Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’
Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, left, in action against VfL Bochum’s Armel Bella-Kotchap. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 September 2021

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’

Golden Shoe winner Lewandowski hopes to become ‘even better’
  • Lewandowski netted 41 times in 29 games for Bayern in the 2020-21 season

MUNICH: Europe’s “Golden Shoe” winner Robert Lewandowski sent out a warning to defenses around Europe on Tuesday when he likened himself to a ‘good wine’ that was still improving.
The Bayern Munich striker also offered warm praise and thanks to his wife Anna when he received the award as top scorer in European football last season.
Lewandowski netted 41 times in 29 games for Bayern in the 2020-21 season, breaking the great Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season, set in 1971-72.
His tally represents the highest in Europe since Cristiano Ronaldo bagged 48 goals for Real Madrid in 2014-15.
The 33-year-old forward insisted, though, that there were still plenty more goals and titles yet to come.
“I’m still here, and I will be here for a long time!” said Lewandowski.
“Age is just a number, I feel very good, my form indicators have never been so good.
“I know that with my body I can still play for years at the highest level. I am like good wine and I hope to become even better.”
This season, Lewandowski has already scored seven goals in five days as champions Bayern top the early Bundesliga table.
“It’s not over yet, we are still hungry for titles,” said Lewandowski who hopes to help Bayern to a second Champions League title to add to the one he won with them in 2020.
“I don’t need to go and prove myself in another league,” said the striker who was linked with Real Madrid a few years ago.
“With the Champions League, I can measure myself against the best. I am 100 percent focused on Bayern and I don’t think about anything else.”
At the ceremony held at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, the Poland striker was effusive in his praise for his wife who is also his personal “motivation coach.”
“I have to thank my wife, she is a great support for me and a motivation when things are not going so well,” he said.
A former Polish international karateka, Anna Lewandowska is also a nutritionist and oversees her husband’s diet.
“I am very proud of him,” she said. “He is extraordinary as a person, as an athlete, as a partner, as a friend and as a husband.”
Lewandowski is only the second Bundesliga player to win the award after Mueller, who won in 1970 and 1972.
Lionel Messi has won the award a record six times while Ronaldo has taken it four times but they only scored 30 and 29 goals respectively in 2020-21.


’Dead in its tracks’ — FIFPro chief convinced biennial World Cup won’t happen

’Dead in its tracks’ — FIFPro chief convinced biennial World Cup won’t happen
Updated 27 October 2021

’Dead in its tracks’ — FIFPro chief convinced biennial World Cup won’t happen

’Dead in its tracks’ — FIFPro chief convinced biennial World Cup won’t happen
  • Opposition has been so widespread from leagues, players and supporters groups that the chances of a biennial World Cup actually happening appear remote
  • "There has been a lot of pushback. They have realised that," FIFPro's general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told AFP about FIFA's proposals

BRUSSELS: The head of global footballers’ union FIFPro is confident a plan to hold the men’s World Cup every two years is “dead in its tracks” and insists FIFA should do more to promote the women’s version instead.
FIFA will hold a summit in December with president Gianni Infantino still hoping to find consensus on plans to stage the men’s tournament more often than the current four-year cycle.
However, opposition has been so widespread from leagues, players and supporters groups that the chances of a biennial World Cup actually happening appear remote.
“There has been a lot of pushback. They have realized that,” FIFPro’s general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann told AFP about FIFA’s proposals.
“It is quite clear that if you try to push this through against the interests of all these other stakeholders, and without their agreement, it is probably dead in its tracks.”
FIFPro, comprised of national member associations from 64 countries, is one of several organizations within football that has expressed unhappiness at a lack of consultation on the issue.
The proposals were put forward by Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s head of global development.
Baer-Hoffmann questioned whether holding more frequent World Cups would be sustainable economically, but said there is already a solution in place.
“When we met with FIFA for the first time, we asked them for the economic analysis, we haven’t seen that yet. I don’t think a second World Cup would just mean the current revenue times two. It’s not like you just double the value in sponsorship etcetera.
“The truth is also that there are two World Cups in every four-year cycle already. We should make the women’s one more of a priority. That is your second World Cup.”
The World Cup is expanding regardless in another way — the men’s version to 48 teams from 2026 and the women’s to 32 teams from 2023.
Other competitions like the UEFA Champions League are also expanding to feature more games, but FIFPro is concerned that footballers beyond the men’s elite do not play enough.
“If you are playing in a market that doesn’t have the economic means like the big European markets then of course you are looking at innovation in competitions, club or country, that puts more meaningful and economically viable games in your schedule,” said Baer-Hoffmann.
“We do need reforms, no question. If we just carry on like this football in many parts of the world will not evolve.”
In Brussels FIFPro announced a joint manifesto with the European Leagues organization, which represents over one thousand clubs from 30 countries.
It called for greater influence over decisions affecting the future of the sport, especially important in the wake of the failed breakaway Super League project.
That project may only be lying dormant. Three of the 12 rebel clubs — Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus — remain attached to it.
UEFA opened disciplinary proceedings against the remaining clubs but backed down after a commercial court in Madrid ruled any punishment would represent an infringement of European free trade laws.
The ruling was referred to the European Court of Justice.
“The factors that motivated this attempt to break away have not actually drastically changed,” Baer-Hoffmann said.
The plan was torpedoed in April following widespread opposition.
“But I think we have to be realistic. This is not dead, and I think this will come back, and football had better get ready to confront it again.”


