Werder Bremen and Schalke ‘ready to deliver’ on Bundesliga return

Werder Bremen and Schalke ‘ready to deliver’ on Bundesliga return
Werder Bremen's Mitchell Weiser and Anthony Jung celebrate after the match against Energie Cottbus in the first round of the DFB Cup. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 August 2022

Werder Bremen and Schalke ‘ready to deliver’ on Bundesliga return

Werder Bremen and Schalke ‘ready to deliver’ on Bundesliga return
  • While Schalke and Bremen only had to wait one season to return, they have adopted contrasting approaches as they seek to stay at the top table

BERLIN: Two of the biggest and most successful sides in German football history return to the Bundesliga this weekend with fallen giants Werder Bremen and Schalke back in the top flight after a season in the second tier.

Bremen have won four Bundesliga titles, most recently in 2004, and six German Cups, the last in 2009.

Schalke have won the German league seven times, the most recent in 1958, and are five-time German Cup winners, last lifting the trophy in 2011.

“Pre-season is over and now it’s time to deliver,” Schalke’s new coach Frank Kramer warned ahead of their opening fixture against Cologne on Sunday.

Bremen open at home against Wolfsburg on Saturday with champions Bayern Munich kicking off the campaign on Friday at Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt.

While Schalke and Bremen only had to wait one season to return, they have adopted contrasting approaches as they seek to stay at the top table.

Schalke have brought in a dozen new players to the squad which won the second division title while Bremen have opted to stick with the core of the side that won automatic promotion with second place.

Werder will also have a British flavor with England under-21 defender Lee Buchanan arriving from Derby and Scotsman Oliver Burke, who spent a season in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig in 2016-17.

Defenders Niklas Stark and Amos Pieper should help Bremen improve their stability at the back.

Most importantly for the ‘Green and Whites’, they held onto Ole Werner, 34, one of Germany’s hottest coaching prospects.

Werder were languishing in 10th place last season when manager Markus Anfang was forced to step down after it emerged he had shown the club fake Covid vaccination certificates.

Werner took charge and was able to right the ship, with Bremen winning 14 of their remaining 20 games to rocket to the top of the table, before finishing the year in second.

Werner was typically pragmatic when asked about the club’s prospects on Thursday, saying “the goal should be that we stay in the division and continue to play in the Bundesliga next year.”

Despite their fall from grace, Schalke remain one of the best supported sides in German football, with more than 70,000 turning out for a fan day in late July, a far cry from the riots which greeted their relegation after winning just three games in 2020-2021.

Schalke, who won the Europa League in 1997 and played in the Champions League semifinals as recently as 2011, have brought in 12 newcomers for their push to return to the elite.

Kramer replaces the popular Mike Bueskens, who played 11 years for the club and won eight of the side’s last nine games to secure promotion last season.

Kramer’s first competitive game in charge of the Royal Blues was a 5-0 German Cup victory over fourth division Bremer SV, although he implored his charges to “stay wide awake” ahead of the sterner test posed by first division sides.

Schalke’s defense will be anchored by centerback Maya Yoshida, with the captain of the Japanese national side arriving on a free transfer from Sampdoria.

Midfielder Alex Kral, free-kick specialist Florent Mollet, striker Sebastian Polter and winger Tobias Mohr are among the other new additions.

Schalke’s frontline will still be led by second-division specialist Simon Terodde, who scored 30 goals in 30 games in 2021-22.

Terodde, 34, scored 172 goals in 283 games in the second division and has topped the season goalscoring charts with four different clubs — Bochum in 2016, Stuttgart in 2017, Cologne in 2019 and Schalke in 2022.

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad
Updated 11 sec ago

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad
  • Cameras will monitor crowd’s behavior after several matches at the venue last season saw objects thrown onto the pitch

Mrsool Park’s stadium has been equipped with 350 security cameras ahead of Sunday’s high-profile clash between Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad in the fifth round of the Roshn Saudi League.

