Karim Benzema made an unflattering comment about fellow forward Olivier Giroud, comparing himself to a Formula One car and his former France teammate to a go-kart.
Benzema has nearly 250 goals for Real Madrid and won four Champions League titles. He was holding a live chat session on his Instagram account on Sunday when someone asked him if Giroud, who has more than 200 goals in his entire professional career and won four FA Cups, was better than him.
"I'm going to respond to you and all of those who are watching, it won't take long. It won't take long, guys," Benzema replied. "You can't confuse F1 with karting ... and I'm being kind."
Benzema added: "I'm the F1. I'm talking in footballing terms." He conceded Giroud's work ethic helps France's other regular forwards Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé.
Benzema stood by his comments in another video posted on his Instagram account on Monday.
"I told the truth, quite simply. But people didn't retain when I spoke about what he brings to the France team," the 32-year-old Benzema said. "People just remembered when I said I was F1 and he was karting. That's what I think."
Justifying himself further, Benzema placed himself below Cristiano Ronaldo — his former Madrid teammate who is at Juventus — in the same way.
"R9 (Ronaldo wore the No. 9 jersey in his first season with Madrid) is Formula One and I am karting," Benzema said. "That's the way it is."
Several years ago, Benzema lost his place in the France side in the wake of his alleged involvement in an extortion scam over a sex tape involving then-France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
He has not played for Les Bleus since scoring twice in a 4-0 home win against Armenia in October 2015, taking his tally to 27 goals in 81 internationals. He lined up alongside Valbuena in that match.
After Benzema was dropped by Didier Deschamps, Giroud settled into the France side as its center forward. He helped France reach the European Championship final in 2016 and to win the World Cup in 2018, although he received some criticism for not scoring in that competition.
The 33-year-old Giroud needs two goals to tie Michel Platini on France's scoring list with 41, with only Thierry Henry ahead of them on 51.
At club level, Benzema's achievements tower over Giroud's modest success with Montpellier in France, and then Arsenal and Chelsea in England.
Benzema has won six league titles and three national cups with Lyon and Madrid, and four Club World Cups on the back of Madrid's Champions League victories.
He has netted 332 goals in 669 games, and his 64 Champions League goals are fourth all-time behind Raúl González, Lionel Messi and Ronaldo.
Giroud's club tally is 217 in 540. He won one league title with Montpellier, four FA Cups and the Europa League with Chelsea in 2019, finishing as the latter competition's leading scorer.
The hard-working Giroud has a moderately good English Premier League return of 80 goals in 229 games, but has always been well appreciated by fans for his team play.
The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in the same time slot scheduled for this year's games.
Tokyo organizers said Monday the opening ceremony will take place on July 23, 2021 — almost exactly one year after the games were due to start.
"The schedule for the games is key to preparing for the games," Tokyo organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said. "This will only accelerate our progress."
Last week, the IOC and Japanese organizers postponed the Olympics until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
This year's games were scheduled to open on July 24 and close on Aug. 9. But the near exact one-year delay will see the rescheduled closing ceremony on Aug. 8.
There had been talk of switching the Olympics to spring, a move that would coincide with the blooming of Japan's famous cherry blossoms. But it would also clash with European soccer and North American sports leagues.
Mori said a spring Olympics was considered but holding the games later gives more space to complete the many qualifying events that have been postponed by the virus outbreak.
"We wanted to have more room for the athletes to qualify," Mori said.
After holding out for weeks, local organizers and the IOC last week postponed the Tokyo Games under pressure from athletes, national Olympic bodies and sports federations. It's the first postponement in Olympic history, though there were several cancellations during wartime.
The Paralympics were rescheduled to Aug. 24-Sept. 5.
The new Olympic dates would conflict with the scheduled world championships in track and swimming, but those events are now expected to also be pushed back.
"The IOC has had close discussions with the relevant international federations," organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said. "I believe the IFs have accepted the games being held in the summer."
Muto said the decision was made Monday and the IOC said it was supported by all the international sports federations and was based on three main considerations: to protect the health of athletes, to safeguard the interests of the athletes and Olympic sport, and the international sports calendar.
"These new dates give the health authorities and all involved in the organisation of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," the IOC said. "The new dates ... also have the added benefit that any disruption that the postponement will cause to the international sports calendar can be kept to a minimum, in the interests of the athletes and the IFs."
