‘Barca form must im­prove’

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.”

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