Pep Guardiola says Manchester City Premier League triumph ‘toughest title’ of his career

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, center, celebrates with players and staff after the Premier League match between Brighton and City at the AMEX Stadium in Brighton. (AP)
Updated 12 May 2019
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Pep Guardiola says Manchester City Premier League triumph ‘toughest title’ of his career

  • In most seasons, Liverpool’s tally of 97 points would have seen them crowned champions
  • City came from behind to win 4-1 away to Brighton

BRIGHTON: Pep Guardiola said Manchester City’s 2018/19 Premier League success was the toughest title triumph of his illustrious managerial career.
City came from behind to win 4-1 away to Brighton on Sunday’s final day of the season — a result that meant the reigning champions finished just a point in front of second-placed Liverpool, who won 2-0 at home to Wolves.
In most seasons, Liverpool’s tally of 97 points would have seen them crowned champions.
Guardiola, celebrating his eighth domestic championship in 10 seasons that have featured La Liga and Bundesliga titles with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, was in no doubt about Liverpool’s quality.
“We worked a lot,” he said. “I have to say congratulations to Liverpool of course. Thank you so much. They helped to push us and to increase our standards from last season.”
“To compete against this team pushed us to do what we have done. It’s incredible, 198 points in two seasons.”
“I think last season Manchester City made the standards,” Guardiola added. “That is the level in the Premier League and Liverpool have helped us to be there all the time.”
Guardiola’s side secured exactly 100 points in winning the title last season but the manager was arguably even more impressed by their efforts this term, even if the overall tally was lower.
“To win the title we had to win 14 games in a row,” he explained.
“For two to three months we cannot lose one point and we did it all playing in all competitions until the semifinals of the Champions League.
“It’s incredible. Normally if you get 100 points the tendency is to go down but Liverpool helped us to be consistent.
“This was the toughest title in all my career.”
But Guardiola said next season could be even more competitive.
“It will be tougher but we will be stronger too,” he said.
“When you can win two in a row I have the feeling that next season we will come back and try to be who we are right now.”
Sunday’s result meant Liverpool’s wait for a maiden Premier League title — their last domestic championship was in 1990 — goes on, although they could yet win the Champions League if they beat Tottenham Hotspur when the English rivals meet in a Madrid final on June 1.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, whose 22 goals this season made him a joint-winner of the Premier League’s golden boot award, said the Anfield club would challenge again next term.
“We only lost one (Premier League) game all season,” the Egypt forward said. “We gave everything. We got 97 points. We will fight next season for the title.”


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)