Fans have mixed response to footballers expressing solidarity over Gaza conflict

Fans have mixed response to footballers expressing solidarity over Gaza conflict
Top-tier footballers, including Mohamed Salah, Karim Benzema and Noussair Mazraoui, have sparked controversy in recent days after voicing their opinions on the situation in Gaza via social media posts. (File)
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Updated 20 October 2023
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Fans have mixed response to footballers expressing solidarity over Gaza conflict

Fans have mixed response to footballers expressing solidarity over Gaza conflict
  • Arab News interviews supporters who share differing views over players voicing opinions via social media
  • Brazilian-Portuguese coach Jorvan Vieira says players have a right to express themselves as ‘humans’

BEIRUT: Top-tier footballers, including Mohamed Salah, Karim Benzema and Noussair Mazraoui, have sparked controversy in recent days after voicing their opinions on the situation in Gaza via social media posts.
Players’ comments expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza have attracted millions of conflicting responses and drawn condemnation.
Bayern Munich’s Moroccan Mazraoui, Mainz’s Dutchman Anwar El Ghazi, Nice’s Algerian Yousef Atal and others were suspended or subject to questioning by their clubs after sharing their opinions on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Arab News interviewed a cross-section of fans, who expressed mixed reactions over players’ use of social media to share their viewpoints.
Brazilian-Portuguese coach Jorvan Vieira believes that “football never works with politics, but unfortunately nowadays, there is politics in football and all sports in general.”
Although the public might condemn their comments, players have the right to express themselves as “humans,” Vieira said, adding that reacting to events in Gaza is based on “humanitarian grounds.”
He said: “Some people might misinterpret players’ opinions, saying this is political, but this is humanitarian. People who judge players or condemn them must see themselves in the mirror before condemning someone for their actions or words.”
Vieira said that players and coaches have the right to express themselves freely, even though they risk being condemned or not getting hired later due to their statements.
According to Lebanese fan Abed Mohamed, football players are public figures and “high morals” should be the major guideline for their behavior and public statements.
“They should stand for justice and should not take a side because of the clubs they represent,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the large amount of money they earn may sometimes govern their opinions and public statements in line with their clubs’ policies, which might be sometimes unjust and unfair.”
Meanwhile, Sudanese fan Yehya Yacoub believes “players’ freedom to express their opinion must be respected and not violated or suppressed.”
However, he added that “sports should not be involved in politics. Politics and sports do not mix.”
Lebanese fan Ahmad Mosbah believes that footballers should avoid commenting on such conflicts.
The 81-year-old, a lifelong football fan, said: “Salah is famous for donating millions to needy people in his country. Undoubtedly, most European clubs (like their governments) will take sides. So, why involve himself in such an unneeded situation that could backfire on him and eventually affect those getting donations from him (if) Liverpool part ways with him?”
Jordanian fan Taymour Fares believes it is a “murky situation for players at such intense times to comment or not.”
Fares said: “Players should react independently, each based on his clubs’ stance from what is happening, so that they do not land themselves in unneeded troubles or embarrassment.”
Media expert Bassel Ibrahim, from Syria, said: “Social media platforms are such a strong tool. If famous players utilize (it) properly and wisely, that by itself could influence any cause worldwide.”
He supports players sharing their views, and urged other famous footballers, both current and retired, to address the Israel-Hamas conflict and any other international issue through their social media posts.


Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat

Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat
Updated 22 April 2024
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Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat

Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat
  • Liverpool are now in second place, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference and one point ahead of third placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand on their two title rivals
  • Everton took a giant stride toward extending their 70-year stay in the English top-flight in a highly controversial victory over Forest

LONDON: Liverpool got back on track after a miserable week as a 3-1 win at Fulham kept their Premier League title bid alive, while Nottingham Forest launched an astonishing rant at the officiating in their 2-0 defeat against Everton on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side crashed out of the Europa League quarterfinals against Atalanta on Thursday after suffering a damaging Premier League defeat at home to Crystal Palace last weekend.

