English clubs 'no longer second class in Europe' – Chelsea Ladies boss Hayes

English clubs 'no longer second class in Europe' - Chelsea Ladies boss Hayes
Chelsea Ladies players celebrate after the Blues reached the semi-finals of the Women's Champions League

Chelsea Ladies boss Emma Hayes says English clubs are “no longer second class in Europe” after the Blues and Manchester City both reached the last four of the Women’s Champions League.

It is the first time two British sides have made the semi-finals.

“For so long we have been told English clubs can’t do it, because it is about the French teams and the German sides,” Hayes told BBC Radio 5 live.

“It is a proud day for both Chelsea and City to progress to this level.”

Women’s Super League One leaders Chelsea reached the last four of the competition for the first time after a 3-1 win over Montpellier on Wednesday to progress 5-1 on aggregate.

City, meanwhile, beat Swedish club Linkopings 5-3 at home to seal a 7-3 aggregate victory.

The progression of English clubs on the continent is a further boost for English game after the Football Association said it is on track to double the number of players and fans in women’s football by 2020.

The national side, now managed by former Manchester United and Everton midfielder Phil Neville, are second in the Fifa world rankings – their highest ever placing.

And Baroness Sue Campbell, the head of women’s football at the FA, has revealed that England are one of three teams vying to host the 2021 European Women’s Championship. along with Austria and Hungary.

History makers

Chelsea are the fourth British side to reach this stage of the competition since it was rebranded to become the Champions League in 2009-10, while City have made the last four for a second year running.

Arsenal Ladies, now known as Arsenal Women, lifted the Uefa Women’s Cup in 2007 but no other British side has ever progressed to the final, with the competition traditionally dominated by French and German clubs.

British semi-finalists

Hayes hailed the investment in the west London club in the past few years, which has laid the foundations for their current success.

“I have got a tremendous club that back us in every quarter,” she added. “I am so pleased to deliver that result.

“This is a celebration of how much clubs invest. They put a lot of money into it, but it is not just that.

“We wouldn’t make the semi-final if the recruitment wasn’t right, but equally with the development of the players who are here.

“It is the resources that provide the platform for the players to be successful.”

Challenging opponents

Both English sides have difficult ties in the last four, with Chelsea up against former winners Wolfsburg and City facing four-times champions Lyon, who are chasing a third consecutive Champions League title.

German side Wolfsburg have knocked Chelsea out in each of the past two seasons – in the last 16 in 2015-16 and the last 32 a year later.

“When you get walloped by them two years running you learn what you need,” added Hayes, who is pregnant with twins.

“I’m not afraid of Wolfsburg and I know my dressing room is not. Let’s bring it on and hopefully I don’t give birth pitchside.”

Emma Hayes (right) celebrates after Chelsea Ladies progressed to the Women's Champions League semi-final

Chelsea and England striker Fran Kirby says the Blues are a “different team” to the one beaten by Wolfsburg in the past two years, although she thinks the English club are still second favourites to progress.

“I think we have been underdogs in every game so far in the Champions League so far,” the 24-year-old said.

“Everyone has written us off, especially when we drew Bayern Munich in the first round. People are starting to wake up and realise Chelsea mean something now.”

A new domestic rivalry?

Chelsea and Manchester City are rivals for the Women’s Super League One title, with the Blues two points head of City in the table having played a game more, and the two clubs will also meet in the semi-finals of the FA Cup in April.

Kirby believes the two clubs will push each other on and spark further interest in the women’s game.

“We have got one of the best leagues in Europe, if not all over, and it is improving all the time,” she said.

“It will generate people wanting to come and play in this league. People are interested to see what is going on here.”

With both clubs still in the hunt for a treble, fans of the domestic game will be dreaming of an all-English Champions League final, emulating Manchester United’s victory over Chelsea in the men’s competition in 2008.

“I know some people will probably want us to face each other in the semi-finals as then at least one English team goes through,” Hayes said.

“Who’s to say both English teams can’t qualify and meet each other in the final?”

You can now add WSL 1 notifications for line-ups, goals, kick-off, half-time and results in the BBC Sport app. Visit this page to find out how to sign-up.

Lynn Bowles says goodbye to Radio 2

Lynn Bowles says goodbye to Radio 2

Radio 2’s travel presenter Lynn Bowles has always called Ken Bruce her radio husband. They are the perfect radio couple.

But after 18 glorious years of working together, Ken had to say goodbye to Lynn one last time

Sale & England wing Solomona charged over alleged abusive remark

Sale & England wing Solomona charged over alleged abusive remark
Denny Solomona scored one of eight Sale tries - his 12th of the season - in Saturday's win at Worcester

Sale and England wing Denny Solomona has been charged after allegedly verbally abusing a Worcester player in the Sharks’ win on Saturday.

