoured to return to the island of wellbeing, where we have created moments of joy and inspiration together with the team, guests and local community. I am very much looking forward to sharing my passion and motivate youngsters once again. JOALI BEING is truly my favourite place on earth” says Zverev.

Multi-generational play and learning

At JOALI BEING, we cater to multi-generational travellers, a place where every individual discovers and embarks on a journey of transformation and transcendence. Making the most of its remote tropical island setting, B’Kidult weaves elements of nature into each space and activity, awakening the senses and fostering a closer relationship with the earth. From crystalline waters and warm sunshine to soft sands and lush palms, nature’s sensory gifts set the stage for a memorable family journey that unites discovery, learning and wellbeing. The Four Pillars of JOALI BEING: Mind, Skin, Microbiome and Energy are brought to life through experiential learning and active engagement. Mischa Zverev will be visiting JOALI BEING with his family and will experience an array of multi-generational activities that nurture connection; from culinary classes, herbology workshops, yoga and sound baths, to marine conservation, snorkelling adventures and transformational wellbeing.

Since JOALI BEING opened its doors in late 2021, the wellbeing island has continuously strived to support and inspire local communities. In November 2022, the Zverev brothers visited JOALI BEING as part of tennis star Aleksander Zverev’s recovery journey from a past injury. Together, they hosted tennis workshops for guests and children from a local neighbouring island, supporting youngsters with diabetes. The Alexander Zverev Foundation had then been launched to help young people with diabetes to avoid limiting themselves because of the condition. The foundation particularly supports children with type 1 diabetes and aims to help prevent type 2 diabetes by encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle. At JOALI BEING, the wellbeing island’s philosophy of “Joy of Weightlessness” had well resonated with Aleksander Zverev at every level during his stay.

JOALI BEING has villas from $2700 per night based on two persons sharing an Ocean Pool Villa on a B&B basis. Wellbeing Programmes start from $1,693 per person based on a five-night programme.

For bookings and further information, please contact

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Kandima Maldives remains top choice for sports celebrities; hosts futsal camp with Ricardinho



Growing in popularity as a holiday hotspot among sports personalities, active lifestyle resort Kandima Maldives with Ricardinho, holding the title of being named the best Futsal player in the World 6 times by the Futsal planet.

The legendary Ricardinho spent a week at the island resort from 30th June to 6th July, providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both local youths and Kandima guests.

During his stay, Ricardinho conducted an engaging three-day futsal camp, coaching aspiring players from the local Kudahuvadhoo Island. The camp was open to Kandima’s guests too and provided an amazing opportunity for participants to learn from one of the greatest futsal players of all time.

Throughout the event, Ricardinho actively engaged with visitors, playing matches with fans and futsal enthusiasts, and showcasing his expertise in a community setting. Guests had the rare chance to watch, learn, and interact directly with the futsal legend, making the experience truly anything but ordinary.

“We are honoured to welcome Ricardinho, the world’s top Futsal player, to Kandima,” said Tom van Tuijl, General Manager, Kandima Maldives “This collaboration aligned perfectly with Kandima’s focus on an active lifestyle. Our commitment to promote a fitness-oriented way of life in a tropical island setting and Ricardinho’s visit undoubtedly inspired our guests, especially families with young futsal enthusiasts, to embrace a more sporty lifestyle.”

Kandima is no stranger to hosting renowned athletes from around the world and the UK. In recent years, the island resort has already hosted premium league footballers Liverpool FC’s Joe Gomez, Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes, and freestyle football champion Lia Lewis for a holiday. Innovative in their approach to creating distinct and memorable sports experiences for guests, Kandima continues exploring fun and educational partnerships with esteemed athletes to impress fitness-oriented travellers.

“We are thrilled to partner with Kandima Maldives for this exciting football camp,” said Ricardinho.” It was a great opportunity to share my passion for the sport and engaging with the Kandima’s guests, local youths and staff. Together, we created unforgettable memories and inspired a love for football and an active lifestyle.”

For more information about Kandima Maldives and upcoming Uber Kool events, please visit

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Tennis pro Dominik Hrbaty to conduct training sessions at Sirru Fen Fushi Maldives



Sirru Fen Fushi – Private Lagoon Resort has announced the arrival of tennis legend Dominik Hrbaty for an exclusive series of training sessions at their luxurious island retreat in collaboration with LUX Tennis Private Coaching Academy. From 6th August to 14th August 2024, guests at this breathtaking Maldivian resort will have the unique opportunity to train personally with Hrbaty, benefiting from his exceptional skills and expertise in the sport.

Born on April 1, 1978, in Slovakia, Dominik Hrbaty is celebrated worldwide for his illustrious career as a professional tennis player. Throughout his tenure on the ATP tour, Hrbaty achieved a highest singles ranking of 12 and doubles ranking of 14, capturing the hearts of tennis enthusiasts with 6 career singles titles and 2 doubles titles. His remarkable achievements include victories at prestigious tournaments such as San Marino, Prague, Auckland, Adelaide, and Marseille, among others.

“We are honoured to host Dominik Hrbaty at Sirru Fen Fushi,” said Wellness & Recreation Manager, Wilfred Suarez. “His presence underscores our commitment to offering unparalleled experiences that combine wellness, fitness, and the pursuit of excellence. Guests will have the extraordinary opportunity to learn directly from one of tennis’s most esteemed figures in our idyllic island setting.”

Nestled amidst the serene beauty of the Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi offers a haven of luxury and tranquility. The resort’s tennis facilities boast a stunning court set beneath swaying palm trees, complete with floodlights for evening games, ensuring an unforgettable tennis experience day or night.

In addition to personalised training sessions with Hrbaty, guests can indulge in a range of wellness activities, including yoga on the beach, rejuvenating spa treatments, and exquisite culinary offerings featuring fresh, local ingredients.

Hrbaty’s visit aligns seamlessly with the resort’s philosophy of promoting overall well-being and personal improvement. His exceptional career achievements and dedication to the sport make him an ideal mentor for guests looking to enhance their tennis skills while enjoying a world-class vacation.

For more information on Sirru Fen Fushi – Private Lagoon Resort and to reserve your exclusive training session with Dominik Hrbaty, please visit or contact our reservations team at

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