Tigres back in action in the Concacaf Champions League this Wednesday
Rodriguez aiming to make it to Qatar in 2021 and 2022
“Every game’s a final from here on”
Life is going pretty well for Luis Rodriguez these days. He is about to appear in the quarter-finals of the Concacaf Champions League with Tigres, he has earned a place in the Mexico squad under Gerardo Martino, and, most importantly of all, his family have put their health problems behind them.
Before joining Tigres in 2016, the man they call Chaka left Monterrey to further his career at San Luis and then Chiapas. It was then, far from home, that he received some very bad news.
“My wife had cancer in 2015,” Rodriguez explained. “She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which hadn’t spread to her bone marrow. She was in treatment for a year, with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She was back and forth from Monterrey for treatment. When we talk about it she makes light of it, but it’s a huge challenge for the person who has to deal with it and for their family.”
His wife’s illness has shaped his character and his life. “It helped me to mature in various ways,” he said. “We see life differently now. We know that we’re here today but that tomorrow we don’t know. We enjoy other things. We focus on other things and our priorities have definitely changed.”
To be closer to his family, Rodriguez made the move back to Monterrey, this time to play for Tigres, the arch rivals of the team he started out with.
“I’ll be honest: I wanted to go back to LosRayados, because that’s where I came through,” he said. “Then the talk turned to me moving to Tigres, and I had no problem with that because I’d be going back to my hometown. It also appealed to me because of the fans and what Tigres represent. I was a bit scared because I know Tuca [Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti] is strict and demanding, and I know the players they’ve got. But there’s competition anywhere you go.”
Rodriguez had to fight hard to earn a place in a side with some big names. Given few opportunities to begin with, he had to draw on all his mental strength to keep his faith before eventually becoming an undisputed starter.
“Yes, it was a struggle getting some game time,” he explained. “You’ve always got two or three players for each position here, so I had to work hard to get a starting place. I always knew that I had a bigger challenge here than at other clubs. I spoke about it with my dad and my wife, though, and I said to them that the only thing could happen, with so many good players here, is that I would become a better player. Even if I wasn’t going to get a game, I’d shine with another team.”
Rodriguez’s new-found maturity is an asset he will be bringing to Tigres’ bid to set straight their recent record in finals – three defeats in the last five years – and win the Concacaf Champions League. Achieve that and a place at the FIFA Club World Cup will be theirs.
Rodriguez has another very good reason for wanting to win the regional competition: “I’d love to play at the Club World Cup. I won the Concacaf Champions League with Monterrey but left just before they went to the Club World Cup. I’ve always wanted to make up for that and I hope I can do it with Tigres.”
The first port of call on the road to the final is New York City FC, with Tigres holding a 1-0 aggregate lead from the first leg, held way back on 11 March, before Covid-19 caused the world to shut down.
“Having stopped for so long is not an advantage or a disadvantage for anyone,” said Rodriguez. “It’s a really important game and every team is thinking the same. In just a few matches you can end up champions and go to the Club World Cup. Every game’s a final from here on.”
Fourth time lucky
2016, 2017 and 2019. Three times Tigres have reached the Concacaf Champions League final in recent years and three times they have lost. The quest for the trophy resumes on Wednesday for a club that is not accustomed to letting silverware through its fingers. “We’ve been in a few finals and mistakes up front and at the back have cost us,” said Rodriguez.
Asked if he is excited about what the rest of his career might have in store for him, he said: “My priority is not to go to Europe. I’m too old now and having four children makes it tough to move to another country. I’d love to play in a World Cup and if I keep doing what I’m doing, I can stay in Martino’s plans. All these games are a lot of fun. My goal is to go to Qatar first of all in the Club World Cup and then go back with the national team in 2022.”
Olympic Football Tournaments 2020 – Men – News – Ripoll: France’s youngsters are gifted, dependable and committed
Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
Men’s Olympic Football Tournament kicks off in exactly six months
We talk to Sylvain Ripoll, coach of France’s Espoirs (U-21) team
“I’m part of a generation that dreamed of going to the Olympics”
This Friday 22 January marks six months to the day before the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament kicks off in Tokyo. The tournament will see France back on the Olympic stage 25 years after reaching the quarter-finals at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
So what has caused such a prolonged absence from the Olympics? “I can’t give you an exact answer, since I wasn’t there,” says Sylvain Ripoll, coach of the France Espoirs (U-21) team since 2017. “Qualification for such a prestigious competition is always on a national federation’s wish-list, but for some reason we’ve been unsuccessful in recent times. In any case, we’re delighted to be back with the French team in a major tournament like the Olympics,” said the 49-year-old strategist.
