Nigeria’s friendly match against the DR Congo is not under threat in spite of the Ebola outbreak in the country, the Nigeria Football Federation’s 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi, has said.
Akinwumi told the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday in Lagos that necessary precautionary measures had been put in place to forestall transmission of the deadly disease into Nigeria. NAN reports that the football governing body had lined up some friendly matches as build-up to the Super Eagles participation in the Russia 2018 World Cup.
In the friendly matches, the Super Eagles are expected to play DR Congo on May 28, in Port Harcourt before the warm-up game against the Three Lions of England on June 2 at Wembley Stadium.
The friendly match for the Eagles against the Diables Rouges (Red Devils) of Congo has been a speculation for cancellation due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in the country. Akinwumi however said there was no need to panic over the friendly match saying that adequate measures had been put in place to forestall transmission of the disease into Nigeria.
“We will not jeopardise the health of Nigerians, we have notified the DR Congo Football Federation, while both presidents have met at the CAF committee and finalised issues.
“Beyond that, we have written to the Ministry of Health to have all those coming to Nigeria tested. However, most of the Dr Congo players for the match are foreign-based.
“To assure Nigerians, we will not risk anything for the match, there should be no fear at all. “We are 100 per cent sure that everyone coming for the match will be subjected to test in Congo before coming and Nigeria before they go out,’’ he told NAN.
Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League:Air Warriors, MFM upset FirstBank, Dolphins
…as newcomers clash in final today
New kids on the block Air Warriors of Abuja produced a valiant effort on Wednesday to reach the final of the Zenith Bank Women Basketball League National Final 8 by beating perennial champions FirstBank 62-61.
Air Warriors will face MFM in the final after the Lagos club defeated Dolphins 58-53 in the second semi-final also on Wednesday.
Air Warriors and FirstBank had both won their previous four games in the Final 8 and their semi-final game was billed as the clash of titans.
FirstBank, who had been unbeaten since 2015 and have won nine national titles, looked on course for another win as they took a 15-7 lead in the first quarter.
The Lagos club increased the lead to 32-23 points at the end of the second quarter and did not let up in the third quarter, extending their advantage to 49-36.
But the determined Air Warriors fought back from the 13-point deficit to tie 58-58 deep into the fourth quarter.
Air Warriors took the lead (60-59) for the first time with just 38 seconds left on the clock and held on for the narrow win before a hugely excited audience at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
Although the Elephant Ladies tied the game again at 61-61 with 30 seconds left, Air Warriors were undaunted and won by one point to reach their first final.
The final of the Zenith Bank Women Basketball League Final 8 will be played on Thursday at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
With the wins, Air Warriors and MFM have guaranteed spots in the FIBA Africa Zone 3 Champions Cup qualifiers in Cotonou scheduled for 28 October to 3 November.
AFCON U23: Foreign-based players to join camp on Monday
Invited foreign-based are expected to join the camp of the Dream Team VII as they intensify preparations for the ahead of the 2019 U-23 African Cup of Nations in Egypt next month.
The team resumed camping on Monday in Abuja with home-based players and started training immediately under the tutelage of their technical crew headed by Coach Imama Amapakabo.
The defending champions of the U-23 AFCON, eased past Sudan 5-1 on aggregate to book a place in the 3rd U-23 AFCON in Cairo, Egypt from where Africa’s three representatives at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will emerge.
Amapakabo confirmed that the home based players and their foreign counterparts will train together for a week before jetting out to Egypt.
Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles are in Group B alongside Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa and Zambia and all the matches will be played at Al Salam Stadium, Cairo.
The tournament will start on November 8th and the final is slated for 22nd of the same month.
Moreno: Chukwueze similar to Mane
Villarreal defender Alberto Moreno claims his teammate Samuel Chukwueze and Liverpool forward Sadio Mane are quite similar.
Chukwueze has established himself as a key player in Javi Calleja’s team since he made his first-team debut in the Spanish top-flight last season.
The 20-year-old plays on the right flank for the Yellow Submarine and his qualities on the field have drawn a comparison with Mane, who is one of the key players for Liverpool.
Moreno played alongside the Senegalese star during his time at Anfield and he is convinced about the similarities the two players share together.
