‘Barca form must improve’
BARCELONA — Barcelona boss Luis Enrique says his side need to improve if they are to challenge for the Spanish title.
Barca are one point off leaders Real Madrid, who have a game in hand, after Lionel Messi’s (pictured) hat-trick in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna. Last season’s runners-up are yet to find top form despite only conceding nine goals in 19 La Liga games.
“There are still things we need to improve, both in attack and defence,” said Enrique. “That’s the only way that we can challenge for titles, which is our main target for the season.” Enrique — who is rumoured to have fallen out with Messi - praised his star player, who has scored 19 league goals in as many games this season.
“He always been playing a very high standard of football. I never noticed any drop in his form.” Midfielder Andres Iniesta said: “Looking back at the first half of the league season, we haven’t done badly. But we still need to get a lot better.”— Reuters NEW YORK — With the guest of honour at home recuperating from a recent hospitalisation, more than 300 devotees of the threetime heavyweight boxing champion and humanitarian paid homage to Muhammad Ali last Saturday evening in celebrating the Louisville icon’s 73rd birthday.
They shared stories and tributes to the Champ at a reception and charity dinner at the Muhammad Ali Centre. They then walked over to the nearby Kentucky Centre for the Performing Arts to watch the world premier of the stage play, “And in This Corner.....cassius Clay,” a cooperative effort of Stageone Family Theatre, the Ali Centre and the arts centre.
Ali was released from the hospital last Friday after brief follow-up treatment for a urinary tract infection. He was at home, reported to be resting and celebrating his 73rd birthday. Ali was hospitalised briefly last week, after a previous 17-day hospital stay for the infection over the holidays.
The birthday event at the Ali Center was promoted under the banner “Play It Forward: Champions Night.” The event had a slew of corporate sponsors.
The dinner was attended by Louisville’s civic elite. Ali “is not only the Greatest, but he’s the world’s greatest humanitarian. And he put in the roadwork,” said Mayor Greg Fischer upon arrival at the centre.
Tori Murden Mcclure, the trans-atlantic rower and Spalding University president, recalled that she was the first full-time employee of the Ali Centre over a decade ago, when she had a chance to work with Ali. She called the chance to be around Ali “a life-altering experience,” adding that he encouraged her to row across the ocean --- after an initial failed attempt.
“I admire his compassion for people, regardless of where they come from, or where they are going,” said Fund for the Arts president Christen Boone. “He is able to bring people together.”
Insurance company executive Nana Lampton said she admired Ali’s tenacity, his wit and his willingness to encounter new adventures. “He has always been a very esteemed person in my life,” she said.
Although he wasn’t there, Ali’s persona seemed to be pervasive in the crowded View Pointe Hall overlooking the Ohio River. The tables were decorated with centerpieces with boxing gloves.
The play about Ali is aimed at students in grades four through 12. Funds raised from the birthday-celebration event are to be used to build a scholarship programme for low-income schoolchildren to attend a dual field trip to see the new stage play and to visit the Ali Centre and see its exhibits.
Playwright Idris Goodwin was commissioned by Stageone to write the play. Peter Holloway, Stageone’s producing artistic director, said it was his idea to ask Goodwin to take on the Ali project. “Most of us don’t know much about his growing up as Cassius Clay. He has always been one of my heroes,” Holloway said in an interview during the reception.
Goodwin is an award-winning playwright and essayist. His play, “How We Got On,” premiered at Actors Theatre’s 2012 Humana Festival. His book, “These Are the Breaks,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and he has appeared on HBO, the Discovery Channel and Sesame Street.goodwin’s play traces the early life of Ali, who grew up as Cassius Clay on Grand Avenue in western Louisville and went on to dominate the boxing world through the 1970s, before he turned to social activism.meanwhile, George Foreman, who lost to Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” told the Daily News that he spoke with Ali last Friday via Facetime before he returned to the hospital.
“I told him I wanted a rematch,” Foreman said with a laugh. “He looked as charming as ever. I’m just happy he’s feeling better. You just never know how much you love a fellow until they go through something like this. But if there’s someone who will fight when he’s sick, it’s Ali. He won’t give up. I know that.”
Larry Holmes, a former sparring partner who defeated Ali late in Ali’s career, was happy to hear the news.
“It’s amazing that he’s 73 and I’m just glad that he’s doing better and of course I wish him a happy birthday,” the 65-year-old Holmes said in a phone interview from Las Vegas, in town for a heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne. “I just hope he’s feeling better and he can enjoy himself tomorrow.”
Holmes, who last saw Ali at a public event two years ago, said it was painful to see him suffer like this.
“It really bothers me,” Holmes said. “It’s tough to see him like this, see him shaking. He’s just a great guy and he’ll always be my man. I’ll always love and respect him. The world loves him. He’s someone that I owe a lot to.”
A family spokesman Bob Gunnell said: “He’s doing very well, spending his time listening to music and watching old movies and talking to the people who are visiting him. He’s doing well.”