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Granit Xhaka admits he came close to leaving Arsenal: ‘My bags were packed. I was done with Arsenal’


Granit Xhaka on almost quitting Arsenal after clashing with the fans: «There was a contract on the table from another club, and all I had to do was sign. Today I know I made the right decision, absolutely»

Granit Xhaka insists he wants to improve his relationship with the Arsenal fans after admitting he came close to quitting the Emirates Stadium after clashing with the home fans during a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace in 2019.

Xhaka has been a key member of Arsenal’s squad since his arrival from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, but he has proved a divisive figure amongst the fans, some of whom have been critical of his performances and his disciplinary record in north London.
The low point of the relationship came in October 2019 against Crystal Palace when Xhaka – captain at the time – appeared to swear at the Emirates crowd when he was booed off after being substituted midway through the game.

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The Switzerland international went on to be stripped of the captaincy by then Gunners boss Unai Emery, and he has admitted in an interview with The Players’ Tribune, his «bags were packed» as he planned his exit from the north London club because of the «pure hate» he received.

«My bags were packed. The passports were out,» Xhaka told The Players’ Tribune. «I was done with Arsenal. Finished. There was a contract on the table from another club, and all I had to do was sign.»

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Speaking about the Palace incident he said: «I had barely begun to move when I heard the boos. And it was not just a few guys in the corner – it was a lot of people. I was shocked. I had never experienced anything like this. When I got close to the tunnel, I looked up at the fans sitting there – and this is the part that I will always remember.

«When I close my eyes now, I can still see their faces. I can see their anger. It’s not that they don’t like me. No, it’s different. This is hate. Pure hate. I am really not exaggerating this.
Flashback: Xhaka in angry clash with Arsenal fans

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«To feel that level of hatred and disrespect, I wouldn’t want it for my worst enemy. Still to this day, if we have lost, I hate walking those last metres to the tunnel, because I still recognise the faces. The same people are sitting there.

«So now, I just keep my head down. I lived through that nightmare once. I don’t ever want to do it again.»

Current Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta replaced Emery in December 2019 and despite Xhaka’s willingness to leave the club, the Spaniard convinced him to stay in north London.

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Despite the constant scrutiny of his performances, Xhaka has been an influential figure in Arteta’s Arsenal rebuild, and while the 29-year-old admits his relationship with the Arsenal fans may never be the same, he does want to improve that relationship, saying players and fans need to treat each other with «honesty and respect».

«Today I know I made the right decision, absolutely, because I’m still here,» Xhaka said. «But I can’t pretend that my relationship with the fans will ever be the same, because that moment will always be in my heart.

«I would like us to have a better relationship. I would like us to understand each other better. That is exactly why I’m telling you all this. I know we players are privileged, but you have to understand that our lives can be very, very difficult, too.

«Of course, you never get to know about our problems, because we never talk, and we never do anything together. To you we are just players running around for 90 minutes and then, ‘Goodbye!’ But I don’t think this is right.»

Last summer, Xhaka was heavily linked with a move away from Arsenal, with Roma interested in signing the midfielder.

Those links resurfaced earlier this year, but despite the speculation Xhaka has hinted he is ready to stay at the Emirates Stadium and wants to achieve «something special» with the Gunners.

He said: «Arsenal is still in my heart, 100%. My challenge was never to change people’s opinions about me, but to help the team. And then after that, if someone did change their mind because of that, then great.

«I understand that we will never be best friends, but I hope we can treat each other with honesty and respect. If I am late in a tackle, it’s because I’m fighting for Arsenal. If I lose my temper, it’s because I care.

«Sometimes, maybe I care too much. Obviously, you can never predict the future in football, but I do know a few things. After this season, I have two years left of my contract. I still love this club. I believe Mikel is building a great team. And I want to achieve something special here.»

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Matchday Guide: Boro vs Mariners

Take a read our matchday guide ahead of tomorrow’s game vs Grimsby Town at The Lamex Stadium in Sky Bet League Two…

Kicking off at 3pm in Sky Bet League Two, Steve Evans’ men know three points will be enough to secure promotion to League One when Paul Hurst’s Mariners visit SG2.

In front of a sold-out Lamex Stadium, the atmosphere is set to be electric as Boro aim for one more win to complete their season objective.

Saturday’s fixture is completely SOLD-OUT. No tickets will be sold on the day, so if you do not have a ticket, please do not travel.

For those with seat tickets, we recommend arrival at the stadium earlier than usual to ensure you are seated in your allocated seat.

Our North Stand and East Terrace are operating at 90% capacity due to restrictions placed by the Safety Advisory Group.

A Message to Supporters
At this crucial stage of the year, we must remind you in the interests of safety for everyone inside our stadium, that the pitch is for managers, players and match officials, while the stands are there for you to support the team.

Pitch incursions are dangerous and anyone who does encroach onto the playing surface will face strong sanctions that could include a ban from attending matches here at The Lamex Stadium, across the country and police action.

Furthermore, the use of pyrotechnics or smoke bombs at football grounds also carries an automatic ban and is something we take very seriously.

We appreciate your relentless support for our Club, but please do not put others at risk in doing so.

supporters are encouraged to stick around after Saturday’s final home league game of the season against Grimsby Town, in anticipation of the 2022/23 Supporters’ Association End of Season Awards.

