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TFC’s Ayo Akinola accepts invite to Canadian national team camp

Toronto FC striker Ayo Akinola will get a chance to see how the other half lives next month at a Canadian national team camp in Florida.

The 20-year-old Akinola, who was born in Detroit but moved to Canada when he was one, is eligible to play for Canada, the U.S. and Nigeria. He made his debut for the U.S. senior side earlier this month, scoring in a 6-0 win over El Salvador, but was not cap-tied since the match was a friendly.

Akinola, whose Canadian-born younger brother Tom has featured in the Canadian youth setup, has come up through the U.S. ranks and played at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.

Canada Soccer has stayed in touch with Akinola, who turned heads with five goals in two games at the MLS is Back Tournament in July. He finished with nine goals in 15 MLS games this season.

“He’s got big decisions to make. We’re very respectful of that,” said Canada coach John Herdman. “The one thing he has wanted is that opportunity to experience Canada. There are some big pros and cons for the decision both ways, whether it’s the U.S. or Canada.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations over the last seven, eight months and he’s kept his word to come in with us,” he added. “We’ll just be ourselves and show him what Canada has to offer.”

WATCH | Akinola nets hat trick at MLS is Back tournament:

Toronto FC homegrown player Ayo Akinola of Brampton, Ont., scored a hat trick as Toronto FC beat the Montreal Impact 4-3. Akinola has now scored five goals in two games. 1:56

Akinola still has time to ponder his international future. But the clock is ticking with World Cup qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup looming in 2021.

The 28-player Canadian camp is slated to run Jan. 9 to 24 in a bubble at the IMG Center in Bradenton, Fla, where the WNBA returned to action. It will include two training scrimmages against as-yet-unannounced opposition as well as a Canada intra-squad scrimmage.

Marcelo Flores is another talent with international options invited to the camp. The 17-year-old Canadian-born forward, who is in the Arsenal setup, has already featured in the Mexican youth program thanks to his father’s bloodlines. Canada Soccer would like to claim him.

Two other camp invitees have already opted for Canada.

Theo Corbeanu, an 18-year-old from Hamilton, has switched allegiance from Romania to Canada. He made the bench Monday for Wolves’ 2-1 loss at Burnley in English Premier League action.

Frank Sturing, a 23-year-old defender from the Netherlands who is eligible for Canada through his parent’s bloodlines, has also declared for Canada. A centre back currently playing for FC Den Bosch in the Dutch second division, he was part of the larger Canadian squad for the postponed CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship.

“There’s been some good work done behind the scenes during this period,” said Herdman, referencing the players choosing Canada.

Herdman has a lot to do in a short time, with CONCACAF World Cup and Olympic qualifying set to start in March and the Gold Cup in July. And he knows things could change quickly given the pandemic.

The January camp falls outside of the FIFA international calendar, so Herdman has elected to focus on players out of season in North America and Europe. Twenty-two of the 28 players are from Major League Soccer, including seven from Toronto FC, six from the Montreal Impact and four from the Vancouver Whitecaps.

1 CPL player to attend camp

The Canadian men, currently ranked 72nd in the world, have not played since Jan. 15 when they lost 1-0 to Iceland in Irvine, Calif. That friendly followed a camp in California and a pair of 4-1 wins over Barbados on Jan. 7 and 10.

The pandemic subsequently grounded the Canadian program. A men’s camp planned for November in Europe was called off on the advice of medical experts.

Herdman knows COVID-19 could still affect the January camp. Two invitees — Flores and Corbeanu — are with English clubs with travel to and from Britain complicated by the discovery of a new strain of the virus there.

Marcos Bustos of Pacific FC is the lone Canadian Premier League player summoned although Impact defender Joel Waterman previously played for Cavalry FC.

Akinola, Corbeanu, Flores, Sturing and Waterman are among 11 newcomers to the senior squad. The others are Cristian Gutierrez of the Whitecaps, Dayne St. Clair of Minnesota United, Alistair Johnston of Nashville SC, Tajon Buchanan of New England Revolution, Ralph Priso of Toronto FC and Belal Halbouni of Germany’s SV Werder Bremen.

