Virgil Van Dijk takes UEFA Player of the Year honors at Champions League draw

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk with the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and Champions League Defender of the Season awards. (Reuters)
Updated 29 August 2019

Virgil Van Dijk takes UEFA Player of the Year honors at Champions League draw

  • 28-year-old is the first defender to win the award since the inaugural edition
  • Dutchman Van Dijk starred as Liverpool won their sixth European Cup last season

MONACO: Liverpool center-back Virgil van Dijk won the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award on Thursday, edging out Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, while Lucy Bronze took the women’s prize.
Dutchman Van Dijk starred as Liverpool won their sixth European Cup last season with a 2-0 Champions League final victory over Tottenham in Madrid.
“I need to thank my teammates, without them I would not have achieved what I have achieved,” Van Dijk told BT Sport.
“It’s been a long road and it’s part of my journey. I’m very proud to get this trophy. It’s credit to everyone who has helped me.”
The 28-year-old is the first defender to win the award since the inaugural edition in 2010-11.


He moved to Liverpool from Southampton in January 2018 for a then-world record fee for a defender of £75 million ($91.4 million), immediately helping them reach that season’s Champions League final where they lost to Real Madrid.
But Van Dijk was a key figure as Liverpool won their first major trophy since 2012 last term, while also setting a club-record points tally in finishing second by a point behind Manchester City in the Premier League.
“I wasn’t 18 and went straight to the top. I had to work every step of the way,” added Van Dijk, who was also part of the Netherlands side who lost the inaugural Nations League final to Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Messi and Ronaldo had claimed five of the previous eight awards between them, with Andres Iniesta (2012), Franck Ribery (2013) and Luka Modric (2018) completing the winners’ list.
Full-back Bronze won the Women’s Champions League title with Lyon before helping England reach the women’s World Cup semifinals.
The 27-year-old Bronze is the first English player to win either of the UEFA player of the year titles.


Meanwhile, the draw for the Champions League group stage was made.
Liverpool received a relatively kind draw with Italy’s Napoli their toughest opponents in Group E.
Juergen Klopp’s side will also face Austria’s Salzburg and Belgian side Genk.
The draw produced two fascinating groups which should deliver a real battle for qualification with Barcelona facing Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague in Group F.
Group D is also a mouth-watering prospect with Italian champions Juventus taking on Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will return to his homeland France for a clash with Paris St. Germain in Group A which also includes Club Brugge and Galatasaray.
Last year’s runners-up Tottenham Hotspur face German champions Bayern Munich as well as Greek side Olympiakos and Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade in Group B.

 


German regional clubs probed after players mimic Turkish military salute

Updated 16 October 2019

German regional clubs probed after players mimic Turkish military salute

  • Three teams in the Recklinghausen district, near Gelsenkirchen, will face a disciplinary committee after pictures posted on social media
  • The military gesture has become a hot topic after Turkey players saluted to celebrate goals during Euro 2020 qualifiers against France and Albania

BERLIN: At least five German regional football teams face disciplinary action after their players imitated the military salute performed by the Turkish national team during matches last weekend.
Germany has a Turkish population of around 2.5 million people and three teams in the Recklinghausen district, near Gelsenkirchen, will face a disciplinary committee after pictures posted on social media showed their players made the controversial salute to celebrate goals.
“In one case it was the whole team, in another case, it was five or six players,” Hans-Otto Matthey, the district chairman of the Westphalia Football and Athletics Association (FLVW), told AFP subsidiary SID.
Matthey hopes making the clubs accountable will discourage others in the region, which has a sizeable Turkish community, against repeating the gesture in this weekend’s matches.
“I predict that nobody else will have the nerve to repeat something like this,” he added.
There were also two further cases of teams in Bavaria making the salute. Both clubs are also set to face disciplinary measures.
The military gesture has become a hot topic after Turkey players saluted to celebrate goals during Euro 2020 qualifiers against France in Paris on Monday and on Friday against Albania.
The salute is seen as a reference to Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria, which has been condemned by both France and Germany.
Turkey’s sports minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu has described the controversial gesture as a “nice salute,” but European football’s ruling body UEFA is investigating the national team for the “potential provocative political behavior” of its players.
After the isolated incidents of saluting in Germany’s lower leagues, several regional governing bodies have taken a clear stance.
Both the Bavarian (BFV) and North German Football Associations (NFV) have warned players in their areas to expect “heavy penalties” for imitating the military salute, with other the associations in Berlin and Wurttemberg following suit.
“Insults and provocations have no place on or off the pitch and will not be tolerated,” an NFV football official told SID.
The German Football Association (DFB) took a similar stance last weekend.
Germany internationals Emre Can and Ilkay Gundogan, who have Turkish roots, apologized on Sunday after they both clicked ‘Like’ on a picture of the Turkish footballers saluting during Friday’s 1-0 win over Albania, which they later removed.
“We are against all forms of violence and discrimination,” said national team director Oliver Bierhoff.