Both Mori and Muto have said the cost of rescheduling the Olympics will be "massive" — local reports estimate billions of dollars — with most of the expenses borne by Japanese taxpayers.
Muto promised transparency in calculating the costs, and testing times deciding how they are divided up.
"Since it (the Olympics) were scheduled for this summer, all the venues had given up hosting any other events during this time, so how do we approach that?" Muto asked. "In addition, there will need to be guarantees when we book the new dates, and there is a possibility this will incur rent payments. So there will be costs incurred and we will need to consider them one by one. I think that will be the tougher process."
Katsuhiro Miyamoto, an emeritus professor of sports economics at Kansai University, puts the costs as high as $4 billion. That would cover the price of maintaining stadiums, refitting them, paying rentals, penalties and other expenses.
Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics. However, an audit bureau of the Japanese government says the costs are twice that much. All of the spending is public money except $5.6 billion from a privately funded operating budget.
The Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee is contributing $1.3 billion, according to organizing committee documents. The IOC's contribution goes into the operating budget.
IOC President Thomas Bach has repeatedly called the Tokyo Olympics the best prepared in history. However, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso also termed them "cursed." Aso competed in shooting in the 1976 Olympics, and was born in 1940.
The Olympics planned for 1940 in Tokyo were canceled because of Japan's war with China.
The run-up to the Olympics also saw IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda, who also headed the Japanese Olympic Committee, forced to resign last year amid a bribery scandal.
State Minister for Youth and Sports Md Zahid Ahsan Russel on Monday said all the stadiums across the country especially the indoor ones will be used for providing treatment to the coronavirus patients if needed.
“All the stadiums including the indoor ones will be used for providing medical services to the patients infected with coronavirus and we have already used those for the accommodation of the members of law enforcement agencies engaged for tackling coronavirus in the city as well as other parts of the country,” said Russel.
The Minister said that there are 80 stadiums in the capital and different distirts and the number mini-stadiums in different upazilas is 125.
“The government has taken all necessary preparations to tackle the spread of the coronavirus and we are prepared for tackling any situation,” he said.
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has announced a one-time monetary allowance of BDT 20,000.00 (Twenty Thousand Taka) per person to assist women cricketers who had appeared in the 2018-19 Women’s NCL and were part of the BCB’s selection camps in 2019-20.
All cricketing activities of the BCB including women’s tournaments and training camps have been postponed indefinitely due to outbreak of deadly Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country and all over the world.
BCB President Nazmul Hassan, MP said on Monday: “Just like their male counterparts, the majority of women cricketers also look towards domestic events for earning. Besides, we had training camps scheduled for women players which have been hampered by the prevailing COVID-19 situation. The cricketers have been forced to pass a period of non-activity and they need our support.”
Earlier on last Saturday, BCB announced one-time financial aid for the men’s players who are not included in Bangladesh’s central contract or first-class contract of the board.
BCB president Nazmul Hassan decided to extend the board’s helping hand for the men’s cricketers who are not contracted and to give them 30,000 BDT each.
“With the tournament and league looking at an indefinite period of shut down, cricketers who are not part of the BCB’s contracts are likely to face financial hardship as they may have only received partial payment from their respective Premier League Clubs. This assistance is for that section of the players,” Nazmul said in the press release.
There are at least 60 players who will get this financial aid, a close source of BCB told the media.
Along with cricket, all the sporting events in the country have been postponed indefinitely. Before that, BCB had to postpone a two-match T20Is series between Asia XI and World XI which was scheduled to take place to celebrate the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Earlier, 27 top cricketers including national pool players donated their half month salary for the country's Coronavirus fund.
Before the Olympics were postponed, Japan looked like it had coronavirus infections contained, even as they spread in neighboring countries. Now that the games have been pushed to next year, Tokyo's cases are spiking, and the city's governor is requesting that people stay home, even hinting at a possible lockdown.
The sudden rise in the number of virus cases in Tokyo and the government's strong actions immediately after the Olympic postponement have raised questions in parliament and among citizens about whether Japan understated the extent of the outbreak and delayed enforcement of social distancing measures while clinging to hopes that the games would start on July 24 as scheduled.
With the Olympics now off, many are voicing suspicion that the numbers are rising because Japan suddenly has no reason to hide them.
"In order to make an impression that the city was taking control of the coronavirus, Tokyo avoided making strict requests and made the number of patients look smaller," former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said in a tweet. "The coronavirus has spread while they waited. (For Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike) it was Olympics first, not Tokyo's residents."
