Mane right on the money for Player of the Year award

Sadio Mane. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 January 2020

Mane right on the money for Player of the Year award

  • A couple of weeks after the awards banquet, Egypt will host another eagerly anticipated event

JOHANNESBURG: Liverpool sharpshooter Sadio Mane is expected to become the first African football headline-maker of 2020 by winning the Player of the Year award in Egypt next week.

The Jan. 7 ceremony will set in motion a year sure to be full of drama on and off the field with 2022 World Cup and 2021 Cup of Nations qualifiers in the mix.

AFP Sport looks at some of the issues facing the most popular sport in a continent where good footballers and bad administrators often share the media stage.

Consistent Liverpool scorer and Senegal talisman Mane is favored to become the second star from his country after El Hadji Diouf to be named Player of the Year.

His rivals are Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian who won the last two editions, and Algerian Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City.

The Player of the Year, and the winners of seven other male and female categories, will be announced at a ceremony in Egyptian Red Sea resort Hurghada.

A couple of weeks after the awards banquet, Egypt will host another eagerly anticipated event, the draw in Cairo for the group stage of World Cup qualifying.

The latest FIFA rankings are expected to determine the seedings, meaning Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, Mali and DR Congo will be in pot one.

All those nations except Mali have played at the World Cup, and an Ivory Coast team that can call on the dazzling footwork of Wilfried Zaha could be the most dangerous second seeds.

Trouble lies ahead after a change from a January/February to June/July tournament this year to avoid tug of wars between clubs and countries over the services of Europe-based stars.

The first revamped Club World Cup, featuring 24 teams, is set for June 17 to July 4 2021 in China, effectively ruling out a mid-year Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Senior CAF officials say off the record that a return to January/February dates is likely, and with it the possibility that an increasing number of players will put clubs first.

Tunisia have reportedly decided because of fixture congestion to withdraw from the 2020 edition in Cameroon of the tournament for footballers playing in their country of birth.

Traditionally a biennial January/February competition, it is slated for April 4 to 25 this year in three southern Cameroon cities, the capital, Yaounde, Douala and Limbe.

The 16-nation championship will test the readiness of Cameroon to stage the Cup of Nations next year after construction delays led to them being replaced by Egypt as 2019 hosts.

Tunisian club Esperance have been erratic as they seek an unprecedented third straight title, battling to overcome a Chadian club then defying the odds to defeat Raja in Casablanca.

They have lost several 2019 title-winning stars, including Algeria winger Youcef Belaili, and the starting lineup for a group match last weekend included only four Tunisians.

Record eight-time champions Al Ahly of Egypt, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and Casablanca clubs Raja and Wydad are potential threats.

A new name will be engraved on the trophy this year as recent winners Ahly, Etoile Sahel of Tunisia, Mazembe, Raja and Zamalek of Egypt are all competing in the Champions League.

Judged by group form up to the halfway mark, Cairo outfit Pyramids could become the third Egyptian winners of a competition modeled on the UEFA Europa League.

Emirati Salem Al Shamsi has invested millions in a squad dominated by Egyptians but also containing stars from Burkina Faso, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Uganda.


Bayern eager to stop Super Cup becoming virus hotbed

Updated 23 September 2020

Bayern eager to stop Super Cup becoming virus hotbed

  • Up to 20,000 spectators would be allowed by UEFA into Budapest’s Puskas Arena in a piloting project to test the return of fans into stadiums
  • Bayern legend Rummenigge anticipates “less than a thousand” Bayern fans will actually make the journey and only around 500 Sevilla fans are expected

BERLIN: Bayern Munich boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge insists the German giants want to prevent Thursday’s UEFA Super Cup showdown in Budapest turning into a super spreader event due to a high Covid-19 infection rate in the Hungarian capital.
On Monday, Bavaria premier Markus Soeder warned against the fixture becoming a “football-Ischgl,” referring to the Austrian ski resort where thousands of holidaymakers were infected with the virus at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe.
“I really get a stomach ache when it comes to the Super Cup” Soeder added of Bayern’s game against Europa League holders Sevilla in a coronavirus red zone.
Rummenigge echoed Soeder’s comments on Wednesday, insisting Bayern Munich have “every interest in ensuring that no Ischgl of football takes place” in Budapest.
“I think everyone’s stomachs are churning. The game will take place in a city with a rate of infection of over 100 (per 100,000 inhabitants), which is twice as high as that in Munich,” Rummenigge told broadcaster ZDF.
“That has to be taken seriously.”
Up to 20,000 spectators would be allowed by UEFA into Budapest’s Puskas Arena in a piloting project to test the return of fans into stadiums.
However, Budapest’s mayor Gergely Karacsony wants the game played without fans.
“If I had the legal means to decide that, I would let the game take place behind closed doors,” he told Hungarian newspaper Nepszava.
The Hungarian FA (MLSZ) released a statement Wednesday saying the “Puskas Arena will be safer than any other place in the country.”
The MLSZ pointed out that Sevilla and Bayern fans can only enter the stadium after “strict health checks,” will be kept seperate and “will not meet with Hungarian fans.”
Rummenigge anticipates “less than a thousand” Bayern fans will actually make the journey and only around 500 Sevilla fans are expected.
“We have a great interest that they come back healthy and that nobody in Budapest gets infected,” emphasised Rummenigge.
He has promised a “serious and disciplined” approach with both Bayern and Sevilla offering traveling fans Covid-19 tests.
The Bayern chief also pointed out that to “all those who say that you really have to be extremely careful with the subject. We are.”
Bayern initially had an allocation of 4,500 tickets but hundreds of fans opted not to travel after the German government declared Budapest a risk zone.
European champions Bayern are also flying to Budapest with a small delegation of officials after being heavily criticized when a group of senior figures sat bunched together in the stands for Friday’s 8-0 rout of Schalke.
Rummenigge was among the group not wearing masks and seated close together in the VIP stand for the opening game of the new Bundesliga season.
“At the next game we will keep the desired distance and wear masks, no problem,” said the 64-year-old.