Real Madrid might stands in the way of Dortmund fairytale in Champions League final

Real Madrid might stands in the way of Dortmund fairytale in Champions League final
Football fans pose by a giant replica of the Champions League Trophy at the Champions Festival in Potters Fields Park near Tower Bridge in London Thursday. The Champions League final between Dortmund and Real Madrid takes place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 31 May 2024
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Real Madrid might stands in the way of Dortmund fairytale in Champions League final

Real Madrid might stands in the way of Dortmund fairytale in Champions League final
  • Madrid’s rich Champions League tradition means there are also a number of personal feats at stake on Saturday
  • The English Football Association (FA) have invested £5 million ($6 million) into improving safety and infrastructure at Wembley

LONDON: Borussia Dortmund face the acid test after a fairytale run to Saturday’s Champions League final as a star-studded Real Madrid roll into Wembley expecting to be crowned European champions for a 15th time.

No club can come close to the Spanish giants’ success in the competition and they are strong favorites against a Dortmund side that have beaten the odds just to make it to London.

Madrid’s habit of somehow getting over the line when it matters in the Champions League has been exemplified in their run to the final.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men withstood a barrage from defending champions Manchester City to win their quarterfinal tie on penalties before another legendary late fightback at the Santiago Bernabeu to beat Bayern Munich in the last four.

The Spanish champions rightly travel to the English capital with confidence as they look to cap a memorable season.

Madrid have lost just twice in 54 games in all competitions, storming to the title in La Liga by 10 points and thrashing Barcelona 4-1 to lift the Spanish Super Cup along the way.

“I came here because I wanted to win, and to expect it,” said Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham, who left Dortmund for the Spanish capital 12 months ago.

“It is a bit greedy almost, but you have to be confident when you’re playing with so many great players.”

Bellingham’s career path shows the scale of the task awaiting Dortmund.

Plucked from English Championship side Birmingham as a teenager, he was molded and developed by the German giants before being picked off by Madrid for a transfer fee in excess of €100 million ($109 million).

Without him, Dortmund struggled domestically this season, finishing fifth in the Bundesliga, 27 points adrift of Bayer Leverkusen.

Yet, Edin Terzic’s men have saved their best for the Champions League stage to reach the final for the third time in the club’s history and first since they lost at Wembley to Bayern Munich 11 years ago.

Dortmund topped the group of death featuring Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Newcastle.

PSV Eindhoven and Atletico Madrid were then seen off before a heroic defensive display kept out PSG over two legs in the semifinals.

“They’ve prepared their season around the run in the Champions League,” added Bellingham.

“They’ve played amazingly, the character and mentality they’ve shown in a lot of games. They’ve had a tough run to the final as well and you have to respect that.”

As impressive as keeping out Real-bound Kylian Mbappe was in the last four, Dortmund realize they must go to another level if Madrid are to lose a European final for the first time since 1983.

“Our goal wasn’t to qualify for the final, our goal is to win the Champions League,” said Dortmund fan turned coach Terzic.

“And if you want to win the Champions League, you have to beat the champions. Now the absolute champion in the history of soccer and especially in this competition is waiting for us. The ultimate boss.”

Madrid’s rich Champions League tradition means there are also a number of personal feats at stake on Saturday.

Ancelotti can extend his record as the only coach to win the European Cup four times.

Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, in the final club game of his career, could match Madrid legend Paco Gento as the only player to win the competition six times as a player.

UEFA will be hoping the focus is on the protagonists on the field come full-time to ensure their decision to return to Wembley for a major final is not questioned.

Three years ago, the final of Euro 2020 was marred by violence as ticketless fans stormed the stadium doors to gain entry.

UEFA were also forced to apologize to Liverpool fans for the organization of the 2022 Champions League final in Paris that an independent review found “almost led to disaster.”

The English Football Association (FA) have invested £5 million ($6 million) into improving safety and infrastructure at Wembley, which is also set to host the Euro 2028 final.

“We never foresaw events like that for the Euros final and I’m not sure we will again but we’ve learned lessons and additional measures have been implemented,” said the FA’s director of tournaments and events Chris Bryant.


Riyadh to host African Super Cup between Egyptian rivals Al Ahly, Zamalek

Riyadh to host African Super Cup between Egyptian rivals Al Ahly, Zamalek
Updated 41 sec ago
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Riyadh to host African Super Cup between Egyptian rivals Al Ahly, Zamalek

Riyadh to host African Super Cup between Egyptian rivals Al Ahly, Zamalek

RIYADH: Riyadh will host the CAF Super Cup between two of Africa’s top teams in September, organizers announced on Friday.

The head-to-head will see the current African Champion League holders Al Ahly take on fellow Egyptian side Zamalek, who are the current African Confederation champions.

Confédération Africaine de Football President Patrice  Motsepe said: “The partnership between CAF and Saudi Arabia is based on the excellent relationship and mutual commitment of both parties.”

Turki Alalshikh said: "We are delighted to host the African Super Cup at Riyadh Season, which represents one of the most important tournaments on the African continent.”

