Zoran Mamic aiming to make history against Real Madrid as Al-Ain fairytale goes on

Zoran Mamic’s Al-Ain side pulled off a remarkable penalty-shootout victory over South American champions River Plate on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018

Zoran Mamic aiming to make history against Real Madrid as Al-Ain fairytale goes on

LONDON: Al-Ain’s win over River Plate in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinal was a historic one.
Zoran Mamic’s side pulled off a remarkable penalty-shootout victory over South American champions River Plate on Tuesday.
It was a victory that even prompted praise from the UAE leadership — including Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Hamdan, who took to Twitter to hail the achievement.
And for Mamic himself, he called it the “biggest result in the history of the country and Al-Ain.”
The Croatian coach is hoping that in Saturday’s final against Real Madrid that he can lead his team one better than his countrymen in this year’s World Cup final.
“I hope not to be the Croatia of this World Cup because I hope to do better. They lost the final and I want to win it,” Mamic said.
“Maybe it’s something an Emirati must say. I’ve been in this country for a couple of years, but I think yes, that we are perhaps looking at the greatest success in football in this country. I’m proud to be part of this success. I hope the best is yet to come.
“I am very happy and very proud, I am proud to be part of this success. For the first time in our history we won the double last season, now we are through to the final of the Club World Cup,” he added.

But Mamic is under no illusions as to how tough the task ahead is for his Al-Ain team.
“We showed that in football anything is possible, when you fight, when you respect each other, when you support each other,” he said.
“They deserve to enjoy this moment. But we have in front of us four days for recovery.
“We have to use these four days in the best possible way, because it will be very, very hard for us.”
And for his River Plate counterpart, Marcelo Gallardo, it was a humbling loss and he said his team lacked the focus needed for the game, especially coming after their huge victory over Boca in the Copa Libertadores.
“The issue was our level of concentration against a rival that on paper was inferior,” Gallardo said. “It was a dangerous match for us and when we let down our guard they were able to tie.
“But the party must continue because what we achieved (against Boca) was historic.”

Former UEFA head Platini detained in Qatar World Cup probe

Updated 7 min 31 sec ago

Former UEFA head Platini detained in Qatar World Cup probe

PARIS: Michel Platini, the former head of European football association UEFA, was detained for questioning by French police on Tuesday over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup football tournament to Qatar, a judicial source told Reuters.

Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges. The detention of the former football star was first reported by French investigative website Mediapart.

France’s national financial prosecutor’s office, which specializes in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to the Gulf emirate since 2016.

It is looking into possible offenses including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.

UEFA declined to comment, while officials with Qatar’s organizing committee could not immediately be reached.

The decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the extremely hot summer weather, and the poor performance of the country’s national squad. It will be the first Arab state to host the competition.

Le Monde newspaper reported that prosecutors were particularly looking into a lunch hosted by France’s then president, Nicolas Sarkozy, nine days before the vote that awarded the cup to Qatar. Platini and Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, who was Qatar’s prime minister and is now the country’s emir, were guests at the lunch.

Platini has since acknowledged that he supported Qatar over a rival bid from the United States in the vote, but said Sarkozy “never asked him to,” the newspaper said.

Two of Sarkozy’s aides at that time, then Elysee secretary general Claude Gueant and Sarkozy’s adviser for sports Sophie Dion, were also questioned by police on Tuesday, judicial sources confirmed to Reuters. Dion remains detained with Platini. Gueant is a “free suspect,” the source said.

The lawyer for Gueant, who later became interior minister, was not immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman for Sarkozy declined to comment. A lawyer for Dion could not immediately be reached for comment.

Under French law, suspects can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours.

Platini was forced to leave his job as UEFA chief after he was investigated in another case over 1.8 million Swiss francs ($1.8 million) that he received from FIFA, the world governing body of football, in 2011. He was cleared in that case.

As a player in the 1970s and 1980s, Platini was a prolific striker, mainly for Saint-Etienne in France and Juventus in Italy. He played in three world cups, captaining the national squad to the semifinals in both 1982 and 1986.