Spirit of Liverpool can stop Real’s record run, says Klopp

KIEV: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has challenged his players to stop Real Madrid lifting a third consecutive Champions League trophy on Saturday and show fans that winning “big things” is still in the club’s DNA.

With a record 12 titles to their name and winners of the past two editions, Real go into the final in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium as the favourites.

Klopp admits the Spanish giants’ huge experience in Europe is “important” and that Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates will be brimming with confidence in the seconds before kick-off at 1845 GMT (2.45am Malaysian time).

But when the whistle blows, Klopp believes the spirit shown by his players on their “exceptional” run to the final could be enough to show Real that experience is not everything.

“I have never been twice in a row to a Champions League final,” said Klopp, who led Borussia Dortmund to the 2013 final where they were defeated by Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich.

“Experience is important, I’m pretty sure that in the seconds before the game Real will be more confident than we are, but that’s not important because the game doesn’t end in that moment, it only starts.

“You analyse Real Madrid playing in other games against other teams and you think ‘wow, they are really strong’, but they never played us.

“We are Liverpool and we are not just a good team, this club has in its DNA that we can really go for the big things.

“Nobody expected us to be here but we are here because we are Liverpool. The games we had in the Champions League, it was the most exceptional run to a final, with the most goals.

“I can’t believe that but it’s true that’s us. The experience they have is a big advantage, 100 percent, to feel more confident but in the game the experience doesn’t help all the time.”

Winners of the first five editions of Europe’s premier club competition, Real are again enjoying another golden era in Europe.

Neither Atletico Madrid (twice) nor Juventus have been able to stop Ronaldo from inflicting pain on them in recent finals.

Yet Liverpool’s own attacking quality suggests the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital could be the scene of an unforgettable encounter.

Liverpool have scored a record 46 goals in all in this season’s Champions League, with Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah netting 11 of those.

In terms of history alone, this is a dream final.

Real’s 12 European Cup wins puts them way ahead of the rest, but Liverpool have lifted the famous trophy five times.

If Klopp needs inspiration for his pre-match pep talk, the German need look no further than the Liverpool team of 2005.

Trailing 3-0 to AC Milan at half-time in Istanbul, a side led by Steven Gerrard struck three times in the second half to force extra-time before prevailing on penalties in what is still considered the most spectacular comeback in the history of the competition.

Five for CR7?

Although Real coach Zinedine Zidane believes the final is “50-50”, recent history is on his side.

Real can became the first team since Bayern in 1976 to lift the European Cup three years running, and thereby make it five consecutive titles for Spain.

Ronaldo could also win his fifth Champions League, allowing the Portugal star to equal the individual record and edge closer to yet another Ballon d’Or.

Zidane, meanwhile, is on the brink of a third straight Champions League win as a coach.

But the Frenchman said: “People can say what they like, but we are not favourites, nor are Liverpool.

“As always in a final it is 50-50. We need to play very well to win the game and inside the dressing room we know we are not favourites.”

Stranded fans

The build-up to the game itself has been overshadowed by complaints from fans of both sides that getting to Kiev — and finding accommodation there — has been too expensive.

With many fans let down by tour operators and fans undertaking arduous over-land journeys to get to Ukraine, and paying extortionate rates for rooms, Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore has claimed Kiev cannot cope with such a big event.

Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson said Friday he had been forced to abandon an attempt to find planes to fly in hundreds of the club’s fans stranded after he was unable to find crew for back-up planes.

But some Liverpool supporters had made the journey, even without a ticket.

Steve Anderson, 50, a veteran of many of Liverpool’s previous European Cup successes, including against Madrid in Paris in 1981 when he was just a teenager, said he was still hopeful of getting into the match — but refused to pay hundreds of pounds on the black market.

“I don’t believe in paying that kind of money,” he told AFP. “I feel more for the younger ones that can’t get in. I’ve seen Liverpool win European Cups in Paris and Istanbul, but it’s been a long time. They’ve waited 11 years for this.” — AFP

Japan end 37-year drought with Uber Cup win

BANGKOK: Japan’s women clinched the Uber Cup on Saturday, breezing by surprise finalists Thailand 3-0 in Bangkok to end a 37-year wait to regain the title.

