Grim future: Loss to Bayern exposes Barcelona’s new reality

Grim future: Loss to Bayern exposes Barcelona’s new reality
Bayern Munich’s German forward Thomas Mueller celebrates his goal with teammate midfielder Leroy Sane during the UEFA Champions League first round group E match against Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. (AFP)
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Updated 15 September 2021

Grim future: Loss to Bayern exposes Barcelona’s new reality

Grim future: Loss to Bayern exposes Barcelona’s new reality
  • Barcelona couldn’t get a single shot on goal the entire match and saw Bayern constantly threaten the other way
  • “Poor Barça,” read a front-page headline from sports daily Marca on Wednesday and “The sad reality,” said the daily Sport

MADRID : Barcelona needs to brace for some tough times ahead while adjusting to the post-Lionel Messi era.
That message was clear after the 3-0 loss at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, the team’s first defeat since Messi left amid the club’s financial struggles.
“It is what it is, we are what we are now,” veteran Barcelona captain Gerard Piqué said after the Catalan club was outplayed from the start at the Camp Nou. “It’s a complicated season.”
Looking nothing like the team that used to thrive when Messi was on the field, Barcelona couldn’t get a single shot on goal the entire match and saw Bayern constantly threaten the other way.
“We would like to have competed better, but this is what we have right now,” Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said. “I can’t complain about our attitude, we tried our best. But there is a difference in talent and a difference between a team that has played a long time together and our team with lots of young players. It is difficult to accept, but we have to keep working.”
The loss came more than a year after the embarrassing 8-2 debacle against Bayern in the quarterfinals of the Champions League two seasons ago, a defeat that began exposing Barcelona’s struggles on and off the field.
“Poor Barça,” read a front-page headline from sports daily Marca on Wednesday.
“The sad reality,” said the daily Sport.
Koeman, who was hired shortly after the rout against Bayern, said it will take time for Barcelona to return to a top level.
“Our young players have a lot of potential, in two or three years they will be playing much better,” Koeman said. “But right now, it is what it is.”
Koeman also lost Antoine Griezmann in the transfer window last month, when the team’s main addition was Netherlands forward Memphis Depay. The club added veteran Sergio Aguero but he is among the several players recovering from injury, along with youngsters Ousmane Dembélé, Sergiño Dest and Ansu Fati. Koeman used 18-year-old Yusuf Demir and 17-year-old Gavi on Tuesday. Pedri González, also 18, was a starter.
“I look at the positive fact that we had some 18-year-old players coming into the match,” Piqué said. “It’s our reality now.”
Barcelona will have to rely a lot on its youngsters as it tries to recover from dire financial conditions caused by the pandemic and poor management. The Catalan club wasn’t able to hand Messi a new contract and saw him leave for free to Paris Saint-Germain, one of the main contenders for the Champions League title this season.
President Joan Laporta asked fans to keep supporting Barcelona and said he needs time to get the club back on track.
“I am upset and disappointed as all of you are,” he said in a video message. “I need to tell you that what is happening is one of the situations that we expected. And I ask for your patience, and that you continue supporting our team. I also ask for your trust in us, the people who are managing the club. We need your trust and time, and do not doubt that we will solve this situation.”
There were signs Barcelona fans weren’t too optimistic when they failed to buy all tickets available for Tuesday’s match, something that rarely happened when Messi was still around, especially in a big Champions League match.
Piqué said it was “hurtful” to hear jeers from the Camp Nou crowd for Sergi Roberto, who was singled out for his poor performance while playing improvised on the right flank.
To make things worse, Pedri and Jordi Alba sustained muscle injuries during the match and are expected to be sidelined for a while.
Piqué said the next few weeks will be key for Barcelona, a five-time champion in Europe’s top competition.
“We need to win our next matches in the Champions League and stay among the leaders in the Spanish league,” Piqué said. “Right now we are not considered favorites but we will see what happens at the end of the season. Chelsea also wasn’t the favorite to win the Champions League last season.”
Barcelona’s next match in Group E will be at Benfica later this month. Benfica opened with a 1-1 draw at Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday.


Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany

Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany
Updated 26 October 2021

Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany

Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany
  • On Saturday, Kimmich revealed he decided against being vaccinated, despite having founded the 'We Kick Corona" charity last year
  • Bayern president Herbert Hainer said he would be happy if Kimmich "still gets vaccinated, but there is no compulsory vaccination.

BERLIN: Joshua Kimmich will be under the spotlight for Bayern Munich at rivals Moenchengladbach on Wednesday amid a fiery debate in Germany since the footballer revealed he opted not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The 26-year-old is set to play for Bayern in a German Cup second-round tie, but off the pitch, his decision not to get vaccinated has even drawn comment from the government in Berlin.
On Saturday, Kimmich revealed he decided against being vaccinated, despite having founded the ‘We Kick Corona” charity last year.
“It’s not that I’m a denier of the coronavirus or an opponent of vaccination,” said Kimmich, who based his decision on “personal concerns.”
The footballer’s stance drew comment from Caretaker Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, who hopes the footballer will inform himself and “let all available information about the vaccines approved in the EU sink in.”
Siebert urged Kimmich to get vaccinated because the Bayern star is “someone who is looked up to by millions” as a role model.
Kimmich appears to be in the minority among Germany’s top flight footballers.
Christian Seifert, managing director of the German Football League (DFL), has said around 94 percent of Bundesliga players are vaccinated.
Of Germany’s population of 83 million, around 66 percent are fully vaccinated, but Europe’s biggest economy is currently in the fourth wave with 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus reported Tuesday.
Since testing positive for Covid-19 last week, Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann has been giving training and matchday instructions from home where he is quarantined.
Kimmich says he may get vaccinated in the future and team-mate Thomas Mueller hopes it will be sooner rather than later.
“As a friend, it’s an absolutely acceptable decision,” said Mueller.
“As a teammate, and if you also look a little at what might be better for everyone... my opinion is perhaps that the vaccination would be better.”
On Monday, Bayern president Herbert Hainer said he would be happy if Kimmich “still gets vaccinated, but there is no compulsory vaccination. One has to respect the decision.”
Kimmich has drawn plenty of criticism from medical experts.
“Joshua Kimmich is certainly a proven expert in matters of football, but not an expert in matters of vaccination and vaccines,” Thomas Mertens, chairman of Germany’s Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko), told German media.
“It is the personal decision of Kimmich and it should have stayed that way.”
There is also some support.
In a statement, Carsten Ramelow, vice president of the footballers’ union VDV, said it must be “accepted if individual players have concerns about side effects of the vaccination and therefore hold a different opinion.”
The chair of the German Ethics Council also stressed the importance of respecting Kimmich’s “private decision.”
However, the council’s chairwoman Alena Buyx told Sky “I think it’s a pity. It would be great if he would have used his platform to get better advice in order to be a role model.”
Buyx is concerned skeptics could use his statements to “cast doubt over vaccinations.”


Football icon Mohamed Salah to be part of Egypt’s national curriculum

Football icon Mohamed Salah to be part of Egypt’s national curriculum
Updated 26 October 2021

Football icon Mohamed Salah to be part of Egypt’s national curriculum

Football icon Mohamed Salah to be part of Egypt’s national curriculum
  • Students will learn about his sporting success, philanthropy, family-oriented Muslim lifestyle
  • Textbook: ‘He is a role model to millions of Egyptians’

LONDON: The story of Egyptian footballing icon Mohamed Salah will be added to the Egyptian national curriculum to teach children what it takes to become a hero on and off the pitch.

Liverpool striker and Egyptian national Mohamad Salah, 29, is undeniably one of the world’s best footballers, and his life story will now be taught to Egyptian children in the hopes that it will spur students on to success in life.

His career, consistent goal-scoring at the top echelons of international football, and philanthropic activities will be taught in English-language textbooks to primary- and secondary-school students across Egypt.

The much-loved Egyptian has brought joy to the Arab country through his football prowess, earning him the nickname “the happiness maker.”

