‘Bayern have it all to lose — we can only win’: Dortmund eye final day drama

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Fortuna Dusseldorf's Matthias Zimmermann in action with Borussia Dortmund's Christian Pulisic at the Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund, Germany, on May 11, 2019. (REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler)
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Dortmund's Mario Goetze, center right, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Fortuna Duesseldorf in Dortmund, Germany, on May 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Updated 12 May 2019
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‘Bayern have it all to lose — we can only win’: Dortmund eye final day drama

  • Dortmund must now beat Favre’s former club Borussia Moenchengladbach next Saturday
  • Hopes that Bayern slip up at home to Eintracht Frankfurt next Saturday

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has said that the pressure is now on league leaders Bayern Munich after his side bounced back in the Bundesliga title race on Saturday.
Bayern missed the chance to wrap up a seventh successive title when they were held to a 0-0 draw at RB Leipzig, while Dortmund beat Fortuna Duesseldorf 3-2 to keep themselves in the running until the final round of games next weekend.
“We have given the Bundesliga a final on the last day,” said Watzke. “That is good for the league and we are proud of that.”
“We have been under brutal pressure, but now the pressure is heading south.”
“Bayern have it all to lose, we can only win.”
Having held a nine-point lead at the top of the table in December, Dortmund looked down and out after they slipped four points behind Bayern last weekend.
Yet they battled their way through a nervous game against Duesseldorf to haul themselves back into the race.
“We need to control the game better toward the end and stay calmer,” coach Lucien Favre told Sky, after his team survived a frantic last few minutes.
Dortmund must now beat Favre’s former club Borussia Moenchengladbach next Saturday, and hope that Bayern slip up at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.
“We have to give everything to win in Gladbach,” said Favre.
Bayern, meanwhile, were left to rue a missed opportunity after they were held in Leipzig.
They came within inches of securing the title on Saturday. Leon Goretzka’s second-half goal was ruled out after VAR ruled that Robert Lewandowski’s foot was in an offside position.
Bayern president Uli Hoeness called the offside decision “a joke,” but CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said that Bayern were happy with a point.
“We would rather have won the title today, but the result does not put us in a worse position,” he told Sky.
“In Frankfurt, we face a team who have had a very good season, but we have a good chance to win the championship.”
Bayern have home advantage against Frankfurt next Saturday, and the chance to be crowned champions in the Allianz Arena for the first time ever.
The Munich giants have not secured the title on home turf since 2000, despite having won 12 Bundesliga crowns since then.
Bayern coach Niko Kovac also faces his former club next Saturday, and told Sky that he still talks to his former Frankfurt colleagues.
“I still have contact to one or two players and a lot of contact to the officials there,” said Kovac.
“We will need passion and the will to win next week.”


Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

Updated 23 May 2019
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Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

  • ‘I have an obligation to speak against atrocities,’ basketball star tells Arab News
  • ‘Whatever I am going through in my personal life doesn’t impact my performance on court’

CHICAGO: NBA superstar Enes Kanter says he loves his homeland Turkey as much as he loves professional basketball. 

Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father, and bullied his family after accusing the basketball player of being part of the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president asserts was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two years ago this week, Erdogan demanded that Kanter be arrested, and fears of violence from the Turkish state have gotten so bad that the FBI installed a panic button to help protect the player.

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression.

“His (Erdogan’s) regime’s and his hostility to me began in 2013 when I first start criticizing (the) government on unjust, unfair and illegal closures of college preparatory centers linked to businesspeople in the Hizmet movement,” Kanter said.

 “This closure pretty much became the first public clash between the Erdogan regime and the Hizmet movement,” he added.

“It was obvious that there was something that Erdogan doesn’t like about the Hizmet movement. Up until the closures of college preparatory centers, no one knew about that,” Kanter said.

“The way Erdogan handled this relationship was brutal, ruthless, unjust and unfair. I can’t stand for any of these, so I stood up against this tyranny and started criticizing. Neither Erdogan stopped his approach nor I, and we’ve kept clashing since then.”

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression. (AFP)

Kanter played for the Turkish national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and for the Turkish U18 national team in 2009.

He led Turkey to the bronze medal at the European Championships in France, and was named Best Player and Best Center at the 2009 European Championships by Eurobasket.com. 

Kanter signed with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, the New York Knicks in 2017, and the Portland Trail Blazers in February this year.

The Trail Blazers lost the Western Division Playoffs, the first step to the NBA Championships, to California’s Golden State Warriors in the final game on Monday.

Erdogan’s threats have placed enormous pressure on Kanter, but he insists it has not impacted his performance or his commitment to help the people of Turkey.

“I’m a successful professional athlete, and whatever I’m going through in my private life would never impact my performance on court,” he said.

“They’re two different worlds for me … I’ve known nothing else but basketball … since I was 13, so I guess it’s pretty important,” he added.

“I see basketball and my platform as a way to teach the younger generation how to be successful and hopeful for the future,” Kanter said.

“Once you’re a successful professional athlete, younger generations see you as a role model, so … I’m trying to do my best to set my life as a role model to them,” he added.

“I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities. I believe that as a human being I should be standing for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech … Me being a celebrity makes it easier for people to hear, see and experience what I believe.”

I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities.

Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers center

On Erdogan, Kanter does not mince words. “He’s a dictator by definition. He silences media, destroys opposition, demonizes his critics … so all these make him a dictator,” Kanter said.

“Turkey deserves a leader who’s open minded, democratic, progressive, intelligent, modest and forward thinking, a leader who embraces everybody in the community regardless of their political choices.”

The harassment from Erdogan has put Kanter’s family at risk too. “I can’t say they’re safe when my dad lost his job and got jailed based on terrorism charges because I’m his son,” Kanter said. “These allegations are baseless and ridiculous, so how could I feel they’re safe?”

He said he respects Gulen and the Hizmet movement, rejecting Erdogan’s claims against them.

“I’m so close to Mr. Fethullah Gulen in terms of his life philosophy and teachings. I admire his way of extracting an individual’s inner potential … in order to be a better person in his or her community,” Kanter said.

“Erdogan should know that he’ll be brought to justice one day and pay for his mistakes. First, he should stop all his unjust, inhumane acts against the people of Turkey. Second, he should start making everybody’s life better in Turkey.”

Before moving to the US in 2009 to attend college in California, Kanter was a star basketball player in Turkey’s premier leagues.

He said despite playing for the NBA in the US, he still sees himself as a champion for Turkey and its people.

“I was Turkey’s best basketball player, and I’m still Turkey’s best basketball player. The only difference is that I’m now representing my country in the US. I left Turkey for a better opportunity in my career, to play in the NBA,” he added.

“I think everyone in society has an obligation to speak out on issues of human rights and democracy, and to stand tall against atrocities, inhumane practices and dictatorships,” Kanter said.

Celebrities like himself “have a bigger opportunity to make a difference and to raise awareness on such issues because of our platforms,” he added.

Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. (AFP)