Gutierrez, who was born in Quebec but moved to Chile when he was three, represented Chile at youth level but is in the process of changing his international allegiance.

Buchanan, Johnston and St. Clair all turned heads in MLS this season while Priso looked older than his years in brief appearances for Toronto.

There are 18 players born in 1997 or later, making them eligible for the rescheduled CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship.

Veterans called up include Mark-Anthony Kaye of Los Angeles FC, Lucas Cavallini and Maxime Crepeau from the Whitecaps, Richie Laryea and Jonathan Osorio from Toronto FC, Samuel Piette from the Impact, Tesho Akindele from Orlando City SC, and Samuel Adekugbe from Norway’s Valerenga Fotball.

Canada is scheduled to finally open its 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign March 25 at home to Bermuda, the first of a possible 20 matches if the Canadian men are to book their ticket to Qatar.

After opening Group B play against No. 169 Bermuda, the Canadians play March 28 at the 193rd-ranked Cayman Islands and June 5 at No. 200 Aruba before wrapping up first-round play June 8 at home to No. 141 Suriname.

Full roster

Goalkeepers: Maxime Crepeau, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); James Pantemis, Montreal Impact (MLS); Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United FC (MLS).

Defenders: Derek Cornelius, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Belal Halbouni, SV Werder Bremen II (Germany); Kamal Miller, Montreal Impact (MLS); Frank Sturing, FC Den Bosch (the Netherlands); Joel Waterman, Montreal Impact (MLS); Samuel Adekugbe, Valerenga Fotball (Norway); Zorhan Bassong, Montreal Impact (MLS); Zachary Brault-Guillard, Montreal Impact (MLS); Tajon Buchanan, New England Revolution (MLS); Cristian Gutierrez, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Alistair Johnston, Nashville SC (MLS); Richie Laryea, Toronto FC (MLS).

Midfielders: Tesho Akindele, Orlando City SC (MLS); Marco Bustos, Pacific FC (CPL); Liam Fraser, Toronto FC (MLS); Mark-Anthony Kaye, Los Angeles FC (MLS); Noble Okello, Toronto FC (MLS): Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC (MLS); Samuel Piette, Montreal Impact (MLS); Ralph Priso, Toronto FC (MLS).

Forwards: Ayo Akinola, Toronto FC (MLS); Lucas Cavallini, Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS); Marcelo Flores, Arsenal (England); Jayden Nelson, Toronto FC (MLS); Theo Corbeanu, Wolverhampton Wanderers (England).

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Pink Makes 2019 People’s Choice Awards a Family Affair As She Accepts Champion Award: Pics!

Pink Makes 2019 People’s Choice Awards a Family Affair As She Accepts Champion Award: Pics! | Entertainment Tonight

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British PM Theresa May accepts EU's counter-offer to delay Brexit

European Council chief Donald Tusk says the British government has accepted the European Union's offer to delay Brexit.

British Prime Minister Theresa May had requested a delay until June 30. 

Following hours of meetings on Thursday, the EU offered Britain a choice of shorter delays. The bloc said it will extend the deadline until May 22 if Britain's Parliament approves May's Brexit deal next week. If it is rejected, the U.K has until April 12 to "indicate a way forward."

"What the decision today underlines," May said following her meeting with Tusk, "is the importance of the House of Commons passing a Brexit deal next week so we can bring an end to the uncertainty and leave in a smooth and orderly manner." 

Earlier in the day, the bloc explained that, while May had sought a June 30 deadline to give time to tie up legislation on withdrawal, Britain's refusal to take part in elections to the EU parliament from May 23 to 26 meant that the country must be out of the bloc before then.

Businesses and economists say a no-deal Brexit would cause huge disruptions to the economies of both Britain and the EU.

Time to deliver is 'now'

May reiterated Thursday evening that she does not believe Article 50 — which outlines the steps Britain will take to leave the EU — should be revoked.

