Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash

Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash
Giovanni van Bronckhorst
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Updated 16 May 2022

Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash

Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash
  • Both clubs have huge fan bases, and tens of thousands are expected to swarm into southern Spain this week to try to see their team succeed again

LONDON: Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers will get a chance to end decades of despair when they meet in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

For Frankfurt, it will be an opportunity to win their first European trophy in more than 40 years. For Rangers, a chance for their first continental title in 50 years.

Triumph in the second-tier competition in the Spanish city of Seville will also guarantee the winner an automatic spot in the group stage of next season’s Champions League.

“For Eintracht, for the fans, for the club, for the players, (winning again after 42 years) would be the most important thing ever,” Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner told UEFA.com. “It has extraordinary significance, great significance, and that’s why we’re going to try our best so that we come home with the trophy and spend one or two nights celebrating with our fans.”

It will be Frankfurt’s first European final since beating Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1980 in an all-German matchup in the UEFA Cup, the predecessor to the Europa League.

Rangers were close to European glory when they played in the UEFA Cup final in 2008, but they lost to Zenit St. Petersburg. The Scottish club is looking for their first European trophy since earning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972.

Both clubs have huge fan bases, and tens of thousands are expected to swarm into southern Spain this week to try to see their team succeed again, prompting concern from local authorities and UEFA.

There had been fan violence involving visiting fans in Seville when local clubs Sevilla and Real Betis hosted matches earlier in the competition. Before the semifinals between Frankfurt and West Ham in Germany, more than 30 arrests were made after supporters of both clubs clashed in several locations in Frankfurt.

Fans of the German club also attracted headlines when more than 30,000 made their way into the Camp Nou in Barcelona for the second leg of the quarterfinals.

UEFA has asked for fans without tickets not to travel to Spain for Wednesday’s final, and warned about the dangers of purchasing tickets on the secondary market.

More than 40,000 seats will be available at Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium, but only about 10,000 tickets were allocated to each club. Seville city officials planned to open fan zones to accommodate those not able to make it to the game.

The match will pit two physical and high-intensity teams with impressive runs to the final.

Rangers, led by captain and top scorer James Tavernier, lost their first two group games but eventually gained momentum. It will be boosted by having already eliminated two German clubs — Borussia Dortmund in the first knockout round and Leipzig in the semifinals.

“When you’re in the knockout stages, it’s all or nothing, and the character of my players has been outstanding,” said Rangers coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who was hired in November after Steven Gerrard joined Aston Villa. “To be able to win against those strong opponents is really good, so we have the character to play this final, we have the qualities, and we also have the belief. That’s the most important thing, to have the belief that you can achieve.”

Frankfurt, led by veteran goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, made it to the final unbeaten after eliminating some strong opponents — Real Betis in the round of 16, Barcelona in the quarterfinals and West Ham in the semifinals. Frankfurt are trying to become the third unbeaten team to win the title in the Europa League era, after Chelsea in 2019 and Villarreal in 2021.

“Every team that gets to the final has earned it because it’s a long road. You have to win a lot of matches,” Glasner said. “Rangers eliminated two top teams from the Bundesliga over two legs. That shows they’re very good and also shows they’re well equipped for German football, so I’m expecting a very even, hard-fought contest.”

The last encounter between the two clubs was painful for Rangers. The Scottish club conceded six goals in each of the two legs of the European Cup semifinals in 1960, being deprived of an opportunity to play a home final in Glasgow. Frankfurt went on to lose the final to Real Madrid 7-3.

Frankfurt have not made it back to Europe’s top club competition since that final, while Rangers made their last appearance in the group stage of the Champions League in the 2010-11 season.

The last time the UEFA Cup final was played in Seville, in 2003, Rangers’ Scottish rival Celtic lost the title to José Mourinho-coached Porto.