'Get vaccinated' top German minister tells Kimmich

'Get vaccinated' top German minister tells Kimmich
Updated 27 October 2021

'Get vaccinated' top German minister tells Kimmich

'Get vaccinated' top German minister tells Kimmich
BERLIN: Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich has been told to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by Germany's acting interior minister.
This happened after the footballer sparked a lively debate by revealing he had opted out of receiving jabs against the coronavirus.
"Think again and get vaccinated," Horst Seehofer, a senior figure in Angela Merkel's outgoing government, told Bild in a message aimed directly at Kimmich.
"You are a personality with exemplary character. And if you get vaccinated, other people will say, 'then I'll do it too.'"
Kimmich, who captained Germany in a recent World cup qualifier, sparked a fierce debate in Germany at the weekend when he revealed he opted not to get vaccinated, because of "personal concerns".
Medical experts have criticised his stance, accusing Kimmich of neglecting his duty as a role model in football-mad Germany.
"Joshua Kimmich is an expert in football matters, not of vaccination and vaccines," fumed Thomas Mertens, chairman of Germany's Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko).
In a video interview for German daily Bild on Wednesday, Seehofer urged Kimmich to rethink his position as "vaccination is the main weapon in the fight against the pandemic".
Germany has seen a sharp rise in numbers of those testing positive for the coronavirus with 23,212 new cases reported Wednesday.
Of Germany's population of 83 million, around 66 percent are fully vaccinated.
Kimmich appears to be in the minority as more than 90 percent of footballers and backroom staff in Germany's top two leagues are vaccinated, according to figures released Tuesday by the German Football League (DFL).
Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann is currently isolating at home after testing positive for the coronavirus last week.
Bayern Munich team-mates Thomas Mueller and Manuel Neuer have made it clear they feel Kimmich should get vaccinated and the midfielder has not ruled out doing so in the future.
"There is a very good chance that I will still get vaccinated," Kimmich said Saturday, "It's simply that I still have concerns."
Bayern president Herbert Hainer has said he would be happy if Kimmich gets vaccinated, but pointed out there is no compulsory vaccination in Germany.

Pakistan’s Shadab, Rauf say wins ‘much needed’ in World Cup

Pakistan’s Shadab, Rauf say wins ‘much needed’ in World Cup
Updated 27 October 2021

Pakistan’s Shadab, Rauf say wins ‘much needed’ in World Cup

Pakistan’s Shadab, Rauf say wins ‘much needed’ in World Cup
  • Fast bowler Rauf anchored Pakistan’s five-wicket win against New Zealand in Sharjah
  • Pakistan romped home in the 18.4 overs after early hiccups

SHARJAH, UAE: Vice captain Shadab Khan and fast bowler Haris Rauf said Pakistan’s two wins in as many matches as “much needed” at the start of the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Fast bowler Rauf anchored Pakistan’s five-wicket win against New Zealand in Sharjah on Tuesday, as the 2009 champions followed Sunday’s impressive victory over arch-rivals India.
Rauf, who took 4-22, said he bowled to a plan.
“I was given a plan and I am happy that I executed that well and got four wickets,” said Rauf whose effort restricted New Zealand to 134-8 in 20 overs.
Pakistan romped home in the 18.4 overs after early hiccups with veteran Shoaib Malik (26) and Asif Ali (26) saw them off during an unbroken 48 run stand in 3.5 overs.
Rauf said he has been learning the trade of taking wickets, having featured in the 2019 Big Bash in Australia.
“It is a learning process for me,” said Rauf who took 20 wickets for Melbourne Stars. “Big Bash and Pakistan Super League were the first platforms from where I have learnt a lot.”
Pakistan, who now have four points in Group 2 of the Super 12 Stages, next play Afghanistan in Dubai on Friday.
Shadab termed the win as “clinical.”
“We needed these two wins for a head start in the Twenty20 World Cup and through some good bowling and fielding we have achieved that,” said Shadab.
Shadab said Malik’s experience was “invaluable.”
“Malik took the game to the final overs and that shows how much experience he has and with him anchoring the innings we were sure that we will cross the target.
“The confidence is very high and we want to take this momentum in our next matches as the first target is to reach the semifinals.”


