Peter Stephens owns shares of British American Tobacco, Lloyds Banking Group, and Tesco. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Lloyds Banking Group and Tesco. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Are you on the lookout for UK growth stocks?If so, get this FREE no-strings report now.While it’s available: you’ll discover what we think is a top growth stock for the decade ahead.And the performance of this company really is stunning.In 2019, it returned £150million to shareholders through buybacks and dividends.We believe its financial position is about as solid as anything we’ve seen.Since 2016, annual revenues increased 31%In March 2020, one of its senior directors LOADED UP on 25,000 shares – a position worth £90,259Operating cash flow is up 47%. (Even its operating margins are rising every year!)Quite simply, we believe it’s a fantastic Foolish growth pick.What’s more, it deserves your attention today.So please don’t wait another moment. Simply click below to discover how you can take advantage of this. Despite the index’s recent rise, there are a number of FTSE 100 stocks that could offer long-term capital appreciation potential. Their strategies, the prospect of improving industry conditions and relatively weak investor sentiment could combine to produce favourable buying opportunities.Clearly, defining which companies are among the best UK shares to buy now is very subjective. Furthermore, there are always risks ahead for every company that could derail their performances.5G is here – and shares of this ‘sleeping giant’ could be a great way for you to potentially profit!According to one leading industry firm, the 5G boom could create a global industry worth US$12.3 TRILLION out of thin air…And if you click here we’ll show you something that could be key to unlocking 5G’s full potential…However, from a risk/reward perspective, these three large-cap shares could offer investment potential within a Stocks and Shares ISA over the long term.A recovery opportunity among FTSE 100 stocksThe prospects for banks such as Lloyds remain relatively uncertain compared to many FTSE 100 stocks. Low interest rates and a weak economic outlook could harm their potential to deliver profit growth in the coming months, and even years.However, the bank’s valuation could reflect the risks it faces. For example, it trades on a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 7. Furthermore, it has implemented various measures to improve its financial prospects, including cost reductions. The possible return of its dividend in the current year may also gather interest from passive income investors.A defensive play among UK sharesDefensive FTSE 100 stocks could hold significant appeal due to the challenging economic outlook. Although British American Tobacco faces risks including declining cigarette volumes, it could potentially overcome such threats due to price rises for its products and its plans to invest in reduced-risk products.The stock currently has a dividend yield of 8.5%. This is significantly higher than many UK shares, and could make it one of the best income opportunities available. Furthermore, its improving financial position and defensive characteristics may mean it offers greater stability and reliability, in terms of paying its dividend in a low interest rate environment.Online retail opportunityTesco could be another buying opportunity among FTSE 100 stocks. Its investment in online retailing appears to be paying off, with consumers increasingly shifting their spending towards digital channels.Weak consumer confidence and slow GDP growth could hold back its progress. They could prompt shoppers to become more price conscious. However, the company could outperform other UK shares because of its efficient structure, use of innovative new technology, and the strong loyalty it enjoys via its Clubcard scheme.Investing in the best FTSE 100 stocks todayClearly, defining which are the best UK shares to buy today is very much open to debate. Different investors will have very different views on the topic of which FTSE 100 stocks could outperform the index in the long run.However, by building a diverse portfolio of shares to reduce overall risk, it may be possible to pick out undervalued companies that can deliver strong returns in the coming years. Our 6 ‘Best Buys Now’ Shares I think these 3 FTSE 100 stocks may be among the best UK shares to buy in an ISA today Renowned stock-picker Mark Rogers and his analyst team at The Motley Fool UK have named 6 shares that they believe UK investors should consider buying NOW.So if you’re looking for more stock ideas to try and best position your portfolio today, then it might be a good day for you. Because we’re offering a full 33% off your first year of membership to our flagship share-tipping service, backed by our ‘no quibbles’ 30-day subscription fee refund guarantee. I would like to receive emails from you about product information and offers from The Fool and its business partners. Each of these emails will provide a link to unsubscribe from future emails. More information about how The Fool collects, stores, and handles personal data is available in its Privacy Statement. Get the full details on this £5 stock now – while your report is free. Enter Your Email Address Image source: Getty Images. Peter Stephens | Saturday, 6th February, 2021 FREE REPORT: Why this £5 stock could be set to surge See all posts by Peter Stephens
