PSG awarded Ligue 1 title as French football season declared over

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentine forward Mauro Icardi celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match against Stade Brestois 29, in Brest, November 9, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 30 April 2020

PSG awarded Ligue 1 title as French football season declared over

  • PSG led the table by 12 points from Marseille when the season was suspended in mid-March because of the Covid-19 outbreak
  • France becomes the biggest European league yet to end its season, just as its neighbors in England, Germany, Italy and Spain consider ways of resuming matches

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain were named as Ligue 1 champions on Thursday after France’s football league declared the coronavirus-hit season over.
PSG led the table by 12 points from Marseille when the season was suspended in mid-March because of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has gone on to kill over 24,000 people in France.
The announcement by the LFP comes after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday that “professional sports leagues, notably football, cannot restart” because of the pandemic.
“There is no ambiguity about this declaration. We needed to make a final decision about this season. We acknowledge that the 2019-20 season is over,” said LFP president Nathalie Boy de la Tour, in a conference call with reporters.
France becomes the biggest European league yet to end its season, just as its neighbors in England, Germany, Italy and Spain consider ways of resuming matches.
Ruling out any possibility of copying the Netherlands, who voided their season without a champion, relegation or promotion, the LFP arranged a final table on the basis of average points per game.
Ten rounds of matches remained when the campaign was halted, although PSG and Strasbourg both had a game in hand.
As a result, PSG are champions with an average of 2.52 points per game, with Andre Villas-Boas’s Marseille second with an average of 2 points and qualifying for the Champions League.
“We wish to dedicate this title to all health workers and other everyday heroes whose commitment and self-sacrifice throughout these long weeks deserve our admiration,” said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi in a statement.
It is PSG’s ninth French title, the seventh in eight seasons for the Qatar-owned club being awarded in unique circumstances and with many of their foreign players — including Neymar — having returned to their home countries with France under strict lockdown.
“We understand, respect and support the decisions taken by the French government to stop the season. Health, as the government has always said, must be everyone’s priority,” added Al-Khelaifi, whose club still hope to be able to continue their Champions League campaign having reached the quarter-finals before action stopped.
Rennes finish third and also qualify for the Champions League, while fourth-placed Lille will play in the Europa League.
Toulouse and Amiens, the bottom two, are condemned to relegation, with Lorient, as champions, and Lens coming up from Ligue 2.
However, Toulouse have kept open the possibility that they might now take legal action.
The identity of the other European representatives depends on whether the finals of the two domestic cups are ever played.
Large gatherings of people remain banned in France until September.
However, if the French government and UEFA accept, both finals could be staged in early August with European places still up for grabs. The LFP then hopes to begin next season by August 23 “at the latest.”
PSG were due to play Lyon in the League Cup final and Saint-Etienne in the French Cup final. If the games are eventually played, Lyon and Saint-Etienne could qualify for the Europa League by winning.
Otherwise, Nice and Reims would qualify by virtue of finishing in fifth and sixth in the league.
Lyon — seventh in the table when the season was stopped — would otherwise miss out on European qualification for the first time in over two decades.
Ironically, they were still involved in this season’s Champions League when it was suspended, leading Juventus 1-0 after the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas had previously stated his hope that the season could still be played to a conclusion in August.
“Maybe there will be appeals, but the decisions taken...are solid,” said LFP director general Didier Quillot.
Nevertheless, for all clubs, the economic consequences of ending the season now could be dire.
Resuming matches behind closed doors would have safeguarded TV income, but the loss for clubs in the top two divisions of remaining payments from broadcasters Canal Plus and beIN Sports is believed to be as high as 243 million euros ($266 million), plus 35 million euros for international rights.


Bucks’ Antetokounmpo named NBA MVP for second straight year

Updated 18 September 2020

Bucks’ Antetokounmpo named NBA MVP for second straight year

  • The 25-year-old became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994
  • The MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals

LOS ANGELES: Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said Friday he’ll treasure his second straight NBA Most Valuable Player award and redouble his efforts to capture a league crown.
The 25-year-old from Greece became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994.
“Michael Jordan, one of the best players who’s ever done it, if not the best,” Antetokounmpo said, speaking from a rooftop in Athens during the televised announcement of the award. “Hakeem, a guy that I look up to, he came from where I’m from, Nigeria, where I have roots.
“Just being in the same sentence with them, that means a lot to me.”
The player dubbed the “Greek Freak” became the 12th player to win back-to-back MVPs, joining Jordan, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
But, once again, the MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Last year, Antetokounmpo won the MVP only for eventual champion Toronto to oust the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
“Obviously I would love to be still in the bubble playing games, fighting,” Antetokounmpo said. “But at the end of the day I won the award. I’m extremely blessed.
“It’s been a long journey,” Antetokounmpo added. “The people that know me, the people that know my story, you can never take these moments for granted.”
Antetokounmpo won in a landslide, receiving 85 first-place votes from a global panel of sports reporters and broadcasters, the league announced on Friday.
Los Angeles Lakers star James received 16 first-place votes and the third finalist, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, did not receive any first-place votes.
The voting was based on performance from the start of the season through March 11, when play was shut down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
It did not included the “seeding games” played when teams in contention for playoff spots once play resumed in Orlando.
Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in leading the Bucks to the best regular-season record in the pandemic-disrupted season.
But he had to watch from the sidelines as the Heat won game five of their semifinal series, nursing a sprained ankle suffered in game three and aggravated in game four.
“Obviously, I am disappointed to not be able to help our team go to the third round,” he said. “That feeling cannot take away from this award.
“I’m happy for this award, but I want more,” he said. “I want to be a champion.”
As a veteran entering his eighth season, Antetokounmpo will be eligible to receive a supermax contract extension from the Bucks.
The Bucks reportedly plan to extend that offer as soon as they can — after the 2019-20 season officially ends.
There has been widespread speculation as to whether a player of Antetokounmpo’s stature will be happy to remain in the small market of Milwaukee.
He met with Bucks owners including Marc Lasry before heading to Greece and has indicated he’d be open to staying.
Providing he’s convinced the team is determined to invest the resources to pursue a title, Antetokounmpo said Friday, “I don’t see why not to be in Milwaukee for the next 15 years.”