Television microphones picked up Warriors scrum-half Jamie Shillcock making the complaint in the 55th minute of the Premiership match.

Reports suggested Shillcock’s complaint related to a “homophobic slur”.

Solomona, 24, has been charged with “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game”.

He will face a disciplinary panel on Thursday, 5 April and faces a minimum suspension of six weeks if found guilty.

Both Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond and Worcester counterpart Alan Solomons said after the game that they had not seen or heard the incident.

In January, France centre Mathieu Bastareaud was banned for three weeks after making a homophobic comment during a game, with his six-week punishment halved because of his guilty plea.

Solomona, capped twice at Test level, was sent home early from an England pre-season training camp in August 2017 because of “team culture issues”, which were understood to be alcohol related.

He was recalled to the England squad for their Six Nations contest against France earlier in March, but did not feature in the game.

Ian Khama To Step Down As Botswana’s President

Ian Khama To Step Down As Botswana’s President

Khama has visited all of Botswana’s 57 constituencies since December, bidding a long goodbye to a population of just 2.2 million after serving the constitutional maximum of 10 years in office.

He will be succeeded by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, a full 18 months before elections.

Khama’s two terms in power have been defined by his country’s rapid development thanks to lucrative diamond and beef exports and by a reputation for good governance.

He has also become renowned for straight talking — breaking with diplomatic convention to criticise leaders including US President Donald Trump and then-president Robert Mugabe in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

On Tuesday, his tour finished in his ancestral village of Serowe in the east of the country, with a day of songs, poems, gifts, ululation and pleading for him to remain in office.

Thousands of jubilant villagers dressed in blue, white and black, gathered in a kgotla, a traditional courtyard, to hear Khama speak.

“I was a soldier, I didn’t have interest to join politics, I had future plans, away from politics,” he told the crowd, adding that his predecessor Festus Mogae had to persuade him to take over in 2008.

– Son of independence leader –

Khama, 65, has cultivated a down-to-earth image — despite his father Seretse Khama serving from 1966 to 1980 as Botswana’s first president after independence from Britain.

Edna Monyena, a village elder in her 80s, lavished praise on the outgoing president, telling him that he was “an honest man, a straightforward man” who showed “real love”.

Many elderly female villagers wore blue dresses printed with portraits of Khama’s father, and some used cow bones as percussion instruments as they stood up to sing and dance.

Khama was showered with gifts including a 4×4 truck, 143 cows, hundreds of chickens, over 415,000 pula ($44,000), and a fully-equipped luxury caravan that his brother Tshekedi dubbed a “mobile state house”.

The avid conservationist also received a framed picture of a rhino.

“I wanted him to be 50 years more in office, I want him to work until the Almighty calls him,” unemployed Sadie Moleta, 23, told AFP in Serowe, where Khama is a chief of the Bangwato tribe.

Khama, a former pilot and military chief, demonstrated his outspoken streak when he recently accused Trump of promoting policies that encourage poaching and summoning the US envoy over Trump’s alleged slur against African countries in January.

Khama called on Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to step down well before the nonagenarian was ousted, and his government has also urged Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila to resign after his term expired in December 2016.

The Botswana leader’s on-schedule departure has made a public display of obeying the constitutional term limit.

But his own record in office has not been without its critics, who accuse him of an autocratic leadership style.

He led the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to landslide victories in two elections, although the party won less than 50 percent for the first time in the 2014 vote.

– Uneven legacy? –

Often seen as one of Africa’s success stories, Botswana has recorded rising unemployment since 2009 as diamond prices fell.

The drop in revenue forced Khama to halt many planned investments in recent years.

“Internationally, he positioned himself as a moral leader in the region, stepping down as an example of a leader who respects laws and traditions — and inviting both President Kabila and Mugabe to respect democracy and the rule of law,” Matteo Vidiri, a BMI Research analyst, told AFP.

“(But) a slowing economy and increasing public discontent has damaged the narrative of Botswana’s ‘special character’, of a country being able to escape the ‘resource curse’.”

The opposition blames Khama for creating a society of “beggars”.

“He killed the spirit of self-reliance creating dependency through handouts,” Kesitegile Gobotswang, deputy president of the Botswana Congress Party, told AFP.

“The economy shed jobs under his leadership.”

Khama, who is unmarried, was born in Britain as his father married white British woman Ruth Williams — a mixed-race partnership that caused widespread shock in Africa and Britain.

Incoming president Masisi, 55, will be inaugurated on Sunday.

AFP