The match will take place on Sept. 27, but the venue and kick-off time are yet to be announced.

Both teams clashed in the Egypt Cup in the Saudi capital in March, with Al Ahly beating their city rivals 2-0 and winning the trophy for the 39th time.

Al Ahly finished third in the Saudi-hosted FIFA Club World Cup in December, with English champions Manchester City defeating Brazil’s Fluminense in the final.


Saudi PIF increases stake in Newcastle United as co-owner Amanda Staveley departs

Saudi PIF increases stake in Newcastle United as co-owner Amanda Staveley departs
Updated 13 min 16 sec ago
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Saudi PIF increases stake in Newcastle United as co-owner Amanda Staveley departs

Saudi PIF increases stake in Newcastle United as co-owner Amanda Staveley departs
  • The Public Investment Fund’s stake in the English Premier League club increases from 80% to 85%, while co-owner RB Sports and Media holds the remaining 15%
  • Club chairperson Yasir Al-Rumayyan says: ‘The ownership group … will continue to build on these foundations for long-term sustainable success for the team and our amazing fans”

NEWCASTLE: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has increased its ownership stake in English Premier League football club Newcastle United from 80 to 85 percent.
The agreement, confirmed by the club on Friday, marks the departure of husband-and-wife co-owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi. As part of the consortium that took over the club almost three years ago, Staveley’s company PCP Capital Partners initially held a 10 percent ownership stake, though this was reduced to 6 percent last year when co-owner RB Sports and Media increased its stake from 10 to 14 percent; it will now rise to 15 percent.
The deal is expected to be completed this month, with the PIF and RB saying it is part of their long-term plans to develop the club and ensure it can be a consistently credible competitor in domestic and European competitions.
The PIF, RB and the Newcastle United board thanked Staveley and Ghodoussi for the key role they played in the acquisition of the club from former owner Mike Ashley, and for their dedication to the development of a framework for long-term success over the past two-and-a-half years.
Newcastle’s chairperson, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, said: “Amanda and Mehrdad will forever have our tremendous thanks and well-wishes as they move on to focus on their other business interests. We have achieved so much together since 2021, including achieving Champions League football in our first full season as stewards of this incredible club.
“The ownership group, together with CEO Darren Eales and the club’s executive team, will continue to build on these foundations for long-term, sustainable success for the team and our amazing fans, and we are excited about the future prospects for Newcastle United.”
Staveley described Newcastle as a special, unique club and said being its co-owner has been an honor.
“Mehrdad and I have loved being part of this club and community and are extremely proud of the progress Newcastle United has made in recent years,” she added.
“Our ambition has always been aligned to the brilliant fans of this club: to create consistently successful teams that regularly compete for major trophies and generate pride across the globe.
“We are grateful to have played our part in setting up the club for even more future success. We will remain fans for life.”


Spain winning Euro priority not Golden Boot race with Kane: Olmo

Spain winning Euro priority not Golden Boot race with Kane: Olmo
Updated 12 July 2024
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Spain winning Euro priority not Golden Boot race with Kane: Olmo

Spain winning Euro priority not Golden Boot race with Kane: Olmo
  • Olmo and Kane are tied on three goals with four other players and if either score in the final on Sunday in Berlin they will likely claim the prize
  • However, with Spain angling for a record fourth European Championship, Olmo said the team’s target was far more important than his own individual glory

DONAUESCHINGEN, Germany: Spain playmaker Dani Olmo is vying for the Euro 2024 golden boot with England’s Harry Kane, but said Friday he doesn’t care about winning it as long as his team lifts the trophy.
Olmo and Kane are tied on three goals with four other players and if either score in the final on Sunday in Berlin they will likely claim the prize.
However, with Spain angling for a record fourth European Championship, Olmo said the team’s target was far more important than his own individual glory.
“It’s an extra motivation, if there’s even room for that, but look, as long as we win, I don’t care if I score or if (Spain goalkeeper) Unai Simon does,” Olmo told reporters.
“I don’t care at all, the important thing is winning the game, but I always have the objective of helping to chip in.”
Olmo has also created two goals for his team-mates but unlike in the past when that was used as a tie-breaker, the award will be shared by any players joint-top of the charts.
The RB Leipzig midfielder did not start the tournament as part of Spain coach Luis de la Fuente’s first choice side but made a strong impact off the bench when given the chance.
Olmo replaced the injured Pedri in the quarter-final win over hosts Germany, scoring and setting up the winner for Mikel Merino.
The midfielder also struck against France in the semifinal and has scored in all three knock-out rounds Spain have played.
“In this tournament I feel very good, in a great moment of form, so I have to keep taking advantage of it,” continued the 26-year-old.
“It’s true (Kane and I) are tied, but there are other players too who have helped us get here, with goals and good play.
“Speaking of goals, Fabian (Ruiz) has two goals, Alvaro (Morata) has one — if he scores a hat-trick then he will win it, and we’d be just as happy — it doesn’t matter who scores, the main thing is the team.”
Olmo scored a hat-trick for Leipzig as they beat Bayern Munich 3-0 in the German Supercup final on Kane’s debut for the Bavarian giants last August.
The England captain has still not won a trophy in his career at club or international level, finishing a runner-up with England in the Euro 2020 final.
Kane, 30, has struggled for form and peak fitness at the Euros despite managing three goals.
“Of course it would be a dream to score a hat-trick (again) and win it,” added Olmo.
“But I repeat, the goal is just to win it.”


