Man City gain Spurs revenge to remain in control of title race

Manchester City's Kyle Walker in action with Tottenham's Son Heung-min at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain, on April 20, 2019. (REUTERS/Phil Noble)
Updated 21 April 2019
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Man City gain Spurs revenge to remain in control of title race

  • Tottenham still have much to do to qualify for the competition next season

MANCHESTER, UK: Manchester City exacted some measure of revenge on Tottenham for their Champions League exit as Phil Foden’s first Premier League goal earned a 1-0 win to move them back top of the table on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s men edge one point ahead of Liverpool once more with four games of a titanic title race left for both sides.
For all their Champions League heroics to get to the semifinals this season, Tottenham still have much to do to qualify for the competition next season as they could easily end the Easter weekend outside the top four should Arsenal and Chelsea beat Crystal Palace and Burnley at home respectively.
City’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies was ended by defeat on away goals to Spurs on Wednesday, despite winning a thrilling quarter-final, second leg 4-3.
However, they remain on course for a first ever treble of domestic trophies in England as they survived a nervy finale thanks to another blistering start.
City have made a habit of firing out of the blocks this season and just like in midweek to kickstart a kamikaze encounter, they struck within five minutes.
Foden was making just his second Premier League start and immediately justified Guardiola’s faith in the 19-year-old by heading home Sergio Aguero’s nodded pass across goal from Bernardo Silva’s cross.
However, history could easily have repeated itself as after four goals were shared in the opening 11 minutes on Wednesday, Spurs had numerous chances to strike back.
Son Heung-min had already forced Ederson in a smart save from a narrow angle before City scored and the Brazilian goalkeeper had to rush from his goal once more to deny Christian Eriksen an equalizer on 15 minutes.
Two minutes later the Dane played provider with a glorious ball to free Son in behind the City defense.
However, the South Korean, who scored twice in midweek to end City’s European dreams for another season, was caught up just in time by Aymeric Laporte, who made a perfectly timed last-ditch tackle.
Despite Tottenham’s chances on the break, it was the hosts who were still dominating territory and possession with Bernardo Silva a constant threat.
The Portuguese’s outstanding season was rewarded as he was named alongside teammates Aguero and Raheem Sterling in the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award and Jan Vertonghen was fortunate to escape without conceding a penalty when he appeared to trip Silva inside the area.
Spurs were without captain Hugo Lloris through injury and his understudy Paulo Gazzaniga looked nervous early on, but the Argentine goalkeeper got down to save Silva’s next effort.
Guardiola’s decision to leave Kevin de Bruyne out for the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final between the sides was doubly questioned after the Belgian bagged a brilliant hat-trick of assists in midweek.
However, Guardiola’s reasoning for being cautious with his playmaker after an injury-plagued season was understandable as De Bruyne limped off again just before the break and may well now miss the rest of the campaign.
Both sides suffered from their midweek exertions and the blazing sun as the second-half meandered along at a much more subdued pace.
Spurs had a big penalty appeal of their own turned down when Kyle Walker handled inside the area against his former club.
Sterling briefly thought he had completed a hat-trick in stoppage time on Wednesday with the goal that would have sent City through to the Champions League last four until VAR ruled the goal out for offside.
And the England international could not believe his misfortune once more when Gazzaniga stuck out an outstretched leg to prevent Sterling sealing a vital three points from Leroy Sane’s cut-back.
Instead, City had to suffer through the closing stages knowing one mistake could cost them the title.
But they held on as Spurs suffered an eighth straight away defeat to English opposition.


Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kantar on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

Updated 23 May 2019
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Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kantar on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

  • ‘I have an obligation to speak against atrocities,’ basketball star tells Arab News
  • ‘Whatever I am going through in my personal life doesn’t impact my performance on court’

CHICAGO: NBA superstar Enes Kanter says he loves his homeland Turkey as much as he loves professional basketball. 

Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father, and bullied his family after accusing the basketball player of being part of the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president asserts was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two years ago this week, Erdogan demanded that Kanter be arrested, and fears of violence from the Turkish state have gotten so bad that the FBI installed a panic button to help protect the player.

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression.

“His (Erdogan’s) regime’s and his hostility to me began in 2013 when I first start criticizing (the) government on unjust, unfair and illegal closures of college preparatory centers linked to businesspeople in the Hizmet movement,” Kanter said.

 “This closure pretty much became the first public clash between the Erdogan regime and the Hizmet movement,” he added.

“It was obvious that there was something that Erdogan doesn’t like about the Hizmet movement. Up until the closures of college preparatory centers, no one knew about that,” Kanter said.

“The way Erdogan handled this relationship was brutal, ruthless, unjust and unfair. I can’t stand for any of these, so I stood up against this tyranny and started criticizing. Neither Erdogan stopped his approach nor I, and we’ve kept clashing since then.”

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression. (AFP)

Kanter played for the Turkish national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and for the Turkish U18 national team in 2009.

He led Turkey to the bronze medal at the European Championships in France, and was named Best Player and Best Center at the 2009 European Championships by Eurobasket.com. 

Kanter signed with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, the New York Knicks in 2017, and the Portland Trail Blazers in February this year.

The Trail Blazers lost the Western Division Playoffs, the first step to the NBA Championships, to California’s Golden State Warriors in the final game on Monday.

Erdogan’s threats have placed enormous pressure on Kanter, but he insists it has not impacted his performance or his commitment to help the people of Turkey.

“I’m a successful professional athlete, and whatever I’m going through in my private life would never impact my performance on court,” he said.

“They’re two different worlds for me … I’ve known nothing else but basketball … since I was 13, so I guess it’s pretty important,” he added.

“I see basketball and my platform as a way to teach the younger generation how to be successful and hopeful for the future,” Kanter said.

“Once you’re a successful professional athlete, younger generations see you as a role model, so … I’m trying to do my best to set my life as a role model to them,” he added.

“I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities. I believe that as a human being I should be standing for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech … Me being a celebrity makes it easier for people to hear, see and experience what I believe.”

I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities.

Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers center

On Erdogan, Kanter does not mince words. “He’s a dictator by definition. He silences media, destroys opposition, demonizes his critics … so all these make him a dictator,” Kanter said.

“Turkey deserves a leader who’s open minded, democratic, progressive, intelligent, modest and forward thinking, a leader who embraces everybody in the community regardless of their political choices.”

The harassment from Erdogan has put Kanter’s family at risk too. “I can’t say they’re safe when my dad lost his job and got jailed based on terrorism charges because I’m his son,” Kanter said. “These allegations are baseless and ridiculous, so how could I feel they’re safe?”

He said he respects Gulen and the Hizmet movement, rejecting Erdogan’s claims against them.

“I’m so close to Mr. Fethullah Gulen in terms of his life philosophy and teachings. I admire his way of extracting an individual’s inner potential … in order to be a better person in his or her community,” Kanter said.

“Erdogan should know that he’ll be brought to justice one day and pay for his mistakes. First, he should stop all his unjust, inhumane acts against the people of Turkey. Second, he should start making everybody’s life better in Turkey.”

Before moving to the US in 2009 to attend college in California, Kanter was a star basketball player in Turkey’s premier leagues.

He said despite playing for the NBA in the US, he still sees himself as a champion for Turkey and its people.

“I was Turkey’s best basketball player, and I’m still Turkey’s best basketball player. The only difference is that I’m now representing my country in the US. I left Turkey for a better opportunity in my career, to play in the NBA,” he added.

“I think everyone in society has an obligation to speak out on issues of human rights and democracy, and to stand tall against atrocities, inhumane practices and dictatorships,” Kanter said.

Celebrities like himself “have a bigger opportunity to make a difference and to raise awareness on such issues because of our platforms,” he added.

Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. (AFP)