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News brief

June 21, 2018

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Yashin cash runs short as fans seek souvenir

YEKATERINBURG: Distrusted at first by some as dodgy cash, a special World Cup 100-rouble ($1.57) banknote with a picture of iconic Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin has become a collectors’ item, with Russians willing to pay several times its face value to get their hands on it.

Tinted in hues of blue, yellow and green, the note features a boy dressed in a soccer jersey and holding a ball as he watches a diving Yashin — an image that is meant to symbolise the appeal of soccer across generations.

Before the tournament got under way last week, some traders in Yekaterinburg were reluctant to accept the unfamiliar polymer notes, which came into circulation less than a month ago.

Now, demand has gone through the roof.

“We’ve run out of them. We were told we may get more but we’re not 100 percent sure. We’re still waiting,” said Marina Gorbunova, a bank teller at the cavernous Sberbank branch in central Yekaterinburg.

Another bank employee, Dmitry, said more than 300 people, mostly Russians, had queued up on Saturday to obtain the limited-edition notes.

On the other side of the note are names of the 11 host cities and a ball with a map of Russia on it. Under ultra-violet light, the words ‘FIFA World Championship 2018 in Russia’ and the tournament logo can be seen.—Reuters

Putin missed match but ‘happy’ at Russia win

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Wednesday said Vladimir Putin did not watch Russia’s surprise win over Egypt in the World Cup because he was on a plane but added that he reacted “very positively, like the whole of our country”.

“Unfortunately, he did not watch the match itself. It so happened that at this time he was on a plane from Minsk to Moscow,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“But as soon as he came down, the results of the match were immediately reported to him,” he added.

Russia defied critics and confounded expectation by easing past Egypt 3-1 on Tuesday, all but assuring their place in the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time since the Soviet era.

“This is a very precious victory for all of us, very joyful. Of course the president was also happy,” Peskov said.

The Russians have now scored eight times in just two matches, raising the spirits of home fans after a long spell of under-achievement.

Russia, who play two-time World Cup champions Uruguay on Monday, have all but guaranteed their passage out of Group ‘A’ and are set to join the knockout stage for the first time since 1986.—AFP

Extremely satisfied with refereeing standard: FIFA

MOSCOW: FIFA is “extremely satisfied with the level of refereeing” at the World Cup, and hails the introduction of video review as a success.

The new technology system for helping referees make decisions has “on the whole ... been positively accepted and appreciated within our football community,” FIFA says.

The introduction of the video review has coincided with more penalty kicks being awarded.

However, Brazil complained to FIFA about Switzerland’s goal in a 1-1 draw being allowed to stand, and wanted audio recordings of communication between the match officials to be released.

England fans were bemused as to why rugby-style tackles by Tunisia defenders on forward Harry Kane at set pieces did not earn a penalty. The same video review official in that game was the referee who in an earlier game awarded a penalty to Croatia for a similar challenge by a Nigeria defender.

FIFA concedes there will “still be discussion and divided opinion” about some incidents.—AP

Injury sends Tunisia goalkeeper Hassen out

MOSCOW: Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen’s World Cup is over after just 16 minutes of action due to an injured shoulder suffered in Monday’s 2-1 loss to England, team officials said.

Hassen was forced off early in Volgograd and will not recover in time to continue in the tournament. He will instead return to his French second division club Chateauroux for further treatment.

The injury occurred when Hassen collided with England midfielder Jesse Lingard and he was replaced by Farouk Ben Mustapha, who conceded a last-minute Harry Kane goal as England won the Group ‘G’ encounter.

French-born Hassen switched his international allegiance to Tunisia earlier this year and made his international debut in March. He had previously played for France at under-21 level.—Reuters

Summer drinks may lack fizz amid shortage

LONDON: A British trade group says there’s a shortage of carbon dioxide in Northern Europe, sparking fears that drinks may lack fizz just as thirsty soccer fans fill pubs for the World Cup.

Gavin Partington, director-general of the British Soft Drinks Association, says the shortage is due to the closure of several production sites for various reasons, including seasonal maintenance. But industry publication Gasworld says the situation is worse this year because normal maintenance has coincided with technical issues at chemical plants that also produce carbon dioxide.

That shortage comes just as the World Cup got underway in Russia, driving up demand for soft drinks.

Partingon says UK soft drink makers “are taking active steps” to supply customers, including looking for “alternative sources.”

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2018