"We gave the choice as to whether to stay in the EU or leave the EU to the British people," May said. "They voted in 2016, they voted to leave … I think the time is now to deliver for the British people."

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with the media as she arrives for the EU summit. (Francisco Seco/Associated Press)

French President Emmanuel Macron stressed it's now the British Parliament's responsibility to make sure that Britain does not crash out of the bloc without a divorce deal.

"This is it," Macron said. "There won't be any delay to renegotiate, and there won't be any delay if there is not a clear majority on the future relationship."

Macron said a long delay would only be justified if there was a "deep political change" in Britain, but did not elaborate.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said if the British Parliament rejects the government's Brexit divorce deal again next week, the EU leaders would have to be called into a new summit next week.

He said, "I didn't know my patience could last that long" — about the drawn-out Brexit process, which started with the June 2016 referendum in which the British narrowly decided to leave the EU.

May's deal has already twice been rejected massively by the British Parliament, and EU leaders are being asked to take the risk that May can convince the lawmakers next week.

That looked more uncertain after her speech on the eve of the summit, in which May told a Brexit-weary public: "You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side."

She faced a backlash for her comments from lawmakers, including from some in her own Conservative Party.

Anna Soubry, of the breakaway Independent Group, described it in a tweet as the "most dishonest and divisive statement from any Prime Minister." David Lammy of the opposition Labour Party called the speech "sinister," while Conservative Sam Gyimah called her comments "toxic" and a "low blow."

Top EU officials have said May's gambit is pushing the country to the brink of a catastrophic no-deal scenario, with huge political and economic implications for Britain and the European Union at large.

Upcoming European elections

Merkel told German lawmakers Thursday that "we can comply in principle with this request if we were to have a positive vote next week on the withdrawal documents in the British Parliament."

But she warned the EU wants to ensure the legitimacy of the May 23-26 elections to the European Parliament. Juncker has said Britain should be out before May 23 or be obliged to take part in the Europe-wide vote.

The Europeans fear citizens unable to vote could launch legal action at the European Court of Justice, or businesses unhappy with legislation adopted by the new parliament might challenge its legitimacy.

Merkel vowed to work "until the last hour" to try and ensure that Britain doesn't leave without a deal, even though her government has already put "the most important emergency measures" in place to deal with such a scenario just in case.

"We will, despite these measures we have taken, work until the last day — I will say until the last hour — to ensure that this emergency planning doesn't come into effect," she said. "We will do everything in the remaining, admittedly few, days to achieve an orderly, joint solution."

Should May fail, EU leaders could be forced to meet again next week to weigh their next move, with a much longer extension a possibility.

'Final choice' facing Parliament

In her statement Wednesday night, May didn't accept a role in causing the deadlock, but warned that if lawmakers didn't back her deal, it would cause "irreparable damage to public trust."

May said Parliament now faces a "final choice" between her deal, a no-deal departure and cancelling Brexit.

But Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said she was simply expressing frustration and tapping into the public's exasperated mood. Parliament must come to a consensus in a time of national decision, he told the BBC.

"In fairness, what she is actually saying is that we have to implement the results of a democratic referendum," he said. "That's the challenge."

Main U.K. opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn was also meeting senior EU officials in Brussels, trying to persuade them Parliament can find an alternative to May's rejected plan.

"I believe it should be possible to agree a deal with the EU that secures a close economic relationship before the European Parliament elections," Corbyn said.

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Ex-Man United manager Mourinho accepts sentence for tax fraud but won't serve time

Former Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho received a one-year suspended sentence after reaching a guilty plea for tax fraud in Spain on Tuesday.

Mourinho will not have to serve time after admitting he defrauded Spanish authorities in 2011 and 2012. Sentences for two years or less for first-time offenders can be suspended in Spain.

Mourinho appeared before a judge in a Madrid court to confirm the plea agreement he had reached with prosecutors. As part of the deal, he also has to pay a fine of nearly two million euros ($ 2.2 million US).