As a reminder to supporters, these awards can only take place if the pitch is clear and safe for the players.

Club Shop & Ticket Office…
The Stevenage FC Club Shop is open at the earlier time of 11:30am on Saturday, closing at kick-off. The shop will also be open briefly at full-time.

Visit us in-store to collect Barrow AFC (A) tickets or purchase and browse our new leisurewear selection.

The North Stand Ticket Office, located on Broadhall Way, opens at midday and closes fifteen minutes after kick-off (3.15pm) for match ticket collections or queries. No tickets will be sold on the day.

Food & Drink…
The 76 Lounge

Open to home & away supporters from midday, at half-time for North Stand ticket holders and again for all from full-time to 8pm.

Supporters can also purchase hot food and drinks inside The 76 Lounge from 3.15pm which can be accessed via both side door of the North Stand.

Fans can move between The 76 Lounge and the tea bar area inside the North Stand to purchase food & drinks.

The Broadhall Suite

The Broadhall Suite is open to both sets of supporters from midday until kick-off, with a variety of drinks to choose from as well as a hot food matchday menu. This venue opens once again at full-time until 8pm.

Tea Bars

Tea bars around The Lamex Stadium are card only when purchasing food and drink around the ground.

How to Follow…
UK-based supporters can listen to Stevenage vs Grimsby Town with an iFollow Audio Match Pass, available to purchase for £2.50.

Overseas supporters can watch the action live with an iFollow Audio Match Pass, available for just £10.

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Match Preview: Stevenage vs Grimsby Town

Stevenage can secure promotion to Sky Bet League One tomorrow as they welcome Grimsby Town to a sold-out Lamex Stadium…

After Tuesday’s triumph in Swindon, Stevenage sit third in League Two and four points clear of Stockport County in fourth with just two games left to play.

Grimsby Town occupy eleventh place in the league table and, whilst they are unable to reach the play-off places, they will undoubtedly be looking to spoil Stevenage’s fun. The Mariners’ away form has been satisfactory this campaign, winning nine away league fixtures from twenty-two. Grimsby also had a successful FA Cup run, reaching the Quarter finals before being knocked out by Brighton and Hove Albion.

They have had a mixed bag of results recently, so will be unpredictable going into tomorrow’s match. On Tuesday, they picked up a 2-0 victory at home to Crewe Alexandra through goals by Gavan Holohan and Danilo Orsi. But three days prior, Grimsby suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Tranmere.

Paul Hurst is currently enjoying his second spell as Grimsby boss after spending 2011-2016 in charge of The Mariners. Last season, he led his side to National League Play-off Final glory, after beating Solihull Moors at The London Stadium. Hurst previously had managerial spells at Ipswich, Scunthorpe, Shrewsbury and Boston United.

Will Finnie has been appointed Match Referee for tomorrow’s match, with Scott Williams and Damith Bandara as Assistants, and Stephen Finch as Fourth Official.

Finnie has handed out ninety-five yellow cards and just one red in thirty matches this campaign.

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The Link Between Religicide and Violence Against Women

Violence against women has emerged as one of the hallmarks of religicide. Religious, civil society and business leaders must stop it in its tracks.

Involuntary sterilization and birth control in China. Honor killing in Iraq. State-sponsored rape in Myanmar. Forced marriage in Syria. Female genital mutilation in sub-Saharan Africa.

These are among the weapons used to control women today and throughout history – and likely among the many practices that will be denounced and discussed today on International Women’s Day. Yet an unrecognized form of human rights violation must be added to this litany of abuses in which women’s bodies are the battleground: religicide.

Religicide is the systematic, highly targeted effort to eradicate an entire religion, including its practices, adherents, sacred spaces, habitats and cultural heritage. Religicide plays out largely by controlling the reproductive choices of women, who they marry and who has access to their bodies.

Violence against women has emerged as one of the hallmarks of religicide. It has been practiced in China against Uyghur Muslims, in Iraq against Yazidis and in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims. This abuse of women is a form of genocide-in-slow-motion.

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women, affecting around 641 million women and girls globally, according to the World Health Organization. Religicide fosters a form of such violence – rape, which is used as a weapon to wipe out religious identity. In religicide, women forcibly “married” to men of other faiths – or no faith – often must submit to those men or risk losing their lives along with their religious identities. Children from these marriages are under their father’s control. Women escaping religious enslavement would have to abandon their own children.

In China, the Communist Party is taking control of Uyghur women’s bodies through forced birth control in the form of implants, involuntary sterilizations and pills, according to The New York Times and other outlets. Some women say they’ve been forced into giving up their faith and marrying Han Chinese men. They’re free to get pregnant in these marriages – with babies through whom their Muslim faith will not likely be passed on.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, women say they have been raped repeatedly in prison and subject to genital torture with electric prods. Outside of prison, according to the rights group, Uyghur women’s reproduction is monitored by the local government. There are harsh punishments for unauthorized pregnancies, with violators being sent to reeducation camps. Unless removed by a state-approved medical practitioner, those who take out intrauterine devices – even for medical reasons – are subject to fines and imprisonment.

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