Bruce retains Northern Ireland hope

first_img Bruce, 30, was first called up in October 2012 having switched his allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, who had capped him twice in friendlies. But in the intervening two years he has only managed to match that appearance record – starting in non-competitive matches against Malta and Cyprus. His preferred position in central defence represents Northern Ireland’s strongest suit – populated by the likes of Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Aaron Hughes, Craig Cathcart and Chris Baird, as well as emerging talents like Manchester United’s Paddy McNair and Doncaster’s Luke McCullough. While they travel to Romania this week attempting to make it four wins from four in Euro 2016 qualifying, Bruce is at home nursing a hamstring injury. He accepts it will be no easy task forcing his way back into manager Michael O’Neill’s plans but is ready for the challenge. “It’s not been an easy one for me but I feel I’ve got something to offer,” he told Press Association Sport. “You always want to play at the highest level possible and international football is that for me. “I didn’t play a lot for Hull early in the season so it was hard but I came back in against Liverpool and showed what I can do, so hopefully I can get back in the team and keep doing well. “I want to be back in the squad, especially with the lads doing so well, but at the same time I think Michael knows that at my age he doesn’t need to be taking me all over if he doesn’t think he’ll use me. “But there’s a European Championship in 2016 and there’s a chance of getting there. It’s a short career and that kind of chance doesn’t come along often so I’d love to be involved in helping get there.” Hull defender Alex Bruce has not given up on his Northern Ireland career. Bruce was last called up ahead of the Group F opener in Hungary but did not make the journey to Budapest due to the imminent arrival of his second child. “I was in the squad for the Hungary match in September and trained with the lads down at Arsenal but obviously Michael knew the situation with my wife going into labour and he was honest enough to say I wasn’t going to be starting so we made the sensible decision and I didn’t travel,” he added. “I wasn’t in the squad for the double header (against the Faroes and Greece) then, which is a shame, but they’ve not done too bad without me so it’s hard to complain. “I haven’t spoken to Michael recently but I know he’s had me watched quite a few times at Hull, so I’ll just keep trying to do my best here and fingers crossed I’ll hear something soon.” With hopes increasingly high that O’Neill can guide the side to a first ever European Championship, and first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup, Bruce’s versatility may yet be in his favour should the manager need adaptable players in his final squad. “I’ve not had a chance to play in central defence for Northern Ireland yet, which is my best position, but I’ve played a couple of times in midfield and I still think I can do a job there if needed,” he added. Press Associationlast_img read more

Hoornstra: For foreign-born baseball players, coronavirus presents unique challenges

