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African Games: Okagbare, Oduduru, others burn Rabat tracks

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African Games: Okagbare, Oduduru, others burn Rabat tracks

…as athletics begins today

B

lessing Okagbare, Divine Oduduru, and other top Nigerian stars will be in action at the ongoing African Games in Rabat, Morocco, as the track and field event of the championship takes centre stage from Monday, August 26 (today).

Queen of the track, Okagbare, has been in an impeccable form this season and will be fighting against rivals, Cote d’Ivoire duo of Marie Ta Lou and Claude Ahoure.

With Okagbare listed for the women’s 100m, she will hope to lead two other Nigerians to the final of the race as she will be joined by former junior international, Joy Udo-Gabriel and Aniekeme Alphonsus.

Alphonsus will be competing in the colours of the country after moving to the US and she is expected to get to the final alongside others.

 

Despite finishing sixth in men’s 200m at the Paris Diamond League over the weekend, Oduduru will be one of the stars expected to win gold for Nigeria in the men’s 100m.

Since the start of the year, the profile of the Delta-born star has increased after running sub-10secs more than three times.

 

He became the second fastest African man in history after running a new Personal Best of 9.86secs and will hope to replicate his form as he takes to the track on Monday.

 

Another athlete expected to shine for the country in the 100m for men is Raymond Ekevwo who in May ran an impressive 10.02secs, as well as Ese Itsekiri who has been consistent this season.

 

Oyeniyi Abejoye will be hoping to progress in the men’s 110m hurdles while Patience Okon-George, Jecinta Obi and Favour Ofili will be competing in the women’s 400m with Chidi Okezie, Ifeanyi Ojeli and Samson Nathanie, fighting others for a final finish in the men’s 400m.

African champions in women’s Triple Jump, Grace Anigbata, will be hoping to win Nigeria’s first gold in track and field as she goes to the final of the event on Monday.

 

With the start of the track and field events, Team Nigeria are expected to climb up the medal table as they battle for honours in some of the country’s stronghold.

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D’Tigers ranked 23rd best team in the World

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D’Tigers ranked 23rd best team in the World

D’Tigers have moved  up 10 places to the 23rd in the World in the latest FIBA ranking released after the 2019 FIBA men’s World Cup in China.

The senior men’s team who became the first country in the world to qualify for the World Cup won 3 games and lost 2 during the competition to finish 17th out of the 32 participating team.

The Alex Nwora tutored side who have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are still ranked number 1  in Africa ahead of Angola, Tunisia, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire who are ranked 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively.

While reacting after the ranking was published, Nigeria Basketball Federation President, Engr Musa Kida said the latest feat was the right reward for hard work put in place by the federation and the team during the qualifiers and World Cup preparation which culminated in a good outing in China.

“We are really excited with this announcement. It shows that the world has continued to pay attention to Nigerian basketball after many years of playing second fiddle.

“Although, I believe that we deserve more than being 23rd best team in the world based on our current form, but it is a process. The federation is excited that we are on the right track and we will continue to push harder in our resolve to record more successes.”

USA still hold on to the number 1 spot while current World Champion, Spain are ranked 2nd ahead of Australia who climbed 8 places to 3rd spot.

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Brazil friendly, a distraction for Eagles – Amokachi

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Brazil friendly, a distraction for Eagles – Amokachi

…says AFCON qualifier more crucial

 

Former Super Eagles striker, Daniel Amokachi, has issued a strong warning that playing an international friendly against Brazil next month in Singapore could cause distraction for the Nigerian national team from their opening match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

With  Nigeria  set to play Benin Republic at the start of November, Amokachi is of a view that it would have been better for Nigeria Football Federation to arrange build-up matches with African teams, rather than take up the October 13 fixture against Brazil.

Although the former Club Brugge of Belgium, Besiktas of Turkey and Everton of England all-action attacker admitted that playing Brazil adds prestige and profile to Nigeria’s football image, the former FA Cup winner with Everton is of a view that the game will not offer the Eagles much in terms of conditioning, tactics building and acclimatizing ahead of the AFCON 2021 series, in which they will also play Lesotho few days after the opening tussle with West Coast neighbours, Benin Republic.

‘The Bull’ told Brila FM: “Ordinarily, I will say a friendly against Brazil is a good idea, but the timing is not right. We have qualifiers in the African Nations Cup coming up, so we should play countries from Africa, not South America or Europe.

“We have to get our players used to the tough conditions of playing in Africa and the physical nature of the game here, but we cannot get that from playing Brazil in Singapore.