Al-Hilal’s winning DNA: 5 things learned as Riyadh giants claimed 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title

Al-Hilal’s winning DNA: 5 things learned as Riyadh giants claimed 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title
Updated 28 June 2022

Al-Hilal’s winning DNA: 5 things learned as Riyadh giants claimed 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title

Al-Hilal’s winning DNA: 5 things learned as Riyadh giants claimed 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title
  • Asian champions have completed remarkable turnaround since February to wipe away 16-point deficit on an Al-Ittihad team now left to rue season after looking certainties for championship

RIYADH: Al-Hilal are champions of Saudi Arabia once again, having at one point looked dead and buried as Jeddah rivals Al-Ittihad held a seemingly insurmountable 16-point lead over them.

But the Riyadh giants are not champions of Asia and the Kingdom for nothing and proved that they remain the country’s worthy champions.

The 2021-22 Saudi Professional League season ended on Monday night, and here are five things — and there could be many, many more — learned from the final action of the campaign.

1. Winning is in Al-Hilal’s DNA

Three successive title wins make it 18 in total. Love them or hate them – and there are plenty in both groups – there is no denying that Al-Hilal know how to win games, and titles.

Eleven victories out of the last 12 is an amazing run, especially when it came after a demanding season with FIFA Club World Cup and Asian Champions League commitments. They usually find a way to find a way.

The 2-1 victory over Al-Faisaly summed up what has been a dramatic campaign. There has been so much action in injury time this season, so many late winning goals and controversies, and Monday was no different.

Al-Hilal may win but they do not always make it easy. There was a goal in each half from Odion Ighalo, who was razor sharp and showed why he finished as the league’s leading goalscorer, but the men from Dammam grabbed a goal back and then there were plenty of nerves for Al-Hilal’s fans.

The game, and the season, ended after 100 minutes with the referee standing by the pitchside monitor looking at a possible penalty for Al-Faisaly. It was not given and that was that. It was a fitting way to end an amazing season.

2. Al-Ittihad will never forget this

This fact will be repeated for years to come; Al-Ittihad were 16 points clear of Al-Hilal in February and they ended up two points behind when it mattered.

Nobody could have predicted that Al-Hilal would take 33 points from the last 36 available but even so, the Tigers had it in the bag. Then they went and dropped 13 points from the last eight games and that is not the form of champions. The 0-0 draw with struggling Al-Batin in the final game of the season summed it all up.

They had so much attacking talent in Igor Coronado, Abderrazak Hamdallah, and Romarinho but they just could not make it happen and the game, similar to the season, petered out with disappointment. As well as the two recent defeats against the champions, coach Cosmin Contra will look back at that 4-4 draw with Al-Feiha in May, when the team threw away a 3-1 lead, as a turning point. It meant there were just five points from the final five games.

The wait for the title now stretches back to 2009. That hurts, as was demonstrated by the tears of goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe at the end, and this does too but, in football, there is always next season.

3. Al-Ahli make unthinkable history

A 0-0 draw at Al-Shabab resulted in Al-Ahli being relegated for the first time in their history. It is truly shocking that the three-time champions, the latest triumph coming just six years ago, and two-time Asian runners-up are now in the second tier.

Two years ago, they were third, then eighth, and now 15th – the drift has been coming. There were reports of dressing room unrest in the past, coaches coming and going, and then injuries at unfortunate times, and when you throw in a poor start with five points from the first seven games then maybe ultimate relegation should not come as such a big shock.

Had they won one of the four games they drew in the final five, things would have been different. This time even the reliable Omar Al-Somah could not save them despite a talented supporting cast that included Ezgjan Alioski, Carlos Eduardo, Abdulrahman Ghareeb, and many others.

For a club that has been drifting, it could be that relegation is the wake-up call they need, but maybe not. The next few weeks will be tough.

4. The relegation battle was quietly dramatic

Going into the final round of games there were seven teams who were genuinely threatened by relegation. It was an amazing position for the league to be in and there were so many twists and turns.

It was not quite the explosive last day that the neutrals had been hoping for as there were not that many goals, with only 14 scored over the eight games.