For Harvard hoops, an off-court education HSAC’s current leadership shares Puopolo’s commitment to moving the field forward. Current co-president Erik Johnsson, a junior concentrating in statistics and a member of the Crimson volleyball team, recently completed a project designed to improve upon the Elo model, a widely respected player skill-level rating system often employed by statistics heavyweight fivethirtyeight.com. When perusing fivethirtyeight while watching an NBA game, Johnsson noticed that the site had “huge percent chances” for then-underperforming teams the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans to make the playoffs, which he thought to be “a little odd.” So Johnsson read up on the site’s model, replicated it, and, to make the model more exact, added in some new variables (in short, accounting for off-season changes in team strength by making adjustments in ratings for games earlier in the current season). His findings: Over a 10-year period, his model did make “slightly better” yet “statistically significant” predictions.By working with the Elo model, Johnsson followed in the footsteps of HSAC faculty adviser and senior lecturer on statistics Mark Glickman, whose Glicko Rating System was also developed as an improvement to the Elo model. Johnsson was also able to implement ideas from a Harvard statistics course in his analysis. This spirit of learning and then teaching, especially among members of the Collective, has always been a big part of what HSAC does.“We actively encourage members to ask us for help,” said the other current co-president, Jack Schroeder, a sophomore studying government and data science who is also on the curling team, “either with the methodology behind the project, the writing process, or even just getting the data, which is often the hardest part.”Faculty adviser Rader added that he is able to maintain a largely hands-off approach in his own role thanks to mentoring from the older members in the group, who have a wealth of institutional knowledge and a stronger understanding of potential methodologies than some of their younger counterparts. He said he only steps in when he sees an opportunity to push the students further by recommending more sophisticated models that they may not be familiar with yet. Hoping for an edge in this year’s March Madness office pool? Have a longstanding argument with your friends on which team’s fans are the most loyal? Always wondered how much of a difference it makes to be able to throw the last stone in the initial curling end? You can find your answers in the work of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective (HSAC), a student-run organization dedicated to the quantitative analysis of sports strategy and management.Since its founding in 2006 under the tutelage of “Moneyball”-cited statistician and Professor Emeritus Carl Morris, HSAC has been answering a variety of sports-related questions, employing often-sophisticated statistical models to get to the bottom of longstanding debates or offer context to those eye-popping and head-scratching numbers that excite, and boggle the minds of, sports fanatics and pundits all over the world. (The collective just posted its analysis of this year’s March Madness college basketball tournament.)HSAC member projects, which range from social media posts drawn from simple fact-finding exercises to senior theses engaging complex quantitative analysis, reflect what’s current and relevant in the sports world, and they often emerge from spirited conversation during Collective meetings, which take place Tuesday nights in Winthrop House. According to HSAC faculty adviser and senior preceptor in statistics Kevin Rader, popular methodologies compare two groups (teams, leagues, player pools) or look at how things have changed over time. “Or a really extreme event happens,” he explains, “something cool happens in the Super Bowl, and a decision needed to be made. Was it the right decision? Let’s investigate that from an empirical perspective.”This past January, HSAC took to Twitter to answer a simple question many college football fans were likely pondering during Clemson’s surprising national championship drubbing