Courage continues to drive Fernandinho and Man City to Premier League glory

Courage continues to drive Fernandinho and Man City to Premier League glory
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Updated 14 May 2022

Courage continues to drive Fernandinho and Man City to Premier League glory

Courage continues to drive Fernandinho and Man City to Premier League glory
  • Despite a devastating loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final, the Brazilian veteran is hoping to leave the Etihad this summer with a 12th major honor

MANCHESTER: In a scene from the “All or Nothing” Amazon documentary series that charted Brazil’s 2019 Copa America campaign, Fernandinho listens intently as “coragem,” the Portuguese word for courage, reverberates around the dressing room.

Seeking to lift spirits and unite his under-pressure team, coach Tite tells the players it is “courage” that will provide them with the mental strength they need in adversity.

“You can lose, but never be defeated,” he says during the impassioned speech, before leading Brazil to their first major trophy in 12 years.

Midfielder Fernandinho won the last of his 53 caps for his country during that Copa America triumph — and courage is a trait the 37-year-old also sees in the club he currently captains, Manchester City, as he seeks to secure the perfect farewell gift of one last success before he departs.

City’s dramatic Champions League exit in the semi-finals this month — having seen a two-goal advantage over Real Madrid wiped out in gut-wrenching fashion when the Spanish champions struck three times late on to win 6-5 on aggregate — would demoralize most teams. All the more so when the pain of last season’s defeat in the final by Chelsea is still raw.

City, though, responded with 5-0 and 5-1 victories over Newcastle and Wolves to keep them on course to retain the Premier League title. Fernandinho expected nothing less.

“Definitely, we are strong mentally or we wouldn’t be in the position we are now, fighting for a fourth Premier League in five years,” he said. “If we are not strong mentally, I don’t know who can be.

“The level we are at now, we know what we are playing for, the players know what they need to do and we have done it before. That’s important, because they understand their responsibility and know how important it is to overcome those difficult situations and give the response to our fans, to give them the title.”

He remains philosophical about the ups and downs of football in general and the Champions League exit in particular.

“In life you have good moments and bad moments constantly,” Fernandinho said. “It was really heartbreaking to lose in Madrid, especially the way the game went. We wanted so much to reach the final but it wasn’t enough. It is football. It is life.

“Losing that final last season and losing that semi-final could be bad moments in my life. But what’s important is the way we reacted. The group of people we have — the players, staff, everyone at the club — everyone gave their contribution. And, after that, we have shown good character and a response.”

Has this City squad displayed greatness, too?

“Yes, definitely,” he replied. “It’s a great team and I’m proud to be part of this and work with them. I was fighting for those two titles but now it’s one and we are 100 per cent going to try to win it. Definitely, I want to finish with that Premier League title … definitely.”

With a three-point lead and seven-goal advantage over their only remaining challengers, Liverpool, City will be crowned champions if they take four points from their final two games, against West Ham on Sunday and Aston Villa a week later.

It would be a fifth Premier League success for Fernandinho, matching the club record set by Sergio Aguero. Yet when he arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013, it was almost a case of Fernandin-who? Some people questioned the £30 million ($36.7 million) purchase of a player who had waived about £4 million owed to him by Shakhtar to complete the move. He went on to prove his worth and is now widely lauded as one of the finest midfielders in the Premier League.

Having decided to return to Brazil this summer when his contract ends, Fernandinho wants to secure a 12th major honor with City to add to the 11 he won with Shakhtar.

“I’m really proud to have been part of this huge club, full of nice people, hard workers, and that’s why City are considered one of the best teams in Europe now,” Fernandinho told Arab News.

“I’m really proud to have been part of this team, to have been part of how they have grown and the history we have made. It’s a mix of emotions now. When I look back, the first time I arrived here so full of expectation; I just came to play well, to win titles. When the years went by, you become a bit more experienced and you win one title and you become hungrier and hungrier to win more.”

Londrina-born Fernandinho left Brazil, bound for Ukraine, in 2005 after three years at Atletico Paranaense, who are one of the clubs currently interested in signing him. He is now ready to continue his career at home, inspired by compatriot Ze Roberto, a former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich winger who continued to play until he was 43.

“It’s hard to leave City but it’s life,” said Fernandinho. “I have a wish to keep playing a little bit more, to get more minutes in games and the chance to play for another club. It’s not decided yet where, and I’m still looking for the offers, but I will definitely go home.

“City tried to get me to stay and I’m really grateful because the way they treat me is full of respect, and me the same, but in the end I just follow my heart. I found the best solution for me was to leave and keep playing for a few more years. I hope I can play on until I am 40; I feel good and if I am capable enough, I want to do that, just to enjoy it.

“But it’s not just about football, you know, it’s about family, to be a bit closer to my family and friends. I have been away from Brazil for 17 years now and it’s not been easy. My dad is getting old, my mum is getting old and they can’t travel a lot to come and visit me, so the best choice is to go back home and stay close to them, and keep working there.”

