Thiago Silva’s eight years as a Paris Saint-Germain player are about to come to an end and the Brazilian centre-back has one piece of unfinished business to contend with as the Qatar-owned club head to Lisbon targeting Champions League glory.
That is something that has so far eluded Silva and PSG, despite all the money Qatar Sports Investments have ploughed in.
A humiliating collapse against Manchester United last season meant a third consecutive last-16 exit, but this time they are through to a first quarter-final since 2016 and face Atalanta in Lisbon on Wednesday.
“I have seen everything here. This competition is so important, for the players but also for the club. Winning it was the objective when I came here,” Silva, whose contract is about to expire, said in an interview with AFP.
The game is being played as a one-off tie behind closed doors in the Portuguese capital after UEFA were forced to rethink the tournament format due to the coronavirus pandemic.
PSG secured qualification just before football ground to a halt in mid-March, as they overturned a 2-1 first-leg deficit by beating Borussia Dortmund 2-0.
That game was played behind closed doors too but the PSG players celebrated their victory with thousands of fans who had gathered, somewhat irresponsibly, outside the ground.
However, the outpouring of emotion was understandable after the disappointments of previous years, including the astonishing exit at the hands of Barcelona in 2017 despite winning the first leg 4-0.
“The game there (in Dortmund) was very difficult, we lost and thoughts went back to what happened last year against Manchester United, and our three consecutive eliminations before the quarters,” Silva said.
“That was difficult to stomach but we knew what we wanted to do, to turn it around and qualify for the fans even though they weren’t in the stadium.”
Silva joined from AC Milan in 2012. He has been a cornerstone ever since in a side that has completely dominated French football, winning seven of the last eight Ligue 1 titles.
Last weekend Silva played as PSG beat Lyon on penalties to win the League Cup and secure a fourth domestic treble in six seasons. But European success has not come so easily.
“It’s not easy to stay in Paris for eight years. I am really happy with everything I have done here, how the supporters have come to respect me. It’s magnificent,” he said.
“I hope to end the adventure by winning the Champions League, that’s the dream.”
– ‘Big opportunity’ – Silva has loved life in France so much that he has gone on to take French nationality but he was told in the spring that he had no future at the club beyond this season.
The Brazilian international will be 36 next month and Leonardo, the club’s sporting director, is looking to rebuild.
Edinson Cavani, PSG’s all-time record scorer, and Belgian right-back Thomas Meunier were also told they could leave.
Both have already departed, with Meunier joining Dortmund. But Silva accepted the offer to extend his contract — which initially expired in June — by an extra two months to feature in the Champions League ‘Final Eight’.
“I don’t know the context for Meunier and Cavani but for me it was important to finish the season here,” Silva added.
“I also know the players here and this year I feel we have a big opportunity to go all the way.
“The desire and the quality in the squad gives me that feeling. If I start something I want to finish it. I might win or lose but I will give everything to finish it well.”
If PSG beat Atalanta they will meet either RB Leipzig or Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals. The final is on August 23.
Beyond that, Silva has been linked with a return to Italy — he spent three years at Milan — or a move to Everton, coached by Carlo Ancelotti, under whom he played when he arrived in Paris.
But you sense that he would still love to stay where he is.
“That depends on the club, it’s not down to me,” he said.
The prime minister of Mauritius has declared a state of environmental emergency and appealed to France for urgent assistance as oil from a grounded cargo ship spilled unabated into the island nation’s protected waters.
Rough seas have hampered efforts to stop fuel leaking from the bulk carrier MV Wakashio, which ran aground two weeks ago, and is polluting pristine waters in an ecologically critical marine area off the southeast coast.
“A state of environmental emergency has been declared,” Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth posted on his Twitter account late Friday.
The tanker, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, was carrying 3,800 tonnes of fuel when it struck a reef at Pointe d’Esny, an internationally-listed conservation site near the turquoise waters of the Blue Bay marine park.
The environment ministry announced this week that oil had begun seeping from the hull, as volunteers rushed to the coast to prepare for the worst.
Soon, oil slicked the coral reefs, lagoons and white-sand shores upon which Mauritius has built its reputation as a green tourism destination. Aerial images showed the scale of the damage, with huge stretches of azure seas stained inky black by the spill.
A spokesman at Mitsui OSK Lines, which operates the vessel owned by another Japanese company, said fuel was being airlifted by helicopter from the stricken bulker to shore but poor weather was complicating matters.
– Crew evacuated – “We tried to place a containment boom near the ship but it’s not working well due to high waves,” the spokesman told AFP in Tokyo on Saturday. Some of the fuel was in separate tanks and may not be at risk of leaking, he added.
Jugnauth, after touring the disaster site, expressed fears the crisis could worsen with bad weather forecast over the weekend, and made an urgent appeal for help.
“We don’t know what will happen to the boat,” he said.
“The sinking of the Wakashio represents a danger for Mauritius. Our country does not have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships, so I have requested the help of France” and its president, Emmanuel Macron.
In a statement Saturday, the French embassy in Mauritius said a military aircraft from the nearby French Indian Ocean island of Reunion would make two rotations over the disaster area with pollution control equipment. Two experts would also be aboard, the statement added.
Twenty crew members were evacuated safely from the ship when it ran aground on July 25.
Ecologists fear the ship could further break up, causing an even greater leak and inflict potentially catastrophic damage on the island nation’s coastline, which forms the backbone of Mauritius’ economy.
