Man City success has exceeded all expectations, says Kyle Walker

Man City success has exceeded all expectations, says Kyle Walker
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Updated 07 October 2023
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Man City success has exceeded all expectations, says Kyle Walker

Man City success has exceeded all expectations, says Kyle Walker
  • Pep Guardiola’s team visit Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday in pursuit of an unprecedented 4th successive Premier League title
  • England right-back has won 13 trophies since he joined the club in 2017

As he reflects on lifting five Premier League titles in the past six years, Kyle Walker says just one in his career would have “more than satisfied” his desire to share trophy tales with his family in the years to come.

When he joined Manchester City in 2017, the only medal the England defender had to show as a professional was for Queens Park Rangers’ 2010-11 second-tier Championship success while he was on loan to the side at the start of that season.

In eight years at Tottenham Hotspur, the closest he came was a 2-0 League Cup final loss to Chelsea in 2015, despite being named PFA Young Player of the Year three years earlier.

It was a $61 million move to City that sparked the gold rush and moments to last a lifetime.

Now Walker has 13 major trophies to his name, but is far from finished, having extended his contract to 2026.

“I envisaged winning trophies because that’s why I signed for this club,” said Walker, 33. “But did I envisage winning as many trophies as I have done? Probably not, no.

“To win one Premier League, I would have been more than satisfied with. To win five, as I have done, and a Champions League, and go on and win a treble in one season, my dreams have come true.

“But you know, I can’t rest on that. This is the bar we have set as players, as a club and as an organization, and we need to keep moving in that direction.”

Last season’s historic treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League remains fresh in the mind of Walker, whose footballing dreams were spawned while growing up on a Sheffield council estate.

The UEFA Super Cup followed in August, swaying his decision to reject interest from Bayern Munich to remain at City.

Another factor was Walker’s desire to be the best right-back in Premier League history.

Former Manchester United captain and England international Gary Neville has long been recognized as the finest in that position, having won eight titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League twice during 19 years at Old Trafford.

And Walker told Arab News exclusively: “It’s always about winning as much as I can and playing at the highest level possible.

“For me, I do want to be remembered and be in contention with the best-ever Premier League right-backs. If I’m in the question that’s what I’m bothered about.

“I’ve been doing it 10-11 seasons now and if I wasn’t doing it that long then I shouldn’t be considered.

“Gary Neville is the one that stands out most, definitely, for the titles he won with Manchester United and the player he was, not just for club, but for country as well.

“I feel he’s still right up there, definitely, but then you also look at the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James, Kieran Trippier — it’s a real good pedigree of right-backs that we have.”

Walker, swift and steely in both defense and attack, feels that it is not just success with City that will enhance his status.

“Winning more trophies always helps to get that recognition,” he added. “But personally, if I can bring another level to my game then that will also do it — and I feel I have started off this season by doing that. Hopefully that makes people see my qualities.

“Football is about opinion and everyone has their opinion, and it is what it is, but as long as I’m in contention, I’ll be happy with that.”

When he does eventually finish playing, Walker will also feel proud of being part of a City team that can proudly stand alongside English football’s greatest Premier League teams, such as Neville’s Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger’s 2004 Arsenal “Invincibles.”

City, who visit Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, are now pursuing an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title.

“For me to compare against the teams like the United one that went on to win multiple titles would be unfair because it’s in a different era,” said Walker.

“I wasn’t there in that era, but I do know that the teams we are playing now and the individuals they have now, it’s scary.

“I do feel this is one of the best teams that I have seen in the Premier League era, most definitely — and I am just glad to be a part of it.

“To surpass what we did last season, it’s just about continuing to do the same. For us to win another treble would be fantastic but it’s very far-fetched — that comes around every so often.

“But then, can we do it? Of course we can. We have got the players to do it and we have got the manager behind us to do it.

That ambition and view is shared by teammate Manuel Akanji.

For the Swiss international, his first season with City was “nearly perfect” — missing out on the Carabao Cup was his only regret.

And, despite winning six of their first seven league games, Akanji believes City are “still in progress” and can get stronger, having undergone significant summer change.

Notable departures included Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte joining Saudi clubs Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, as well as captain Ilkay Gundogan leaving for Barcelona and Cole Palmer for Chelsea.

In came Croatian pair Josko Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic, along with Matheus Nunes and Jeremy Doku.