But there was quiet drama and tension. At any time, had Al-Ahli scored, they would have climbed out of the bottom three. If Al-Faisaly had managed one more, then they would have done the same. If Ettifaq had conceded just once against Al-Feiha then they would have gone down. Had Al-Ittihad scored then it would have meant the end for Al-Batin.

Rarely has there been so much at stake for so many teams going into the final seconds of the season. It has been a long season, more than 10 months, but it was alive right until the end.

5. Al-Nassr and Al-Shabab not far away

For much of the season, the two Riyadh teams were in touch at the top and it was only the amazing winning streaks, first from Al-Ittihad and then from Al-Hilal, that took them out of the hunt.

In the end though, Al-Nassr finished just four points behind the runners-up from Jeddah and six points behind the champions. With the club ready to appoint French coach Rudi Garcia, next season should be an interesting one, and there will be a lot of fans looking to see if the club can keep hold of Talisca, who scored 20 goals in his first season in Saudi Arabia. Recovering from injury, Pity Martinez has started to show the talents that made him a big-money signing back in 2020.

Al-Shabab know what it is like to lose big players after top scorer Odion Ighalo left for Al-Hilal at the end of January and a fourth-place finish seems about right as they lacked a little consistency. These third- and fourth-place teams need to keep their biggest talents and recruit well in the coming weeks. Then they should be ready for a title challenge next time around. This year, they were not far away.


WHO: Qatar World Cup pandemic risks being well run

WHO: Qatar World Cup pandemic risks being well run
Updated 7 sec ago

WHO: Qatar World Cup pandemic risks being well run

WHO: Qatar World Cup pandemic risks being well run
GENEVA: The WHO voiced confidence Tuesday that hosts Qatar would successfully manage the Covid-19 risks at the 2022 football World Cup.
There was no reason to think the pandemic risks would be higher at the November-December tournament than at other major events which have passed off safely, the World Health Organization’s emergencies director Michael Ryan said.
“Properly managed mass gatherings that have the proper planning can be run very safely,” he told a live interaction on the WHO’s Facebook page.
“We’ve been working very closely with the authorities in Qatar on that as WHO, and providing advice as needed to them on how to run a safe World Cup.
“The public health authorities in Qatar have been very engaged... on the public health risk management of the World Cup.
“Overall, the risks are being very carefully managed.”
Two million tickets will be sold in total, with another one million reserved for sponsors and the sport’s global governing body FIFA.
The Qatari capital Doha, with a population of about 2.4 million, is bracing itself for the huge influx of visitors.
“I don’t perceive there’s any more risk with the World Cup than there’s been with any other mass gatherings,” said Ryan.
“I have every faith that they will be able to run a successful World Cup and that it will be a spectacle for the world to enjoy.”
The 32-team tournament — set to be the most geographically-concentrated World Cup in history — kicks off on November 21.

Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro international tour arrives in Fujairah this weekend

Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro international tour arrives in Fujairah this weekend
Updated 28 June 2022

Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro international tour arrives in Fujairah this weekend

Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro international tour arrives in Fujairah this weekend
  • The contest, which caters to various age groups and experience levels, is part of a 160-plus event global tour, five legs of which will take place in the UAE this season
  • The action begins on Saturday with the teens, youth, and men’s masters categories, and concludes on Sunday with the amateur and professional contests

FUJAIRAH: The Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro International Championship arrives in Fujairah this weekend, where hundreds of competitors from clubs and academies will battle it out in various categories, including teens, youth, men’s masters, amateurs and professionals

The AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro, which will take place at Zayed Sports Complex on July 2 and 3, is part of a season-long, 160-plus event global tour, five legs of which are being held in the UAE during the 2022 season.

The Fujairah event is organized by the AJP in cooperation with the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, the crown prince of the emirate.

Youssef Abdullah Al-Batran, a board member of the UAEJJF, said the AJP tournaments in the UAE are among the most important sporting events held in the Emirates.

“This championship attracts the participation of hundreds of competitors across all categories, with different age and weight groups,” he said.

“The skill levels of the participants vary so it provides great opportunities for athletes to compete against a range of opponents. This can only help their preparations for future championships.”