Mauritius depends crucially on its seas for food and for tourism, boasting some of the finest coral reefs in the world.
Thousands of Lebanese prepared Saturday for a major protest against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut.
Two days after a landmark visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, diplomatic activity intensified in Beirut to organise international support for the disaster-hit country ahead of a Sunday aid conference.
For the fourth day running, Beirut woke up to the sound of broken glass being swept on the streets, its inhabitants still taking stock after one of the biggest blasts of its kind in recent history.
A fire at Beirut port on Tuesday ignited a stock of ammonium nitrate and triggered an explosion that was felt in neighbouring countries and destroyed entire neighbourhoods of the city.
Spectacular videos of the disaster show a mushroom-shaped shockwave that drew comparisons with the 1945 atomic bombs on Japan while foreign rescue teams compared the devastation with earthquake scenes.
Saturday could be the last day anybody buried under rubble has any chance of being found alive and according to the health ministry, more than 60 people are still missing.
Solidarity for the victims of the blast, from inside and outside Lebanon, has been impressive but this disaster was man-made and residents want heads to roll.
– ‘Punish them’ – The president and prime minister of Lebanon have promised that a government investigation would net the culprits but, more than a mere case of negligence, many Lebanese see the blast as a direct result of their leaders’ corruption.
“After three days of cleaning, removing rubble and licking our wounds… it is time to let our anger explode and punish them,” said Fares Halabi, a 28-year-old activist planned to join a protest scheduled for the afternoon.
Some protesters erected a mock gallows for Lebanon’s top politicians on Martyr’s Square, the epicentre of a protest movement that briefly rattled the country’s hereditary ruling class.
The lack of political change combined with a stinging economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic all but snuffed out the revolutionary movement — until this week.
“Today is the first demonstration since the explosion, an explosion in which any one of us could have died,” said Hayat Nazer, an activist who has contributed to solidarity initiatives for blast victims.
“This is the biggest warning for everyone now that we don’t have anything to lose anymore. Everyone should be in the streets today, everyone,” she told AFP.
However some of Lebanon’s leaders seemed to consider the outpouring of international solidarity as an opportunity to break the government’s diplomatic isolation.
– Foreign support – A virtual international donor conference launched by Macron, and in which US President Donald Trump and other top leaders will take part, is scheduled for Sunday.
Lebanon defaulted on its debt earlier this year and the current leadership has so far consistently failed to address the economic emergency and agree on an international rescue package despite intense Western pressure.
Speaking on Friday evening, President Michel Aoun said “the explosion has led to the lifting of the isolation.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah also said the disaster had created “an opportunity” to get the world to work with Lebanon again.
Three senior diplomats were in Beirut Saturday in a show of solidarity with the disaster-hit city, where 300,000 people were made temporarily homeless by the port explosion.
The first to meet top officials was Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was also expected, as was the president of the European Council, Charles Michel.
– High-stakes probe – Aoun however rejected calls backed by Macron for an international and independent investigation into the blast.
A total of 21 people have been detained so far, including Badri Daher, director-general of Lebanon’s customs authority.
But few Lebanese seemed to have any trust that the leadership would incriminate its own in an investigation chaired by some of the country’s top officials.
Analyst Nasser Yassin of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, said Lebanon’s reviled leaders were clearly seeking to take advantage of the situation.
“The fear is that the authorities will benefit from this great disaster and from the international and Arab attention they are getting,” he said.
Activist Hayat Nazer said the current crisis should not turn into a chance for the political elite to get a new lease of life but instead give fresh impetus to a drive for change.
“I think it’s the last wake-up call for people,” she said.
“We need to save each other, we need to clean our country, to rebuild it, and to completely disregard that we have politicians,” Nazer said.
“It’s not just about protesting in the streets. We can make a change on a daily basis, the revolution is part of our lives, we can apply it every day.”
The Oyo State Government has commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a student at the University of Ibadan, Richard Gbadebo.
This was disclosed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Dr Bashir Olanrewaju when he led a state government delegation on a condolence visit to the residence of the bereaved family in Ibadan.
According to him, the state government has begun a safety audit of the factory and would ensure that necessary sanctions are meted out on the company upon completion of investigations.
While assuring that compensation will be given to the bereaved family, Olanrewaju said the current administration under Governor Seyi Makinde remains committed to ensuring that no resident of the state suffers injustice or undue exploitation irrespective of social status.
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“We are here to condole with the parents of the deceased and to inform the family that measures are being taken by the government to ascertain the cause of Richard’s death.
“The administration of Seyi Makinde will ensure that justice is served so as to prevent the recurrence of an event like this in the future.
“So, the government will get to the roots of this gruesome incident and give due compensation to the family of the deceased,” he said.
On his part, the father of the late Richard, Mr. Shola Gbadebo demanded for the CCTV footage of the scenes where his son died, noting that a thorough investigation must be conducted in order to truly ascertain the cause of his death.
Mr. Gbadebo insisted that before any attempt to initiate talks with the family by management of the soap factory, the family must be assured that there was no foul play or conspiracy in his death.
“What I want to say is, the issue of compensation does not arise now. My son could become Governor or President in future if he is alive. So, I don’t care about what they will offer me.
“My appeal is that the government should assist me to pressurize the company to show its CCTV footage so that the whole world will see how my son died,” Gbadebo said.
The 21-year-old Gbadebo who was a 300-level student of the Department of European Studies, Faculty of Arts at UI died in the factory’s soap-making machine last month.
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