Pique: Messi is from another world

Madrid, April 6 (IANS) FC Barcelona coach Gerard Pique has commented that his teammate Leo Messi was the best played in the world in an interview broadcast on British TV station, BT Sport.

Among other topics Pique discussed on Tuesday were former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson and the expectations raised by former Barca coach, Pep Guardiola’s imminent arrival at Manchester City, reports Xinhua.

When asked to compare Messi with Cristiano Ronaldo, Pique said the pair were, “surprising”.

“We are not just speaking about the two best players in the world, but the best two in the history of the game,” he said.

However, he made it clear Messi was his favorite of the two. “He has a talent than nobody else has. He has incredible speed with the ball at his feet and it is impossible to catch him.”

“Ronaldo,” he said, was “a different type of player. He is tall, strong and powerful… I always say Messi isn’t human and Cristiano is the best of the humans.”

He was asked about his time at Manchester United and said that former coach, Sir Alex Ferguson was “god”, before discussing Guardiola’s move to Manchester City.

“Whoever thinks Guardiola isn’t going to work hard, isn’t going to last long. He has a great capacity for hard work and City have got it right in signing him.”

However, the defender doubted his former boss would be able to repeat this success at Barcelona, where he won an incredible 14 trophies in four seasons.

“That is unrepeatable,” he said, any foreign coach who has worked in the Premier League can say it is not going to be easy, because English football isn’t easy.”

Cricket Australia gives landmark pay rise to women players

Canberra, April 6 (IANS) Australia’s top female cricketers are set to become the nation’s highest-paid team sportswomen, after Cricket Australia announced a landmark pay rise in the women’s game on Wednesday.

Cricket Australia said its female player payment pool would be increased from $1.8 million to $3.2 million per year for the upcoming summer, meaning the top players could earn up to “six figures” per year, reports Xinhua.

Maximum retainers for the Southern Stars — Australia’s national team — are set to rise from $37,000 to $50,000. When combined with increased maximum retainers for the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) of $12,000, the base rate for Australia’s best female cricketers rises to $62,000 per year. After the Southern Stars match payments and tour fees are added to the players’ base incomes, the top players are expected to earn in excess of six figures.

At the other end of the spectrum, lower earners are also set to get a pay rise. Minimum retainers have more than doubled, rising from $14,000 to $30,000 for the Southern Stars and $2,400 to $5500 for the WBBL.

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said the sporting body was “determined” to encourage more women to play cricket.

“Cricket is a sport for all Australians and Cricket Australia will continue to invest heavily in the women’s game in the coming years,” Sutherland said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We are determined to make cricket the sport of choice for women in Australia.”

Sutherland said the recent exposure and high television ratings for the women’s game meant it was an easy decision to allocate more money towards the female players.

“We have worked constructively with the Australian Cricketers’ Association to reach this point and will continue to do so in our ongoing efforts to improve wages and workplace conditions for all elite female cricketers,” Sutherland said.

“The Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars have achieved great success on the world stage, including making it through to the recent final of the ICC World T20 in India, and are great role models for the next generation of Australia’s aspiring female cricketers.”

Australia to set up grassroots football programme in India

Canberra, April 6 (IANS) Australia’s football federation has announced a collaboration with the Australian government to provide a number of football-based grassroots development programmes in India.

On the back of a number of successful programmes implemented in the Oceanic region, The Football Federation Australia (FFA) and the Australian government will try to replicate the programmes in the Indian state of Kerala, reports Xinhua.

The FFA has said it had held talks with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and the Sports Authority of India to secure access to national facilities in the event that the programme expands beyond the state of Kerala.

According to Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the “Just Play” programme will encourage young children to take up football as a way to forge positive social relationships and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

“The objective of the program is to give children aged six to 12 years a positive first experience with football while also teaching lessons about important social issues, such as gender equality and sanitation,” Bishop said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Just Play” is a joint venture between the Australian government, the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), Unicef and UEFA Foundation. FFA has been an official partner since the programme was inaugurated in 2009.’

Bishop said the program’s success in Oceanic nations means the template should also be a great success in India.

“The programme has helped over 200,000 children in Oceania learn football skills along with valuable health and well-being lessons. I look forward to making the same positive impact in Kerala,” she said.

FFA chief executive David Gallop said the “Just Play” programme demonstrates positive role that football can play in young peoples’ lives. He said the programme would also deliver Australian international aid across the Asian nation.

“Combining football with an educational agenda is a compelling way to engage with vulnerable children. It’s a way that football is Australia’s bridge to Asia and beyond,” Gallop said.

“The ‘Just Play’ programme has a proven record over the past seven years and I’m sure that FFA’s expertise in coaching and development, supported by the Australia Government’s funding, will produce very worthwhile outcomes in India.”

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