Real Madrid axe Julen Lopetegui after thrashing at hands of Barcelona

It has been a horrid few months for Lopetegui who months are getting the chop from Spain was axed by Real Madrid. (AFP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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Real Madrid axe Julen Lopetegui after thrashing at hands of Barcelona

  • Real give Lopetegui marching orders after poor run of form.
  • Former player Santiago Solari to take interim charge at the Bernabeu.

MADRID: In just months, Julen Lopetegui has lost two of the most high-profile coaching jobs in the world.
Lopetegui was finally fired by Real Madrid on Monday, less than five months after he was sacked by Spain before the World Cup for not telling federation officials he accepted the Madrid job.
The latest axing followed a meeting by the club’s board of directors a day after the team was crushed by Barcelona 5-1 at the Non Camp.
Santiago Solari, coach of Real Madrid B, will take charge for the Copa del Rey match against third-division club Melilla on Wednesday.
Spanish media speculated Solari, a former Real player, was in the running for the permanent job along with former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.
The firing caps a horrible few months for Lopetegui and is likely to deal a significant setback to his career. After doing well with Spain’s youth teams, he had a lackluster stint with Portuguese club Porto, but gained prominence after revamping Spain and turning them into contenders entering the World Cup.
“I want to thank the club for the opportunity it gave me and the players for their effort,” Lopetegui told the local news agency EFE. “I wish the team the best for the rest of the season.”
Madrid said in a statement they sacked 52-year-old Lopetegui to “change the team’s dynamic while all of its objectives for the season were still reachable.”
The board of directors believed there was a huge difference between the quality of the squad and the results it was achieving. The board noted the team has eight players nominated for the Ballon d’Or award, something unprecedented in the club’s history. They have lost five of their past seven matches.
“We know that results are important for a coach,” Real captain Sergio Ramos said after the Barcelona match.
Lopetegui, who led the team practice on Monday morning, was hired by Madrid to replace Zinedine Zidane, who quit after leading the club to the past three Champions League titles.
Losing el clasico left the capital club ninth in the La Liga table, seven points behind leaders Barcelona. They have not won in five straight league matches, with four losses.
The club had a decent start to the season but things went sour as the squad struggled to produce goals in their first season without Cristiano Ronaldo in nearly a decade. Real didn’t replace the superstar; their only high-profile signing was goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
In 14 matches with Lopetegui, Madrid won six, lost six, and drew two.
After the Copa match on Wednesday, Real host Valladolid in the league, and visits Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.
“We have to move on as soon as possible because there is a lot of season left,” Ramos said.
To make things worse, veteran left back Marcelo is expected to be out for a few weeks because of a muscle injury. Forward Mariano Diaz is also injured and is likely to be out for at least a week.
Solari, aged 42, is a former Argentina midfielder who played for Real Madrid in the early 2000s and helped the team win the 2002 Champions League. He also played for Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan. He has been coaching Real Madrid B since 2016, taking over not long after Zidane left to coach the main squad.
Lopetegui is the second La Liga coach to be fired. The first was Leo Franco of promoted club Huesca, currently last in the 20-team standings.


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.”