No pressure on Leicester

Ranieri insists they are enjoying the run-in but Koeman says Foxes should be scared of Saints

FOXES ON THE HUNT: (near to far right) Shinji Okazaki leading Robert Huth, Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy in the celebrations after scoring in the 1-0 win over Newcastle last month.
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Gunners show unity of strength

Oezil's outburst motivates Gunners to impressive win over Watford

HOT CHILEAN: Alexis Sanchez (above, right) scored and assisted in the same EPL game for the first time since April 2015, when he did so against Liverpool. PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

ARSENAL 4

(Alexis Sanchez 4, Alex Iwobi 38, 
Hector Bellerin 48, Theo Walcott 90)

WATFORD 0

There were the tell-tale signs of unrest.

Playmaker Mesut Oezil didn't mince his words when he said that Arsenal had "screwed up" their season, for falling so far behind Premiership leaders Leicester City despite leading the table at one stage.

In response, Arsene Wenger blasted the German playmaker for his comments, insisting that he will make sure his players give it all they've got until the season is over.

The Gunners, however, showed no signs of turmoil within their camp at the Emirates last night.

Even if there was any, they would have likely eradicated it with this fluid performance.

The 4-0 win over Watford was one of their most convincing displays of their campaign.

Wenger's side looked a different team from the one before the recent international break.

Perhaps it was the elimination from the Champions League that returned them their focus.

Gone was their lethargy and nervousness.

This was an Arsenal brimming with confidence and raring to go.

Alexis Sanchez showed no signs of fatigue, despite having just returned from South America where he played for Chile in two World Cup qualifiers.

It took him just four minutes to put them on the path to victory.

Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was able to block his first effort, but stood helpless when he tapped in the rebound to put his team 1-0 up.

It was clear the Chilean was in the mood.

The Hornets, though, naively ignored the warning.

Seven minutes before the break, he made them pay a heavy price.

He did all the hard work with a sizzling run on the right, before setting Alex Iwobi up to thump a first-time shot past Gomes.

The 2-0 half-time advantage was a richly deserved one.

But, as if determined to show that there is life still in their title challenge, they came out all guns blazing in the second half.

Only three minutes had passed when defender Hector Bellerin made it 3-0 with a shot that went in off a huge deflection.

Moments later, Iwobi nearly grabbed his second goal, but was denied by the crossbar.

DAMAGE

Watford then began to play some proper football, but the damage was already done.

Theo Walcott, who came on for Iwobi in the 74th minute, provided the icing on the cake for the Gunners with the fourth goal right on 90 minutes.

Wenger can certainly take heart from the fine show, but he must be even more impressed by his players' response.

Arsenal needed this big win to set the tone for the final stretch of their Premiership campaign.

They are now eight points behind Leicester (who play Southampton today), with seven games left to go for both teams.

Arsenal will "play with passion until the end", Wenger had said.

They certainly let their boots do the talking last night.


OTHER RESULTS

  • Aston Villa 0 Chelsea 4
  • Bournemouth 0 Man City 4
  • Norwich 3 Newcastle 2
  • Stoke 2 Swansea 2
  • Sunderland 0 West Brom 0
  • West Ham 2 Crystal Palace 2
Tags: sport, Football, epl and arsenal

Van Gaal wary of 'strange' Everton

Louis van Gaal (above)
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Tags: sport, Football, epl and van Gaal

Mardan is Singapore's first $3m sportsman

But 'don't read too much into the $3m earnings' because there are hidden costs, says Singapore's No. 1 golfer

Singapore's No. 1 golfer: Mardan Mamat
FAMILY MAN:Singaporean golfer Mardan Mamat (second from far left) and his wife, Siti Nazariah Masduki, with four of their children (from left) Jeffri, Syamil, Nurul Syahira and Syirhan. Another son, Danial, is not pictured.

He's been Singapore's No. 1 golfer for more than 10 years.

Yet a cold wooden bench was his bed, his hand-carry bag serving as his pillow, one cold night at Incheon Airport in Seoul some five years ago.

On another weekend in Dubai about eight years ago, he slept on the floor in a hotel room of a good friend.

Both times he missed the cut at major events and could not get a flight back to Singapore.

Mardan Mamat is Singapore's most successful professional golfer, yet he travels economy or budget for tournaments abroad.

And in Singapore, unless his multi-talented wife Siti Nazariah is free to drive him around in their five-year-old Kia Sorento SUV, he takes public transport, the MRT being his favourite mode of travel.

We are talking about a down-to-earth sportsman, now touted as the $3-million man, who stays in a five-room HDB apartment in Jurong West.

With his 37th-place finish in the recent Hero Indian Open, where he bagged US$10,956 ($14,800), he surpassed the $3-million mark in earnings between the two Years of the Monkey.

And the booty came through prize money alone, bearing in mind that he has a generous annual Yonex sponsorship.

From 2004 to 2016, Mardan, naturally, had more highs than lows, the three best years being 2006 when he earned US$246,018, in 2010 when he amassed US$263,109 and in 2012 with $247,647 from the Asian Tour and co-sanctioned events.