CONMEBOL open probe into violent clashes at end of Copa semifinal

CONMEBOL open probe into violent clashes at end of Copa semifinal
Updated 12 July 2024
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CONMEBOL open probe into violent clashes at end of Copa semifinal

CONMEBOL open probe into violent clashes at end of Copa semifinal

MIAMI: Copa America organizers CONMEBOL have opened a disciplinary investigation into the “acts of violence” at the end of Wednesday’s semifinal between Uruguay and Colombia in Charlotte.

Uruguay’s Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez was among the players who waded into the stands at the Bank of America Stadium and exchanged punches with fans during what CONMEBOL called “unacceptable” scenes.

Uruguay central defender Jose Maria Gimenez said players had leapt into the melee out of concern for the safety of family members and loved ones watching the game in that section of the ground.

Uruguay are scheduled to face Canada, at the same stadium, in the third place game on Saturday and it remains to be seen if any of their players are suspended for that game.

“In light of the acts of violence that occurred at the end of the match between the national teams of Uruguay and Colombia, the Disciplinary Unit of CONMEBOL has decided to open an investigation to clarify the sequence of events and the responsibilities of those involved,” the South American confederation said.

CONMEBOL said they would not accept any repeat of the incidents, which saw fighting between the two sets of supporters, for Sunday’s final between Argentina and Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

“On the eve of our Copa America final, we want to reaffirm and warn that no action that tarnishes a global football celebration will be tolerated, involving both the protagonists and the fans present in the stadium for a final viewed by hundreds of millions of spectators worldwide.

“It is unacceptable that an incident like this turns passion into violence. Therefore, no behavior that violates the spirit of the sport and the world’s most beautiful spectacle, which belongs to the whole family, will be tolerated,” they added.

Gimenez said that the players had got involved to protect their family members and was critical of the local police in the venue.

“Our family was in danger. We had to go to the stands to take out our loved ones, with tiny newborn babies,” the Atletico Madrid player said.

“There was not a single police officer... I hope those who are organizing this are a little more careful with the families,” he said.

As well as the incidents in the stands, there were also clashes on the field at the final whistle involving players from both teams.


SPL outlines priorities for player acquisitions, club development before new season

SPL outlines priorities for player acquisitions, club development before new season
Updated 11 July 2024
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SPL outlines priorities for player acquisitions, club development before new season

SPL outlines priorities for player acquisitions, club development before new season
  • League remains committed to providing a supportive, centralized approach to transfers
  • Clubs continue to attract top-tier talents to their administrative ranks

RIYADH: The Saudi Pro League, in collaboration with all 18 clubs, announced on Thursday its comprehensive preparations and key priorities for the upcoming summer transfer window and the 2024-25 season.
As part of the Player Acquisition Center of Excellence program, which was launched in 2023, the SPL held meetings with all top-flight clubs in the final months of last season to understand more fully their targets and requirements. The program was launched as one of seven in the SPL’s transformation strategy.
The SPL remains committed to providing a supportive and centralized approach to transfers. This includes assisting clubs with squad mapping and player care by offering expertise, governance, and sustainability measures.
The SPL’s priorities for the season and transfer window include supporting existing contracts by prioritizing current deals to ensure the success of players by providing the necessary resources.
Other aims include strategic acquisitions to address clubs’ technical gaps and secure top talent.
Another priority is its sustainability policy, which is to ensure players are signed for technical needs, supported for success, and fairly valued.
Off the pitch, the SPL clubs continue to attract top-tier talents to their administrative ranks.
Al-Shabab recently appointed Domenico Teti as sporting director, while Al-Nassr appointed Fernando Hierro. Both sporting directors join Esteve Calzada, Al-Hilal’s CEO; Ron Gourlay, Al-Ahli’s CEO; Lee Congerton, Al-Ahli’s sporting director; Ramon Planes, Al-Ittihad’s sporting director; and James Bisgrove, Al-Qadsiah’s CEO, as new appointments ahead of the new season.
In addition, the SPL has conducted a series of workshops with partner leagues in Europe and Asia to further develop areas of cooperation and mutual benefit. Discussions have covered topics such as mutual promotion, broadcast development, and alignment on transfer window dates.
The Player Acquisition Center of Excellence program, according to the SPL, serves as a collaborative tool with clubs to enhance their acquisition capabilities.
The program has so far recruited 97 players and reviewed over 200 contracts, significantly reducing contract termination costs and lowering the average age of signed players from 29 to 27.5 years. The ultimate aim is to focus on signing players under the age of 21.