City visit an Arsenal side who were their main challengers last season, with Mikel Arteta’s Gunners letting an eight-point lead slip in a tense climax.

But Akanji added: “Our focus is not on Arsenal — our focus is on us, to win every game and to show a good performance. We are a team that believes and feels strong.

“That’s why we are all here, we want to win trophies. We won three last year and I hope we can at least repeat it this year.

“Last season would only have been better had we won the Carabao Cup as well. It was nearly perfect for me.”


Allen Iverson immortalized with sculpture alongside 76ers greats Julius Erving and Wilt Chamberlain

Allen Iverson immortalized with sculpture alongside 76ers greats Julius Erving and Wilt Chamberlain
Updated 13 April 2024
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Allen Iverson immortalized with sculpture alongside 76ers greats Julius Erving and Wilt Chamberlain

Allen Iverson immortalized with sculpture alongside 76ers greats Julius Erving and Wilt Chamberlain
  • Few played better in the games for the Sixers than Iverson, who won four scoring titles, an NBA MVP award, and led the franchise to their last trip to the NBA finals in 2001
  • Iverson was feted with a ceremony that nearly rivaled his Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction

CAMDEN, New Jersey: Yes, there is something quite wry about the fact Allen Iverson was immortalized in his crossover pose at — of all sites — the Philadelphia 76ers’ practice facility.

Practice. Not where the Sixers play their games. Practice.

Almost 22 years after AI ranted about “practice” 22 times in an often-spoofed news conference — see, Ted Lasso — even Iverson got a kick out the location of the sculpture unveiled Friday on the team’s Legends Walk, joining the likes of Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley and Maurice Cheeks. The Hall of Famer who made ” talking about practice ” a permanent part of the pop-culture lexicon is now a permanent part of the Sixers’ home.

“I could sit out a practice,” Iverson said after the ceremony. “Play me in the games.”

Few played better in the games for the Sixers than Iverson, who won four scoring titles, an NBA MVP award, and led the franchise to their last trip to the NBA finals in 2001.

His numbers stamped him as one of the NBA’s greats.

His legacy stretched beyond the court, the undersized guard with the supersized heart making the hip-hop element cool in the NBA with his braids, his tattoos, his throwback jerseys — heck, the NBA even instituted a dress code in large part to wipe out Iverson’s influence. His dogged style of play has been emulated to this day by everyone from Russell Westbrook to Ja Morant to even Philly’s own All-Star, Tyrese Maxey.

Never, ever, though, duplicated.

Iverson was feted with a ceremony that nearly rivaled his Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction. Former Sixers teammates and executives Pat Croce, Billy King, Rasheed Wallace, Eric Snow and Aaron McKie posed with and praised AI. Even retired NFL receiver Terrell Owens shot video of the tribute and snapped photos of the statue. Former coach Larry Brown — who famously clashed through the years with Iverson — was in the house.

“Me and Coach didn’t see eye-to-eye on things,” Iverson said. “But he wanted the same thing that I wanted out of my career and our team goals. Once I bought into that, that’s what turned me into an MVP basketball player. That turned us to a team that were winners, that could go to the finals and compete with the best teams.”

The 165-pound guard averaged 31.1 points in 2001, was the MVP of the All-Star game and propped an entire franchise on his 6-foot frame all the way to the finals.

Guided by Brown, the Sixers needed Game 7 wins in consecutive playoff series for the right to play the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers swept their way through the postseason before Game 1 in Los Angeles.

Iverson had 48 points in 52 minutes of an overtime victory. The Sixers didn’t have enough to go the distance and the Lakers won the next four games.

Iverson is still connected with the franchise as a team ambassador and occasionally pops up at a courtside seat and receives a roaring standing ovation each time he is announced to the crowd. Iverson complained last year that his role with the Sixers was “nowhere near what I think it’s supposed to be” but any unhappiness appeared to be smoothed over. Sixers coach Nick Nurse has invited Iverson to spend more time around the team to offer his voice in a mentorship role.

“They came up to me and said that they would love to talk to me about different things on the basketball court and I just love and respect that they respect me because they know I’ve been through what they’re going through at a high level,” Iverson said. “So I’m trying to have my voice be heard as much as possible. I’m doing a lot of things with the organization and I just think that I’m blessed to have that opportunity, to have that relationship with the organization after I retired.”