of Alabama, 44–16, namely: When was the last time the Crimson Tide gave up more than 50 points in a regulation game? The answer, according to HSAC: When they lost to Sewanee 54–4 way back in 1907. The tweet received close to 250 retweets and nearly 500 likes.,When the HSAC team looks to delve deeper into a question and really engage their skills as statisticians, they’ll write about their findings on the blog, which has drawn coverage from significant mainstream media outlets like ESPN, NBC Sports, Bleacher Report, the Boston Globe, and The New Yorker, as well as major league franchises and the leagues themselves, including the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, and Orlando Magic, the National Football League, and Major League Soccer. Some popular posts over the years: “A Way-Too-Early Prediction of the NFL Season,” “Conference Bias in College Football,” and “Which Sports League Has the Most Parity?”Often, existing fan theories (“that referee hates my team” or “we never win in that stadium”) inspire HSAC members to challenge their veracity. Last February, HSAC President Emeritus Andrew Puopolo, a senior at the College and a self-professed soccer addict, sought to answer the age-old question of referee bias using the oft-maligned English soccer official Mike Dean, who is particularly reviled by supporters of the London-based Arsenal Football Club, as an entrée into a statistical analysis of referee/team-specific bias throughout the English Premier League. In short, Puopolo looked at every combination of Premier League teams and referees who managed at least 15 of their matches between the 2005–2006 and 2016–2017 seasons, comparing actual results against pregame betting odds in his quest to find bias — of which, in the end, he found “no alarming signs.” Not that an Arsenal supporter would ever be swayed by the data, even if it was culled from tens of thousands of combinations.Which is fine by Puopolo, who is the first to admit when he finds flaws in his own methodologies, and who loves the opportunity to spark conversation — on sports, but especially on statistics — in a quest to help himself and his colleagues get better. Often, HSAC analyses encourage readers to make their own decisions about the data; there isn’t always a clear-cut answer to every question. This spirit of engagement in finding new ways to look at data is what HSAC is all about. Often, existing fan theories (“that referee hates my team” or “we never win in that stadium”) inspire HSAC members to challenge their veracity. On a Southern swing, men’s basketball team meets former President Carter and visits Martin Luther King Jr.’s church and gravesite Quidditch, anyone? Inside Harvard club sports Johnsson, Schroeder, and Puopolo all foresee potential future careers in sports analytics, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of HSAC alumni such as Alec Halaby ’09, vice president of football operations and strategy for the Philadelphia Eagles; Daniel Adler ’10, HLS/HBS ’17, director of baseball operations for the Minnesota Twins; and recent grad Nathán Goldberg Crenier ’18, who is already assistant to the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. And opportunities may arise in fields outside of traditional sports venues, said Puopolo. As more and more states seek to legalize sports gambling, there will be new opportunities for machine-learning- and data-science-minded graduates to pursue careers in that field as well.The pipeline is real, and the connections to the professional major sports are active. Last semester, Puopolo set up consulting projects with teams from the National Football League and Major League Baseball, which are ongoing.“[These projects] give everyone a chance to take these skills that we talk about during meetings, and stuff people are learning at school in an academic setting,” said Schroeder, “and really apply it in a professional, business setting.”“We see this as a great way to increase membership in the club, too,” added Johnsson. “If we can convince freshmen and sophomores who like sports and statistics to come to the club, and who can then gain actual experience working for real teams, and say they have connections with [major professional sports teams], it’s a great way to get people involved and excited.” Related Snapshots of student athletes in motion The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.
Brad Bonomini of The East Central Trojans Football team has committed to Franklin College.Bonomini was a three year at WR & DB for the Trojans. Last season he lead the team with 3 interceptions and had 36 tackles (23 solo and 13 assisted).He will play WR for Coach Mike Leonard and the five time consecutive HCAC Champion Franklin Grizzlies.Congratulations Brad from Country 103.9 WRBI!Courtesy of Trojans Coach Justin Roden.
