Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi wins Ballon d’Or award for world’s best player for fifth time

The Barcelona and Argentina forward finished ahead of Ronaldo and Brazil forward Neymar as he scooped the award for the fifth time overall, having previously won it four years in a row from 2009 to 2012.


Messi helped Barcelona to a Spanish league, domestic cup and Champions League treble plus the Club World Cup and also led Argentina to the Copa America final, where they lost to Germany.

“It’s incredible, much more than anything I dreamed of as a kid,” said Messi as he received the award.

“I want to thank my team-mates, without them none of this would have been possible.”

Barcelona’s Luis Enrique was voted coach of the year.

United States World Cup winner Carli Lloyd, who scored a hat-trick in the final against Japan, was named women’s player of the year.

Ronaldo ended last season trophyless with Real Madrid, although he helped Portugal qualify for Euro 2016.

Neymar won a treble alongside Messi at Barcelona but had a less happy time with Brazil, receiving a four-match international ban after he

NRL 2016 season preview Who will climb the ladder and who will slip this year

Regardless of what happens with those teams, they are known quantities. Both will be good and both, barring season-ending injuries to a few key men, are basically guaranteed to be active come the pointy end of the season.

But what of those teams that are in for a bit of a change in 2016?


With the season just a day away, Grandstand looks at who is set to make a run up the ladder and which teams look like slipping.

Climber: The Warriors (Last season – 13th)

Not for the first time, I am drinking the Kiwi Kool-Aid.

The Warriors threaten to take the league by storm every damn year and disappoint almost every damn time.

The past two seasons, the allure of Shaun Johnson, an electrifying backline and a hulking forward pack forced pundits to push the Warriors up their predictions only to see them finish ninth and 13th.

Since their unlikely run from sixth to the grand final in 2011, the men from across the ditch have gone on a run

Jets Are Said to Be Planning on Franchise Tag for Muhammad Wilkerson

The Jets’ contract impasse with the standout defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, spanning years and regimes, will reach an expected stage Tuesday. The Jets intend to designate Wilkerson as their franchise player before the 4 p.m. deadline, according to a person in football with knowledge of their plans, in a maneuver that allows them to retain his rights while extending the window for brokering a long-term contract.


For two years, Wilkerson has been seeking an extension, and he and the Jets have differing views on his value. He skipped all of the team’s voluntary off-season workouts last year because he was irked by the pace of negotiations, and this latest development is sure to bother him further.

With the franchise tag, the Jets and Wilkerson, 26, have until July 15 to reach a multiyear contract. If the sides cannot reach an agreement, Wilkerson would make $15.7 million next season and then become an unrestricted free agent in 2017.

Why to choose kickboxing classes

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Take into account that kickboxing is a grouping of boxing, martial arts and aerobics, and includes a huge variety of exercise types so the prospects of getting bored are slight. While the female kickboxing knockout may be rather enjoyable and varied, they are as well very useful at providing a total-body exercises that not only burns a good number of calories, but tones womens’ muscles as well.

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Mocs Finish Second At Mobile Sports Authority Golf Intercollegiate

The Chattanooga Mocs men’s golf team got the spring schedule off to a grand start with a runner-up finish at the Mobile Sports Authority Intercollegiate. The final round 284 (-4) gave the squad its best total (-12, 852) since the same number winning the 2009 Southern Conference Championships.

No. 4 Auburn won the event shooting 838. Chattanooga was second by four shots over second-ranked Wake Forest and six clear of Kansas State.

“The really cool thing…at lunch the guys were talking about how we didn’t play our best,” coach Mark Guhne shared. “We left a few shots out there. I really like that fire and competitiveness heading into this semester.

“That attitude of not being willing to settle is what we need. We said it over and over in the fall that the talent was there. We played consistently and closed out rounds.

“We finished every day.”