The Reds’ hopes of giving Klopp a glorious farewell were dwindling but they climbed back into the title race with a much-needed first win in three league games.

Liverpool are now in second place, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference and one point ahead of third placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand on their two title rivals.

Next for Liverpool is the Merseyside derby at Everton on Wednesday, while Arsenal host Chelsea on Tuesday and City travel to Brighton on Thursday.

“Fulham usually cause us more problems so it was a good performance at the right moment,” Klopp said.

“We want to stay in that race, that’s clear. Arsenal won yesterday, Manchester City will win their game in hand, so we have to win games and that’s what we’ll try.”

Klopp responded to signs of fatigue from his team in recent weeks by dropping Mohamed Salah to the bench among five changes.

And Liverpool took the hint with a more cohesive display by the banks of the River Thames in west London.

Trent Alexander-Arnold put Liverpool ahead in the 32nd minute with a superb free-kick that flashed into the top corner.

Fulham defender Timothy Castagne levelled from close-range after Liverpool failed to clear in first half stoppage-time.

Ryan Gravenberch restored Liverpool’s advantage in the 53rd minute with a swerving blast from the edge of the area for his first Premier League goal.

Diogo Jota wrapped up the points in the 72nd minute, drilling a clinical low finish into the far corner.

Everton took a giant stride toward extending their 70-year stay in the English top-flight in a highly controversial victory over Forest.

Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil scored the goals that took the Toffees five points clear of the relegation zone.

Forest remain just one point above the bottom three and were left dismayed at being denied three strong penalty appeals.

The club’s official account on social media platform X called into question the Premier League’s integrity by claiming the VAR official is a fan of relegation rivals Luton.

“We warned the PGMOL (referees’ governing body) that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him,” Forest said in a statement said.

“Our patience has been tested multiple times. NFFC will now consider its options.”

Aston Villa tightened their grip on Champions League football next season with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth.

Villa shrugged off the exertions of having to go to extra-time and penalties in midweek to book their place in the Europa Conference League semifinals against Lille.

Unai Emery’s men even had to come from behind after Dominic Solanke opened the scoring from the penalty spot.

Morgan Rogers’ fine finish just before half-time proved to be the turning point.

Moussa Diaby slotted in from Ollie Watkins’ pass to put Villa in front.

Watkins was the provider once more for Leon Bailey to tap in to seal the points 12 minutes from time.

Victory takes Villa six points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham.

Spurs have two games in hand but still have to play all of title challengers Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in their final six matches.

David Moyes’ future as West Ham manager looks more uncertain after they were thrashed 5-2 at Crystal Palace.

Michael Olize headed in the opener before Eberechi Eze’s spectacular acrobatic effort found the roof of the net.

Emerson Palmieri’s own goal made it 3-0 before Jean-Philippe Mateta struck twice for Palace either side of half-time.

Michail Antonio’s strike and a Tyrick Mitchell own goal was scant consolation for West Ham.


Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona
Updated 22 April 2024
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Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona
  • Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September
  • Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league

MADRID: Real Madrid took a huge step toward winning the Spanish league title after beating Barcelona 3-2 with a stoppage-time goal by Jude Bellingham in the final “clasico” of the season on Sunday.

Barcelona twice took the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium but Madrid came back to win for a comfortable 11-point cushion over their second-place rival entering the final six rounds.

Bellingham scored the winning goal from a difficult angle one minute into stoppage time with a left-footed strike into the top of the net after a cross toward the far post by Lucas Vazquez, who also scored and set up a goal by Vinícius Júnior.

It was the third straight win for Madrid over Barcelona this season. Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September.

The clasico came four days after Madrid eliminated Manchester City on penalties in England to advance to the Champions League semifinals. Barcelona had been eliminated a day earlier by Paris Saint-Germain after a loss at home, leaving the league as the Catalan team’s only title opportunity for the season.

Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, the hero for Madrid in the shootout against City, miscalculated a cross into the area in Barcelona’s first goal and failed to fully clear a ball in front of the goal in the second.

