The longest Asian Champions League tournament in history ends on Saturday — more than 11 months after the first ball was kicked — when Ulsan Horang-i of South Korea meets Iran’s Persepolis in Doha, Qatar in the final.
The outbreak of coronavirus caused the tournament to be suspended from March to September. Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, stepped in to stage all the remaining games in a biosecure setting.
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Ulsan has been in Doha since November, playing eight games in 23 days, including last Sunday’s 2-1 semifinal win over Vissel Kobe of Japan, and winning all eight to set a tournament record.
After missing out on the K-League title on the final day of the last two seasons, Ulsan is looking to end 2020 on a high and add to its 2012 Asian title.
“Before we came here, morale was low in our squad because we had lost two domestic titles,” Ulsan coach Kim Do-hoon said. ”But after we arrived the players tried to enjoy the moment and we tried to make our own atmosphere as a team. I really appreciate everyone’s effort.”
Junior Negrao, the top scorer in the 2020 K-League season, has scored five times in the continental tournament and scored both goals in the come-from-behind win over the big-spending Kobe.
“We have the opportunity to make history for the club in Asia,” the Brazilian told the K-League’s official home page. “We just have to enjoy it, we don’t have to put pressure on ourselves."
If Ulsan takes the title it will be South Korea’s 12th continental crown, a record in the Champions League and its Asian Club Championship predecessor. Iran, in contrast, has not produced a champion since 1993.
Unlike its busy opposition, Persepolis has not played in December, arriving in Doha a week early in order to prepare though the 2018 beaten finalist is missing a number of key players.
Striker Issa Alekasir, who has four goals in the tournament, was suspended by the Asian Football Confederation for six months in October after making a “discriminatory gesture” during a goal celebration in the quarterfinal win against Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan. Midfielders Ehsan Pahlavan and Vahid Amiri are also out.
“Ulsan are a strong team and deserved to be in the final match. They are a disciplined team and play attacking football,” coach Yahya Golmohammadi said. “We will be without three key players in this match but we want to lift the trophy, that’s why we are here.”
Robert Lewandowski won the biggest individual prize of his career Thursday, showing that a forward not named Messi or Ronaldo can be voted the world’s best soccer player.
The Poland captain was named the FIFA Best Men’s Player for 2020 after his 55-goal season lifted Bayern Munich to a sweep of international and domestic trophies.
Lewandowski topped a three-player shortlist that included Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Voting was by a global jury of national team captains and coaches, plus selected journalists and fans. Lewandowski received 52 voting points, with Ronaldo second on 38 Messi third with 35.
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Though FIFA hosted the virtual ceremony in Zurich, its president Gianni Infantino went to Munich to present the trophy in person.
Bayern's Robert Lewandowski, left, scores despite the challenge of Wolfsburg's Maxence Lacroix during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and VfL Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, Dec 16, 2020. Photo: AP
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Lewandowski, who at age 32 made the shortlist for the first time.
Lewandowski joined Luka Modric, the Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder who won in 2018, as the only players in the past 13 years to deny both Messi and Ronaldo the victory.
“Today I am among them," Lewandowski said in comments translated from German. “It means I’ve always done the right things in my life.”
Lucy Bronze was voted the best women’s player to give England its first individual victory at the FIFA awards. A Champions League winner with Lyon, she has since joined Manchester City.
Gothenburg's Anna Csiki, left, with Manchester City's Lucy Bronze (20) during their women's Champions League soccer match round of 32 1st leg, at Vallhalla Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden, Wednesday Dec 9, 2020. Photo: AP
Bronze got 52 points from the women's voting jury. Pernille Harder, who helped Wolfsburg to the Champions League final, finished second with 40 points and Bronze's former Lyon teammate Wendi Renard scored 35 points.
Lewandowski is also the first men’s winner from a club outside Spain since Ronaldo won the 2008 award as a Manchester United player.
A Bayern player had not won since FIFA created a world player award in 1991.
The club twice saw its stars relegated to third place by Messi and Ronaldo: Franck Ribéry in Bayern’s Champions League winning year of 2013, and Manuel Neuer one year later after Germany won the World Cup.
Jurgen Klopp, who coached Lewandowski at their former club Borussia Dortmund, denied Bayern a sweep of the FIFA men’s awards by being voted the best coach for a second straight year.
Liverpool's manager Jurgen Klopp smiles after being awarded as Men's coach of the year during the Best FIFA Football Awards Ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland, Thursday, Dec 17, 2020. Photo: AP
Klopp guided Liverpool to become champion of England for the first time in 30 years, and finished tied in votes with Hansi Flick, who took over at Bayern mid-season. Klopp won in the tiebreaker of most votes from national-team coaches. Marcelo Bielsa of English second-tier champion Leeds was third.