The Lakers and Clippers on Tuesday announced the first three games of their NBA Summer League schedules in Las Vegas. The Lakers open with a game July 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Clippers begin play one night earlier, facing the Golden State Warriors.Here is the schedule for the defending summer league champion Lakers: July 7 vs. 76ers, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2); July 8 vs. Chicago Bulls, 8:30 p.m. (Spectrum SportsNet); July 10 vs. New York Knicks, 5:30 p.m. (Spectrum SportsNet).Here is the Clippers’ schedule: July 6 vs. Warriors, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN); July 8 vs. Sacramento Kings, 8 p.m. (NBA TV); July 9 vs. Houston Rockets, 8:30 p.m. (NBA TV). The Clippers’ first game will be part of ESPN’s opening-night tripleheader.Each of the NBA’s 30 teams will be represented in Las Vegas for the first time and each will play a minimum of five games. After playing three preliminary games, the teams will be seeded into a tournament format, with the championship game set for July 17 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Video highlights, social media reaction after Blazers shock Lakers, 100-93 Jubilation, anguish as race for NBA’s Western 8th seed gets as close as ever How social media reacted after Lakers rout Blazers on Kobe night, 135-115 Ball averaged 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 52 games in 2017-18.PRE-DRAFT JOURNEYMarcus Lee turned down a chance to play volleyball at Stanford to play basketball at Kentucky, where he ran into future Lakers forward Julius Randle on the practice court. They played together for one season before Randle went to the NBA; Lee eventually transferred to Cal.Related Articles “You’re either going to get a busted lip and keep losing or fight back, and Kentucky teaches you to fight back and take what’s yours,” Lee said of battling with Randle in college. “That’s what’s great about it. … I absolutely loved my journey. I wouldn’t change it for the world.“Julius doesn’t know how big he actually is. He goes at you like a guard. You’ll get a shoulder in your mouth and you’ll walk out of practice and, go, ‘How did I get a busted lip? Oh, that’s how that happened.’ That’s what’s great about him. That’s just how he plays.”Lee was joined at Tuesday’s pre-draft workout in El Segundo by Abdul-Malik Abu of North Carolina State, Kameron Chatman of the University of Detroit, Manu Lecomte of Baylor, Trevon Bluiett of Xavier and Matt Mobley of St. Bonaventure. The Lakers won last year’s title, led by summer league MVP Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma.Rosters will be announced at a later date.For tickets, visit NBATickets.com.BALL UPDATEBall returned to the practice court last week after a month-long layoff following a platelet-rich plasma treatment in his left knee. He sat out the final eight games of his rookie season because of a left knee contusion. ESPN.com first reported the story.“I just got back (on the court),” Ball told ESPN. “But I have been lifting weights. Nothing stopped me from doing that. I just got back on the court, though, but everything is feeling good. Just basically took time off (to let the left knee heal).” VIDEO: Watch Kyle Kuzma’s game winner and what he said about it On Mamba’s day, councilmen aim to create Kobe Bryant Boulevard Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
By Laura D.C. KolnoskiFORT MONMOUTH – As work got underway to prepare Fort Monmouth’s Avenue of Memories (Route 537) to reopen as a public thoroughfare for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it became apparent it was not just another job for employees of the Monmouth County Department of Public Works and Engineering.One by one, stories began to emerge about their familial connections to the fabled Army base.“A lot of personnel have ties to the fort,” John Tobia, director of Public Works and Engineering, said recently. “Family members worked there. The grandparents of one of our supervisors met on the base. My great-grandfather, grandfather, and aunt worked there or were stationed here. A lot of the guys remember driving through as kids.”The Avenue of Memories runs from Route 35 in Eatontown at the front gates of Fort Monmouth to Oceanport Avenue in Oceanport. Prior to 9/11, the public was able to access this road as a thoroughfare between the two towns. After 9/11, and until the fort’s closure in 2011, the road was secured and open only through an ID checkpoint to military personnel, Department of Defense civilians and