Mourinho was accused of defrauding Spanish tax authorities of 3.3 million euros ($ 3.7 million) in unpaid taxes. The money involved revenues from image rights, not salary paid by Real Madrid. He had already paid part of what he owed last year.

The 56-year-old Portuguese coach, recently fired by Manchester United, was in charge of Real Madrid from 2010-13.

Previously denied wrongdoing

Mourinho's plea deal comes two weeks after former Real Madrid player Cristiano Ronaldo pleaded guilty to tax fraud from the time he played in Spain. The Portugal forward received a two-year suspended sentence and was ordered to pay nearly 19 million euros ($ 21.7 million US) to Spanish authorities.

Mourinho had appeared before a judge in 2017 and denied any wrongdoing, saying he had paid everything he owed to Spanish tax authorities from the time he coached Real Madrid. He said he left the country in 2013 with the "information and the conviction" that he was up to date with his tax obligations.

Gestifute, the agency that represents Ronaldo and Mourinho, released a statement at the time saying the coach paid "more than 26 million euros (then $ 30.3 million) in taxes, with an average tax rate over 41 per cent."

Several other soccer figures have been subjected to investigations from tax authorities in Spain in recent years, including Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Alexis Sanchez, Ricardo Carvalho, Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Fabio Coentrao and Xabi Alonso.

Messi was found guilty three years ago, along with his father, on three counts of defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros (then $ 4.6 million US) on income made from image rights.

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Vatican accepts resignation of U.S. cardinal accused of sex abuse

The Vatican says Pope Francis has accepted U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick's offer to resign from the College of Cardinals.

A Saturday statement said Francis received the letter of resignation a day earlier by the former Washington, D.C. archbishop.

Besides agreeing to McCarrick's stepping down as a cardinal, Francis ordered him to conduct "a life of prayer and penance" until sex abuse accusations against him are examined in a Catholic church trial.

McCarrick has been removed from public ministry since June 20, pending a full investigation into allegations he fondled a teenager over 40 years ago in New York City.

A man, who was 11 at the time of the first alleged instance of abuse, says a sexually abusive relationship continued for two more decades. McCarrick has denied the allegation.

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After Putin summit outrage, Trump accepts Russia meddled but says 'it could be other people also'

After outrage over his failure to hold Russia accountable for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he accepts the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia did in fact meddle in the election.

But even as he tried to clarify the statements he made at a joint news conference with Putin in Helsinki on Monday and assert support for U.S. intelligence agencies, he left room for other actors to be implicated.

"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," Trump said. "It could be other people also — there's a lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all."

At the Monday news conference, which followed a two-hour, closed-door meeting with Putin, Trump stunned politicians back home by shying away from criticizing Putin for Moscow's efforts to undermine the election, contradicting the findings of American intelligence agencies. 

Trump, whose summit with Putin concluded a week-long European trip that included a NATO meeting and talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, pushed back on Tuesday at the storm of criticism, blaming media coverage. 

Trump, who had the opportunity to publicly rebuke Putin during the news conference in Helsinki, instead praised the Russian leader for his "strong and powerful" denial of the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that the Russian state meddled in the election. Standing alongside Putin, Trump told reporters he was not convinced it was Moscow.

"I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said.

Despite a televised interview on Monday and numerous postings to Twitter, Trump did not correct himself until 27 hours later.

Back at the White House Tuesday, he told reporters that he meant to say wouldn't instead of would. He told reporters: "The sentence should have been I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia." 

Would or wouldn't? Watch Trump's explanation that he misspoke in Helsinki.

Trump: 'I said the word would instead of wouldn't.' 0:59

As the president said he has "full faith" in the intelligence agencies, the lights in the conference room briefly went out. As they came back on, he said that while he feels strongly that Russia's actions had no impact on the outcome of the election, he accepts the intelligence community's conclusion that meddling took place. 

The president also said his administration would repel any effort to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections.