Lake Johnson had his best showing of the year. The freshman turned in three par or better cards for a 4-under 212 to tie for eighth, his first career top 10. Andrew Weathers added three consecutive 71s to finish one stroke out of the top

Kiszla Broncos-Seahawks a classic, but NFL’s OT rules must change

The winner of a classic football game should never be determined by pure, dumb luck.

Unlike the Super Bowl, the only difference Sunday between the Broncos and Seattle was a flip of the coin.

“We felt like we were the better team,” Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said.

Not to take anything away from the Seahawks’ 26-20 overtime victory against Denver, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from the NFL of late, it’s this: What’s fair got to do with anything in this league? And the more the rules change, the less we trust that justice is truly being served.

After Denver rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter on the road in the NFL’s rowdiest stadium, the silence of stunned Seahawks fans was deafening as quarterback Peyton Manning represented the Broncos on the coin flip to determine which team would get the football to begin overtime.

Manning called tails.

The Seahawks won.

NFL overtime rules are stupid.

“It puts a premium on the coin toss,” Manning said. “I called tails at the beginning of the game, and went with it again in overtime. It was heads, and

Masters is so much more than golf, and that’s the way it should be

It was a quiet, nondescript moment deep in the pine trees at the end of a sunny practice round. It was a moment unspoiled by smartphones or smart alecks. It was the perfect Masters moment.

At a spot where fans could cross the 18th fairway Wednesday afternoon, the marshals did not spot any oncoming golfers and dropped the ropes. But the fans didn’t move. In the distance, they could hear a shuffling and a whistling, and so they waited. And waited.

Finally, coming down the hill, with no caddie or entourage, accompanied only by his twirling golf club, was smiling former Masters champion Angel Cabrera.

He was close enough for fans to touch him, but nobody did. He could have easily heard any sort of heck or cheer, but nobody said a word. The fans politely watched him pass, and then carefully crossed the fairway behind him.

It’s like that here. It’s forever 1950. It’s the last major American sporting event dominated not by bluster, but respect.

This week’s 78th Masters at Augusta National is not about the players, as it will continue in earnest

Mission Viejo’s Max Redfield is a sports multitasker

Three-sport high school standouts exist mostly in the history books. They’ve vanished along with rotary telephones and transistor radios.

That makes senior Max Redfield of Mission Viejo old-school. Football is his primary sport, but with encouragement from Coach Bob Johnson, he’s also a major contributor for the basketball and track teams.

“I love that he plays three sports,” Johnson said. “I’ve been a proponent of that forever. I like the attitude of going from one to another.”

So does Redfield, who played four sports as a freshman; he was on a club soccer team while playing football, basketball and track for the school.

His 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, combined with speed, strength and power, makes him one of the best athletes in Orange County. And there are few better at free safety.

Redfield’s instincts, ability to close on a ballcarrier, leaping ability and toughness are just a few of the qualities Johnson and others admire. Redfield had two interceptions as a junior and caught 32 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns playing receiver.

“It’s kind of a feeling where you think the ball is going to go,

Central Coast Mariners’ mission to thrill is on the verge of self destruction

“It’s the worst run of results the club’s ever had,” former coach Lawrie McKinna lamented.

The current mayor of Gosford offered to help with the club prior to Christmas, but that offer was rejected, despite his own success at the helm.

“Regardless of who we played, every team who played against us knew they were up for a hard game, whether we won or lost, everybody feared to play against us,” Cr McKinna said.

“Per capita of population during our reign we were the the most successful club in the A League, we are now a laughing stock of the Football community,” former board member Bob Graham said.

Despite being the smallest club in the league, the Mariners boast a proud history, being crowned champion in 2012/13 and two-time premiers.

In April this year owner Mike Charlesworth backed caretaker coach Tony Walmsley to officially take the reins of the club.

The Mariners promised entertainment, vision and flair, and with no fear of relegation, the club insisted the coach would not be judged on results.

“It is all about entertainment, we’re here to entertain.

“It’s a league where you can’t get

World Cup’s road to Brazil remains bumpy

In 50 days the best athletes in the world’s most popular sport will convene in Brazil, one of soccer’s sacred spiritual homes, for the game’s most important tournament.