The stadium’s administration announced the installations in a post on its official Twitter account, saying it has adopted the latest security and safety technologies available for the match.

The 350 high-definition cameras are distributed throughout the stadium and will monitor the movements and behavior of the crowd, before, during and after the match.

Last season, several matches that took place at Mrsool Park witnessed spectators throwing objects onto the pitch, which resulted in fines for the clubs involved, including Al-Nassr, owners of the stadium.

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest
Updated 30 September 2022

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest

World’s top jiu-jitsu fighters set for Abu Dhabi’s Asia contest
  • Categories for teens, youth and master grapplers from Oct. 1-2
  • Preparation for world and professional tourneys to come

ABU DHABI: The latest edition of the AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro is set to take place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena, Zayed Sports City from Oct. 1 to 2, featuring some of the world’s best grapplers.

Organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in partnership with Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro, the competition will see hundreds of athletes from various clubs and academies take to the mat over the course of two days for prize money and points in the annual AJP ranking.

Open to all nationalities, the championship features some of world’s top-ranked players in the kids, youth, amateur, professional and master divisions, ahead of the upcoming Jiu-Jitsu World Championship and Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

“The AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro is in line with our vision to stage a range of international competitions that bring the top jiu-jitsu athletes to Abu Dhabi, the global jiu-jitsu capital,” said Mubarak Al-Menhali, technical director of the UAEJJF.

“We are just a few weeks away from the start of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship and the participants are keen to sharpen the technical prowess that qualifies them to compete at the highest levels. The two-day event on the weekend is an ideal platform for them to train and will take them a step closer to achieving their goals.”

Tariq Al-Bahri, general manager at the AJP, said: “The Asia Continental Pro is part of a series of championships AJP organizes across multiple locations in the world. This year we have planned five AJP Tour events in the UAE attracting the top-ranked players. We have experienced an increased demand from the players for the Asia Continental Pro Championship as the winners could win 1,400 ranking points.”

The competitions for the teens (grey, yellow, orange and green belts), youth (white, blue and purple), and men’s master’s (blue, purple, brown and black) categories will take place on the first day of the championship. The amateur (blue) and professional (purple, brown and black) categories for both men and women will compete on the second day.

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League
Updated 30 September 2022

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League

Djokovic, Swiatek among stars to compete in Dubai’s World Tennis League
  • All-new competition will see the world’s best players at inaugural event from Dec. 19-24
  • Lineup includes Nick Kyrgios and Elena Rybakina at the Coca Cola Arena

DUBAI: Some of the world’s top stars, including Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, are heading to Dubai for the inaugural World Tennis League set to take place at the Coca Cola Arena from Dec. 19 to 24.

The new competition will feature many of the best men and women players in the world, as well as offer a novel format featuring two-set battles across both singles and mixed doubles matches, with a 10-point tie-breaker set to decide the final outcome if needed.

After play each evening, ticket holders for what is being billed as “The Greatest Show on Court” can attend concerts featuring artists including Dutch DJ superstars Tiësto and Armin Van Buuren.

Rajesh Banga, chairman of the competition, said: “The World Tennis League will be an event like no other. It brings a unique and engaging new format to the game of tennis, offering a spectacular mix of sport and entertainment together. We can’t wait to welcome fans from around the globe for this momentous event that hails a new era for tennis.”

Djokovic heads the men’s field with world No. 1 Swiatek leading the women’s entry list.

The Serbian former world No. 1 has 21 Grand Slam titles including nine Australian Opens, two French Opens, seven Wimbledons and three US Opens to his name, in addition to five ATP Tour Finals titles. Swiatek, a WTA fan favorite, comes to Dubai following her Grand Slam victories at the French Open and US Open in 2022.

“This new event is exciting, there’s no doubt about it,” said Djokovic. I absolutely love playing in Dubai, I’ve had a lot of success there over the years and really enjoy the fans. This is something different, and it’s going to be great being a part of it.”

