Toby Alderweireld statue to replace Leopold II? Tottenham defender 'honoured' by petition
Alderweireld says Harry Kane looks fully fit again after hamstring injury; Ben Davies relishing Manchester United clash live on Sky
By Liam Grace
Last Updated: 14/06/20 11:43am
Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld says he is "honoured" by the online petition to replace the statue of former King Leopold II in Antwerp with one of the Belgian defender, although he thinks it is a bit far-fetched.
Last week, the statue of Leopold II - who oversaw Belgium's rule of the Congo - was taken down after it was set on fire by anti-racism protesters, with 1,000 signing the petition to replace it with the Spurs centre-back.
The removal of controversial statues is happening all over the world thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged following the death of George Floyd, who was killed after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis on May 25.
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Alderweireld, 31, who has 98 caps for Belgium, admitted that he was flattered by the idea of having a statue of himself put up in Ekeren - a northern district of the municipality of Antwerp - although he thought it was a joke.
"I was laughing [when I saw the petition]," he told The Guardian. "I thought it was some kind of joke, that people are actually signing the petition.
"I have to say I'm a little bit honoured as well. It's a small town in Belgium and until I was 15 I spent my youth there. I went to school there and I still go back.
"If they really wanted to I would never say no because I would be honoured, but I will not sign my own petition. Of all the people who have, I think about 80 per cent are my friends."
Alderweireld and his Tottenham team-mates are gearing up for the return of top-flight action when they face Manchester United on Friday Night Football - live on Sky Sports Premier League - a club he was previously linked to before signing a new contract at the end of last year.
Spurs have been boosted by the return of Harry Kane, who played in the club's 2-1 friendly defeat to bottom-placed Premier League side Norwich on Friday.
"In training he looks fully fit, top fit, so we're going to see the old Kane again," Alderweireld added. "He has been out for a longer period so his desire to show everyone is unbelievable, so you're going to see a very good Kane.
"Everyone went into 'beast mode' - training, training. We didn't know when we were going back. Maybe the week after, two weeks after. So people think we were on holiday but we sure weren't.
"When we were back training we felt like: 'I'm ready,' not like in pre-season when it's: 'Oh, I have to start all over again, I feel muscle pain."
Davies: We know United trip is vital
Ben Davies has admitted Friday's comeback clash against Manchester United is crucial to Tottenham's hopes of finishing the Premier League season on a high.
"It is a huge game in our season - if we start off on the front foot it can really give us a big platform and confidence to push on for the rest of the season," he told the club's website.
"We know that this game is vital going into the final bit of our season to where we want to finish. It's been a long preparation for it but we can't wait to get going."
Quizzed on the friendly defeat to Norwich, Davies added: "It was really nice to be back and it is something we are going to have to get used to - playing in an empty stadium and making sure we're up and at it."
Tottenham - on the back foot when football was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic - have a huge amount of work to do to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Spurs are eighth in the table, seven points behind fourth-placed rivals Chelsea, and four behind Manchester United in fifth place, which is also set to be a Champions League slot given Manchester City's current ban, pending the outcome of their appeal.
On the face of it, their nine-game run in looks less daunting than it might, with only Manchester United - their first game live on Sky Sports behind closed doors on June 19 - and arch-rivals Arsenal their traditional top opponents remaining.
But they also face Champions League-chasing Leicester, Sheffield United, who are deservedly in the hunt for Europe, and two sides battling against relegation in Bournemouth and another local rival in West Ham.
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The Premier League 2019/20 season will provisionally restart on Wednesday June 17 and Sky, the UK's leading football broadcaster, will make 25 games available 'free to air' - including Everton vs Liverpool on the first full weekend back - for everyone in the UK to enjoy.
Sky Sports will show 64 live Premier League games when the season resumes. In addition to the 39 matches already scheduled to be broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports before the coronavirus interruption, 25 more matches will be available on both Sky Sports Premier League and Sky's free-to-air Pick channel, allowing the whole nation to be part of the return of live sport.
To celebrate the return of the Premier League, Sky Sports will also launch a host of innovative new features and updates to give fans an even more immersive experience and share the moments live with family and friends on virtual platforms.