It will be a powerful, uplifting tribute to the “beautiful game” that Brazilians have shaped for decades and the new status of a confident, rising global power in Latin America. Locals and foreigners will marvel at shiny new stadiums and glide across the continent-sized country on upgraded infrastructure.

That, at least, is what the government and organizers are hoping will happen given that the price tag for their six-week World Cup party is expected to top $11 billion, a figure local media estimates say is extremely conservative.

And although it’s still likely that things will go well overall, officials and other observers are keenly aware of three types of risks that have emerged: protests, an overwhelmed transportation infrastructure and soccer stadiums that remain incomplete more than seven years after Brazil was awarded the right to stage the World Cup.

There appears little chance that any of these three could interfere with where the real action is, on the field, from which it

A-League and W-League to use goal line officials for finals

The decision comes after Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold implored the FFA to bring in fifth and sixth officials following a string of high-profile errors from referees.

The extra officials will be positioned at either end of the field to assist referees with decisions in and around the penalty area including penalties and goals.

A-League chief executive Damien de Bohun said goal-line referees had been involved in getting crucial decisions right when they were trialed in the FFA Cup.

“The technical standard and speed of play in the A-League goes up every season and this places additional demands on match officials,” de Bohun said.

“Referees continue to improve as well thanks to additional coaching and fitness programs but in the split-second available to make decisions in and around the penalty area the extra set of eyes is extremely valuable.”

The outspoken Arnold used a post-match media conference on January 3 to make a plea for more whistleblowers.

“My opinion is they have to put in goal line referees immediately,” Arnold said after Sydney FC’s 2-2 draw with Melbourne City.

“If you had goal-line referees, another two sets of eyes, it can

Swansea City suffers FA Cup shock against Oxford United, Tottenham Hotspur draw 2-2 with Leicester City

Chelsea, fielding a near full-strength team, came through its home tie with League One Scunthorpe 2-0 and Tottenham Hotspur needed a controversial late penalty by Harry Kane to draw 2-2 at home to Leicester City.

There were more than 50 league positions between the clubs at the Kassam Stadium, where Oxford came from behind to lead 3-1 after Ecuador international Jefferson Montero had put Swansea ahead.

Liam Sercombe equalised from a penalty just before half-time and two goals in 10 minutes soon after the interval from Kemar Roofe put the home side in sight of victory.

Bafetimbi Gomis pulled one back for the Welsh club, which had made 10 changes from its last Premier League game, but Oxford held on.

“I thought the performance was outstanding, it was always going to be a difficult game against a Premier League side,” their manager Michael Appleton told BBC Sport.

Oxford, a top-flight team 30 years ago before dropping back into non-League football from 2006-10, is third in League Two.

Roofe, who signed for Oxford from West Bromwich Albion in the close season after a successful loan period, felt the triumph was down to his

Central Coast Mariners receive offers for Anthony Caceres from Manchester City and J-League club

City and an unnamed J-League club have made offers for the 23-year-old, who was dropped from coach Tony Walmsley’s squad last week and appears to be on the outer at the struggling Mariners.

Owner Mike Charlesworth has been discussing terms with the EPL favourites, who have already taken on former Brisbane star Luke Brattan this year.

Caceres has a buy-out clause, which cashed-up City would easily pay for.

However, he does not have a European passport, having Uruguayan parents.

Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney had also expressed interest in signing the talented youngster, but Sky Blues coach Graham Arnold did not think the Mariners would be willing to let him play for a rival A-League side.

“I was asked if I’d like him, and I said ‘yes’,” said Arnold, who previously coached and developed Caceres at Central Coast.

“But I don’t think the Mariners would let him come to Sydney FC somehow.

“I think Anthony is probably one of their most-prized assets.

“Knowing Mike Charlesworth, he wants money.