With a team stacked with top ranked players in both the singles and doubles, Japan made light work of the hosts, who entered the finals for the first time after stunning China in the semis.

It ends an Uber Cup drought for Japan that stretches back to 1981 and is a major confidence boost ahead of the Olympics which they will host in two years’ time.

The Uber Cup is second in prestige only to the Olympics as a national team event.

World singles number two Akane Yamaguchi got Japan off to a flyer, dulling the boisterous partisan home crowd with a 21-15, 21-19 win over Ratchanok Intanon, blending deft touches at the net with patience in the rallies and power shots.

Ratchanok, world number four and Thailand’s favourite athlete, conceded that she lost concentration after bickering with the umpire early in the second set over his refusal to grant a review.

Doubles pair Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota stormed to the second point of the match winning their tie 21-18, 21-12.

The writing was on the wall for the hosts and Nozomi Okuhara made light work (21-12, 21-9) of a visibly tired Nitchaon Jindapol to seal victory.

“Thirty-seven years ago Japan was very strong … we are happy to make history again,” a beaming Okuhara told reporters.

The win caps four years of effort to push the players up through the world rankings while knitting together the national team, coach Park Joo-Bong said.

“I was worried about the atmosphere, but the team took the pressure and were hungry to win,” the South Korean coach said, adding the team are on the right track for the Olympics.

Thailand, who registered the shock of the tournament by beating perennial winners China in Friday’s semis, celebrated the runners-up medal as a sign of progress for a young side growing in confidence as the Asian Games approaches.

“We are strong contenders to win gold,” said coach Rexy Mainaky.

“Skillwise our players are world-class, but to go to the next level we have to do more. We will come back on this and evaluate what we need to add,” he told reporters.

China, absent from the women’s final for the first time ever after Thailand’s thrilling 3-2 win in the semis, have a chance to redeem national pride in the Thomas Cup on Sunday when they play Japan.

But Japan are eyeing a clean sweep led by singles star Kento Momota who swatted away world number one Viktor Axelsen in their final four matchup on Friday. — AFP

Iniesta greets Japanese football fans, vows to conquer Asia

KOBE, Japan: Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta on Saturday made his first appearance at Vissel Kobe since signing for the Japanese side, greeting thousands of fans and vowing to make his new club the biggest in Asia.

Wearing the number eight shirt — like he did at Barcelona — the 34-year-old World Cup winner attended a welcome ceremony at the J-League club’s home stadium in the western port city of Kobe, together with team owner Hiroshi Mikitani.

“This is a big challenge for me,” Iniesta told some 4,000 fans through an interpreter two days after signing his contract at a glitzy unveiling in Tokyo.

He displayed his ball-juggling technique and kicked footballs into the crowd, delighting fans.

“I aim to contribute to the team as much as possible,” said Iniesta, who is reported to have agreed a three-year deal with an annual salary of US$30 million (RM119.43 million), a J-League record.

“I think I should pursue the best objectives in both football and my life,” he added, saying he wants Vissel to win the league and “if possible, conquer Asia”.

The midfielder, who famously scored Spain’s winning goal against the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final, lifted 32 major trophies and made 674 appearances for Barcelona.

The Spain icon’s decision to choose Kobe arguably represents Japanese football’s biggest transfer coup, with many top players now moving to cash-rich Chinese clubs in the twilight of their careers.

Iniesta had said earlier this month that moving to a Chinese club was also an option for him.

His signing is a timely boost to the J-League, which used to attract luminaries such as Brazilian great Zico and former England star Gary Lineker when it began in 1993 but has struggled to attract marquee players in recent years.

Following the World Cup in Russia, Iniesta will join former Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski at Vissel, currently sixth in the J-League first division after 15 games. — AFP

Liverpool bid to get stranded fans to Kiev fails

LONDON: Liverpool’s mayor said his bid to get stranded football fans to Kiev for the Champions League final against Real Madrid failed on Friday after he was unable to find crew for back-up planes.

“We regret to say that we have been unable to achieve a resolution that will satisfy everyone. We now must accept the fact that some fans who have tickets may not be able to make the game,” said Mayor Joe Anderson in a statement.

“Our hearts go out to all those who will undoubtedly be left bitterly disappointed by this turn of events.”