Salah often appears on-screen alongside his hijabi wife and young daughter, who is named Makka after the holy city in Saudi Arabia.

His quiet lifestyle — in which he is visibly Muslim, including praying on-pitch after goals — and massive donations to Egypt’s poor have earned him national and international admiration.

In his own birthplace, the poor farming community of Nagrig in the Nile Delta, Salah has poured money into charitable works.

He has funded a new girls’ school, a water treatment center, an ambulance center, and a charity for orphans and the vulnerable.

Primary-school children will mainly be taught of his footballing success, while secondary-school textbooks will focus now on his philanthropic activities and will pose questions prompting students to examine what it means to be a hero.

“Salah’s desire to help others is because he wants to give young people a chance to succeed,” the secondary-school book says. “He is a role model to millions of Egyptians who give him the nickname ‘the happiness maker’.”

Salah will now sit alongside other Egyptian heroes featured in textbooks, such as Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz and UK-based cardiologist Sir Magdi Yacoub.


Golf Saudi and Atlas Turf Arabia to provide advanced greens for courses across the Kingdom

Golf Saudi and Atlas Turf Arabia to provide advanced greens for courses across the Kingdom
Updated 26 October 2021

Golf Saudi and Atlas Turf Arabia to provide advanced greens for courses across the Kingdom

Golf Saudi and Atlas Turf Arabia to provide advanced greens for courses across the Kingdom
  • Joint venture will deliver Platinum TE Paspalum, with both Bermudagrass and Zoysia to follow in due course
  • Several of the leading golf and landscaping projects in Saudi Arabia have secured their grass supply from Atlas Turf Arabia and the turf farm will harvest the first order of turf in Q4 2021

RIYADH: Atlas Turf Arabia, in partnership with Golf Saudi, is set to develop and distribute some of the world’s most climatically-adapted turf species throughout Saudi Arabia, starting with Platinum TE Paspalum, with both Bermudagrass and Zoysia to follow in due course.

The joint venture, which was initially agreed in 2019 to develop the region’s first internationally licensed golf and sports turf farm in Saudi Arabia, has now received its foreign investment license from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Investment, and commercial registration from the Ministry of Commerce.

“Atlas Turf Arabia will serve as a vital link in the supply chain framework in Saudi Arabia, fulfilling the objectives of Vision 2030, by providing access to turf grass solutions for Saudi-based organizations who require it,” said Majed-Al Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi.

“Golf Saudi is committed to not only securing the very best turf solutions for its own needs but to also do so by the most socially and environmentally conscious means possible,” he said. “By owning and operating our very own state-of-the-art turf farm, via Atlas Turf Arabia, we are able to not only source product sustainably but also create new job opportunities for Saudi nationals to operate the site locally, which is a key objective of Golf Saudi’s Social Agenda.”

The Social Agenda is Golf Saudi’s initiative to create additional educational and employment opportunities within the Kingdom. By also offering sustainable turf solutions to projects outside of golf, including other sports federations and organizations, as well as infrastructure and landscaping projects, Atlas Turf Arabia will continue to add further employees to its overall headcount in the months and years ahead. Several of the leading golf and landscaping projects in Saudi Arabia have secured their grass supply from Atlas Turf Arabia and the turf farm will harvest the first order of turf in Q4 2021.

Atlas Turf Arabia will also work closely with GEO Foundation, the international non-profit that for the last 15 years has been entirely dedicated to accelerating sustainability and climate action across golf.

“The establishment of Atlas Turf Arabia and the opening of our first turf farm in Saudi Arabia is the culmination of our mission to provide high quality, sustainable solutions for turfgrass projects worldwide,” John Holmes, president of Atlas Turf International, said.

“We are incredibly proud to play our part in not only working with new customers and supplying unique projects across the Middle East, but to also creating a positive and long-lasting legacy through the creation of new jobs and training opportunities for Saudi citizens,” he added. 

“This is just the first step in Atlas Turf Arabia’s journey to create a regional team capable of achieving its long-term and sustainable vision for the future of turfgrasses, not just in golf but other unique projects too.”