“He’s very good, very good,” Moreno was quoted as saying by Marca.
It’ll seem like bulls**t, but I’ve been following him since last season. He’s super incisive, fast; you never know where he’s going to go.
“He’s strong too, young, and defined. He’s a lot like Sadio Mane. I’ve seen the two in training and they’re very similar.
“He has a lot to learn because he’s very young, but he’ll become an even better player than he is [now].”
Chukwueze, a scorer of two goals in La Liga this campaign, is one of 10 nominees for the 2019 Kopa Trophy.
IAAF missing funds: Sport Minister orders immediate repayment
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, has ordered the repayment of the missing funds wrongly paid by the International Association of Athletic Federation to the account of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria.
It would be recalled that for more than a year now, there has been wrangling over the overpayment from the world athletics ruling body to the tune of $135,000 after it credited the AFN the sum of $150,000 instead of $15,000.
The former Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, said before leaving office that he had ordered the payment of 50% of the money after the IAAF threatened to ban the country athletes from taking part in any competition.
Speaking after taking office, the new minister described the incident as a slap on the face of Nigeria and a big embarrassment to the Presidency as he promised to see to the payment of the money.
Dare however twitted on his official handle on Wednesday that he had approved the release of the funds.
According to the tweet, the IAAF should get the funds in few days although he didn’t mention the amount approved.
“I have approved the release of funds to refund the IAAF overpayment wrongly credited to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria,” the tweet read.
“In a few days from now the funds should hit the account of the IAAF barring any interbank delays. With this Nigeria’s reputation is regained.”
U-17 WC: Awoniyi warns Eaglets over Hungary striker, Nemeth
Golden Eaglets have been warned to beware of Hungary dangerman, Andras Nemeth when both teams clash in their opening match of the 2019 U-17 World Cup finals Saturday in Goiania on Saturday night.
Kick-off of the match on Saturday is 9pm in Nigeria, which is four hours ahead of Goiania.
According to a Nigerian plying is trade in Belgium Royal Excel Mouscron Football Club, Taiwo Awoniyi, Nemeth is one of the best young strikers in Belgium, where he has already been pushing for first-team place at champions KRC Genk.
He told a Belgium News Agency in one of the previews for the tie that Nemeth was one of the stars as Hungary shone at the UEFA U-17 Championships to qualify for the U-17 World Cup in Brazil after a 34-year absence.
“Fans back in his home in Hungary were full of praises for the young lad after they qualified from the Euro group for the World Cup. They are looking forward for a repeat of that performance in Brazil,” said Awoniyi.
The other star for Hungary is giant goalkeeper Krisztian Hegyi, who is with Premier League club West Ham and will be one of the tallest in Brazil as he stands 1.93 metres.
Incidentally, both Nigeria and Hungary are clashing again since China 1985, when the Eaglets won 3-1 on their way to landing the maiden U-17 FIFA championship.
Eaglets assistant coach Nduka Ugbade captained Nigeria to victory on the day.
My dad sold his car for me to join Chelsea – Aina
Super Eagles ace defender, Ola Aina, has revealed how his parents made him to become a successful footballer.
Aina, who won a bronze medal for Nigeria at the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt, disclosed that his father had to sell his car while driving him to Chelsea so as to make sure that he succeeds in his endeavour.
“The car just stopped in the middle of Vauxhall (in central London), and we were just stranded and needed money to get there.
“My dad sold the car on the spot and then he puts me on the train. He came on the train with me because I hadn’t really used trains like that before, so it wasn’t really too familiar.
“He came with me all the way to Chelsea training ground, made sure I got into my changing room, and then went all the way back home again.
“All those sacrifices they [made] is fuel for me to strive and to do well and repay them in ways that they can’t imagine.” Ola Aina explained to Al Jazeera.
The 23-year-old defender in 2017 decided to play for Nigeria despite representing England in youth levels. He played five games for Nigeria at the 2019 Nations Cup and Aina’s back-heeled assist against Burundi earned him praises from fans home and abroad.
Aina who made his first-team debut for Chelsea in July 2014 in a pre-season friendly against AFC Wimbledon revealed how his parents helped him to become a successful footballer.