Hundreds of supporters are now expected to miss the showpiece match in Ukraine on Saturday after operator Worldchoice Sports cancelled three flights because it did not have sufficient landing slots at Boryspil Airport.

Anderson initially said he was working with Kiev’s mayor, former world heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, to find a solution for all those who faced missing out.

He posted several messages on Twitter on Thursday and Friday which gave hope to fans. Anderson said he had secured replacement landing slots and was trying to find a solution to the fiasco by organising a new carrier to provide flights from John Lennon airport.

He said he was eventually able to secure the aircraft, but could not locate a suitable crew.

“We are hugely disappointed and frustrated at the utter shambles loyal fans have been put through. UEFA and the companies involved will have questions to answer,” he added in his statement.

Liverpool announced on Friday that anyone who had bought match tickets directly from the club who was due to be on one of the cancelled flights would be able to claim a refund.

“Supporters who were booked on flight numbers ET8704 and ET8706, and those who were unable to travel on the rearranged ET8700 flight booked through Worldchoice Sports, will be able to claim the refund,” the club said on their website.

Worldchoice Sports publicly apologised to fans in a statement on Twitter.

Financial adviser Jason McGimpsey was told on Thursday his flight was cancelled.

He told Britain’s Press Association: “Worldchoice Sports had been stalling on giving us e-tickets and exact departure times and it’s become clear why that was th case, now finally they’ve said ‘we’ve cancelled it’.

“I’ve been offered a refund but it doesn’t go anywhere near compensating me for what I’ve lost,” he added.

Chris Bolland, who has supported Liverpool for 50 years, will have to watch the game from home.

“I am gutted, to say the least. I am absolutely disgusted and there is nothing I can do about it,” he told the BBC.

“I will now have to watch it with my dear wife — but that’s not a problem as she’s a big Liverpool fan as well.” — AFP

Japan’s Hataoka leads LPGA in Michigan

LOS ANGELES: Japanese teen Nasa Hataoka pressed her quest for a first LPGA tour title Friday, firing a four-under par 68 to take a one-shot lead midway through the Volvik Championship in Michigan.

Hataoka, whose back-to-back top-10 finishes in her last two starts include a playoff-loss at the Kingsmill championship last week, built a 36-hole total of nine-under par 135 for a one-shot lead over Australia’s Minjee Lee.

Hataoka fired seven birdies in her four-under effort, and even though her run of four straight rounds on the LPGA tour without a bogey ended, she wasn’t too disappointed.

“I made a couple of bogeys today, but I made a lot of birdies, so things kept moving,” said Hataoka, adding that she “just tried to be aggressive”.

Hataoka said her recent success has boosted her confidence.

“I’m really comfortable playing the LPGA,” she said. “I play my game. That’s my key.”

Lee, who has hasn’t missed a cut and has five top-10 finishes this year, started her day at Travis Pointe in Ann Arbor with back-to-back birdies, finishing the day with four birdies and one bogey in a 69 for 136.

“I had a really good off-season and I had a really good start to the year in Australia, the couple of events there,” she said. “(It) just gave me a lot of confidence at the beginning of the year so it’s just been pretty steady from there.”

The 21-year-old Aussie, said her approach won’t change on the weekend as she seeks a first win since 2016.

“I’m just trying to play my own game and obviously have fun out there and make as many birdies as I can,” she said. “I think that’s all I can do and that’s all in my control, so that’s what I’ve been doing.”

England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff continued her strong return to the LPGA tour after a month’s injury absence, firing a two-under 70 to share third on 137.

Shadoff said she played “really steady” — just what she’s looking for as some comes back from a back injury that she said she suffered just bending over.

“It was a bit unlucky, starting to get old,” said the 30-year-old, who was tied with Mexico’s Gaby Lopez (68) and American Lindy Duncan (70).

Another six players were tied on 138, a group that included Thai sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn.

Defending champion Feng Shanshan, whose win at Travis Pointe last year was the first of three in 2017, carded a three-under 69 that left her tied for 39th eight shots off the lead. — AFP

Mexico head to Russia with one aim: ‘To win’

LOS ANGELES: Mexico head to the World Cup in Russia with a clear objective, to reach the final and win it, defender Hector Moreno said Friday.