“It was the same mistake we made at the Nations Cup, because our players were not used to the African style of play, which is different from what they experience with their clubs in Europe.

“We should start playing African countries in friendly matches, rather than go for prestige games that will not benefit our players for their coming qualifiers for the Nations Cup.”

Incidentally, the player-turned-coach, who scored 13 goals in 44 appearances for the Eagles, got one of the goals that helped Nigeria get victory over Brazil at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA, when his effort helped seal a semi-finals’ win, but he insists playing The Samba Boys should not be about pride alone, but getting something useful from the game in terms of a build-up.

He argued further that the array of Eagles’ youngsters could face similar problems they had at this year’s AFOCN in Egypt, where he reckons that the physical style of African football and the weather conditions, all of which are different from what majority of the Nigerian players are used to at their various bases in Europe occasioned the team’s inability to win the competition.

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NPFL: Kwara Utd pip Lobi in Okowa pre-season tournament

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NPFL: Kwara Utd pip Lobi in Okowa pre-season tournament

Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa yesterday unveiled the Nigerian Professional Football League preseason tournament at the budding Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, the state capital, with a charge on catch-them-young strategy.

This came as Kwara United and Lobi Stars of Markurdi lock horns on the stadium’s pitch of play for the finals of the Governor’s tournament and the former won the fourth edition.

The Governor, who said the state will continue to sustain its leading role in sports, maintained that hospitality will remain its watchword.

Represented at the ceremony by his Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, the Governor was elated that his name, “Governor Okowa’s Preseason Torunament,” which symbolises Delta State, on the logo, will further enshrine the name of the state on sports’ goldmine.

He charged the young professionals of the two finalist football clubs to make the event a unifying factor and an edifying tournament that will bring succour to Nigerians, despite the economic quagmire.

At the last blow of the encounter after the count of 90 minutes, which resulted into penalty shootout, and Kwara United defeated Lobi Stars 1-0.

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Eagles drop one spot in FIFA rankings

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Eagles drop one spot in FIFA rankings

The Super Eagles of Nigeria has dropped one spot from the position they occupied last month in the latest FIFA rankings released by the World football ruling body on Thursday.

Nigeria was ranked 33rd in the world in the last rankings but they currently occupied the 34th position according to the August/September 2019 edition.

The team only last week played a 2-2 draw against Ukraine in an international friendly game at the Dnipro Stadium, their first game after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, where the team finished third.

Coach Gernot Rohr’s men, however, gained one point, cumulating 1482 points from the previous 1481 points.

In the African ranking, Nigeria maintained its third place despite the drop in the world ranking, with Senegal and Tunisia also maintaining their first and second positions respectively.

Algeria climbed two places in the world rankings and are fourth on the African ranking behind Nigeria, while Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Cameroon, Congo DR, and Cote D’Ivoire occupy the fifth to tenth positions respectively.

Meanwhile, Belgium remained top of the world ranking, with France, Brazil, England, and Portugal making up the top 5.

Belgium continues to hold its place as the topmost country on the FIFA world rankings.

Uruguay, Spain, Croatia, Colombia and Argentina are the other countries who make up the top 10 of the latest FIFA rankings.

The next edition is expected to be announced on October 24.

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GOtv Boxing Night 20: Opeyemi: I’m a big deal, boasts

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GOtv Boxing Night 20: Opeyemi: I’m a big deal, boasts

Highly rated bantamweight boxer, Opeyemi “Sense Adeyemi”, has boasted that he will be the next national champion in his weight division after his fight with Sadiq Adeleke at GOtv Boxing Night 20, which takes place on October 12 at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.

The 19-year-old, who was voted best boxer at GOtv Boxing NextGen Search 4, has described himself as a “big deal,” the reason he has remained undefeated since turning professional.

In a telephone chat yesterday, Adeyemi said his opponent was coming to the venue for sightseeing, as he had no chance of winning.

“This is my first opportunity at fighting for a title. The national title is a big deal to me and, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I’m a big deal as a boxer. Adeleke is just coming to watch. He should watch as much as he can before the fight begins, otherwise he’d have lost the opportunity because I will daze him like he’s never been dazed before,” he said.

The Lagos-born boxer, who caught the eye at GOtv Boxing NextGen Search 3 but was not selected because he was a year too young, explained that he has been undergoing rigorous training and following dietary instructions to ensure that he is in premium condition for the fight, which is one of the eight scheduled to hold at the event.