So, about that statue. Much like Iverson, the tiny depiction took a beating on social media for not being properly lifelike for a statue. But it wasn’t built for sizes normally found outside sports stadiums, but rather is part of a row of similarly-sized ones that line a private walkway that only players, employees and executives (and the media) can access at the practice facility.

“How do you think I got that good? I had to practice,” Iverson said. “I just thought it was a bad rap on me. One day I’m walking in the streets and people come up to me and say ‘Practice? We’re talking about practice?’ and I be like, ‘Man, out of all the things I accomplished in my career, that’s the only thing you can come up with?’ Crazy.”

Iverson wore a Roman numeral III chain (in honor of his retired No. 3 uniform number ) and other Sixers gear including a hat that read “LEG3ND” as he yanked off the cover of the statue. Iverson’s statue shows him wearing a headband and about to launch the crossover — a seminal move in his career that once bewildered Michael Jordan — with a basketball affixed to his outstretched left hand. Part of the inscription said Iverson’s “toughness made him unstoppable.”

As Iverson surveyed the friends, former teammates and family that included his mother that flocked to New Jersey, he could only choke back tears as he expressed his thanks.

“When you think about the statue,” Iverson said, “that’s a representation to y’all people that helped me. To every one that played a part in my development and in my life. When y’all see that statue, y’all could feel good about the part that y’all did in helping me with my life. This is such an honor, man. It don’t even seem real.”


Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti

Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti
Updated 13 April 2024
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Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti

Football’s brightest stars will bounce back, says Ancelotti
  • All four quarterfinal first leg matches thrilled supporters this week but some of the brightest names in the game were below their best on the biggest stage
  • Real Madrid visit Mallorca on Saturday looking to extend their eight-point lead in La Liga before second-placed Barcelona play at Cadiz later in the day

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti predicted Friday that Kylian Mbappe and football’s other brightest young stars would bounce back strongly after disappointing showings in the Champions League.

All four quarterfinal first leg matches thrilled supporters this week but some of the brightest names in the game were below their best on the biggest stage.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe was frustrated in Barcelona’s 3-2 win in the French capital, while Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger shackled Manchester City forward Erling Haaland.

Madrid’s top goalscorer Jude Bellingham also struggled to make an impact in his team’s white-knuckle 3-3 draw with the English champions at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“Calm down, calm down, maybe in the first legs they were below their best, but new games are coming and watch out, watch out for the three (of them),” Ancelotti told a news conference.

Real Madrid visit Mallorca on Saturday looking to extend their eight-point lead in La Liga before second-placed Barcelona play at Cadiz later in the day.

Ancelotti said England international Bellingham, 20, was fulfilling his role, even though his early season goal spree has come to an end.

Bellingham has 20 goals across all competitions for Madrid but just three in his last 13 games.

“Bellingham’s goal output is down, but that was a surprise,” said the coach.

“He’s doing his job, which is more as a midfielder, but in a footballing sense he’s doing very well, not missing anything, just goals, which sooner or later will return.”

The coach said forward Rodrygo Goes, who missed training on Friday, would be fit to face Mallorca.


Official fight song for Tyson Fury v. Oleksandr Usyk Riyadh clash released

Official fight song for Tyson Fury v. Oleksandr Usyk Riyadh clash released
Updated 13 April 2024
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Official fight song for Tyson Fury v. Oleksandr Usyk Riyadh clash released

Official fight song for Tyson Fury v. Oleksandr Usyk Riyadh clash released
  • British WBC title holder Fury takes on Ukrainian WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion Usyk in Riyadh

LONDON: An official song and accompanying music video have been released to promote the upcoming heavyweight boxing match between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia.

British WBC title holder Fury takes on Ukrainian WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion Usyk in Riyadh on May 18 at the Kingdom Arena in the “Ring of Fire” clash.

A clip for “Can’t Lose This Fight” was shared on social media by General Entertainment Authority chairman Turki Alalshikh on Friday.

“This is the fight that everyone has wanted to see for some time and now it is finally happening – the world’s two heavyweight champions going into the ring against one another,” Alalshikh said in a statement in September when the fight was announced.

“It is the biggest fight in boxing, the world will be watching, and we are so proud to be the hosts for this spectacle as part of the fourth edition of our Riyadh Season celebrations.”