those with business on the fort.Route 537 (the Avenue of Memories) through Fort Monmouth will soon be reopened for the first time to the public since September 11, 2001.Improving and upgrading the road and its immediate surroundings, along with preserving and “cleaning up” the over 100 stone monuments along it has become a personal mission for county workers. Tobia said the monuments were installed in memory of members of the Signal Corps who gave their lives for their country over the years the fort was operational.The county will complete the work, then maintain the Avenue of Memories as part of a financial arrangement between the U.S. Army, the county, and the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) expected to be finalized within weeks. By the end of 2016, the Army will transfer final ownership of the fort to the state through FMERA. To hasten the final transfer, FMERA will purchase the remaining fort parcels from the Army for $33 million with a loan from the Monmouth County Improvement Authority. About $10 million is expected to be repaid through proceeds from the sale of fort parcels, some currently in various stages of completion. The Improvement Authority will back the bonds, and FMERA must make payments over seven years.The Avenue of Memories includes Saltzman Avenue and Sherrill Avenue/Wilson Avenue. The county hopes to dedicate the roadway as a public right-of-way by late fall.The Route 537 entrance to Fort Monmouth, known as the Johnson Gates, are being retainedand maintained as the fort is redeveloped. Photo by Anthony V. CosentinoReopening Route 537 through the fort, which spans portions of Eatontown, Oceanport, and Tinton Falls, has long been requested by residents for convenience and traffic relief along busy Routes 35, 36, and adjacent thoroughfares. Built by the Army, the road’s physical condition and width didn’t meet modern county road standards and specifications.Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone, liaison to the Department of Public Works and Engineering, initially met with Tobia and County Engineer Joe Ettore to review and inspect the road prior to the start of work. County staff then began fixing the drainage system, trimming trees, mowing, and installing traffic markings, signs, signals, and lighting.“We began August 22, which is significant,” Tobia said. “August 20 was the 99-year anniversary of the fort opening. Guys took pride they were working to open the road 99 years later. Now, the Army, freeholders, FMERA, and our department members are all coming together to open it up in a significant time period.”“They are doing the work with tender loving care, dedication, and commitment in preserving the monuments,” Arnone said. “It’s a home run that will entice development even more.” Various layers of security are in place to keep the fort, its structures, and the public safe and secure once the Avenue of Memories becomes operational.The monuments will be preserved along with the red brick “Johnson Gate” entry arches at the Route 537 entrance of the fort. Other monuments are located throughout the base, including one dedicated to World War II, which has also been spruced up by county workers.Bruce Steadman, FMERA executive director, said monuments not among those lining the Avenue of Memories may be consolidated into two locations with parking for public access, perhaps in a park-like atmosphere. The monuments along the Avenue of Memories will remain in place he said, adding “John Tobia has expressed a strong interest in keeping them where they were installed.”“Our personnel in all divisions totally work as a team, going 110 percent on all special projects, but on this one, they take unique and personal pride,” Tobia said. “They want to make the road safe and aesthetically pleasing, but are especially enthusiastic about preserving the fort’s past.”“John Tobia and his staff are very dedicated to the memorials and are working tirelessly,” said Freeholder Lillian Burry, the county’s representative on FMERA who crafted the financial package with the Monmouth County Improvement Authority. County trucks and green-clad staff are working throughout the fort on landscaping, upkeep, and maintenance. Attendees at the September monthly FMERA meeting observed crews trimming trees outside FMERA offices at 7 p.m. All work is being done in an in-kind arrangement as part of the financial agreement.#3 (Johnson Gates) – The Route 537 entrance to Fort Monmouth, known as the Johnson Gates, are being retained and maintained as the fort is redeveloped.