Experts have found a rise of untraceable cases mushrooming in Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas — signs of an explosive increase in infections.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that Japan is now on the brink of a huge jump in cases as it becomes increasingly difficult to trace and keep clusters under control.
"Once infections overshoot, our strategy ... will instantly fall apart," Abe warned. "Under the current situation, we are just barely holding up." He said a state of emergency is not needed just yet, but that Japan could at any time face a situation as bad as in the United States or Europe.
There was less of a sense of urgency displayed recently when many people visited parks for cherry blossom viewing, and Abe was only hinting at an Olympic postponement. But in a phone call with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach last Tuesday, Abe agreed to postpone the games until around the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A day later, Koike asked Tokyo residents to stay home weekends until mid-April, saying confirmed cases of the coronavirus had shot up to 41 in a day from 16 earlier in the week. On Saturday, Tokyo reported 63 new cases, another single-day record. Koike said that infections in Tokyo were on the brink of an explosive increase, and that stronger measures, including a lockdown, could be needed if the spread of the virus doesn't slow.
"Is this just a coincidence?" Maiko Tajima, an opposition lawmaker from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said during a parliamentary session last Wednesday, citing Tokyo's sudden spike.
Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said there is "absolutely no relationship" between the Olympic postponement and the number of confirmed cases. Abe cited experts as saying a big reason for the recent rise is the growing number of cases that can't be linked and a jump in infections from abroad. The prime minister told people to "be prepared for a long battle."
A day after Koike's warning, Abe convened a new task force under a recently enacted special law that would allow him to declare a state of emergency in specific areas, including Tokyo.
Japan's strategy has been to focus on clusters and trace infection routes rather than testing everyone. A guideline issued Saturday still says that tests will be conducted per clinical doctors' advice. Experts set a high bar for testing eligibility, allowing them only for those linked to clusters or those with symptoms, because they fear massive testing will fill up beds that are needed for patients in severe need, and cause a collapse of medical systems.
From Feb. 18 to March 27, Japan tested about 50,000 people, a daily average of 1,270 — fewer than the national daily capacity of several thousand. There was only a slight increase in the number of tests in the past week. In Tokyo, fewer than 2% of those who sought advice on a government hotline had been tested, according to health ministry figures. South Korea, by contrast, had tested about 250,000 people by mid-March.
Abe denied allegations that Japan had manipulated the numbers by limiting tests, or combined COVID-19 deaths with other pneumonia fatalities. "I'm aware that some people suspect Japan is hiding the numbers, but I believe that's not true," he said. "If there is a cover-up, it will show up in the number of deaths." He said doctors told him that pneumonia patients with COVID-19 can be detected by CAT-scan or X-rays.
Many Japanese experts say testing is not for everyone and should be conducted selectively in an attempt to save hospital beds for those who really need them. "Tests are primarily for people who are suspected of having the virus, and should be based on clinical judgment by doctors," said Shigeru Omi, a former World Health Organization public health expert who is on the government-commissioned panel.
Aki-Hiro Sato, a professor of information sciences at Yokohama City University, said in a recent report that Japan is now likely facing a second or third wave of the virus coming from Europe and the United States. Tokyo has about 430 cases, but Sato estimated an additional 1,000 might have been infected in Tokyo by late March if infections are accelerating at a pace similar to what's happening in other countries. Including asymptomatic or light infections, about 10,000 people might be infected, he said.
As of Sunday, Japan had 2,578 confirmed cases, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 64 deaths, according to the health ministry. About 1,000 have recovered.
Under the current law, COVID-19 is designated as an infectious disease and whoever tests positive is routinely hospitalized, but a new government guideline would allow a triage of patients, which would include self-quarantine at home.
Right now, Japan has 2,600 hospital beds designated for infectious disease treatment, including 118 in Tokyo, but about one-third of them are already occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to Satoshi Kutsuna of the Disease Control and Prevention Center. Citing the recent spike, Kutsuna said that an "overshooting of infections is just about to begin, unfortunately."
Abe has said the government would secure 12,000 beds and 3,000 ventilators to prepare for a worst case scenario.
"We fear a situation where severe patients start dying when the medical system collapses, and we must prevent that situation," Kato, the health minister, said Sunday on a talk show on public broadcaster NHK.