“We are going to play the World Cup to win it,” the Real Sociedad defender said as Mexico prepared to face Wales on Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. “For me the important thing is to get home and not have any regrets.

“We know that we are not favourites. We know that no one thinks that Mexico will win. I think the Mexican team is ready.”

Moreno, 30, is part of the 28-player preliminary World Cup squad named by coach Juan Carlos Osorio this month.

He’s aiming to play in a third World Cup after South Africa in 2010 and Brazil 2014.

Osorio was also bullish on the chances that Mexico, who have fallen in the last 16 in the last six World Cups, can surprise in Russia.

“We believe that we can go to the final, as athletes and human beings it’s our right to believe, because we work hard for it,” Osorio said. “We have a team that will always play to win.”

Mexico, drawn in Group F with Germany, South Korean and Sweden, will debut against reigning champions Germany.

“Mexico, against the giants, always tends to lift itself,” Moreno said. — AFP

James runs riot as Cavs force game seven against Celtics

LOS ANGELES: Cleveland superstar LeBron James drained his second three-pointer in less than a minute and thumped his chest as Cavaliers fans roared.

The back-to-back bombs pushed Cleveland’s lead over the Boston Celtics to 11 points with 1:40 left to play in their must-win game six of the NBA Eastern Conference finals on Friday.

“The love of the game causes reactions like that,” said James, who scored 46 points with 11 rebounds and nine assists in the 109-99 triumph that earned the Cavs a game seven in Boston on Sunday.

“Understanding the situation and understanding the moment that you’re in,” he added. “It was just a feeling that you can’t explain unless you’ve been a part of it. That’s all.”

The 46 points were the most James has scored in an elimination game and just three shy of his playoff career high of 49.

“I have a drive,” James said. “I have a love of the game. I have a passion for the game, and while I have the opportunity to lace my shoes up and put a uniform on, then I try to go out and do my job to the best of my ability.”

James was hurting after teammate Larry Nance fell into his right leg in the fourth quarter — but scored 12 points after they tangled.

“I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg,” said James, who clutched the leg before gingerly rising from the court. “Luckily I was able to finish the game.”

Doing so, James kept alive his bid to reach an eighth straight NBA Finals. He played four in a row with the Miami Heat before making it to the last three championship series with the Cavs.

And he put on hold what many are speculating could be the end of his current tenure with Cleveland — with a possible move through free agency looming.

James has said throughout the playoffs that he isn’t thinking that far ahead.

Now his horizon doesn’t extend beyond Sunday, and game seven against a Celtics team unbeaten in these playoffs on their home floor.

“It’s a game seven,” he said. “It’s something that you wish you had when you’re done playing, but more than that, it’s just basketball for me.

“I know what I’m capable of doing, and I’m going to trust everything I put into it.” — AFP

Thailand stun China to make Uber Cup final

BANGKOK: Thailand’s women made their first ever Uber Cup final on Friday after a stunning 3-2 upset of defending champions China.

The win sets up an unlikely showdown between underdog Thailand and Japan on Saturday after the top seed defeated Korea 3-1 earlier in the day.

Thai player Busanan Ongbamrungphan was once again the star, confidently dispatching Olympic champion Li Xuerui — who was returning from injury — 21-11, 21-9 in the last game.

“Finally we did it, I never expected that today would really come,” Busanan told reporters afterwards.

“It’s lucky that the event was held in our country. I’m proud that once in my lifetime I played at home and have made people in my country happy.”

Thailand’s victory also meant that China’s women would not be going to the finals of the cup for the first time since the team started playing in 1984, according to the Badminton World Federation.

Japan is the favourite going into the final but the day belonged to the Thais, whose win sparked jubilant on court celebrations, hugs and ended a see-sawing matchup with tournament leader China.

World number four Ratchanok Intanon won the first singles game, grinding out a 15-21, 21-9, 21-14 win over China’s Chen Yufei, who is ranked one place behind her.

With crowds shouting “Thailand! Thailand!” Ratchanok hit smash after smash to come back after losing the first game to win two in a row.

Thailand lost the first doubles, but singles shuttler Nitchaon Jindapol clawed her way back from a set down to beat Gao Fangjie in another thriller that had the crowd on their feet.

