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Charitable gesture keeps Glasgow City’s Champions League dream alive

Paris (AFP) – Glasgow City and their new South African signing Janine van Wyk will be quite happy to play the role of underdogs in their Women’s Champions League quarter-final against Wolfsburg in Spain on Friday — after all, just being there is a huge achievement for the Scottish team.

That would have been the case even before the coronavirus pandemic halted City’s domestic season, stopped their players from training for months and cut off what few sources of income they had.

That they were able to carry out the necessary coronavirus testing and pay for the required charter flight to the Basque Country for their quarter-final is down to the charity of one man.

Edinburgh-based philanthropist James Anderson had already donated three million pounds ($4 million) to Scottish men’s clubs to help them through the coronavirus crisis. He donated a further 250,000 pounds to women’s football and then stepped in to save Glasgow City.

“We had nowhere else to go. I don’t think we would have made it to the quarter-final,” City coach Scott Booth told AFP.

“We couldn’t have paid for testing. We are testing at the moment twice a week, and it’s costing thousands and thousands of pounds, and it was the only way we could get to play this game.

“Then we were also asked to get a charter flight, which costs anywhere between 30 and 60,000 pounds.

“We just couldn’t have done this without his money. We are so thankful to him.”

City have dominated Scottish women’s football, winning 13 straight league titles. They have also been here before in the Champions League, losing to Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals in 2015.

Yet beating German champions Wolfsburg would have been a monumental task for Booth’s players regardless of the current context.

Glasgow lost their opening game of the 2020 season to Celtic’s newly professional team back in February but that was their only match of a campaign that was eventually scrapped. A new season begins in October.

In the meantime, former Scotland striker Booth has had little time to prepare his players.

– Van Wyk ‘100 percent on board’ –

“I think this has been the most challenging thing that I have had to do as a football coach,” said Booth, whose team beat Danish side Brondby on penalties in the last 16 back in October last year.

“This is the toughest thing, not only because of the restrictions and the fact the players last played a proper game back in February, and even then it wasn’t a proper game with the wind and rain.

“That was six months ago and they have only recently been able to start kicking a ball again.

“Add to it that you are playing against one of the best women’s teams in the world. It is just a momentous task for my players, some of whom have been working right through lockdown because of their jobs.”

South Africa captain Van Wyk walked into the club in July. The centre-back, aged 33, had previously been with Fortuna Hjorring, but an injury led to her leaving the Danish outfit in January.

“I was asked if I would be interested in bringing Janine to the club and I absolutely jumped at the chance,” said Booth of Van Wyk, who captained Banyana Banyana at last year’s World Cup in France.

“I have made a conscious effort to bring in players with a little bit of experience because what we are going through at the moment is not normal and you need quite strong characters to be involved.

“Right from the word go she was 100 percent on board to come and play for Glasgow City.”

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