'He's given them a pass'

The condemnation for his performance at the Helsinki news conference — including from many fellow Republicans — matched or eclipsed previous controversies in Trump's turbulent 18 months in office. 

"The president needs to understand he has damaged U.S. foreign policy," Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican on the House intelligence committee, told CNN. "He's given them a pass and is certainly not holding them accountable for what they're doing." 

U.S. President Donald Trump's prepared remarks show a handwritten note saying 'there was no collusion" at the top as he speaks about his summit meeting in Helsinki. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell addressed the issue Tuesday, saying it is "indisputable" that Russia meddled in 2016. 

"I think the Russians need to know that there are a lot of us who fully understand what happened in 2016 and it really better not happen again in 2018," the Republican leader said.

Trump also reiterated Tuesday his message that he thinks the U.S. and Russia should work to improve relations and said that "diplomacy and engagement" is better than hostility and conflict.

Russia's government 'menacing'

Ahead of Trump's appearance, some lawmakers said they would seek remedies in Congress. 

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a longtime Trump critic, has raised the idea of passing a resolution that would voice lawmakers' support for the U.S. intelligence community and U.S. allies.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations panel, has floated a resolution similar to Flake's.

Several senators, including Republican Ben Sasse, Republican Pat Toomey, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Mark Warner, the senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, have backed more sanctions on Russia. But it was unclear whether Senate or House of Representatives leaders would support such a move or how new sanctions might be crafted.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, calling Russia's government "menacing," said he was willing to consider additional sanctions on Russia, and reiterated his support for U.S. intelligence community findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

"We just conducted a yearlong investigation into Russia's interference in our elections," he said. "They did interfere in our elections — it's really clear. There should be no doubt about that."

Ryan said Putin "does not share our interests … does not share our values."

Watch Paul Ryan comment on Russian meddling in 2016.

U.S. Speaker contradicts Trump statements, says Russia is trying to undermine democracy around the world. 3:40

Congress nearly unanimously passed a sanctions law last year targeting Moscow for election meddling and for its actions in Ukraine and Syria. In April, that law led the U.S. Treasury to impose major sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs, in one of Washington's most aggressive moves to punish Moscow. 

Enhanced election security

Schumer also called for the immediate passage of legislation to enhance election security, and reiterated calls for the Senate to hold immediate hearings to get testimony from Trump's national security team about what transpired during the private Trump-Putin meeting "so we can find out what the heck happened there." 

After the president addressed the Russia issue on Tuesday, Schumer said Trump "made a horrible statement, tried to back off, but couldn't even bring himself to back off."

"It shows the weakness of President Trump that he is afraid to confront Mr. Putin directly," the leading Democrat said.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election campaign and sought to tilt the vote in Trump's favour, something Moscow has long denied. Special counsel Robert Mueller is probing that allegation and any possible collusion by Trump's campaign. 

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said Tuesday he supports further sanctions on Russia and called for immediate hearings about what transpired during the private Trump-Putin meeting. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Trump has denied collusion and casts Mueller's probe as a witch hunt that detracts from his election victory.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called for passage of legislation increasing funding to improve the security of U.S. election equipment and prevent cyberattacks. Pelosi also wants to force a vote on the House floor on a resolution rebuking Trump's remarks in Helsinki.

Other lawmakers called for members of the Trump administration to resign in protest. 

Not all Republicans were angry with the president's conduct in Helsinki. "The president did a good thing by meeting with Putin," Sen. Rand Paul told the CBS program This Morning, comments that won him public thanks from Trump on Twitter. 

Russia's political and media establishment heralded the summit as a victory for Putin in breaking down Western resolve to treat Russia as a pariah.

"The West's attempts to isolate Russia failed," read the headline on a report on Monday's summit meeting in state-run newspaper Rossiisskaya Gazeta. 

See more of Trump's Tuesday afternoon news conference, where he addressed his Russia comments.

Trump asserts confidence in intelligence services, says he misspoke at Helsinki summit with Putin. 11:21

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