“If they’re going to let him go anywhere, I’d say it would be for a sale. I don’t think

Adidas Stops Trying To Put Men’s Shoes on Women’s Feet

Next month, Adidas will launch a running shoe specifically developed for women. Why is this news, you ask, I’ve seen plenty of pink sneakers before. Well, those shoes were by and large designed for men then “adapted” for women, Footwear News reports. Or, as Quartz quotes the industry term, “shrink it and pink it.” Not any more. Adidas PureBoost X is the result of three years of research on women’s feet. According to Wired, the company used technology typically employed by NASA and Boeing to test the structural integrity of aircraft to see what happens to a woman’s foot as she runs. What they found is that women’s feet expand more than men’s when they hit the ground, in addition to being higher at the arch and narrower at the heel.

The shoe that resulted from those years of research seeks to be as flexible as a woman’s foot, Quartz reports. According to Footwear News, the main innovation is a “floating arch,” created by detaching part of the body of the shoe from its sole. “What this does is create a skin-like fit,” an Adidas senior director says. “It allows your foot to have amazing,

David Rudisha says Kenya ‘trying’ to clean up doping crisis, as country faces ban ahead of Rio Olympics

The Kenyan athletics team has been threatened with possible expulsion from this year’s Rio Olympics after about 40 athletes were banned for doping in the past three years.

“We lack a lot of infrastructure, like we don’t even have a lab in Kenya and you find that it’s very difficult for the anti-doping agency to control this situation,” Rudisha said.

Athletics Kenya and the Kenyan Government failed to meet the World Anti-Doping Agency’s February deadline for adopting stronger control measures.

They now have until April 5 to satisfy anti-doping authorities and athletics’ world body, the IAAF.

“We hope that things are going to be okay … they are trying, this is a very difficult situation to control,” Rudisha said.

Kenya has long been a breeding ground for elite distance runners, but Rudisha said the widespread popularity of the sport made it harder for officials to monitor younger athletes coming through.

“These upcoming athletes are a big problem because nobody knows them and then they get out there and compete for the first time, they are being caught,” he said.

Rudisha is in Melbourne to compete in the IAAF World Challenge on

Real Madrid appoint Zinedine Zidane as coach after sacking Rafael Benitez

“We have taken the difficult decision to rescind the contract of Rafael Benitez as coach,” Madrid president Florentino Perez said.

“The Real Madrid board has decided to name Zinedine Zidane as coach of the first team.”

However, the club did not announce the length of Zidane’s contract.

Benitez’s unhappy reign came to an end after a 2-2 draw away to Valencia on Sunday left Madrid four points adrift of local rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.

They also trail eternal rivals Barcelona by two points having played a game more.

Zidane scored a sensational winning goal to hand Madrid the 2002 Champions League as a player, but is short on managerial experience having only ever taken charge of Madrid’s feeder team Castilla.

The 43-year-old failed to get Castilla promoted from the third tier of Spanish football last season, but they currently lie second in the regional Segunda Division B having lost just two of 19 games this season.

The Frenchman was part of Carlo Ancelotti’s coaching staff when Real won the Champions League and Copa del Rey in 2014.

“We have the best club in the world,

Australia confident of combating spin at World Twenty20 in India

Australia has won just one of its past eight series on turning Asian pitches and was bounced out of the 2014 World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in the group stages.

But Maxwell says the likes of himself, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja and David Warner can make for a different story this time around on the sub-continent.

“If you look at our batting order, it’s suited to hopefully combat that,” he said.

“We have excellent players of spin in our team and guys that have got international experience over in India as well.

“It’s going to be pretty key for us to have those guys perform pretty well for us and combat the spin in the other teams.”

Australia is hoping that South African curators will prepare dry pitches in their three-match Twenty20 series, starting on Saturday, to help prepare both teams for a World Cup, which is just over two weeks away.

At the top of the list of priorities for Australia’s batsmen will be getting on top of South African leg spinner Imran Tahir, who has taken 32 wickets at an average of 14.75 in 20 Twenty20 internationals.

