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Italy Skipper Chiellini Reveals He ‘Cursed’ England’s Saka Before Missed Penalty in Euro 2020 Final

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England’s long wait for a major football trophy ended in defeat at the hands of Italy after the Three Lions suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 loss on penalties in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday. England last won an international title way back in 1966 when they captured their lone FIFA World Cup crown.

Italian captain Giorgio Chiellini has revealed that he “cursed” England forward Bukayo Saka minutes before the 19-year-old’s penalty was saved by their goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, powering Roberto Mancini’s side to their first European Championship title since 1968.

Saka needed to deliver a goal to give England the victory in front of their home fans at Wembley stadium, but his spot kick was saved by the Italian goalkeeper.

A night of ecstasy turned into a night of agony for the English players, especially for Saka as the teenager became a villain overnight.

Saka’s failed penalty attempt came after both teams failed to break the deadlock in the 90 minutes of normal time and the subsequent 30 minutes of extra-time, with the match remaining tied at 1-1.

Video footage has now emerged, where Chiellini is seen shouting something at the English striker moments before he is preparing to take his penalty shot.

The word Chiellini screamed at Saka was “Kiricocho!” – a phrase used by footballers from around the world for several decades to bring bad luck to their rivals.

When Chiellini was asked by the Italian media whether he cursed Saka or not, he responded in the affirmative, confirming that he did utter the word just before Saka took the decisive penalty.

“Hello Christian, I confirm everything! Kiricocho!”, the Italy captain said on Tuesday.

A video posted by UEFA on their Twitter handle also shows Chiellini shouting “Kiricocho” just before Saka’s penalty, that was ultimately saved by Donnarumma to hand Italy their historic win over England.

​The Legend of Kiricocho

According to a legend, Juan Carlos “Kiricocho”, or Quiricocho was a huge fan of the Argentine club Estudiantes de la Plata.

The fan’s passion and dedication to the club was such that he even attended their training sessions during the 1980s.

But Estudiantes head coach Carlos Bilardo noticed that whenever Kiricocho was present during his team’s training sessions or matches, his players used to get injured.

Bilardo, who kept a close watch on Kiricocho’s activities at the club, told him about the mysterious circumstances in which his players were getting sick or injured and asked him to direct his “curse” towards Estudiantes’ opponents.

Kiricocho accepted Bilardo’s suggestion and started attending matches of other teams and his presence did hurt Estudiantes’ rivals in the Argentine league.

“Kiricocho was a kid from La Plata who was always with us, and since that year we were champions (in 1982), we adopted him as our mascot”, Bilardo once said, acknowledging his role in their success.

“He was a good kid but then I didn’t see him again. The last time I was coaching Estudiantes (in 2003-04) I asked after him and nobody knew anything”.

Ever since footballers from all over the world have come to know about the legend of Kiricocho, they have been using the phrase to curse their rivals on a regular basis.

Former Indian footballer Mehtab Hossain, who also played for the Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL), claimed that he knew about the misfortune attached to the word Kiricocho.

“During my time at the Kerala Blasters, I played with a number of foreign players, who told me about it. Thanks to the ISL, most Indian footballers are now aware of the Kiricocho curse”, he said.



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‘We just sleep and hope we don’t perish’: 2m in Tigray in urgent need of food – UN | Hunger

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At least 2 million people in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray are suffering from an extreme lack of food, with the 15-month conflict between rebel and government forces pushing families to the brink, the UN’s emergency food agency has found.

In the first comprehensive assessment the World Food Programme (WFP) has carried out in Tigray since the start of the war, 37% of the population were found to be severely food insecure, meaning they had at times run out of food and gone a day or more without eating.

Families were found to be “exhausting all means to feed themselves”, with 13% of Tigrayan children under five and almost two-thirds of pregnant and breastfeeding women suffering from malnutrition.

“Before the conflict we were eating three times a day but now even once a day is difficult. I was borrowing food from my family but now they have run out. We just sleep and hope we do not perish,” Kiros, a single mother of six children living on the outskirts of the region’s capital, Mekelle, told researchers.

The assessment, which was based on face-to-face interviews with 980 households in accessible parts of Tigray, was carried out from mid-November until mid-December.

However, researchers were unable to travel to areas where fighting is impeding humanitarian access. Moreover, since the assessment was carried out, the needs of the region are thought to have become even more acute as no aid convoy has reached Tigray for about six weeks.

“This bleak assessment reconfirms that what the people of northern Ethiopia need is scaled up humanitarian assistance, and they need it now,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s regional director for eastern Africa.

“WFP is doing all it can to ensure our convoys with food and medicines make it through the frontlines. But if hostilities persist, we need all the parties to the conflict to agree to a humanitarian pause and formally agreed transport corridors, so that supplies can reach the millions besieged by hunger.”

Across northern Ethiopia, where fighting has raged in the regions of Afar and Amhara as well as Tigray, WFP estimates that 9 million people are in need of humanitarian food assistance, the highest number yet.