Barcelona, the defending league champions, came to the Spanish capital looking to revive their title chances and took an early lead with a header by Andreas Christensen six minutes into the match.

The hosts equalized with Vinicius converting an 18th-minute penalty kick before Barcelona went ahead again with Fermín Lopez’s goal from close range in the 69th. Vazquez, who was fouled after a run inside the area to prompt the penalty converted by Vinícius, evened the match again after a cross by the Brazil forward in the 73rd.

Vazquez was one of the changes made to the squad by Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti after the match against City. He also used Luka Modric alongside Toni Kroos in midfield, and Aurélien Tchouaméni in the defense.

Barcelona loudly complained about the penalty awarded to Madrid and wanted one for themselves after a challenge on López in the second half. They also complained over a potential goal in the first half when it wasn’t clear if the ball crossed the goal line before Lunin batted it away. It took several moments before video review determined that it was not a goal.

It was likely the last clasico for Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez, who earlier this season said he will leave the club at the end of the season.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong left the field on a stretcher late in the first half after hurting his right leg in a clash with Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde.

The match marked the debut of the new state-of-the-art video screens at the renovated Bernabeu.

ATLETICO STRUGGLE

Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league, missing a chance to strengthen its hold on fourth place.

The defeat against 13th-place Alaves kept Atletico only three points ahead of fifth-place Athletic Bilbao in the fight for a Champions League spot next season. Athletic had been held to a 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Granada at home on Friday.

Atletico failed to advance in the Champions League after losing to Borussia Dortmund 5-4 on aggregate following a 4-2 loss in Germany on Tuesday.

Alaves, which had lost three league matches in a row, won with goals by Carlos Benavídez in the 15th minute and Luis Rioja in second-half stoppage time.

In other results, sixth-place Real Sociedad were held 1-1 at midtable Getafe, while ninth-place Villarreal won 2-1 at last-place Almeria.


Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final
Updated 21 April 2024
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Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final
  • Red Devils win shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick

LONDON: Manchester United overcame an astonishing collapse to beat Coventry on penalties in an FA Cup classic on Sunday, setting up a second straight FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Erik ten Hag’s men won the shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick after the teams were level at 3-3 after extra time.

The game perfectly encapsulated a chaotic season for Ten Hag’s men, who are well off the pace in the Premier League and had a Champions League campaign to forget.

There was no hint of what was to come when United coasted into a 3-0 lead against their second-tier opponents in the London sunshine, with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

But they have made a habit of tossing away leads in recent weeks and the match against Coventry proved no different.

Second half strikes from Ellis Simms and Callum O’Hare gave the 1987 FA Cup winners hope and Hajji Wright leveled from the penalty spot in the 95th minute, capping a scarcely credible comeback.

Coventry fans taunted Ten Hag with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as belief infused the massed ranks of supporters clad in blue.

Coventry manager Mark Robins famously played a key part in United’s FA Cup final win in 1990, a victory that launched two decades of success under Alex Ferguson.

But his team’s push to reach the Championship playoffs has faded in recent weeks and they traveled to Wembley as underdogs despite United’s stuttering season.

United, 12-time winners of the competition, settled early and took the lead in the 23rd minute after a fine move down the right.

Alejandro Garnacho fed the overlapping Diogo Dalot, whose cross went under the hands of the diving Bradley Collins and was tapped in by McTominay from close range.

Marcus Rashford forced a fine save from Collins late in the first half but United doubled their lead from the resulting corner, with Maguire heading home from Fernandes’ cross.

Coventry, who scored twice in stoppage time to beat Premier League Wolves in the quarter-finals, struggled to make inroads against an organized United team.

They looked brighter in the early stages of the second half.

But the wind was taken out of their sails when Fernandes’s shot found its way past Collins in the 58th minute, courtesy of a deflection off defender Bobby Thomas.

O’Hare headed over from an angle as Coventry continued to probe but they pulled a goal back when top scorer Ellis Simms connected with a cross from substitute Fabio Tavares in the 71st minute after United’s defense switched off.

