Egypt’s Liverpool fans over the moon with title triumph

The Liverpool Supporters’ Club said the players performed exceptionally. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 June 2020

Egypt’s Liverpool fans over the moon with title triumph

  • Liverpool Supporters’ Club in Cairo praises the team’s consistency, calling it remarkable

CAIRO: Mohamed Salah is proving to be a miracle worker, a man who specializes in making dreams come true as well as making history. 

It was Salah who ended the Egyptians’ long wait for World Cup qualification when he successfully dispatched a stoppage-time winning penalty against Congo on Oct. 8, 2017, and, less than three years later, he became an integral part of a group of Liverpool players that helped lead the Reds to domestic glory after a three decade wait. Mo made a massive contribution to the team effort, scoring 17 goals and assisting seven to guide Liverpool to glory.

Liverpool’s English Premiership title drought is finished, and even COVID-19 was not enough to stop Liverpool fans from streaming through Merseyside to celebrate. People of different ages gathered near Anfield to express their sheer satisfaction and jubilation at winning a title that had eluded their team. Liverpool fans — not just those in England but worldwide — were delighted with their team’s triumph. They included those in the country where Salah was born, bred and kicked off his footballing career.

Halim Ahmed, who is the coordinator and spokesman for the official Liverpool Supporters’ Club in Egypt, couldn’t hide his happiness.

“Finally we did it,” he told Arab News. “I still can’t believe it, my mind hasn’t totally grasped what happened. We came so close last season and played very well, so there was certainly an element of disappointment, but the team showed great desire and motivation to bounce back and capture the title this season.”

He praised the team’s consistency, calling it remarkable, and said the players performed exceptionally. “But if I have to single out one player then my pick is Virgil Van Dijk, a rock in our defense. My favourite moment was the late win against Aston Villa when Sadio Mane decided the game for Liverpool.”

Ahmed Salah, one of the founders of the Liverpool Supporters’ Club in Egypt, was also delighted with the outcome of the premiership title race. 

“The suspension of the Premier League due to the pandemic made the wait for the title even longer, but it felt sweet all the same,” he told Arab News. “The fact that our title rivals Manchester City will be obliged to do a guard of honor for the champions at their own ground is a source
of great satisfaction for me.”

Salah received a lot of congratulatory phone calls upon the Reds’ victory and he spent the evening browsing through social media, and even had a Zoom session to celebrate a title that had previously eluded his club. 

“I even received calls from Egyptian Manchester United fans who admitted that Liverpool had earned this title,” he said. “My favorite moments of the season were the late wins against Leicester City and Aston Villa, such dramatic victories indicated this team’s character and never say die attitude. Performance of the season in my personal opinion was the 4-0 win at King Power Stadium against Leicester, that was such a dominant display.”

Ahmed said that his Liverpool player of the season was the skipper, Jordan Henderson. “The heart of the team, the leader,” he said. “He showed great tactical versatility as he played in five positions throughout this season, center-back, right-back, right winger, defensive midfielder and central midfielder. He embodied the spirit of sacrifice of the team.”

At a time when everyone is still being advised to stay safe at home to avoid catching coronavirus or spreading it, Liverpool sealed the title win in precisely that way - at home, watching in hope as Chelsea won 2-1 against runners-up Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Thursday evening, a defeat that meant City could no longer retain their crown. 

Mo Salah may not have played much at Chelsea, but his ex-team have certainly given him a nice gift.

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

Updated 06 July 2020

F1 season kicks off with astonishing, chaotic race in Austria

  • Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge

DUBAI: Formula 1 is back. And, for the majority of the season’s much delayed first race, it looked business as usual.

Mercedes dominance, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading the charge, and Red Bull providing the challenge.

But this, despite Bottas’  eventual victory, would prove anything but an ordinary race, for so many reasons.

The Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the shortened season, was, like all top class sporting events around the world, taking place with no fans inside the Red Bull Ring, a legacy of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The empty stands may have given this the initial look of a practice session, but the race would prove anything but routine.

This was a dramatic, often chaotic, return to action for Formula 1’s finest.

No doubt, the absence of motorsports’ most passionate and colorful fans, who in normal circumstances would have descended on Spielberg, Austria, were missed.

But for those watching on television, the truth is that the intensity of Formula1 action, unlike in football, and perhaps other team sports when they resume, is not overly affected by taking place behind closed doors.

 And it is something that the public will no doubt quickly adapt to. For now, only seven other rounds of the 2020 season have been confirmed; in Austria again (Red Bull Ring, July 10-12), will be followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix (July 17-19), two British Grand Prix races (Silverstone, July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9); the Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona, Aug. 14-16); Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps, 28-30); and the Italian Grand Prix (Monza, Sept. 4-6).

Other races are pending, and fans in the Middle East will be hoping that the restart continues to go according to plan, hopefully leading to the confirmation of the Bahrain Grand Prix later this year, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as the season’s finale.

Before the race the drivers had worn anti-racism T-shirts, though there was an element of controversy when several drivers, including Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc chose not to take the knee like their  rivals. Both explained  their stance on their social media accounts.

The early stages as expected were dominated by Mercedes and Red Bull, with Bottas and  Hamilton separated in first and fourth by Verstappen and Alexander Albon in 2nd and third.

After the reigning champion Hamilton overtook Albon in the early stages, one of the race’s turning points saw Verstappen retire after gear failure. With fewer points on offer this season, this could turn out to be a decisive incident, even at this early stage.

Bottas and Hamilton, now in first and second, seemed to have the race under control for Mercedes.

Lap 28 saw the safety car come out, but when the green light came back on Bottas streaked away followed by Hamilton with Albon in third and British driver Lando Norris, excelling in a McLaren, in fourth.

Within seconds from the restart, Vettel’s Ferrari spun as he attempted to overtake Carlos Sainz, and though he avoided an accident, it meant he dropped to 15th.

Less than half way through the race, the Austrian Grand Prix was providing more drama and incidents than millions glued to their televisions could have dared hope for.

The race now settled into a battle between Bottas and Hamilton, and even another intervention of the safety car after 52 laps could not put them out of their stride.

Kimi Raikkonen’s exit with 15 laps meant seven drivers had retired.

 But with with five laps left, Hamilton was penalized five seconds for an accident with Albon. Suddenly second place, for long seemingly a lock for Mercedes, was now up for grabs. Indeed, so was third.

Hamilton, to ensure a podium finish needed to beat Norris (in fourth) by more than five seconds. But Norris saved his best till last, his fastest lap ensuring the gap between him and the champion was sub-five seconds.

Bottas was the first winner of the season, second place went to Leclerc and Ferrari, and a disbelieving Norris and McLaren team in third.

Hamilton, in the blink of an eye, dropped to fourth.

The podium presentation no doubt lacked its usual celebratory vibe, but try telling that to Leclerc and Norris who could not have dreamed of this conclusion.

 If the remainder of the 2020 races live up to this astionishing Austrian Grand Prix, Formula 1’s shortest season could turn out to be one of its best.