“I’m part of a generation that dreamed of the Olympics – just talking about it always makes our eyes light up,” says the man who was not yet 13 when Les Bleus won gold at Los Angeles 1984. “And I think it’s the same with my players,” he adds. “It generates so many memories and great moments that just being part of it is bound to be an honour.”
For now, though, it is still too early to be focusing on Tokyo, with tournaments looming before then both for the U-21s and senior team. “We have the EURO (11 June-11 July) taking place shortly before the Olympic Tournament (22 July-7 August), so one event will influence the other. Before that, there’s the European U-21 Championship, which we’ve qualified for, starting in March in Hungary and ending in June. So, the best thing we can do is to deal with those in the order they come.”
There is no point then in Ripoll looking too far ahead or contemplating which three players over the age of 23 he might include in his squad for Japan, as permitted under the rules of men’s tournament. “Logically, the priority will always be the France senior team,” says the Rennes native, who was nevertheless amenable to remarks last year by Kylian Mbappe, who expressed his desire to take part in the Tokyo Olympics. “We can only rejoice that we have a player in France of the calibre of Mbappe who thinks this way.”
An insatiable talent scout, Ripoll carefully monitors a good 60 players, including 20 who play abroad. He works closely with France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps, who is always looking for new blood to energise his squad. “Didier and I talk a lot about the Espoirs’ potential to establish themselves into the senior team. You need to be performing regularly at the highest level for some time to break into the senior side, whereas with the Espoirs, that process can happen much more quickly,” he explains.
“Didier and his staff keep a very close eye on the Espoirs and watch a lot of their matches. We talk a lot about the players’ mentality, commitment and potential,” adds Ripoll, who takes immense pride in seeing one of his young players called up. He also regularly talks with the selectors of the younger age-category teams to try to progress the most promising talents through the ranks.
If we add to the mix the exemption that allows the inclusion of the 1997 generation that was eligible for the postponed Olympics last summer, then there will be a particularly large group to choose from when deciding on the final squad for Tokyo.
For all that, Ripoll already has grounds to be satisfied with his current crop. “This is the second generation I’ve been in charge of since I arrived four years ago. Apart from being gifted, which has been the case for many years in France, given our enormous reservoir of talent, I find them to be very dependable and committed. For now, I feel my players are very focused on their goals, and I hope that remains the case,” says the coach, whose aim is not to assemble only a squad of big names for Tokyo.
“There are a lot of criteria that come into play when you put together a squad for a tournament like this. There are performances, of course, but the priority is to have the best possible squad, which doesn’t always mean you only take the best players. We have to assess how squad members complement each other and perform together.”
Boxing schedule for 2021: Canelo Alvarez vs. Avni Yildirim, Angelo Leo vs. Stephen Fulton on tap
After a tumultuous 2020 that saw many major fights canceled or postponed, boxing is ready to head into 2021. As many champions and pound-for-pound elites hung on the sidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic, boxing missed out on some big-time fights. However, as the year went out, fighters slowly started to trickle back into the ring, albeit not against the competition we would like to see.
But with guys like Anthony Joshua, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, Canelo Alvarez and GGG all getting in some tune-up fights, things are looking bright for 2021. And things got rolling with a strong start from Ryan Garcia, who rallied from an early knockdown to stop Luke Campbell and claim the interim WBC lightweight title. Garcia, along with Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Teofimo Lopez and Devin Haney are setting up the prospects of some tasty matchups over the next 12 months in the 135-pound division.
Now as we head into the early part of the year, there’s a plethora of big fights on the books already. IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant is set to take on Caleb Truax at the close of January in his first action in nearly a year. Plus, Canelo Alvarez will make his return to the ring rather quickly when he takes on mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Alvarez is hoping to fight three times this year and could be on a path to facing Plant down the road now that he’s a promotional free agent.
Below is a running list of boxing main events for the 2021 year.
Note: This will be updated constantly with changes and additions.