They made it 3-2 in the 79th minute when O’Hare’s shot from just outside the box looped off Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s back and over Onana.

Coventry’s fans were now in full voice as their team mounted waves of attacks.

Substitute Victor Torp hit a stinging shot from the edge of the area with five minutes of normal time to go, forcing Onana into a sharp save.

But Coventry still were not finished. Wan-Bissaka was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area and Wright scored from the spot to take the match into extra time.

Coventry looked the more likely winners in 10 long minutes of stoppage time but could not find a winner.

United captain Fernandes rattled the crossbar in the fourth minute of extra time when set up by substitute Amad Diallo.

Simms then smashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar as time ran out.

Coventry thought they had won it in the dying moments when Torp poked the ball past Andre Onana but a VAR check ruled that Wright was marginally offside.

The Championship side drew first blood in the shootout when Casemiro’s weak penalty was saved by Collins.

But O’Hare and captain Ben Sheaf failed to convert, leaving Hojlund with the job of sending United through and he made no mistake.

Manchester City beat Chelsea 1-0 in the other semifinal on Saturday.


Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final
Updated 20 April 2024
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Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final
  • Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal
  • Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time

LONDON: Bernardo Silva fired Manchester City back into the FA Cup final as the Portugal midfielder’s late strike sealed the holders’ 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal, but Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time.
Shaken by their Champions League quarter-final loss against Real Madrid on penalties in midweek, City took a while to shake off the gloom from the end of their treble bid.
They were hampered by the absence of Norway striker Erling Haaland after he suffered a knock against Real, with Julian Alvarez unable to make an impact as his replacement.
City were bailed out by Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson’s profligacy and Guardiola will hope the hard-fought success provides a timely lift as they chase a Premier League and FA Cup double.
City face Manchester United or Coventry, who meet on Sunday, in the final on May 25 and will retain the Premier League title if they win their last six games.
It will be City’s 13th final in the competition and potentially a repeat of last year’s 2-1 win over United in the Wembley Manchester derby.
Beaten by Liverpool in the League Cup final in February, Chelsea’s wait to win their first domestic trophy since the 2018 FA Cup goes on for another season.
It was a bitter blow for Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has endured a difficult first season in charge and remains without silverware in England.
The semifinal was billed as in-form Chelsea forward Cole Palmer’s chance to punish his old club for selling him to the Blues in September.
Guardiola said Palmer was asking to leave City for two years before he eventually joined Chelsea, where he has scored 23 goals in all competitions this, including 11 in his last six games.
Palmer, who scored four times in Monday’s 6-0 rout of Everton, was a constant threat for Chelsea, but ultimately it was his team’s lack of killer instinct that proved decisive.
Palmer’s pin-point pass sent Jackson racing into the City area early on, but his strike lacked the accuracy to beat Stefan Ortega in a miss that foreshadowed Chelsea’s fate.
Jackson wasted a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the goal their dominance deserved.
Enzo Fernandez’s pass split the City defense, but Jackson opted to go around Ortega rather than shoot and the chance was gone as Nathan Ake scurried back to clear.
Playing with more purpose and quality than City, Pochettino’s team threatened again as Palmer cleverly shimmied past Rodri for a low drive from 12 yards that was well saved by Ortega.
It was the first time lethargic City had failed to muster a first half shot on target since a game against Everton in February.
Jackson, in the midst of a terrible debut season, was put clean through on goal by Conor Gallagher immediately after the interval.
But the much-maligned striker’s shot was palmed away by Ortega, who clawed away a close-range header from Jackson seconds later.
City finally tested Djordje Petrovic through Phil Foden’s snap-shot, but the Serbian was equal to his powerful strike.
Chelsea appealed in vain for a penalty when Jack Grealish’s arm blocked Palmer’s free-kick, while Moises Caicedo was fortunate to escape a second booking for a crunching tackle that forced Grealish to limp off.
Grealish’s replacement Jeremy Doku drew an immediate save from Petrovic with a near-post blast.
Doku’s presence lifted City and the Belgian played a part as they stole the victory in the 84th minute.
Advancing with intent toward the Chelsea area, Doku slipped a pass to Kevin de Bruyne, whose low cross was pushed out by Petrovic to Silva for a close-range finish that deflected home as Guardiola punched the air in relief.


