Virgil van Dijk claims Napoli win can act as springboard to Champions League glory for Liverpool

With the current form of Mohamed Salah it is perhaps no surprise to find Van Dijk confident for the rest of the Champions League campaign. (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2018

Virgil van Dijk claims Napoli win can act as springboard to Champions League glory for Liverpool

LIVERPOOL: Virgil Van Dijk has claimed Liverpool can use their Champions League escape against Napoli as a springboard to win Europe’s elite club competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s side booked their place in the last 16 with a tense 1-0 win over Napoli at Anfield on Tuesday night.
A fine finish from Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead, but the Reds needed goalkeeper Alisson to make a superb save to deny Arkadiusz Milik in the closing seconds before they could finally relax.
Liverpool are also top of the Premier League after going unbeaten in their first 16 games this season, raising the prospect of Klopp’s men winning a first English title since 1990 while also challenging for a sixth European Cup.
Dutch defender Van Dijk sees no reason why Liverpool cannot win the Champions League this term after going close last year, when they lost in the final against Real Madrid.
“It’s something that we all want, it’s something that we are going to give everything for,” Van Dijk said.
“We want to play on the highest level and the Champions League, other than the Premier League, for us is the highest level.
“We want to reach the maximum and hopefully do better than we did last year in the Champions League. You need to have dreams, you need to go for it, otherwise why would you be a footballer?
“It’s a great time to be a Liverpool fan or player. It’s tough but enjoy it and embrace it. These are the days you want to experience as a footballer and we are.”
Liverpool have conceded just six goals in the league this season and, after some less solid displays in their previous Champions League games, they managed to replicate that domestic defensive strength to keep Napoli at bay.
Van Dijk revealed much of that is built on the team ethic which means the players being confident enough to challenge each other in order to maintain their high standards.
“You need to be hard with each other. When things aren’t going right you need to tell each other, otherwise it’s going to be too easy. I think that’s a sign of a good team,” he said.
“When people are shouting at me I take it because they want to make me better and (if it is) their mistake they take it as well if I shout to them.
“That’s how it is, we’re all grown-ups, we take it and after the game if you’re not happy with it then you discuss it.”
Van Dijk said Liverpool had been frustrated at missing “big chances” against Napoli, including one opportunity that he himself volleyed over the bar.
“We could have made it a lot easier, we could have scored another two or three, we didn’t, and then it was important for us to win our battles and keep it tight and we did,” he said.


Sudan’s first female football stars push for women’s rights

Updated 08 December 2019

Sudan’s first female football stars push for women’s rights

  • Sudan was once a football pioneer, joining FIFA in 1948 and co-founding the Confederation of African Football
  • Women were at the forefront of anti-Bashir protests, expressing anger against centuries of patriarchal traditions and laws

KHARTOUM: Within months of Sudan’s first women’s football league kicking off, the championship’s emerging stars are being hailed as icons for equal rights in a country transitioning to civilian rule.
Orjuan Essam, 19, and Rayan Rajab, 22, of Khartoum-based Tahadi women’s club, have scored several goals already in a tournament that would have seemed unlikely when autocrat Omar Al-Bashir was in power.
“I was thrilled to see that authoritarian rule was finally turning into civilian and that women’s rights could now be achieved,” said Essam, her long hair flowing freely as she trained at a stadium in the capital.
Sudan was once a football pioneer, joining FIFA in 1948 and co-founding the Confederation of African Football with Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa at a meeting in Khartoum in 1957.
But women’s football faced an uphill battle after the country adopted the Islamic sharia law in 1983, six years before then-brigadier Bashir seized power in an Islamist-backed coup.
Bashir’s 30 years of ironfisted rule ended in April after he was ousted by the army in a palace coup following months of protests, triggering hopes that more liberal, pro-women policies would emerge.
Women were at the forefront of anti-Bashir protests, expressing anger against centuries of patriarchal traditions and laws that severely restricted their role in Sudanese society.
Sudan is now ruled by a joint civilian-military sovereign council, which has been tasked with overseeing the transition to civilian rule as demanded by protesters.
Last month the new authorities scrapped a decades-old public order law, which primarily targeted women for “immoral acts.”
During the rule of Bashir, thousands of women were flogged or fined under the law.
Today, the launch of women’s club football is seen as a much-needed boost for women’s rights in Sudan.
Essam, who plays left midfielder for Tahadi, said the world would now know that Sudanese women are not just “meant for raising children and doing household chores.”
“Women’s rights are much more than that,” she said.
Rajab, wearing a track suit at the practice session, said the tournament was the best thing to have happened to Sudan, showcasing the country’s talented female footballers.
“We badly needed it,” said Rajab, whose aim is to score in every match.
“Hopefully, I will become a professional player overseas and return to the Sudanese team, if they choose me to represent Sudan in the next World Cup,” Rajab said.
For Essam, who reads the Qur'an every morning and wants to become a dentist, football remains a hobby.
Since the championship began on September 30, both players have won praise for their positive team spirit, with Sudanese newspapers splashing their photographs on the sports pages.
“I play as a striker... Orjuan is a left midfielder. We coordinate and make passes to each other,” Rajab said.
Their coach Ahmed Al-Fakki said the two always have a countermove to any plays their opponents make on the field.
“Their goals speak for them, they were very beautiful goals,” Fakki said, as Rajab dribbled the ball behind him.
Essam and Rajab say they owe their new-found glory to understanding parents.
Essam said her father, a football enthusiast himself, is her biggest supporter and personal coach, often correcting her mistakes during training.
“Women are now competing with men at all levels, they are even taking ministerial positions,” said her father, Essam Al-Sayed, who is a banker.
Rajab took a liking to football at a young age, mostly playing with her brother.
“My parents had no objection, they kept telling me to push on with sports,” she said.
With the success of the league and the attention the two girls have brought to the championship — which has 21 clubs participating — organizers now want to tap more talent.
“We have convinced the ministry of education to open schools for training girls in football, and we have contacted FIFA to help bring football to young children,” said Fakki, who is also involved in organizing the league.
Essam and Rajab, however, remain special to him.
“Orjuan and Rayan are capable of becoming professional footballers,” he said.
“I tell them to show the world that Sudan has talent and it is only professional players who can help develop the sport.”