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Mixed feelings for German clubs after UEFA Champions League draw

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BERLIN, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) — Borussia Dortmund’s supporters experienced a roller-coaster of emotions on Thursday.

While the transfer of Germany’s top striker, Niclas Fullkrug, from Werder Bremen might have ignited euphoria, the mood dampened hours later with the draw of the 2023-2024 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, and Premier League side Newcastle have made Group F a potential minefield for the 2012 German champions. Club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke described it as “the most difficult group” and called the draw “a vast challenge.”

Coach Edin Terzic said the club’s ambition to reach the knockout stage remains unchanged and vowed a lion-hearted effort.

Group C also looks challenging for Champions League newcomers Union Berlin, who will face Spanish giants Real Madrid, Italy’s reigning champions Napoli, and Portuguese side Braga.

Venturing into uncharted territory with modest expectations, Union might view its group games as an adventurous journey, especially considering their promotion to the top tier just four years ago in 2019.

Union president Dirk Zingler said “a day that made our fans and me happy. To play Real and Napoli in competitive games is a unique experience we gratefully take.”

Berlin defender Robin Knoche anticipates a “breathtaking atmosphere” and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the team’s supporters.

Reaching the knockout stage seems like a tall order for both Union and Dortmund.

The 2020 treble winners and German record holders Bayern Munich, along with 2020 Champions League semifinalists Leipzig, have a realistic shot at advancing to the next round.

While Bayern will face off against Manchester United, Copenhagen, and Galatasaray in Group A, Leipzig is eyeing Group G’s second spot, presumably behind the 2023 Champions League victors Manchester City, but ahead of Young Boys and Red Star Belgrade.

Leipzig’s sporting director, Max Eberl, recalled the painful memory of the Sky Blues’ quality, referencing RB’s crushing 7-0 defeat in the last 16 round the previous season.

Leipzig will not only confront goal-machine Erling Haaland but also Josko Gvardiol. The Croatian international’s transfer to the Citizens this summer for 90 million euros, plus bonuses, made the 21-year-old the priciest defender in football history.

Bayern’s latest signing, England captain Harry Kane, expressed on social media that he “can’t wait for it.”

Bayern chairman Jan-Christian Dressen called for a better performance than in the past three years, noting, “as we got kicked out in the last eight three consecutive times since taking the trophy in 2020.

Source(s): Xinhua

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The table tennis star Dheema, first Maldivian athlete to qualify for Olympics

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The table tennis star, Fathimath Dheema Ali, who will be partaking in the upcoming Paris Olympic Games, has received a warm welcome upon returning to Male’ City. Dheema showcased her exemplary skills amidst stiff competition from the finest table tennis players in South Asia and emerged victorious in the South Asia Regional Olympic Qualifications. Her triumph signifies a momentous milestone for the Maldives in the realm of international sports.

Upon arrival back to the Maldives, the Minister of Sports, Fitness and Recreation Abdulla Rafiu and senior officials of the ministry along with the President of Maldives Olympic Committee (MOC) Mohamed Abdul Sattar and key figures from the Table Tennis Association of the Maldives extended their heartfelt and warm welcomes to Dheema. The minister organised a special ceremony held in the Youth Centre, commemorating the groundbreaking achievement of Dheema.

Speaking at the ceremony, President of the table Tennis Association Ali Rasheed rejoiced, stating that Dheema’s historic performance marked a significant milestone in the history of the Maldives. Highlighting that this remarkable victory was a result of 10 years of her unwavering commitment and dedication, Ali affirmed that the administration and countries in which she received training played a pivotal role for her success. On this stance, he expressed heartfelt gratitude towards all who were engaged in assisting to ensure this significant opportunity was secured.

While Dheema successfully qualified for the Olympic Games, previously Maldivian athletes competed in the games in invitational (tripartite) opportunities provided. As such, Maldivian athletes have been actively participating and competing in athletics, badminton and swimming since 1988.

Source(s): PsmNews

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Minister announces survey for 20-year sports development plan

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Minister of Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Abdulla Rafiu has announced a special survey for the Maldives’ 20-year sports development plan.

The draft plan was developed in February and focuses on cultivating top athletes by training coaches in schools, hosting major tournaments in the Maldives, and expanding sports associations’ activities in the atolls.

At a press conference, Minister Rafiu highlighted ongoing collaboration with sports associations. He said that detailed work on the long-term policy is available on the ministry’s website. He also said that the survey is a critical part of the process and spans 22 pages and requires time for completion by each association.

Additionally, Minister Rafiu mentioned agreements with Malaysia for training athletes and administrators. He also said that discussions about the plan have taken place with France, and talks are ongoing with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Source(s): PsmNews

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Mbappe announces PSG departure at end of season

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MARSEILLE, May 10 (Xinhua) — Kylian Mbappe confirmed on Friday that he will leave French Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season, without revealing his next destination.

But according to multiple media reports, he will join the La Liga powerhouses Real Madrid after the season ends.

“I wanted to announce to you all that it’s my last year at Paris Saint-Germain. I will not extend and the adventure will come to an end in a few weeks,” Mbappe said in a video posted on social media.

“I will play my last game at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.”

The French international joined PSG on loan from Monaco in 2017 and officially signed with the capital-based side after the season ended for a transfer fee of 180 million euros.

During his seven years with the team, Mbappe helped the club claim six league titles and three French Cup victories, making 306 appearances and scoring 255 goals, becoming the top scorer in the team’s history.

“It’s a lot of emotions, many years where I had the chance and the great honor to be a member of the biggest French club, one of the best in the world,” said the 26-year-old.

“It allowed me to arrive here, to have my first experience in a club with a lot of pressure, to grow as a player of course, by being alongside some of the best in history, some of the greatest champions,” he added.

“It’s hard and I never thought it would be this difficult to announce that… but I think I needed this, a new challenge, after seven years.”

PSG have already secured the Ligue 1 title of this season and reached the French Cup final, where they will compete for the championship against Lyon on May 25th.

However, in the Champions League where the team most aspired to make a mark, they suffered another disappointing exit as they were eliminated in the semifinals after being defeated in both legs by Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.

Source(s): Xinhua

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