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Ballon d'Or 2020 Scrapped; Gurpreet Singh Sandhu Training With Ex AC Milan ’keeper Zeljko Kalac in Sydney and More (Football Round-up)

Short Passes (Football News Round-up): Ballon d'Or 2020 cancelled by organisers due to the coronavirus pandemic | Indian football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is training with former AC Milan custodian Zeljko Kalac's team in Sydney | Investment firm RedBird Capital buys majority stake in French club Toulouse | Police officer seriously injured during Leeds United’s title celebrations | Chinese Super League official threatens expulsion over virus-restriction violations.
Ballon d'Or 2020 cancelled

Ballon d’Or -- which is usually voted for by journalists -- has been annually awarded since 1956 to the best male footballer in the world. They added a women’s section in 2018.

France Football magazine announced on Monday that this year, for the first time in history the Ballon d’Or will not be awarded due to the football calendar being upended by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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The prestigious trophy -- which is usually voted for by journalists -- has been annually awarded since 1956 to the best male footballer in the world. They added a women’s section in 2018. A disruption of the calendar where major European leagues and international tournaments (the European Championships and the Copa America) have been postponed, has forced a rethink for the year.

In a statement, editor-in-chief of France Football Pascal Ferre said, “From a sports perspective, two months (January and February), out of the eleven generally required to form an opinion and decide who should lift the trophies, represent far too little to gauge and judge.”

A statement on their website further added that the cancellation was decided upon, “because the fairness that prevails for this honorary title could not be preserved, in particular at the statistical level and also in the preparation since all the aspirants to the award could not be rightly compared, some having seen their season cut radically short, others not.”

“We did not want to put an indelible asterisk on the prize list like “trophy won in exceptional circumstances due to the Covid-19 health crisis”. We will always prefer a small sprain to our history to a large scar,” the statement further added.

Gurpreet Sandhu Trains With Kalac

Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been training under former AC Milan goalkeeper  Zeljko Kalac in Sydney to prepare himself for the upcoming season. 

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The Bengaluru FC goalkeeper, a two-time Indian Super League (ISL) Golden Glove winner, has been stuck in Sydney since March 25 after India declared a national lockdown. Gurpreet told IANS from Sydney, "I have been training with their goalkeepers. I started about 3-4 weeks back. They train two times a week and have been kind enough to let me in."

"They are coached by Zeljko Kalac and it has been amazing to pick his brains," added the 28-year-old.

"I trained with the team I think twice but after that I opted to only train during the individual goalkeeper sessions that the goalkeeper coach was doing with some of their academy keepers. Two of the boys are Huddersfield keepers..they are flying back to England tomorrow I think," he said. Sandhu is the only Indian male footballer to play for a European top division club, Stabaek FC in Norway.

US Firm Buys 85% Stake in Toulouse

Investment company RedBird Capital Partners have confirmed that they will buy an 85% stake in French football club Toulouse. 

The chairman of the club, Olivier Sadran decided to sell his stakes and will retain 15% shares of the club. Damien Comolli, who earlier played a strategic role at clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool has been appointed as the new president by the RedBird Capital.

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Toulouse were relegated to the second division from the top flight earlier this year having finished at the bottom of the table. 

“We look forward to working closely with Olivier, the City of Toulouse and the Occitanie Region to return Toulouse FC to an elite level and elevate the entire city of Toulouse through its long-term success,” Gerry Cardinale, the founder of RedBird said in a statement.

“We are proud and excited to help write the next chapter of Toulouse FC and realize its tremendous potential,” Cardinale added. 

Female Police Officer Injured

A female police officer was critically injured after she was hit by a bottle in the celebrations that followed Leeds United’s Championship title. Many others have also been reported to have suffered injuries. 

Leeds’ return to the Premier League after 16 years was celebrated in typically exuberant style where approximately 7,000 people assembled to rejoice and left broken glasses in the city centre square. The injury occurred during the gathering where a minority started throwing bottles at the police. Several other officers also suffered ‘minor injuries’. 

"Almost 7,000 people gathered in Millennium Square in Leeds; whilst the vast majority of fans were enjoying themselves and celebrating, there were a small minority of people who began to throw bottles at police officers,"said temporary assistant chief constable Oz Khan. 

West Yorkshire police said the female officer has been hospitalised, and that nine people were arrested with regards to the incident. 

"The safety of fans and the wider public is our primary concern. Violence towards police officers will not be tolerated and we deployed an appropriate police response to ensure that the festivities concluded safely."

Chinese Team Warned With Expulsion 

Teams and players in the Chinese Super League (CSL) were delivered a warning by their administration that any violation of coronavirus rules may lead to the end of the season.

The CSL will resume games from Saturday July 25 after a hiatus of five months. The league will continue till September 28 and will be played behind closed doors. The 16 teams have been divided into two groups for the first phase of a tournament. One group will be in the northeastern city of Dalian while the other in Suzhou, near Shanghai.

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"Our anti-epidemic measures are very strict, and those who violate them could be kicked out of the league for this season,"  Qi Jun, the CSL official responsible for the virus-control issues told  state Xinhua news agency.

"The teams and players should not expect to be only fined or suspended for their violation," he said.

The President of the Chinese Football Association Chen Xuyuan had said in a public statement last week, that strict measures will be taken to ensure a safe Covid-19 free environment for the matches. He added that the CSL administrators went to great lengths to put together the first phase of the 2020 season.  

"We discussed the program at length in order to guarantee that the CSL will register no Covid-19 cases. We have taken strict prevention measures," he said

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