In Amhara, hunger has more than doubled in five months, it says. In Afar, where fighting has intensified in recent days between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and forces loyal to the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, recent health screening data showed malnutrition rates for children under five were at 28%, far above the standard emergency threshold of 15%.

Since the conflict erupted in November 2020, it has been difficult for the UN and other humanitarian organisations to gauge the level of need in Tigray due to a lack of on-the-ground access and telecommunications. The UN has accused the federal government of preventing food and essential medical supplies from coming into the region in a de-facto blockade. The government denies this.

On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had made its first delivery of medical supplies to Mekelle since last September. The drugs are understood to have included enough insulin supplies to last about a month, after medics at the Ayder referral hospital raised the alarm over severe shortages.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the World Health Organization, recently accused Abiy’s government of imposing a “hell” on Tigray by denying entry to medical supplies.

“It is a huge relief that this first shipment is reaching hospitals,” said Apollo Barasa, health coordinator at the ICRC delegation in Ethiopia. “This assistance is a lifeline for thousands of people, and I can’t emphasise enough how crucial it is that these deliveries continue.”

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Asylum applications on rise in EU

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The EU Agency for Asylum on Friday said the number of asylum applications in November 2021 was the second-highest in five years, narrowly below the level in September. About 71,400 applications for international protection were lodged in the “EU+” (EU, plus Norway and Switzerland) in November 2021, up by nine percent from October. “This was the second-highest level since 2016,” it said.

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Protests flare across Poland after death of young mother denied an abortion | Abortion

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Protests are under way across Poland after the death of a 37-year-old woman this week who was refused an abortion, a year since the country introduced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

On the streets of Warsaw on Tuesday night, protesters laid wreaths and lanterns in memory of Agnieszka T, who died earlier that day. She was pregnant with twins when one of the foetus’ heartbeat stopped and doctors refused to carry out an abortion. In a statement, her family accused the government of having “blood on its hands”. Further protests are planned in Częstochowa, the city in southern Poland where the mother-of-three was from.

“We continue to protest so that no one else will die,” Marta Lempart, organiser of the protests, told Polish media. “The Polish abortion ban kills. Another person has died because the necessary medical procedure was not carried out on time.” All-Poland Women’s Strike has called on people across the country to picket the offices of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and organise road blockades in the coming days.

Agnieszka was first admitted to the Blessed Virgin Mary hospital in Częstochowa with abdominal pain on 21 December. She is said to have been in the first trimester of a twin pregnancy when she arrived and was in “a good physical and mental shape”, according to her family, who said her condition then deteriorated.

On 21 December the heartbeat of one of the twins stopped and, according to Agnieszka’s family, the doctors refused to remove it, quoting the current abortion legislation. They waited several days until the second foetus also died. A further two days passed before the pregnancy was terminated on 31 December, according to the family.

A priest was then summoned by hospital staff to perform a funeral for the twins, the family said.

The family say that the doctors refused to terminate the pregnancy earlier, citing Poland’s abortion legislation. “Her husband begged the doctors to save his wife, even at the cost of the pregnancy,” Agnieszka’s twin sister, Wioletta Paciepnik, said on Tuesday.

After the termination, Agnieszka was moved from the gynaecological ward and her health continued to deteriorate. Her family suspect that she died of sepsis but the cause of death was not identified in a statement released by the hospital.

Shortly after her death, a statement by her family accusing the hospital of neglect was published on Facebook, alongside a distressing video of Agnieszka’s last days.

Agnieszka’s death marks the first anniversary of the 2021 ruling that declared abortion due to foetal abnormalities illegal. Abortion can now only be carried out in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life and health are in danger.

Her death comes after that of a woman known as Izabela last September, who died after being denied medical intervention when her waters broke in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. Her family claim the 30-year-old was refused an abortion or caesarean section and that the hospital cited the country’s abortion laws. An investigation found that “medical malpractice” led to Izabela’s death and the hospital was fined. Soon after, an anonymous man from Świdnica in south-west Poland came forward to share that his wife, Ania, died in similar circumstances in June last year.

While “selective abortion” is possible in the case of a twin pregnancy, it is unclear whether aborting an unviable foetus to save its healthy twin is permitted by the new abortion legislation. The Polish court has not referenced the questions raised by this situation, presented by opposition senators last year, in the new legislation.

“We want to honour the memory of my beloved sister and save other women in Poland from a similar fate,” Paciepnik said in a video appeal. The case is now being investigated by the regional prosecutors in Katowice, who also investigated the case of Izabela.

The family are represented by Kamila Ferenc, from the Federation for Women and Family Planning, who confirmed that an autopsy of Agnieszka’s body has been ordered by the court.

According to a statement from the hospital, Agnieszka tested positive for Covid before her death, although she tested negative twice when first admitted. “We stress that the hospital staff did all the necessary actions to save the patient,” the statement read. The hospital did not respond to the Guardian for a request for comment.

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