In 2017, Ola chose to represent the Nigeria national football team, also known as the Super Eagles, at the international level, despite having played for England in the youth ranks.
At the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, his spectacular back-heeled assist against Burundi was among the many moments celebrated by fans and countrymen.
His performance in North Africa earned him rave reviews in the local press and also impressed the notoriously judgemental Super Eagles fans on social media.
Thousands of miles away, he was being cheered in Nigeria.
“It was all over the news, [Ola] gave our folks something to be proud of back home,” said his uncle Abayomi Aina.
“I was overjoyed and the fact that it’s my nephew, the name Aina being mentioned by commentators.
“In a country of about 200 million people, his name was on the lips of millions from Lagos to Ijebu Ikenne (the family’s ancestral hometown) and it was indeed a proud moment for us.”
Aribo turns his attention to Porto
Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo has set his sight on helping the Gers triumph over Porto when they meet in Thursday’s Europa League game.
Steven Gerrard’s men have only won one game in three outings and threw away their chance to leapfrog Celtic to the Premiership top position last weekend after playing out a 1-1 draw against Hearts.
Nigeria international Aribo revealed his displeasure at the Gers’ failure to secure all three points in the encounter but he is hopeful they will bounce back to winning ways when they travel to Portugal to face Sergio Conceicao’s men.
“We’re frustrated, we wanted to go out there and get the points but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that,” Aribo told Rangers TV.
“After a result like this, we just want to bounce back and give it our all to try and come home with a result.
“I would say European football is more structured and it’s a bit different from what we have domestically.”
Aribo only returned to Rangers’ squad last weekend against Hearts, having missed his side’s last three games due to a head injury.
Collins returns from injury
Nigeria have been handed a fitness boost ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho with SC Paderborn defender Jamilu Collins’ return to full training.
The left-back did not suffer an injury as the Super Eagles were held to a 1-1 draw by Brazil on October 13 but picked up a flu virus upon his return to Germany.
And as a result of the minor ailment, Collins was omitted from the matchday 18 last weekend as SC Paderborn were thrashed 3-0 by Cologne.
Prior to the meeting against Cologne at RheinEnergieStadion, the Nigeria international had played 51 straight league games for SC Paderborn in the 3 Liga, 2. Bundesliga and Bundesliga.
He netted his maiden goal in the Bundesliga in a 3-2 loss to Bayern Munich on game week six.
Paderborn are the basement team in the German top-flight with only one point from eight games, and face Fortuna Düsseldorf in their next league game on Saturday.
Europa League: StarTimes to air Arsenal, Man United ties
StarTimes subscribers will continue to enjoy live sporting action of the Europa League football as English giants; Manchester United and Arsenal continue their quests for continental glory today when they return to the Europa League at the Emirate and Partizan Stadium respectively.
Arsenal will host Victoria SC at the Emirate Stadium, while Manchester United will travel to Serbia for their tie against Partizan Belgrade. Both matches will be broadcast in Nigeria by StarTimes on its Channels 254 and 245.
Arsenal Coach, Unai Emery is likely to send out a much changed team for today’s game, much as he has in their previous matches with Standard Liege and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is likely to be rested while Alexandre Lacazette was fit enough to come on as a substitute against the Blades, young Brazilian striker Gabriel Martinelli is expected to lead the line after nabbing four goals in his first two starts for Arsenal.
The Gunners have won both of their opening fixtures in this year’s group stage while fielding a side packed with youth products, scoring seven goals and keeping two clean sheets in the process.
United won their opening Europa League tie 1-0 against FC Astana at Old Trafford, before playing out a turgid 0-0 draw away to AZ Alkmaar, meaning Solskjaer’s side have yet to concede in Europe this season.
Eaglets: U-17 World Cup shouldn’t just be about winning
The Nigeria Football Federation and many Nigerians have over time counted winning titles at age-grade tournaments as big achievements. This should not be the case.
As the FIFA U-17 World Cup begins in Brazil on Saturday, pressure will be on the coach of the Golden Eaglets to win the tournament.