MISLEADING

But, while pleased with his performances so far, Mardan, who will be 49 in October, says reading too deeply into those dollar figures alone can be misleading.

"These earnings were made over a long pro career. Professional golfers like me have to pay a 3 per cent levy from our earnings to the Asian Tour and, for tournaments, we have to cough up money for flights, accommodation, meals and other incidentals," he tells The New Paper.

"Like, I have a tournament coming up next month in Mauritius, where the hotel accommodation can cost me £200 ($380) daily.

"What if I miss the cut, and cannot get a flight back quickly?" he asks.

He then quips: "Any sponsors?"

His predicament, though, is a microcosm of what Singapore's professionals face, for he plays in 60 per cent more tournaments than any other local golfer, offering him opportunities to win prize money.

Coming from a humble, poor beginning, frugality had been induced in the father of five children (aged 17 to 28) at a very young age.

And he made the virtue his trademark in his relatively successful 22-year pro career that began with a boom.

In his debut pro event at Tanah Merah Country Club's Garden course, he shot a hole-in-one and won a Jaguar XJS convertible worth $350,000 without COE. He sold the car to a doctor for $270,000.

That is a princely sum for any local sportsman, especially so for Mardan, an affable personality who used to earn $8 a day as a caddie at age nine.

Then, studies at Boon Lay Primary School was a drudgery, and golf was a dream sport.

The fifth in a family of eight children of an engineering supervisor and a housewife, Mardan's decision to quit school came naturally as money was hard to come by.

His mum objected, but Mardan said: "We weren't a rich family, so I did not want to impose on my parents for financial help. But, overall, my family was supportive of my decision to pursue golf."

So at 13, he joined his elder brother Mazlan as a caddie at Jurong Country Club (JCC), where he also honed his golf game.

Whenever he had no caddie duties, he would sneak in at hole No. 4 and armed with only one club - a six-iron - and a bag of balls he fished out from the course's ponds, he would play from tee to green.

Other caddies and some members were aware of what he was doing, but they closed one eye.

And the likeable Mardan would even play past dusk, the dim light provided by street lights on the adjacent Jurong Town Hall Road, allowing him to spot the balls.

He recalls: "The six-iron followed me wherever I went. From the family home in Teban Gardens to the caddie hut at Jurong, the club was my companion. And I would practise my swing whenever time permitted."

When he was 15, in 1982, he got his first set of clubs - used MacGregors handed over by a JCC member.

"I was a 12-handicapper at 18 and, when I was 22, became a scratch player," says Mardan whose work ethic is exemplary.

"My biggest breakthrough came when I was selected to play in the Eisenhower Trophy - the world amateur team championships - in 1989."

Five years later, Mardan turned pro and there was no looking back as he continued to ply his trade on the Asian Tour, European Tour and occasionally in Japan.

He has had considerable success in his pro career and has also played in Majors, three times at the British Open but without success.

MILLIONAIRE

In May 2004, Mardan became Singapore's second sports millionaire after footballer Fandi Ahmad.

Boosted by his biggest career pay cheque of US$50,000 for the 2004 Indian Open win, he surpassed the million-dollar career earnings mark.

As he looks ahead to the horizon now that he would qualify to play in the Seniors in 18 months' time, he is also working out his plans.

"Owning a golf academy sounds good," says Mardan, who over the years has had big backers, namely golf company Pan-West and former Jurong captain AC Wong, his mentor who had helped him morally and financially.

"Some friends have encouraged me to be a coach or instructor, that's not a bad proposition either," adds Mardan.

His big goal now is to qualify for the Rio Olympics in August with some good lead-up showings that would help him push up his qualifying rankings from 50th (the final cut-off).

For that aim, there would not be a different practice routine for the disciplined Mardan, who has kept his focus on golf, and family.

Many golfers marvel at his work ethic, built around morning or evening runs, occasional rounds at Raffles Country Club, time at the range and chipping and putting areas, a strict protein and carbo diet, the occasional yoga stretches and meditation.

AC Wong once observed: "They say you don't really know a person until you've lived together.

"We went to the Hiroshima Asian Games in 1994 and it was there that I realised how dedicated a golfer he is.

"He would wake up at 4am for runs. In the room, he could not keep still and would take out his putter and practise."

These are the attributes that allow Mardan, a devout Muslim, to play through even the Ramadan month of fasting.

Singapore Professional Golfers' Association president M Murugiah says: "I've always been fascinated by Mardan's professional approach to the game.

"He's always been focused, follows a strict regimen and leads a disciplined life.

"And talking about fasting and playing, mind you he's also won tournaments during the fasting month and put some of us to shame.

"He's a great role model to my fellow professionals and all local sportsmen. We are truly proud of him."

So should Singapore be.

Tags: Singapore, sport and golf

Police rescue chained teen from Indian factory

Teen held captive to repay $400 debt that his brother-in-law owed factory owners

INHUMAN: Mr Mohammad Nirale was chained to his work table and paid only a fraction of the average salary.
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