Swiatek added: “I like it most when tennis connects people and when it’s true entertainment. When it’s combined with a great show and music, it’s even better, so that’s the reason why I’m excited to join this year’s World Tennis League. I’m happy that together with other top players we’ll introduce tennis as fun to new audiences. I can’t wait.”

Joining the men’s field are Alexander Zverev, a rising star who reached a ranking of two in the world this year, and the resurgent Nick Kyrgios, one of the most colorful characters on the ATP Tour. For the women’s field, former world No. 1 Simona Halep and current Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina will also join the lineup.

A player lottery will be held on Nov. 1, where the 16-player lineup will be split into four teams of four players each, and a round robin format for matches across the tournament. The top two teams will then face off in a final day of matches to determine the overall winner of the World Tennis League in Dubai.

The organizers have confirmed that additional award-winning international artists will be announced for the post-match concerts over the coming weeks.

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league
Updated 37 min 13 sec ago

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league

UAE’s big-name signings rejuvenate football league
  • Kostas Manolas, Adel Taarabt and Allan latest high-profile players to move from Europe

This has been a week like no other in the ADNOC Pro League.

A flurry of big-name additions has turned an unforeseeably strong transfer window into an utterly astonishing one.

Al-Ain’s early summer capture of Ukraine maestro Andriy Yarmolenko, plus Sharjah’s double swoop for Barcelona alumni Paco Alcacer and Miralem Pjanic, surpassed wildest hopes. Yet, these elite deals were just a starting point.

A bravura weekend witnessed the King’s remarkable business continue with esteemed Olympiacos and Greece center-back Kostas Manolas. He of “Romantada” fame and regular extravagantly priced Premier League links.

This would be swiftly followed by Al-Nasr tying up flamboyant Benfica and Morocco midfielder Adel Taarabt, with Al-Wahda emphatically reacting to the new season’s unbearably slow start by securing Everton’s Brazil warrior Allan. The 31-year-old should line up alongside the previously procured Pizzi, a former Benfica skipper and Portugal midfielder.

There was more to come.

Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club made, arguably, Asia’s leading deal of the market with Jason Denayer, the coveted 27-year-old ex-Lyon center-back, holding genuine pretensions about making Belgium’s World Cup 2022 roster.

Al-Jazira decisively reacted to influential Serbia center-back Milos Kosanovic’s fibula surgery by bringing in Czech Republic and Fenerbahce utility defender Filip Novak.

Such revered names were meant to be a thing of the past in the UAE’s topflight. Memories had faded of a gilded age experienced at the previous decade’s midpoint with Ghana superstar Asamoah Gyan, Brazil striker Grafite and Montenegro hit man Mirko Vucinic.

World Cup winners Fabio Cannavaro, David Trezeguet and Luca Toni preceded this celebrated cohort, but with unsatisfactory returns.

The UAE Pro League had consigned itself to casting envious glances in the direction of the Roshn Saudi League and the Qatar Stars League, as stellar name after stellar name chose to disembark within their borders.

Emirati outfits, increasingly, failed to challenge in the AFC Champions League. Al-Ahli and Al-Ain were defeated in the 2015 and 2016 finals. And from 2018 until Wahda in 2021, none of their contingent made the last eight.

This status quo has been shattered. The question now is how markedly.

Change does not occur in isolation.

The UAE has emerged from the COVID-19 health crisis with a burgeoning economy, further bolstered amid 2022’s surging commodity prices.

Financial services giant Deloitte was consulted five years ago by the governing body, the then-named Pro League Committee, as an understandable drive toward self-sustainability was sought. The UAE Football Association would apply a salary cap for local players in the same period.

These aims remain. Increased resources now, though, are available.

Leadership is also key.