The second doubles went to China levelling up at 2-2, leaving Thai hopes pinned on Busanan, just as on Thursday when she performed under pressure to clinch a victory against Indonesia.

‘Tough battle’

Japan had an easier time against South Korea in their semi, with doubles pair Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi securing their spot in the final.

World number two Akane Yamaguchi got the team off to a flying start, easing to a 21-10, 21-13 win against South Korea’s Sung Ji-hyun, while Nozomi Okuhara dispatched Lee Jang-mi 21-9, 21-15 after South Korea had levelled at 1-1 with the first doubles.

Japanese world number nine Okuhara has yet to lose in this year’s biennial Uber cup, which is being held in Bangkok.

“I think it will be a tough battle whoever I face tomorrow,” she told reporters afterwards as Thailand and China were still doing battle on court.

The tournament is held alongside the men’s Thomas Cup, whose semi-finals were held later Friday, with China, Japan, Indonesia and Denmark all hoping to move forward.

Denmark are returning champions, and are back to attempt a repeat with world number one Viktor Axelsen leading the team. But Axelsen got the team off to a slow start against Japanese star Momota Kento, losing 21-17, 21-9.

China has fielded an all-star cast of players as they seek to regain a title lost on home soil two years ago.

Olympic champion Chen Long is joined by this year’s All England champion Shi Yuqui — and the player he conquered in the final, Lin Dan. — AFP

Liverpool out to end Real hegemony in Champions League final

KIEV: A thrilling run inspired by Mohamed Salah has taken Liverpool to Saturday’s Champions League final in Kiev against Real Madrid, where now Jurgen Klopp’s side must stop the Spanish giants from winning the trophy for the third year running.

Real have seen this as their competition ever since winning the first five European Cups in a row, and this is another golden era for them, in which they are dreaming of making it a fourth Champions League in five years.

Neither Atletico Madrid (twice) nor Juventus have been able to stop Cristiano Ronaldo from inflicting pain on them in recent finals.

But Liverpool’s own attacking quality gives them reason to believe and suggests the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital could be the scene of an unforgettable encounter.

In terms of history alone, this is a dream final.

Real’s 12 European Cup wins puts them way ahead of the rest, but Liverpool have lifted the famous trophy five times themselves, most recently in 2005, defying all the odds against AC Milan in Istanbul.

This time, under Klopp, their adventure started against Hoffenheim in the play-offs last August, on through stunning wins over Manchester City and Roma via a 3-3 draw in Seville when they had been three goals up.

Goals galore

They have scored a record 46 goals in all in this season’s Champions League, with Salah netting 11 of those – the Egyptian has 44 in all competitions since joining from Roma last year.

“If we win the competition then the road to Kiev plus the final would be one of the most exceptional rides ever,” Klopp told Liverpool’s website. “So far, it has been outstanding.”

Klopp has lost his last five major finals as a coach, including the 2013 Champions League with Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich, and the 2016 Europa League with Liverpool against Sevilla.

Experience means his team have to be the outsiders in Kiev – none of the squad have ever played in a Champions League final before – but Klopp knows Zinedine Zidane’s side cannot dismiss them.

“Do Real Madrid, sitting in Madrid at the moment, think, ‘thank God it’s Liverpool!’? I can’t imagine that,” added the coach, who has welcomed Emre Can back into his squad.

Salah will of course be so important, especially if Marcelo is unable to resist the temptation to abandon his left-back position and join the Real attack.

While Gareth Bale is unlikely to make Zidane’s line-up, how will the Liverpool midfield cope against Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, their central defence against Ronaldo?

Five for CR7?

Real can became the first team since Bayern in 1976 to lift the European Cup three years running, and thereby make it five consecutive titles for Spain.

Ronaldo could win his fifth Champions League. That would equal the individual record, and leave him in sight of yet another Ballon d’Or.

Zidane, meanwhile, is on the brink of a third straight Champions League win as a coach.

“We have already made history and we want to keep on doing it. It would be incredible,” defender Raphael Varane told Madrid sports daily Marca.

“I still don’t think we have realised the scale of what we are doing, but when all this is over we will.

“Through experience we know how difficult it is going to be, but experience gives more security and serenity as well.”