All eyes will, however, be on the headline bout, which will see African Boxing Union (ABU) lightweight champion, Oto “Joe Boy” Joseph, defend his title against the very dangerous Rilwan “Real One” Oladosu, West African Boxing Union (WABU) champion. The bout, which has been dubbed “Fight of the Decade”, is the peak of the rivalry between the two boxers since their amateur days. Both remain undefeated and are ranked as the best in the division. Other big names slated for action are Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde, WABU welterweight champion; Ridwan “Scorpion” Oyekola, national super featherweight champion; Adewale “Masevex” Masebinu, national light heavyweight champion;  Kabiru “KB Godson Towolawi; former national light heavyweight champion; and Tope “TP Rock” Musa.

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Zenith Bank Tennis ignites Lagos Country Club

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Zenith Bank Tennis ignites Lagos Country Club

It promises to be a festivity of tennis at the Lagos Country Club as the 2019 Zenith Bank Tennis Championships is billed to commence Friday.

According to section chairman, Seyi Adewunmi, the tournament which would feature as many as over 80 participants, will keep the club buzzling for the next two weeks.

Adewunmi expressed gratitude to Zenith Bank stressing that the A-tier banking institution is helping people to get longer life through their sponsorship.

Club captain, Kola Ashiru, informed that five events would be competed for namely Men’s Singles (A and B) Men’s Doubles, Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles and Veteran’s Doubles. He disclosed that over 70 players have already registered for the tournament which would also feature a multiple of junior events aims at developing budding talents in the club.

Zenith Bank Assistant General Manager for Retail Banking, Lanre Oladimeji, pointed that the bank has been at the forefront of supporting sporting activities at all fronts in Nigeria and are delighted to be staging a tournament at the Lagos Country Club.

“From the grassroots up to the elite class, we owe the commitment of supporting and sponsoring sports dearly to our hearts and for this tournament; we will continue to give support as the need arises. We have been sponsoring sports for so many years and that tradition will continue for a very long time.”

Responding on behalf of the players, Jide Adefeso, pledged that all participants will imbibe high spirits of sportsmanship while also adding that the sponsors would get full value for their money.

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CAF Club Championships: Late NPFL start affected Enyimba, Rangers – Udeze

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CAF Club Championships: Late NPFL start affected Enyimba, Rangers – Udeze

Former Super Eagles’ defender, Ifeanyi Udeze, has blamed the late kick of the Nigeria Professional Football League on the poor performance of Enyimba and Rangers in the African Continental championships, the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup.

Enyimba played a goalless draw at home to ten-man Al Hilal of Sudan while Rangers lost 2-1 to AS Pelican of Gabon.

Speaking against the backdrop, Udeze said that both clubs went out against teams that were already into the nitty-gritty of league action in their respective countries, unlike Nigeria’s delayed season.

The former PAOK Saloniki of Greece and West Bromwich Albion of England left-back pointed out that the Rangers and Enyimba’s players were yet to get into competitive mood, considering that the NPFL is not on, and he reasoned that determination on their part cannot suffice against opponents who are already in the thick of domestic action.

He reckoned further that build-up friendlies and regular training sessions are not enough to put players into competitive mood, hence his verdict that The Flying Antelopes and Peoples’ Elephant struggled for form in last weekend’s matches against Pelicans of Gabon and Al-Hilal of Sudan respectively.

Udeze argued: “It’s true that they have been training and played some friendly matches before going for the continental fixtures, but training and friendlies are not the same as competitive matches.”

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Ghana striker, Gyan, heads to India

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Ghana striker, Gyan, heads to India

Former Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan is heading to the India Super League after joining NorthEast United on a free transfer.

Gyan will travel to Guwahati this weekend to begin the latest leg of a career that has spanned ten clubs and three continents already and he says he is looking forward to it.

“I am extremely excited to start this new chapter in my career,” the 33-year-old said.

“I have heard great things about NorthEast United FC and the Indian Super League and I am thrilled to be a part of it for the upcoming season.

“I am confident that we can better the wonderful season the club had last year.”

He moves to India with a massive reputation honed at international level and during spells at clubs around the world particularly in the United Arab Emirates.

Ghana’s record international goal scorer and the leading African scorer at the World Cup has also played in the top leagues in England, France and Italy as well as China.

NorthEast Executive Director Priya Runchal is hopeful those credentials would reflect in Gyan’s performance at the club.

“We are thrilled to have a player of Gyan’s calibre and experience join our squad,” Runchal said.

“He has continuously delivered excellence at the highest of levels of world football and we are confident that he will add a lot of firepower on the pitch here.”