The ADNOC Pro League launched expanded English-language commentary for the 2019-20 season as it attempted to tap into wider communities and markets — a venture advanced by this month’s first live studio for Jazira’s epic 2-1 victory in the Capital Derby against champions Al-Ain. More will follow.

Clubs and organizers have also actively engaged with fans to drive numbers back into stands.

Even promoted Dibba Al-Fujairah now call an enviable AED100-million ($27 million) stadium home, while new boys Al-Bataeh are aggressively sweeping up impressive domestic buys and garnering attention.

Yarmolenko, Manolas, Pjanic and company, actualize the UAE’s “build it and they will come” mentality.

The innate strengths of Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s premier competitions are unquestionable. Both leagues, especially the Kingdom’s, recruited extensively this pre-season.

But a familiar face appears poised to re-join them at Asian football’s top table.

Now, a title race to savor in the UAE is the minimum expectation.

Holders Al-Ain’s surprise opening with four points from three matches is a sign of overall strength, not weakness. This is despite landing 2022 Golden Boy nominee Matias Palacios, retaining head coach Serhiy Rebrov and gifting him Yarmolenko’s signature.

The 2020-21 champions Al-Jazira are revitalized by the presence of Romania forward Florin Tanase and electric Morocco winger Achraf Bencharki. Ali Mabkhout, an icon for club and country, has responded with seven goal contributions in 305 minutes.

Sharjah’s spine could hardly be stronger with Manolas, Pjanic and Alcacer. That they possess, potentially, the continent’s outstanding tactician in Cosmin Olaroiu, plus numerous UAE talents, further strengthens last season’s runners-up.

Carlos Carvalhal will, surely, come good at Allan’s Wahda. Leonardo Jardim’s CV speaks for itself at Shabab Al-Ahli and so too Denayer’s and 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin’s.

Dark horses come in the guise of Ittihad Kalba, who welcome Galatasaray loanee Alexandru Cicaldau, and even Bataeh. Former Saudi Arabia boss Juan Antonio Pizzi has made an entertaining start at Al-Wasl, with legendary playmaker Omar Abdulrahman appearing rejuvenated after his fallow spell.

Taarabt has sprinkled stardust into the ranks of Bur Dubai rivals Al-Nasr. First impressions of manager Thorsten Fink are positive.

This glamorous cast has ensured the ADNOC Pro League will put on a show for 2022/23.

Euphoria about enlivening foreign captures was tempered by concurrent international matters.

Tuesday’s 4-0 friendly thrashing by Venezuela followed a 1-0 reversal to Paraguay. Both are within the bottom-three-ranked South American nations by FIFA.

These chastening results evidence how far the UAE game, as a whole, still has to go. No matter the monstrous size of steps being taken.

Defining characteristics of this influx’s lasting legacy cannot be confined to just social media engagements, ticket sales or entertainment value on the pitch, important as these markers are.

Hallowed progression to a second World Cup in 2026 represents real return on investment.

This outlay will be worth every dirham if invaluable lessons learned beside these established stars can transform slender AFC fourth-round qualification defeat for Qatar 2022 into jubilation for Canada, Mexico and the US.

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers
Updated 30 September 2022

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers

India to host MotoGP for first time in 2023: organizers
  • Indian authorities hope the event will boost foreign investment

BURIRAM: India will stage a MotoGP race for the first time in 2023, organizers said on Friday, at the same track that once hosted Formula One.
The race is scheduled to take place at Buddh International Circuit in Uttar Pradesh, to the south of New Delhi.
The track has already played host to Formula One, staging three F1 grands prix between 2011 and 2013.
“We have a lot of fans in India and we’re excited to be able to bring the sport to them,” Carmelo Ezpeleta, chief executive of MotoGP organizers Dorna, said in a statement.
India represents a key market to expand the sport, organizers said, citing a population of 1.4 billion people and more than 200 million motorcycles.
“It’s a matter of great pride for Uttar Pradesh to host such a global event,” Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, said.
Indian authorities hope the event will boost foreign investment.