PSG beats valiant minnow Les Herbiers 2-0 to win French Cup

Paris Saint-Germain's players celebrate winning the French Cup. (Reuters)
Updated 09 May 2018
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PSG beats valiant minnow Les Herbiers 2-0 to win French Cup

  • Resilient Les Herbiers from western France lost 2-0 to a vastly superior opposition
  • Les Herbiers courageous performance earned a guard of honor from PSG

SAINT-DENIS, France: Moments before lifting the French Cup again, Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva beckoned the valiant skipper from beaten third division side Les Herbiers to join him.
After a moment’s hesitation, unheralded Sebastien Flochon shuffled across to the Brazil defender and they held the trophy aloft together.
It was a fitting tribute to the resilience of the tiny club from western France following its 2-0 defeat against vastly superior opposition.
The performance by the players of Les Herbiers — whose average annual salary of about 30,000 euros ($36,000) dwarfs the massive pay packets at PSG — was full of courage and spirited defending.
It earned a guard of honor from PSG and a rousing ovation from the traveling, red-and-white clad fans of Les Herbiers.
The club’s coffers will also be significantly boosted, with the third division team earning 1.5 million euros ($1.8 million) — 75 percent of its annual budget.
That’s a drop in the ocean for PSG, which has an annual budget of more than 500 million euros.
A fourth straight French Cup and League Cup double seemed assured. But while PSG secured a domestic treble, the team made hard work of seeing off Les Herbiers — whose population of 16,000 is five times less than the capacity of the Stade de France.
PSG fielded its strongest side and went close several times before midfielder Giovani Lo Celso opened the scoring after 26 minutes.
PSG then missed a succession of chances, and had a goal from Kylian Mbappe disallowed by the Video Assistant Referee system, before Edinson Cavani slotted in a penalty in the 74th minute.
Roared on by its fans, Les Herbiers went close when substitute Clement Couturier raced through in injury time.
PSG coach Unai Emery hugged his counterpart Stephane Masala after the final whistle, visibly impressed by the way his superbly-organized side had resisted so well.
“I’m very proud of my players, my club, and my town,” Masala said. “We held on and didn’t get routed. At the end, we even almost scored.”
Masala’s players continue their fight to avoid relegation to the fourth tier with a crucial match on Friday.
PSG won a record-extending 12th French Cup and claimed a 42nd straight victory in domestic cup competitions since Jan. 2014.
While PSG’s stars head to the World Cup in Russia in June, this is likely to remain the biggest game of their lives for Les Herbiers.
Before kickoff the team met French President Emmanuel Macron, who said “enjoy yourself” as he shook the hand of each player.
Masala told Macron “you’re a source of inspiration for me,” referring to his improbable rise to the presidency last year.
Les Herbiers had the first shot in the first minute, deflected by a defender for a corner. It was all PSG after that.
Lo Celso and Mbappe hit the post, winger Angel Di Maria headed over and Lo Celso struck the woodwork again, all inside 20 minutes.
Then, Lo Celso picked his spot from 22 meters (yards) with a curling strike into the bottom left corner.
Cavani was denied by goalkeeper Matthieu Pichot and, moments later, Mbappe bundled the ball in from close range but referee Mikael Lesage used the VAR and ruled it out because Brazil defender Marquinhos had handled.
Cavani was then brilliantly thwarted again from close range by Pichot as chances kept coming.
Mbappe, twice, and Cavani miscued again before the Uruguay striker drilled his spot-kick into the bottom corner after being upended by Pichot.
Lesage could have sent Pichot off but only showed him a yellow card and the goalkeeper tapped the referee’s hand in appreciation.
It was a quiet night for PSG goalie Kevin Trapp, who remarkably did not touch the ball until the 54th minute.
“They fought very well and played good football, too,” Trapp said. “Honestly, it was tough. We had a lot of chances and some bad luck.”


Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 18 June 2019
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Tazkarti ticketing platform draws criticism in Egypt ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Tazkarti will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament

CAIRO: Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) host country Egypt has launched an online ticketing platform called Tazkarti, which will be the sole source of tickets for the tournament, which begins June 22.

Its aim is to combat ticket touts and black market sales for the continent’s biggest football tournament, and to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed at the price decided by the AFCON organizing committee. It is also a measure of the steps Egypt is taking to ensure that the tournament passes peacefully. 

Football stadiums have been almost entirely empty since 2011 because of security issues after long-time President Hosni Mubarak stepped down following national protests in which football fans played a major role, resulting in violent, often lethal, clashes with police and between rival fans.

In 2012, Port Said stadium witnessed a riot that left 72 Al-Ahly supporters dead after a pitch invasion by Masri supporters at the end of a Premier League game. In 2015, 19 Zamalek fans were killed and 20 injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds making their way into a Cairo stadium to attend a Premier League game. 

Those were just two of several incidents that meant authorities imposed a ban on people attending football matches or severely restricted the number of people that could do so.

Every AFCON ticket purchased via Tazkarti will be scanned at the stadium to ensure it matches the holder’s “Fan ID.” If it does not, the holder will not be allowed into the ground.

Tickets for matches featuring the Egyptian national team range from 200 to 2,500 Egyptian pounds ($12-$150), while other matches range from 100 to 500 Egyptian pounds ($6 to $30).

While those prices might sound affordable to outsiders, in a country where a doctor earns around $90 to $179 per month, many have found themselves priced out of the tournament already.

“I am a married dentist with three kids. If I want to attend a match with my family, I would have to pay 1,000 pounds ($60), (not including) transportation and snacks,” Dr. M. Sheta, who lives in Damietta, told Arab News.

“To book a cinema ticket nowadays ranges between 70 and 100 pounds and a good meal costs 100 pounds minimum. If I can afford that, then I can afford AFCON tickets,” said a housewife in Mansoura, who asked to remain anonymous.

Plenty of young Egyptians took to social media to express their displeasure with the ticket prices.

“This is a clear message that middle-class Egyptians are not welcome,” said Ahmed Zahran.

“I would rather pay a total of 10 pounds at any coffee shop and watch the matches there,” said Ahmed El-Tlabanty.

Some fans believe that the prices have been set high to discourage Ultras (the most passionate football fans) from attending.

An administrator of the “Ultras Ahlawy” Facebook group, while stressing that he hoped supporters “have fun watching AFCON,” asked Arab News: “Why would I pay 200 pounds to watch a match? I do not (make hundreds of pounds).”

Aside from issues with the high prices, people have also been widely critical of the technical performance of the new ticketing platform, which has been under pressure from high demand for Fan IDs.

“You guys are so disrespectful and unprofessional. I’ve been trying to reach out for more than two weeks and no one is answering — not on messenger nor the hotline. You made the whole championship experience the worst,” wrote Fatma El-Dardiry. “I called your customer service at least five times, placed three complaints and texted you on Facebook more than once. Now, the tickets of cat 1 and 2 for the opening match have already sold out.”