The build-up to the game itself has been overshadowed by complaints from fans of both sides that getting to Kiev – and finding accommodation there – has been too expensive.

With fans undertaking arduous over-land odysseys to get to Ukraine, and paying extortionate rates for rooms, Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore has claimed the city cannot cope with such a big event.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin confirmed on Thursday that 1,000 tickets allocated to Real fans had been handed back because they could not get there.

Those tickets will – officially at least – be sold to locals, but those coming from afar at great cost will at least be hoping the match itself lives up to its billing. — AFP

Fans return 1,000 tickets as Champions League price hikes spell misery

KIEV: Real Madrid fans have returned 1,000 tickets for Saturday’s Champions League final against Liverpool as spiralling accommodation and travel costs deter supporters from travelling to Kiev.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the tickets could not be resold to Liverpool fans for security reasons but they would instead be put on sale for local fans in the Ukrainian capital.

As anger mounts over the rocketing prices and cancelled bookings — with some hotels charging up to 100 times their standard rates — Liverpool said they had complained to the “highest levels” of European football’s governing body.

Ukrainian UEFA vice-president Grigoriy Surkis criticised the behaviour of hotel owners looking to make a quick buck for the clash between the two European giants, who have won the competition 17 times between them.

“I am not disappointed, I am furious,” he told AFP. “I think it is a disgrace for the capital, where individual hotel owners did not give everyone a chance to come here by raising the prices not ten-fold, the way it happens in other cities, but nearly a hundredfold.”

Around 1,000 Liverpool fans also face the prospect of being stranded in England after a number of charter flights were cancelled due to a disagreement between a travel company and aviation authorities in Kiev over the size of the aircraft.

Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore said he was still hopeful a “favourable solution” can be reached to help those left behind.

However, Moore criticised the infrastructure in Kiev, which hosted the Euro 2012 final, as not fit for purpose.

“They just don’t have the airport infrastructure and the hotel capacity to cope with an event of this size and there isn’t another major city within real hitting distance of it,” he told the Liverpool Echo newspaper.

“It’s not only affected Liverpool fans but Real Madrid fans too. There will be lessons learned from this. Rest assured, I’ve raised this at the highest levels of UEFA.”

The decision to award the final to Kiev was made before Ceferin’s election as president in 2016 and the Slovenian has already reintroduced a tender process with evaluation reports on cities bidding for finals.

Istanbul’s 76,000-capacity Ataturk Olympic Stadium was named as the host for the 2020 final on Thursday, while next season’s final will take place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano.

Ceferin admitted that the black market for tickets was a big problem, with each club originally allocated 16,626 tickets despite worldwide fanbases.

According to UEFA, Kiev’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium has a capacity of 63,000 for the game.

“We cancelled the tickets that were on the black market but the thing is I am not sure if it is possible to completely prevent it, but we are trying to do as much as possible,” he said.

Fans’ plight

Liverpool head of club and supporter liaison Tony Barrett said he sympathised with fans over their plight.

“For those of you who get to Kiev, I hope it’s worth every penny and every ounce of effort that you have put in,” he tweeted.

“For those who don’t — and there are already far too many in this position — I apologise for not being able to help you. Football without fans is nothing.”

Real Madrid fan Marcos Sanchez secured accommodation well in advance but his bookings were cancelled and prices skyrocketed.

“Everything has been a nightmare,” he said. “I have reported it on social networks and Ukrainian journalists have even called me because it gives a bad image for the city and the country.

“People have created a Facebook group offering their houses in Kiev for free and it works brilliantly, it´s genuine.”

Spanish fan groups have organised accommodation outside Ukraine as well as in Kiev and many fans are flying straight in and out.

Nabil Alturek, president of fan group Pena Capote Y Montera, said two groups were travelling. One will sleep in Warsaw one night and Kiev the next before returning to Warsaw and the other will spend the night at the airport in the Ukraine capital.

“It was cheap because we booked a long time ago,” he said. “We were shocked by the cancellations, but we were lucky, we paid 40 or 50 euros per person” at the hotel in Kiev.

But Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, gave a robust response about the situation in the city.

“The fact that prices are going up before a major event, this happens in other places besides Kiev,” he said. “This is world practice. The city cannot regulate business — these are the laws of the market.” — AFP