Although Manu Garba has won the title before as head coach in 2013, he should be a lot more fulfilled that several of the players he took to the United Arab Emirates are continuing to make progress in their football careers.
For serious countries and football associations, the main purpose of participating in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and other age-grade competitions is not to win the shiny trophies.
The main aim, since FIFA inaugurated the U-20 World Cup in 1977 (the U-17 version followed in 1985), has always been to develop young talent and provide a platform for these teenagers to showcase their abilities.
Because of the developmental objective of these age-grade competitions, serious FAs do not measure success by immediate results; it’s what happens a few years down the line that really counts.
Apart from here in Nigeria and a few other countries, winning age-grade competitions does not count for much. The aim is to use these tournaments as the building blocks towards winning the ones that really matter: senior titles.
Even the Olympics, where three players over the age of 23 years are allowed in each team, are still not regarded as elite titles in international football. The Africa Cup of Nations, the European Championship and Copa America are all weightier than Olympic gold in the football world, especially since the Olympic men’s football event is no longer a senior tournament.
For instance, in the GOAT (greatest of all time) debate, Lionel Messi is regularly questioned for not having an international title to his name. He was instrumental in Argentina’s 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup title and the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal, but those are apparently not enough.
And it is clear that it tears the Argentina legend up inside that he has come so close on several occasions to win a proper international title. He has cried, he has quit the national team and he has thrown uncharacteristic tantrums after each attempt to win the World Cup or Copa America failed.
Conversely, Cristiano Ronaldo has no U-20 or Olympic titles, but his one European Championship trophy is considered to give him an international edge over Messi.
So Nigeria should look beyond immediate gains from these age-group tournaments and see the bigger picture.
It is pennywise, pound-foolish to cheat in order to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup at all costs. Of course winning it gives the NFF bragging rights and gets the team financial rewards from politicians, but the costs to the future of Nigerian football are enormous.
If five years after winning the tournament, three-quarters of the winning squad are already over the hill when they should just be entering their peak years, then that’s failure.
The measure of success of an U-17 tournament is in how many of the squad of 23 players are in the senior squad five years after or at least how many are making any kind of progress.
It is understandable that some of the players will leave football for other careers, some will get injured, and some will not just be good enough. Still, at least 10 from a squad should be in active football and the majority of these should be making steady progress.
What is the point of a country being regularly ace at U-17 level only to repeatedly fail at senior level?
For context, Nigeria has won the FIFA U-17 World Cup a record five times but the country has never advanced beyond the round of 16 at the senior World Cup.
Brazil, Italy, Germany, Argentina, Spain and France have all shared the senior World Cup between them since the U-17 version was introduced in 1985. Combined, these countries have won the U-17 World Cup only four times. Obviously, they know the one that really counts.
Thankfully, Nigeria appears to be serious in tackling the age-cheating tendencies that for years stalled the growth of the country’s football.
Despite our ‘success’ at U-17 level, the Golden Eaglets have not produced enough players that have gone on to excel at senior level.
From the 1985 set that won the inaugural title, only Jonathan Akpoborie, Nduka Ugbade, Baldwin Bazuaye, Imama Amapakabo and maybe one or two others had notable senior careers. By the 1990s, most of the squad had disappeared from the football landscape.
The title-winning 1993 team fared much better with Nwankwo Kanu, Wilson Oruma, Celestine Babayaro, Karibe Ojigwe all making the step up to the Super Eagles and several others going on to have decent careers.
That set has been the most successful in terms of development until recently.
The 2007 squad was disappointing, as the majority of the players are no longer in football. It’s 12 years after and they should still be in top shape if they were truly 16, 17 in 2007. Only Macaulay Chrisantus, Dele Ajiboye, Rabiu Ibrahim and Haruna Lukman made any sort of progress from that group and even these ones are no longer on top of their game.
The 2013 and 2015 sets have shown promise six and four years after with Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success, Dele Alampasu, Taiwo Awoniyi and Chidiebere Nwakali rising through the ranks from the 2013 set.
The 2015 group has already produced Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Nwakali with time for more to emerge.
This should be our yardstick for success as the 2019 set takes on the world from Saturday. If they win the cup in the process, it’s a welcome bonus.
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