By John BurtonSHREWSBURY — The protracted development application to construct a convenience store and gas station on Shrewsbury Avenue continues to be opposed by a business competitor and is scheduled to return to the borough Zoning Board of Adjustment on Nov. 30.The application, presented by Shore Investment Realty, is seeking the board’s approval to construct a 5,496 square-foot QuickChek retail convenience store that will have on-site food consumption and outdoor seating for customers. The project also calls for the installation of a gas station with a 10-vehicle canopied fueling station.The project is proposed for a 6.35-acre property at 575 Shrewsbury Ave., near Apple Street, the former location of a Verizon telecommunications facility. Should the application be eventually approved, a portion of the site would continue to serve as a Verizon location for warehousing of materials, garage, staging yard and offices, according to the application’s public notice.The project would require the zoning board to grant a use “D” variance for use not permitted in the zone, as well as a number of other variances and design waivers.This application was the subject of eight previous hearings before the zoning board, beginning on Jan. 6, with the most recent occurring on Aug. 29. During those hearings the attorney representing Shore Investment has faced off against the lawyer representing the application’s primary objector, Lukoil America, a competing gasoline and fuel distributor. Lukoil operates a gas station located almost directly across from the property on Shrewsbury Avenue.The board had scheduled a special meeting on Nov. 2 to review this application. The board’s public notice published in an area newspaper was suspected of being insufficient under the state Open Public Meetings Act, requiring the meeting’s date change.The zoning board meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the borough council/municipal court chambers, 419 Sycamore Ave.
Dear Editor,In a letter titled “GECOM’s tinkering with Revised List of Electors is unlawful and must be discontinued” (Stabroek News, 09/01/2020), Commissioner Sase Gunraj expressed alarm that Secretariat of the Commission is manipulating the Revised List of Electors (RLE).According to the Commissioner, the revision to the list is not only unlawful but will create confusion on Election Day (E-Day), for example, some voters may end up on lists outside the district they are supposed to vote, and multiple voting may be facilitated.On a programme on Wednesday evening, the three GECOM Commissioners representing the PPP/C indicated that there would be an emergency meeting on Thursday to resolve this issue. However, I am not confident that anything useful will come out of the meeting based on recent events. Last month, we saw the Chairman of GECOM voting in favour of field verification of new registrants.The vote by the Chairman of GECOM offered a fleeting moment of hope of free and fair elections since her action signalled that she will be objective and stand on the side of fairness and decency (Demerara Wave, 18/12/2019). However, in an article published by Kaieteur News yesterday (Thursday, January 9, 2020), the same Chairwoman was quoted as saying, “… we can’t just remove people’s names because we could not locate them. We don’t have that right to disenfranchise these persons by removing their names from the voters’ list” (see Kaieteur News, 09/01/2020).Based on the utterance of the Chairman, it means that all the ‘new registrants’ will be included on the list, whether their existence was verified or not. In other words, the entire list of new registrants will be included on the RLE, thereby making the verification exercise she voted for useless. More importantly, it means that 6000 unverified electors will be afforded an opportunity to vote on E-Day; this is more than the number of votes that facilitated a victory for the APNU/AFC at the 2015 elections.To complicate an already complicated situation, we are told they will have a meeting today at GECOM to determine if the manipulation of the RLE would be allowed to continue. If we use the treatment of the verification of ‘new registrants’ as a guide, then we should not be surprised if a vote is taken to continue the manipulation of the RLE or a subsequent decision made by the Commission that would render this vote useless.In this regard, the country is merely wasting time with an election since suspicion of irregularities on E-Day will not inspire any confidence in the results. Given the unwillingness of the Courts to accommodate election petitions, we will also have to prepare to live another five years with a new Government that will be regarded as illegitimate by a large section of our population.In 1997, we saw what happened when voters refused to accept the results. There were riots, and the Opposition vowed to make the country ‘ungovernable’. The question is, ‘do we want a repeat of 1997?’ If the answer to the question is no, then all decent-minded Guyanese must join Commissioner Gunraj and demand that GECOM stops the unlawful exercise and shenanigans as we approach E-Day.Sincerely,S Pasha
A local man has been sentenced to 2 years in jail, stemming from a police chase 5 months ago. Joshua Victor Osmond was arrested on February 20th of this year, after he was pulled over in his vehicle by local RCMP.Osmond attempted to flee from police in his vehicle, leading to a short chase in which he rammed two police cruisers and a parked civilian vehicle. He was soon blocked off, at which point he fought with police and threw what is believed to be powdered cocaine in their faces.He was eventually subdued and the officers were treated for minor injuries. – Advertisement -Osmond was convicted of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, and resisting arrest.