The club was only formed in 2014 and their highest finish in the Indian Super League was last season as they claimed fourth place, reports the BBC.

Gyan will hope to replace NorthEast’s top scorer from last season Nigeria Bartholomew Ogbeche, who scored 12 goals before leaving to join Indian rivals the Kerala Blasters.

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Footballer shot dead in Holland

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Footballer shot dead in Holland

Former Burton Albion defender Kelvin Maynard has been shot and killed in Amsterdam, Dutch police have confirmed. Police said the player, 32, was shot in his car at around 8.30pm last night while driving in the Langbroekdreef area.

He is believed to have attempted to escape the gunmen by driving towards a nearby fire station, according to ‘De Telegraaf’. Detectives are appealing for witnesses as they search for two suspects who they say escaped on a black scooter.

The suspects were dressed in black, police said.

Officers from the nearby fire station tried to help Maynard after his car crashed into the front of the building but he was unable to be resuscitated.

He died two hours later of his injuries, ‘BBC Sport’ reports.

The Dutch-Surinamese player, who formerly played for Royal Antwerp, was at non-league Dutch club Alphense Boys at the time of his death.

Maynard joined Burton Albion in November 2014 following Dutchman Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s appointment as manager. Injury restricted him to 10 appearances when the club won the 2014-15 League Two title before he was ruled out by a knee injury he suffered in a pre-season game. He left Burton in January 2017 to join Dutch side Spakenbu.

There were no other injuries in the shooting and nobody was hurt inside the fire station, ‘NL Times’ reports.

* Courtesy: metro.co.uk

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Europa League: 17-year-old Greenwood to lead United’s attack against Astana

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Europa League: 17-year-old Greenwood to lead United’s attack against Astana

Teenage striker Mason Greenwood will start Manchester United’s Europa League group game against Astana at Old Trafford on Thursday.

The 17-year-old has already made four substitute appearances in the Premier League this season.

England under-21 defender Axel Tuanzebe will also start, alongside reserve goalkeeper Sergio Romero and Brazilian midfielder Fred.

Winger Daniel James misses out after picking up a knock against Leicester.

The 21-year-old Welshman, who has scored three goals in five league games this season, joins midfielder Paul Pogba, forward Anthony Martial and defender Luke Shaw on the injury list.

However, midfielder Jesse Lingard has recovered from illness and is likely to be involved.

Greenwood had an impressive summer for United, scoring in pre-season victories over Inter Milan and Leeds after making his debut in their Champions League last-16 victory over Paris St-Germain in March.

He will start his first game of the season on Thursday and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has “matured in the last six months”.

“He’s still very young. I remember the kid who just wanted to play with his mates in the under-18s,” said Solskjaer. “Now he’s knocking on the door and his appetite for football must be growing.

“I just don’t want to put too much pressure on him. Mason’s one of the best finishers I’ve seen and I’ve played with a few decent ones.

“When you’re 17, 18, 19 years old, the next game is always the most important one. It doesn’t matter how many you scored last week.

“There will be 11 Astana players living the dream – it is one of the biggest games of their careers – but I want it to be a memorable one for our players as well.”

Tuanzebe made his debut in a 4-0 win over Wigan in the FA Cup in January 2017 and has made nine first-team appearances in total for Manchester United, reports the BBC.

But he has played just one minute in the Premier League this season, coming on as a late substitute in Saturday’s narrow 1-0 victory over Leicester.

“It’s part of the process of growing. I remember my glimpses in the first team at 19 – it wasn’t to be then but now I’m 21 and things are starting to open up more. I know where I want to be going,” said Tuanzebe.

Solskjaer added: “If you don’t throw them in, you don’t know what you’ve got. I don’t see any other way of doing this.

“I’ve always done it wherever I’ve been, that’s my belief as a coach, to give a chance, an opportunity.”

Despite reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season, United entered the Europa League following a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

They won this competition on their last appearance in 2016-17 and have never failed to go beyond the group stages.

It is the first time they come up against Kazakh champions Astana, who are competing in the Europa League for the fourth successive season.

Best of the stats

*This will be the first-ever competitive meeting between an English side and a Kazakh side.

*Manchester United are unbeaten in their past 11 Europa League games (W8, D3).

*In last season’s Europa League, Astana became the third side to have as many as eight points from their opening four group games but fail to qualify for the knockout stages.

*Manchester United have lost their past two home games in European competition – they have never lost three in a row at Old Trafford before.

*After losing six of their first seven away games in major European competition (D1), Astana have lost just one of their past six on the road (W2, D3).

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