Tunisia’s Olympic gold medal hero Ahmed Hafnaoui to race at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi

Tunisia’s Olympic gold medal hero Ahmed Hafnaoui to race at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 October 2021

Tunisia’s Olympic gold medal hero Ahmed Hafnaoui to race at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi

Tunisia’s Olympic gold medal hero Ahmed Hafnaoui to race at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi
  • Teenager will take part in short-distance tournament at Etihad Arena from Dec. 16-21

ABU DHABI: Tunisian Olympic gold medalist Ahmed Hafnaoui will compete in the upcoming FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in the UAE.

The tournament is set to take place at the Etihad Arena from Dec. 16 to 21, event organizer Abu Dhabi Sports Council has announced.

Hafnaoui, 18, won gold after an outstanding performance in the 400-meter freestyle at Tokyo 2020 with a record time of three minutes and 43 seconds.

The teenage swimmer will race against some of the sport’s elite at this year’s championships, with further athlete announcements due in November, before the full field is confirmed in December.

More than 1,000 athletes from 180 countries are expected to descend on the UAE capital to compete in 44 world championship title events over six days for a total $2.8 million prize pool.

Hafnaoui will be joined by fellow Arab representatives including Emirati swimmers Layla Al-Khatib, and Youssef Al-Matrooshi, who represented the UAE in the 100-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Games.


Afghanistan beats Scotland by 130 runs in T20 World Cup

Afghanistan beats Scotland by 130 runs in T20 World Cup
Updated 26 October 2021

Afghanistan beats Scotland by 130 runs in T20 World Cup

Afghanistan beats Scotland by 130 runs in T20 World Cup
  • All of Afghanistan’s top-order batsmen were among the runs and hit big sixes

SHARJAH: Offspinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman and legspinner Rashid Khan bowled Scotland for 60 as Afghanistan started the T20 World Cup with a massive 130-run victory on Monday.
Mujeeb claimed three wickets in an over to finish with 5-20 while Rashid (4-9) ran through the tail quickly to dismiss Scotland in just 10.2 overs and raise Afghanistan’s biggest win in a T20.
Afghanistan had earlier posted a daunting total of 190-5 in its opening Group 2 match after skipper Mohammad Nabi won the toss and elected to bat.
“This was our plan, to bat first and put a big score,” Nabi said with a broad smile at the presentation ceremony. “Our openers started really well and finished the powerplay with a good score. … Everyone knows Rashid and Mujeeb are among the best (bowlers) in the world.”
All of Afghanistan’s top-order batsmen were among the runs and hit big sixes with Najibullah Zadran leading the way by scoring 59 off 34 balls.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz (46) smashed four sixes while opening batsman Hazratullah Zazai (44) hit three sixes and three fours to set the tone for a big total.
Scotland had upset Bangladesh in the qualifiers and advanced with convincing victories over first-timer Papua New Guinea and co-host Oman.
Opener George Munsey (25) started the run-chase in style by reverse sweeping offspinner Nabi for a six and a four in the first over as they raced to 27-0 in three overs.
But the wheels came off quickly in the fourth over when Mujeeb grabbed three wickets off five deliveries.
Mujeeb had Coetzer clean bowled and followed it up by trapping Calum MacLeod lbw on the backfoot off the next ball. Richie Berrington was out soon after when Mujeeb had him leg before wicket — again on the backfoot.
Recalled wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad then took a stunning diving catch to his right to dismiss Matthew Cross off fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq before Mujeeb made it 37-5 in no time when he rattled Munsey’s stump in his next over.
Rashid resigned from the captaincy before the tournament, saying he had not been consulted on the team selection. But the legspinner bemused Scotland’s tailenders in a 14-ball spell by claiming four wickets to wrap up big win.
“We have been playing some good cricket to get here, but sometimes things don’t go to plan,” Scotland skipper Kyle Coetzer said. “We have to keep moving forward.”
Pakistan, which routed archrival India by 10 wickets on Sunday, and Namibia are the other teams in the same group.