Madrid, Dec 8 (AFP) Six thousand miles away and 15 days later than planned, the Copa Libertadores final between Boca Juniors and River Plate will be concluded. There have been refusals, complaints and threats to go to court, but the players of Boca and River, Argentina’s two greatest football rivals, landed in Madrid and all indications are the second leg will be played. Both teams trained on Thursday, Boca at the Spanish national team’s base at Las Rozas and River at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas, with the players appearing in good spirits, laughing and joking, jumping on each other’s backs. There was even a smattering of fans waiting outside, some holding flags or notebooks open for autographs, even if it was a world away from the rocking Bombonera, packed out for an open training session before the original fixture was due last month. That game had to be postponed, three times, after River fans injured Boca players during an attack on their team’s bus. It could have been cancelled, or awarded to Boca, but CONMEBOL, the South American football federation, chose to relocate to Spain. A final at the Santiago Bernabeu should be something to savour, particularly when it is the Copa Libertadores at stake on Sunday, the most prestigious prize in South American club football. Instead, as players finished training and spoke to journalists, the sense of regret became clear. “It is a weird final,” said Carlos Tevez, once of Manchester United and Manchester City, and now a striker for Boca. “To play a match between Boca and River in Madrid, it’s weird.”advertisement River goalkeeper Franco Armani said: “We would have liked to play the game at home, on our pitch, in front of our fans, who deserve it, but the decision is made. We have to make the best of it.” – ‘Lost importance’ – ===================== CONMEBOL pointed to Madrid as a “neutral” host city, with the largest Argentinian community outside Argentina, and a long and successful tradition of football. It will host the Champions League final in June too. For many, however, this was the most important match in Argentina’s history and its removal a national embarrassment. After all, the Copa Libertadores was named after those that secured independence from countries like Spain in the early nineteenth century. “Unfortunately for me, this match has lost importance in my heart,” said Real Madrid’s Argentinian coach Santiago Solari on Wednesday. Boca and River had initially refused. Boca believe River should have forfeited the trophy and have said they will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Depending on the result this weekend, they still might. River, meanwhile, have lost the home advantage enjoyed by Boca in the first leg, which finished 2-2, not to mention economic benefits, despite CONMEBOL pledging to compensate them for any revenue missed. “It was the security system that failed, absolutely and totally,” River’s club president Rodolfo D’Onofrio told El Pais on Friday. “River are the victims.” Most deprived, however, are perhaps the thousands of fans let down and then left at home in Argentina. Some have travelled, including Agustin Giacone, one Boca supporter who arrived in Madrid on Wednesday. “It’s going to be a great party,” he said. “Argentinians don’t want to spoil the name of Argentina anymore.” Boca coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto believes restoration will take longer. “We need time,” he said on Friday. “We need matches of this quality played in Argentina or South America to show that we have matured.” – Tickets still available – =========================== For each club, the 20,000 tickets allocated to fans in Spain and elsewhere sold out within hours but some of the 5,000 for residents in Argentina remain available. The cost, and short notice, is likely to have put them off. Inside the stadium, a vacant block of seats will act as a buffer between the two sets of supporters. Outside, the Paseo de la Castellana, the road that runs from the city centre to the stadium, will be closed off from 9am local time, as police seek to keep them separate. Around 2,500 police officers are expected to attend. If the match goes off peacefully, CONMEBOL will claim success, not least as broadcasters all over the world will have shown the fixture they paid for. For Spain, there would be a boost to their 2030 World Cup bid, at the direct expense of the Uruguay-Argentina-Paraguay ticket, another lead contender. La Liga, intent on staging matches in the United States, will feel its cause has greater precedent. For River and Boca, the winner will hoist the cup and then join their hosts, Real Madrid, at the World Club Cup in the United Arab Emirates later this month. River would also qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores.advertisement But any joy will be tinged with regret, for the final that could have been. “Today we should be talking about how River and Boca made Argentina proud,” Schelotto said. “Again, we have lost to violence.” (AFP) AH