first_img Angels’ Mike Trout working on his defense, thanks to Twitter Jose Suarez’s rocky start sinks Angels in loss to Astros Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Angels offense breaks out to split doubleheader with Astros “It is extremely busy,” said Clifford Chin, Senior Counsel at Berry Appleman & Leiden. “Number one, it’s what information do we have? Number two, it’s assessing the various interpretations and risks. Number three, it’s the human element. Immigration isn’t just a business. It’s affecting peoples’ lives on a personal level.” In a hypothetical book about Sports and the Coronavirus, you can imagine each of those points deserving a chapter.Last Friday, for example, the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security issued an order exempting certain foreign professional athletes from entry restrictions. If you are not a citizen of the U.S., and you were physically present in China, Iran, the United Kingdom, Ireland, or most of the European mainland, you were barred from entering the U.S. for 14 days. The new order rescinds that ban for athletes, stating “that it is in the national interest to except aliens who compete in professional sporting events … including their professional staff, team and league leadership, spouses, and dependents.”Unless they are on vacation, those countries aren’t where you’ll typically find a baseball player spending his off-season. Last year, 105 players born in the Dominican Republic made an Opening Day roster. Venezuela (68), Cuba (19), Puerto Rico (18) and Mexico (8) followed. Japan and Canada (six each) produced the most players outside of Latin America.Those countries weren’t affected by the most recent ban. But it isn’t hard to imagine a sudden COVID-19 outbreak – such as the one that engulfed Brazil in May – making travel to the U.S. from certain regions less practical, even for a professional athlete.That’s more true for minor league players, who have been paid $400 a week since the season was officially suspended in March. Foreign players who receive seven-figure signing bonuses as teenagers steal the headlines, but they are in the minority. Most Latin American minor leaguers quickly flew home once the season was suspended, rather than remain in the U.S. and try to scrape by on their meager stipend. Angels’ poor pitching spoils an Albert Pujols milestone center_img Still, the agent for a Nicaraguan pitcher told me that players there are feeling less risk-averse than their American counterparts. Baseball might be their year-round job, if they compete in a winter league. Money is scarce, and they might not be trained in another field of employment. A similar problem faces foreign-born minor leaguers in major league organizations once they’re released from their contract – or those in the Oakland A’s system, who won’t be receiving their weekly stipend beginning June 1.“There will be a lot of kids not making a dime,” the agent told me. “What else do they know?”Minor league baseball players aren’t represented by a union. Neither are most players who compete only in the Latin American leagues. Still, their examples serve as a reminder of the unique interests facing the hundreds of major league players who call a foreign country home in the off-season. The novel coronavirus had the potential to unite the world around a common enemy. In the United States, that potential quickly disintegrated. Race, age, geography, and occupational-based hazards divided us into various tiers of risk. Some of us protested. Some of us lost our jobs, or sizable portions of our paychecks. Others – reportedly 100,000 and counting – have died as a result of COVID-19.Sports usually serves as a distraction from these kinds of headlines. Now, it is serving as a microcosm of how a not-so-common enemy strikes us all differently.Each Opening Day, Major League Baseball issues a press release detailing where its players come from. Last year, a total of 251 players represented 20 different countries and territories outside of the United States. Minor league rosters are no less diverse. So what happens to players when the United States closes its borders entirely to certain countries? Or when a foreign country closes its borders altogether, as is the case in the Dominican Republic?If you’re an immigration attorney who represents MLB teams and athletes, what happens is you get inundated with questions. Angels’ Shohei Ohtani spending downtime working in outfield Now, with the potential for a season to re-start in June with expanded rosters, attitudes are changing. But flights into the U.S. from Latin America are more scarce. One agent I spoke with this week represents a minor league client who will attempt to leave Panama on a humanitarian flight in June.Several agents I spoke with noted that Venezuelan players fall in a category of their own. In March, president Nicolas Maduro was indicted in United States federal court on three separate conspiracy charges – the latest wrinkle in the country’s political turmoil. With players reluctant to return home under these circumstances, many have been living and training at their team complexes in the Dominican Republic. At least one Venezuelan minor leaguer has been living with his minor league manager in the U.S.Consider the players’ families too. This became a sticking point early in negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association, when the league proposed quarantining players in a centralized location for an entire season. MLB’s most recent proposal to the union wouldn’t keep players apart from their families during the hypothetical 2020 season. But what if your family lives overseas during the off-season and was planning to relocate for six months? What if the season isn’t six months long anymore?As one agent told me, “A couple of my guys have said, ‘if we’re going to play three months, I’m not going to bring my wife and kids. They can be home and stay safe. Why have them stuck at a house or a hotel?’ Every guy’s going to be different on that.”Back to those various tiers of risk. A cardiologist in the Dominican Republic reportedly sampled 314 residents of Villa Juana, a neighborhood in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Forty percent of the tests came back positive for Covid-19, a number that was disputed by the country’s minister of health.Even if the actual rate of infection is lower on a city-, district-, or nation-wide level, the report contributed to doubts over the accuracy of state-reported testing in Latin American countries. Earlier this month, an outbreak of COVID-19 in Nicaragua forced the postponement of that country’s baseball season. Several players tested positive. One coach, Carlos Aranda, died from the disease.Related Articleslast_img read more