More importantly though,

Asian Cup 2015 final Australia v South Korea at Stadium Australia as it happened

  • An enourmous day in Australian football – the Socceroos are champions of Asia!
    What a night. After all the hope, expectation and nerves, the Socceroos have emerged victorious. They faced a fearsome opposition, a team of immense quality and almost unrivaled spirit in South Korea, but despite requiring 30 minutes more than they thought they would, it is Australia’s night.
    They started nervously, engaging South Korea in a real scrap while pretty football was hard to play. But despite South Korea taking the ascendancy in the play, it was Australia who led through Massimo Luongo’s brilliant goal just before half time. It looked like that would be enough, but South Korea refused to throw it away. Son Heung-min, so brilliant today and all tournament, scored with 90 seconds left in regulation time to silence the crowd and send us to extra time.
    But Australia settled, and the rallied. Through hold-up play that any big striker would be proud of,

Women’s World Cup USA smash Japan 5-2 in final to win third title in Vancouver

The result looked a sure thing from the very beginning as the Americans scored four goals inside the first 16 minutes.

Forward Carli Lloyd netted an incredible hat-trick in those 16 minutes – the fastest in both men’s and women’s World Cup history – as the Americans raced past a shell-shocked and directionless Japan in the opening stages.

It proved perfect revenge for USA, who lost to Japan in the previous World Cup final four years ago. In the process, USA became the most successful team in the history of the Women’s World Cup.

“Honestly I’m so proud of this team, it’s unreal, it hasn’t really sunk in, I’m just so unbelievably proud of every woman on this team,” an emotional Lloyd said.

“I was on a mission to help this team, I just worked my butt off. Collectively, so brilliant, so brilliant, so proud.”

A well-worked corner routine in just the third minute saw Lloyd hammer home from close range before she doubled USA’s lead two minutes later.

Japan struggled time and time again defending set pieces as a free kick from the right flank was initially hand-balled by a Japan

Lleyton Hewitt rumoured to return for Australia in Davis Cup tie if Nick Kyrgios pulls out

conjecture he could be set to make a surprise comeback just weeks after retiring.

“I don’t know actually – he’s enjoyed the hitting though – he thought he was retired and he’s been hitting more than these guys,” Australia team coach Jason Stoltenberg said of the prospect of Hewitt contesting the tie.

“It’s probably the first time that a captain has actually had to get out and prepare as if he may play.

“He’s a great team man and he’ll do whatever he needs to do – whether that’s playing or sitting on the side. We don’t expect that he’ll play but we’ll have to wait and see over the next 24 hours.

“But he’s been hitting a lot of balls. He’s a thinker, he thinks ahead and he’s pretty organised. I’d say that in his mind he’s just covering all of his bases.”

Stoltenberg confirmed Kyrgios would hit with his team-mates on the Kooyong grass on Wednesday afternoon.

Groth, who will partner John Peers in Saturday’s doubles rubber, said he was ready to step in should either Kyrgios (back/hip/virus) or Bernard Tomic (wrist) be forced to pull out of Friday’s opening

FIFA ethics committee bans Blatter and Platini for eight years, pair vow to appeal against ruling

The FIFA president and his one-time intended successor have been banned over a $US2 million ($2.79 million) payment Blatter approved for Platini in 2011, reportedly for consulting work done a decade earlier.

Both men insisted the payment was legitimate as part of an oral contract.

Platini was also fined $112,000 while Blatter was fined $70,000.

The decision means Blatter’s 17 years at the helm of world soccer will end in disgrace, and spells the end of Platini’s hopes of replacing the 79-year-old in a presidential election in February.

A defiant Blatter gave a press conference an hour after the ruling was announced on Monday night, vowing to fight his ban and claiming he had a gentleman’s agreement with Platini.

“I will fight. I will fight for me and I will fight for FIFA. Suspended for eight years for what?” he said.

“We are in a gentleman’s agreement, which was made in ’98 just after the World Cup in France and Mr Platini approached me and said he would like to work in FIFA. What astonished me now if I’m going to this decision, is that they deny the existence of such an