The action begins on Saturday with the teens, youth, and men’s masters categories, and concludes on Sunday with the amateur and professional contests. The winners of each category are awarded 600 ranking points.

Tariq Al-Bahri, the general manager of AJP, said: “The competitors are eagerly waiting for the start of this championship because of its importance and direct impact on their classification, as well as their advancement on the annual rankings ladder.

“This will pave the way for them to qualify and participate in the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.”


Extra time given for bids to host soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup

Extra time given for bids to host soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup
Updated 28 June 2022

Extra time given for bids to host soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup

Extra time given for bids to host soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup
  • The AFC said it extended a deadline to July 15 from June 30
  • The four-yearly Asian Cup is typically played in January

KUALA LUMPUR: Countries wanting to replace China as host of soccer’s 2023 Asian Cup were given extra time to prepare a bid by the Asian Football Confederation on Tuesday.
The AFC said it extended a deadline to July 15 from June 30 for member federations to show interest.
South Korea has said it wants to host the 24-nation tournament which was due to kick off in June next year. The four-yearly Asian Cup is typically played in January.
China gave up last month the 2023 hosting rights it was awarded in 2019, making it the latest international sports event canceled in the pandemic amid the country’s “zero-COVID” policy.
The 2023 host is being chosen during a lengthy bidding process for the 2027 Asian Cup which shapes as a contest between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. India and Iran have also bid.
The AFC executive committee is set to pick the 2023 host this year, before member federations vote for the 2027 host early next year.


ROKiT hoping Marrakech E-Prix is springboard to title success in second half of Formula E season

ROKiT hoping Marrakech E-Prix is springboard to title success in second half of Formula E season
Updated 28 June 2022

ROKiT hoping Marrakech E-Prix is springboard to title success in second half of Formula E season

ROKiT hoping Marrakech E-Prix is springboard to title success in second half of Formula E season
  • Circuit International Automobile Moulay El-Hassan in Marrakech presents a unique challenge for all drivers
  • Semi-permanent track marks return of Formula E World Championship to Morocco

LONDON: The Circuit International Automobile Moulay El-Hassan in Marrakech presents a unique challenge for Formula E teams and drivers alike, and ROKiT Venturi team principal Jerome D’Ambrosio hopes it will act as a springboard for a successful FIA World Championship title drive come the end of the season.

The semi-permanent racing facility will mark the return of the Formula E World Championship to Morocco, and both ROKiT drivers are looking forward to testing their skills on the nearly-three kilometer track.

“After a month away from the track, the team is rested and ready for the big final push this season in which we will complete a total of seven races in only seven weeks,” D’Ambrosio said.

“Since Berlin, we have built a good momentum and this weekend, the goal is to maintain that form.

Marrakech is a circuit that we haven’t raced at since Season 6 but having raced there several times, it’s a circuit that we hold a lot of historic data from.

This will form the basis of our understanding and as always, the goal is to qualify well and score a good haul of points, consistency is the most important aspect of performance at this stage of the season and we will make sure to keep that in mind going into this weekend,” he added.

Title-hopeful Edoardo Mortara got the team's best finish at the circuit in 2020, crossing the line in fifth place. 

“After our podium in Jakarta, I’m really looking forward to taking to the track in Marrakech and capitalizing on the form we know we’re capable of,” he said. 

“Since Berlin, we have been able to establish some good momentum but this definitely doesn’t mean that we can relax.

“We need to take the same approach for this weekend as usual and we know that we have the potential to finish well – we just need to execute a clean race and see where we end up,” he added.

His teammate, Lucas di Grassi, said getting the balance of the car in the hot Moroccan weather will be key. 

“Since the beginning of the season we have shown that we have strong race pace but Marrakech will be very hot so the correct thermal management of the car, tyres and batteries will be critical to unlocking success during the race this weekend,” he said. 

“We’ve prepared really well so I feel confident that a podium finish is within our reach.

“My focus now is to perform at my best and win as many races as possible from now until the end of the season,” he added.