Sarina Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to the 2019 World Cup final, was voted the best coach in women’s soccer ahead of Lyon's Jean-Luc Vasseur and Emma Hayes of Chelsea. Wiegma will take over the England team next year.
Son Heung-min’s end-to-end dribble to score for Tottenham against Burnley won the Puskas Award for best goal.
Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford was honored for his campaign to fight child poverty. FIFA made a donation of $100,000 toward his charitable work.
Best goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Sarah Bouhaddi (France, Lyon).
Fair Play Award: Mattia Agnese, a teenage player in Italy who saved the life of an opponent who lost consciousness after a clash of heads.
Fan Award: Marivaldo Francisco da Silva who walks for 11 hours to see his favorite team play in Brazil.
The eight-team final round of the National School Football Tournament 2019-20 begins Friday at the Outer Stadium in Paltan Maidan in the capital.
Senior Vice President of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) Abdus Salam Murshedy will inaugurate the meet at 3pm.
Chagalnaiya Pilot High School of Feni will play Suti GM Pilot High school of Tangail in the lone opening day's match soon after the inaugural ceremony.
BFF member and Chairman of the National School Football Committee Bijon Barua disclosed the details of the meet at a press conference at the BFF office on Thursday.
BFF General Secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag and Head of the Corporate Communication and Branding of the meet's sponsor IFIC Bank Ltd Naila Tarannum Chowdury were also present on the occasion.
Eight teams, split into two groups, will take part in league basis group stage matches from December 18 to 23. The schedule of the semifinals and the final will be announced later.
Earlier, 57 school teams from 57 districts took part in the first phase of the meet, completed in March this year.
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The grouping of the season's curtain raiser soccer meet, the Walton Federation Cup Football Tournament' 2020 was finalised through a ceremonial draw and logo unveiling ceremony at the BFF conference room on Sunday.
The Federation Cup Football with the participation of all the 13 Premier Division Football teams will kicks-off on December 22 at the Bangabandu National Stadium here.
Two traditional rivals Dhaka Abahani and Dhaka Mohammedan have been placed in Group D alongside Muktijoddha SKC while league champions Bashundhara Kings put in Group C alongwith Chattogram Abahani Ltd and Rahmatganj MFS.
Senior Vice President of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) and Chairman of the Professional League Management Committee Abdus Salam Murshedy MP was the chief guest at the function.
Executive Director of the meet's sponsor Walton Group FM Iqbal Bin Anwar Dawn, BFF members Bijon Barua, Zakir Hosssin Chowdhury, Nurul Islam Nuru, Tipu Sultan, Mohidur Rahman Miraj, Deputy Chairman of the league committee Abdur Rahim and BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag were also present on the occasion.
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Group A : Sheikh Russel KC, Sheikh Jamal DC and Bangladesh Police FC.
Group B: Saif Sporting Club, Arambagh KS, Brothers Union Club and Uttar Baridhara Club.
Group C: Bashundhara Kings, Chattogram Abahani Limited and Rahmatganj MFS.
Group D: Dhaka Abahani Limited, Muktijoddha Sangsad KC and Dhaka Mohammedan SC Ltd.
Top two teams from each groups will qualify for the quarterfinals.
The champions team will receive Tk 5 lakh and the runners-up team will get Tk 3 lakh as prize money.
Besides, all the 13 participating teams will get Tk 2 lakh as appearance money.
Bangladesh Football Federation, in a media release, confirmed it today (Saturday) evening.
Bangladesh football team accompanied by the coaching staffs departed Qatar after playing their FIFA World Cup' 2022 and AFC Asian Cup ' 2023 joint qualifiers against hosts Qatar on December 4, but captain Jamal Bhuiyan stayed back for a few days for personal reasons.
Bangladesh midfielder cum captain Jamal Bhuiyan underwent Covid-19 test on Thursday (Dec 10) in Qatar before flying for Bangladesh, but the result came out positive, despite he has no symptoms of the virus.
In the media release, the BFF informed that the Bangladesh captain is now in isolation at a hotel in Doha, and the BFF is maintaining close touch with Qatar Football Association in a view to provide all sorts of assistance for him.
In the circumstances, Jamal Bhuiyan's contract with traditional Kolkata Mohammedan to play in the Indian I-League beginning on January 9, has become uncertain.