Often regarded as an unsung hero of Abu Dhabi-owned City’s recent domination of English football, Fernandinho will leave behind him the image of a gentle giant, a tenacious, intelligent, industrious leader on the pitch, yet humble off it as he encourages his teammates to further excel.

Manager Pep Guardiola has hailed the importance of his captain, once describing him as a player “who can do everything.” Deployed at center-back during City’s current defensive crisis, although a muscular problem means he is doubtful for the trip to West Ham, Fernandinho has dutifully stepped up to the challenge whenever and wherever needed.

He has no doubt his teammates will step up, too, and continue to challenge for the biggest prizes, including the one he and they craved so badly.

“I do believe in the future they will win the Champions League and I hope they can win it really, really soon,” said Fernandinho.

“I will be far away but supporting them — and always looking on at them to do well.”


Formula E returns to Morocco for season eight, round 10 at Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan

Formula E returns to Morocco for season eight, round 10 at Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan
Updated 01 July 2022

Formula E returns to Morocco for season eight, round 10 at Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan

Formula E returns to Morocco for season eight, round 10 at Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan
  • Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne leads the way in the Drivers’ World Championship with a five-point advantage over nearest challenger and double champion Jean-Eric Vergne of DS TECHEETAH

SAUDI ARABIA: The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returns to Marrakesh on Saturday for round 10 in the 16-race season, with four drivers pulling ahead in the battle for the drivers’ title.

Going into the Marrakesh E-Prix at the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan, Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne leads the way in the Drivers’ World Championship with a five-point advantage over nearest challenger and double champion Jean-Eric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH).

Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) is two points back in third place, while Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing), who won last time out in Jakarta, sits fourth, but only 12 points back from the standings lead.

With a maximum of 29 points on offer in Marrakesh, any one of those four drivers could lead the championship come the chequered flag on Saturday,

Evans’ win in Indonesia squeezed the margins splitting the top four, with Mortara and Vergne also making the podium last time around to pile the pressure on points pacesetter Vandoorne.

Consistency is key in Formula E if any driver is to assemble a run at the World Championship. The Belgian has finished outside the top five just twice in nine rounds, though both Evans and Mortara have scored in all but two races this season, while Vergne has never failed to tally.

The Atlas mountains provide the backdrop for Formula E’s fifth trip to the city’s centuries-old Agdal district, with the first Marrakesh E-Prix taking place in 2016. The track follows the Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan — named after the crown prince of Morocco — before spilling out onto the streets of Marrakesh’s hotel district.

Renowned for being an energy-zapping circuit, this fast and highly technical track features 12 turns, three straights and a series of bends completing a track length of 2.971 kilometers.

Last time out in Morocco was magic for Antonio Felix da Costa and DS TECHEETAH who dominated proceedings, with victory setting in motion a run to the 2019-20 championship trophy.

Sebastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) sealed the win on Formula E’s inaugural visit in 2016, with Felix Rosenqvist and Jerome D’Ambrosio taking back-to-back victories for Mahindra Racing in 2018 and 2019 before da Costa fired his season six title charge into life a year later here.


Revamped Extreme E set for NEOM Island X Prix in Sardinia

Revamped Extreme E set for NEOM Island X Prix in Sardinia
Updated 01 July 2022

Revamped Extreme E set for NEOM Island X Prix in Sardinia

Revamped Extreme E set for NEOM Island X Prix in Sardinia
  • Automobile Club d’Italia and Regione Sardegna co-organizing event

RIYADH: The countdown is on to the first-ever double-header Extreme E event, as the championship returns to the Italian island of Sardinia for a summer showdown of back-to-back racing on July 6-7 and July 9-10.

NEOM’s title sponsorship of the Island X Prix follows the announcement that Extreme E has entered into a multi-year relationship with ENOWA, NEOM’s energy, water, and hydrogen subsidiary, to introduce green hydrogen power to their global sustainable racing series.

Extreme E continues to showcase innovative sustainable solutions, whether they demonstrate the full potential of e-SUVs or deliver legacy programs at race locations.

The event will be returning to the Season 1 location of the army training area at Capo Teulada in Sulcis-Iglesiente. The Teulada will provide a challenging backdrop for the course, which measures around 7 kilometers.

Due to the hot summer conditions in July, the terrain will be much drier than last year’s Enel X Island X Prix, with the drivers having to navigate a harder, more compact surface riddled with rocks, bushes, and dry riverbeds cracked from the heat.

The purpose-driven message of the series will focus on blue and green carbon restoration in Sardinia, continuing to work alongside the MEDSEA Foundation (Mediterranean Sea and Coast Foundation) to support two significant projects.

For Round Two, the first project explores green carbon. The sport-for-purpose championship will be returning to Sennariolo to visit the communities affected by the devastating wildfires of 2021.