State holding Australian Open says no to unvaccinated players

State holding Australian Open says no to unvaccinated players
Updated 27 October 2021

State holding Australian Open says no to unvaccinated players

State holding Australian Open says no to unvaccinated players
  • Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is one of many players who have refused to share their vaccination status

MELBOURNE: Unvaccinated players will not get special dispensation for the Australian Open, the top official in the state holding the Grand Slam said Wednesday, potentially ruling out reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic.
A leaked email earlier this week suggested that players who were not inoculated against the coronavirus would be able to take part as long as they completed 14 days’ quarantine.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison then said that unvaccinated players would be permitted to enter the country if they received an exemption, which the host state Victoria would need to apply for on behalf of players.
But Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews quickly ruled that out.
“We are locking people who are unvaccinated out of pubs, cafes, restaurants and the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and all sorts of other events,” he said.
“We’re not going to be applying for an exemption. Therefore, the issue is basically resolved.”
Australia’s federal government controls the country’s border and issues visas.
But during the pandemic state governments have run quarantine facilities and imposed vaccine mandates, making it unclear who will get the final say on the Australian Open rules.
Nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic is one of many players who have refused to share their vaccination status, casting doubt over whether he will defend his title at Melbourne Park in January.
This year’s Australian Open was hit hard by the pandemic with all players going through two weeks of quarantine, while crowds were restricted and a five-day snap lockdown called mid-event.
A leaked WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) email on Monday had suggested unvaccinated players will be allowed to compete at the 2022 event if they complete hotel quarantine and submit to regular coronavirus testing.
Fully vaccinated players are expected to be able to enter Australia without quarantining or being confined to bio-secure bubbles, the email added.
Tennis Australia said earlier this week it was working with both the Victorian and federal governments on conditions for players, saying it was “optimistic that we can hold the Australian Open as close to pre-pandemic conditions as possible.”


Saudi Arabia U23 footballers set out on Olympic journey in Uzbekistan

Saudi Arabia U23 footballers set out on Olympic journey in Uzbekistan
Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia U23 footballers set out on Olympic journey in Uzbekistan

Saudi Arabia U23 footballers set out on Olympic journey in Uzbekistan
  • Young Falcons open 2022 Asian championship campaign on Wednesday with their eyes firmly set on 2024 Paris Games

For Saudi Arabian football, the road to the 2024 Paris Olympics starts on Wednesday. The journey to France will be a long one, but should be successful in the end.

To qualify for France, Saudi Arabia will have to finish in the top three of the 2022 Asian U23 Championships. However, the young Falcons first have to qualify for that continental tournament which will be held next year.

That campaign to reach the Asian championships starts on Wednesday when Saudi Arabia meet Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

Usually, taking on the host nation is no easy task, especially in the opening game, but this time it should not be a huge deal. This is because the Central Asian nation are also hosts of the Asian Championships next year. Their presence is already guaranteed, which means their results will not be counted.

That, in turn, means there are only two games of note in Group D. If Saudi Arabia finish above Kuwait, whom they face on Saturday, and then Bangladesh, a team they take on three days later, then the deal is sealed.

Even if the top spot is not seized, then all is not lost. There is still a place in Uzbekistan for four of the best 11 teams that finish in second.

In truth, it should not be a problem to get there. Saudi Arabia has a promising U23 team, as was seen last summer at the Olympics. In fact, it is more than promising, and the team is one of the best in Asia.

That was apparent in Japan. Tokyo 2020 may have ended with no points from three matches from a team that promised much, but there was plenty to be happy about.

Saudi Arabia were in the toughest of groups, which included Brazil, Ivory Coast and Germany, and lost all three games. However, that was not the full story. In all of the clashes, the Saudis were in with a chance of points until late in the game. What cost the team was a lack of ruthlessness in attack and, at times, inconsistent defending.

On the face of it, to finish pointless was a disappointment, but the team’s performance in the face of quality opposition was more than encouraging.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri kept his position as head coach and now has the job of taking the team to the AFC U23 Championships next June in Uzbekistan.

There is plenty of talent in the team, though Al-Shehri has had to battle with the clubs to get the players he wants, such as Firas Al-Buraikan and Abdullah Al-Hamdan. It is understandable that the head coach would like more time with the talented forward. He also understands that his club counterparts feel the same way.

“The clubs in the Saudi Professional League naturally want to keep their players as long as possible,” Al-Shehri said. “It is not easy for anyone as the games are not part of FIFA’s official matchdays. We would have liked to have spent more time with the players we had with us last week, but we have only two days to prepare. We will do our best, however.”

He added: “We know what we have to do and we will not be underestimating any of the teams that we have to face here. Every team is difficult to beat and every game is difficult. If we are not at our best then we will pay the price.”

While Saudi Arabia should be confident of qualifying for the U23 Championship, there have been, so far, mixed results from Arab teams.

In Group A Qatar defeated Yemen 3-0, while Syria thrashed Sri Lanka 5-0. In Group C, Iraq beat Maldives to go top, while Jordan defeated Turkmenistan 1-0. The setbacks so far have come with Lebanon losing 1-0 to Tajikistan, UAE suffering a 2-1 loss against Kyrgyzstan and Oman losing 2-1 to India.

Saudi Arabia should be able to add some wins to the Arab column, however. The young Falcons have what it takes to go all the way to Uzbekistan next year and then France two years later.

 “We are looking to get off to a winning start,” said the Saudi coach. “But we know that there is much work to be done.”