Mueller bags brace, Kane hits goal 33 as Bayern thump Union

Mueller bags brace, Kane hits goal 33 as Bayern thump Union
Updated 20 April 2024
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Mueller bags brace, Kane hits goal 33 as Bayern thump Union

Mueller bags brace, Kane hits goal 33 as Bayern thump Union
  • Just a week after Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen broke Bayern’s 11-year title run, the visitors were dominant and clinical in the German capital
  • Mueller, playing his 470th Bundesliga game for Bayern, scored both of his goals in the second half, either side of a strike from Tel

BERLIN: Harry Kane claimed his 33rd league goal of the season and Thomas Mueller scored twice as Bayern Munich hammered Union Berlin 5-1 away in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Just a week after Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen broke Bayern’s 11-year title run, the visitors were dominant and clinical in the German capital.
Kane blasted in an excellent free-kick and laid on a second-half goal for Mathys Tel and has now 51 goal involvements in all competitions this season, his best-ever mark.
In the Bundesliga, the England captain is eight shy of Robert Lewandowski’s single season record with four games remaining.
Bayern rested star attacking midfielder Jamal Musiala after Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Arsenal sent them through to the final four of the Champions League but they had no difficulty creating chances against the Union defense.
Handed a rare start, French teenager Tel set up Leon Goretzka’s 29th-minute opener, with Kane scoring a superb free-kick in first-half stoppage time.
Mueller, playing his 470th Bundesliga game for Bayern, scored both of his goals in the second half, either side of a strike from Tel.
Union, who faced Real Madrid and Napoli in the Champions League this season, pulled one back late through Yorbe Vertessen, have now won just one of their past eight and sit three points clear of the relegation places.
Earlier , RB Leipzig tightened their grip on fourth place, the final guaranteed Champions League spot, with a 2-1 win at Heidenheim as Lois Openda scored his 23rd goal of the season.
Leipzig striker Benjamin Sesko opened the scoring shortly before half-time, pouncing on some disorganized defending from the home side for his 10th league goal this term.
Heidenheim, who have beaten Bayern Munich and drawn with Dortmund twice in their first season in the top division, struck back with 20 minutes remaining, Nikola Dovedan heading in following a free-kick.
Leipzig, who are in a battle with Champions League semifinalists Dortmund for fourth place and host them next week, grabbed the winner with five minutes remaining when Openda tapped in a Mohamed Simakan pass.
Leipzig sit three points clear of Dortmund who host champions Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. Fourth place is guaranteed to play Champions League but fifth could also qualify due to the strong performances of German sides in the competition this season.
RB captain Willi Orban was pleased his side made it through an “incredibly difficult match,” telling Sky “plenty of top sides have dropped points here, but we’ve taken all three — it was deserved.”
Elsewhere, a hat-trick from Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Robin Hack was not enough as his side lost 4-3 at Hoffenheim.
Hoffenheim led 3-1 midway through the second half before Hack scored twice in 11 minutes to level the score with just a minute remaining, but Anton Stach scored in stoppage time for the home side to snatch victory.
Bottom side Darmstadt won their first league match since October, beating second-last Cologne 2-0 thanks to goals from Oscar Vilhelmsson and Cristoph Klarer.
Despite the win, Darmstadt remain 10 points from safety with four games remaining.
Cologne’s chances of beating the drop are falling fast. They are five points away from 15th-placed Bochum, the final safe spot.
Bochum lost 1-0 at Wolfsburg, with Ralph Hasenhuettl’s side winning thanks to a goal from Jonas Wind.
Wind’s goal deepened Bochum’s woes a week after sacking coach Thomas Letsch, with the side just one point clear of the relegation spots.