Jake Fraser-McGurk shines on IPL debut as Delhi Capitals thrash Lucknow Super Giants

Jake Fraser-McGurk shines on IPL debut as Delhi Capitals thrash Lucknow Super Giants
Updated 12 April 2024
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Jake Fraser-McGurk shines on IPL debut as Delhi Capitals thrash Lucknow Super Giants

Jake Fraser-McGurk shines on IPL debut as Delhi Capitals thrash Lucknow Super Giants
  • Australian’s 55-run knock, studded with five sixes and two fours, came to an end when he holed out to Arshad Khan
  • Delhi moved to ninth in the 10-team contest after registering only their second victory

LUCKNOW: Jake Fraser-McGurk smashed a half-century on his Indian Premier League debut as Delhi Capitals thrashed Lucknow Super Giants by six wickets on Friday to reignite their hopes in the money-spinning T20 competition.
Fraser-McGurk, who had celebrated his 22nd birthday on Thursday, shared a 77-run partnership for the third wicket with captain Rishabh Pant (41) to help Delhi overhaul Lucknow’s 167-7 with 11 balls to spare.
Delhi moved to ninth in the 10-team contest after registering only their second victory from six outings.
Lucknow, who came into the match with three wins out of four, are now placed fourth.
“Spent five-six games on the sidelines itching to get out there,” said Fraser-McGurk.
“I’m so happy to be here, different world in terms of cricket. Never seen anything like it, to be able to savour eight weeks, hopefully more, is amazing.”
Delhi lost opener David Warner early with the Australian dragging a ball from Yash Thakur on to his stumps soon after he was attended to by the physio for a blow he took on his knuckles.
Prithvi Shaw (32) was caught brilliantly by Nicholas Pooran at deep midwicket off Ravi Bishnoi but Pant and Fraser-McGurk steadied the innings with their stand.
Fraser-McGurk, who went unsold in the IPL auction but came in as a replacement for Lungi Ngidi, hit Krunal Pandya for three huge sixes in a row in one over to underline his power-hitting prowess.
The Australian’s 55-run knock, studded with five sixes and two fours, came to an end when he holed out to Arshad Khan, but by then Delhi needed just 28 runs off 32 balls.
Pant went past 3,000 IPL runs before being stumped off Bishnoi for 41 off 24 balls including two sixes and four boundaries.
“We were about 15-20 runs short, we should’ve capitalized to get to 180,” said Lucknow skipper K.L. Rahul.
“McGurk was very unknown. We’ve watched a lot of videos of him but he hit the ball really well, credit to him.”
Earlier, Lucknow were off to a fine start after electing to bat but they stumbled after the powerplay, losing two wickets in two balls to left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav (3-20).
Yadav, 29, had missed Delhi’s last two matches due to an injury.
The slow bowler struck to send back Rahul (39 off 22 balls).
Rahul tried to slash the ball which was turning away and a Delhi review confirmed a nick.
Lucknow were tottering at 94-7 in the 13th over but Ayush Badoni top-scored with an unbeaten 35-ball 55 and shared 73 runs for the eighth wicket with Arshad Khan (20 not out) to ensure a fighting total on the board.
It was the first half-century this IPL season for Badoni, who hit one six and five fours.


ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham

ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham
Updated 12 April 2024
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ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham

ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham
  • Federation was seeking to promote camel sports globally
  • Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, minister of sports and chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, visited pavilion

RIYADH: The International Camel Racing Federation has concluded its participation in the SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit that took place in Birmingham from April 7-11.
The ICRF was seeking to promote camel sports around the world by being present at the event.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the minister of sports and chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, visited the federation’s pavilion on Tuesday, where he received an award that was presented to the SOPC.
Prince Fahad bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, ICRF’s president and SOPC’s vice president; Dr. Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee; and Robin Mitchell, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, were present at the award presentation.
Prince Fahad said: “We are pleased with what the federation’s pavilion presented at this summit, which around 1,500 leaders and key decision-makers from over 120 international federations attended.”
Participation at the event helped publicize camel sports which, according to the ICRF’s president, have a large role in Saudi culture and are a big part of the nation’s identity.
Prince Fahad added: “The federation’s goal through this participation was to shed light on the sport of our fathers and ancestors, which Arab countries have known since ancient times until it became part of their societies.”