As for Round Three, the second project supports seagrass conservation,  mitigating the detrimental effects of blue carbon in Mediterranean waters.

Extreme E has been working closely with Automobile Club d’Italia - the national sports federation co-organizing and coordinating the event - the Region of Sardinia and its Tourism Department, the Ministry of Defense, and the Italian Army.


Maldini signs new two-year director deal with AC Milan

Maldini signs new two-year director deal with AC Milan
Updated 01 July 2022

Maldini signs new two-year director deal with AC Milan

Maldini signs new two-year director deal with AC Milan
  • Milan icon Maldini's new deal means that the seven-time European champions will keep the duo who built their Scudetto-winning side
  • Maldini worked alongside sporting director Frederic Massara to take Milan from the doldrums to the top of the Italian game

MILAN: Paolo Maldini will stay on as AC Milan’s technical director after signing a new two-year contract, the Serie A champions announced on Friday.
Milan icon Maldini’s new deal means that the seven-time European champions will keep the duo who built their Scudetto-winning side.
Maldini worked alongside sporting director Frederic Massara, who has also signed a two-year extension, to take Milan from the doldrums to the top of the Italian game.
“This deal highlights the importance of continuity we see throughout the club as we continue to strengthen and grow,” Milan said in a statement.
The 54-year-old confirmed late last night that he had signed an extension after weeks of delays which almost led to Milan starting the summer transfer window — which opened in Italy on Friday — without their key men.
He has been critical in Milan signing some of their most important players, one such example being a now-famous meeting in Ibiza which was crucial to bringing Theo Hernandez to the club in 2019.
France left-back Hernandez was a stand-out player in last season’s surprise title win.
Maldini is one of the greatest players in Milan’s history, winning a raft of trophies over a quarter of a century passed entirely with his boyhood club.
He played over 900 times for Milan, winning the European Cup or Champions League five times and claiming seven Serie A titles before retiring in 2009.
That success was not replicated in an Italy jersey despite earning 126 caps, losing in the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000 finals.
Last month Milan announced that current owners, investment fund Elliott Management, had agreed to sell the club to rival US fund RedBird for 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
Milan said that the sale of the club will be completed no later than September.


Mo Salah ends speculation by signing new Liverpool contract

Mo Salah ends speculation by signing new Liverpool contract
Updated 01 July 2022

Mo Salah ends speculation by signing new Liverpool contract

Mo Salah ends speculation by signing new Liverpool contract
  • The Egypt international had entered the final year of his existing contract
  • Salah has scored 156 goals in 254 appearances for the club since arriving in 2017

LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah signed a new three-year contract with Liverpool on Friday which will keep him at the club until 2025.
The Egypt international had entered the final year of his existing contract after negotiations over extending his stay dragged on for most of last season.
The 30-year-old forward’s wage demands had been a stumbling block, but a delegation flew out to meet with the player, who is still currently on holiday in the Mediterranean, and came to an agreement which reportedly makes the forward the highest-paid player in the club’s history.
“I feel great and (I am) excited to win trophies with the club. It’s a happy day for everyone,” Salah told the club’s website. “It takes a little bit of time, I think, to renew, but now everything is done so we just need to focus on what’s next. I think you can see in the last five or six years the team was always going (upwards).”
Salah has scored 156 goals in 254 appearances for the club since arriving in 2017 and has helped them win the Premier League, Champions League, Club World Cup, FA Cup and League Cup during that time.
“If I look back to that time when I came (here), the club were not winning many things but I think I told you I had come (here) to win trophies,” Salah said. “I think we have won good trophies together and I think we can do it again.”
Liverpool won the FA Cup and League cup last season but finished second to Manchester City in the Premier League and lost the final of the Champions League to Real Madrid.


Saudi Arabia basketball team secure spot in second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying

Saudi Arabia basketball team secure spot in second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying
Updated 01 July 2022

Saudi Arabia basketball team secure spot in second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying

Saudi Arabia basketball team secure spot in second round of FIBA World Cup qualifying
  • Saudi Arabia remained composed and saw out the game to seal a 69-67 win

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s basketball team secured their spot in the second round of qualifying for next year’s FIBA World Cup with a come-from-behind win against Indonesia in Jakarta on Friday.

The Saudis were down by 13 points at one point mid-third quarter, but outscored their hosts by 16-2 to lead 49-48 going into the final quarter.

Despite a valiant effort from Indonesia, Saudi Arabia remained composed and saw out the game to seal a 69-67 win, which propelled them to top of their Asia First Round qualifying pool.

The Saudis can go into their preparations for the second round in style if they seal another win on the road when they face Lebanon, who along with Jordan have also qualified for the next phase, in Zouk Mikael on Monday.

Indonesia are co-hosting next year’s basketball World Cup with the Philippines and Japan.