Three frontline Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirants in Bayelsa State have pledged that their administration would give priority consideration to sports development.
The aspirants, Senator Douye Diri, Dr. Nimibofa Ayawei and Barr. Kemela Okara, who are all seeking the sole ticket of their party to contest the November 16 governorship election, made the promise when organisers of the Restoration Cup presented the tournament’s branded jerseys to them.
The Tournament Director, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, who is also Special Adviser to the Bayelsa Governor on Public Affairs, quoted Senator Diri as saying that as a former Commissioner for Sports in the state, it is expected that sports would be prioritised when he becomes governor.
His words: “It is on record that during my time as commissioner in charge of the sports ministry, our sports men and women had a robust welfare package. I never compromised their welfare and wellbeing. At that time, Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens emerged champions of the male and female league respectively.
“Sports is a very important tool to positively engage our youths. A physically sound body produces a sound mind. That is the reason I exercise at least three days every week,” he said.
Diri commended the governor for enhancing unity and peaceful co-existence in the state through the Restoration Cup, which is also known as the Governor Henry Seriake Dickson Football Tournament.
While praising the organisers for lifting the Restoration Cup to the status of the biggest grassroots football tournament in Nigeria, Diri said he would ensure the competition is sustained and the name retained.
He added that his adminstration would focus on areas of sports that the state has comparative advantage like swimming, combat sports, football among others.
On his part, Dr. Ayawei noted that as a footballer himself, he understands the importance of sports in lifting the youths out of idleness, indolence and criminality.
He said a competition like the Restoration Cup has succeeded in bringing the youths of the state together and has become a good channel to discover talents that abound in the communities.
“Seeking out and positively engaging our youths is a lifelong commitment for me. So, sports and competitions like the Restoration Cup would be well supported and the welfare of our athletes prioritised,” he said.
The Chemist-turned tax man also spoke about his vision to further boost the internally generated revenue profile of state.
He said Bayelsa can have about N3.5billion IGR monthly once a road is constructed to the Brass island, which hosts an Agip oil terminal as well as a proposed fertiliser plant and liquefied natural gas projects.
These projects, Ayawei noted, can comfortably provide jobs for no fewer than 3000 youths.
Okara, who is the immediate past Secretary to State Government, described sports, and football in particular, as vital and a sure means of getting young people out of harms way.
“You cannot write off the huge multidimensional benefits that sports bring, whether in terms of character moulding or in the area of job creation because Nigerian footballers now earn millions of dollars.
“The Restoration Cup has come to stay. I am committed to this and will support it. I believe that by God’s grace, when I emerge as the governor of this state, I will invest massively in sports.”
In his remarks, Director-General of the Restoration Cup, Mr. Ono Akpe, commended the aspirants for their support, without which he said the competition would not have made good progress.
He solicited their continued cooperation to enable the organisers discover more football talents for the state and the country.
“Through this competition, we were able to take the Restoration Starlets to the Africa Youth Cup in Cape Verde, where they came third. That competition offered some of these young lads the opportunity to leave the state and flew in a plane for the first time in their lives.
“They returned to Nigeria and took part in the state league, which they won. Today, they are set to represent the state in the playoffs of the national amateur league,” Akpe said.
I won’t allow any NFF member to force players on me –Rohr
Super Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, has declared that he has not mandated any member of the Nigeria Football Federation to invite players on his behalf.
A top chieftain of the NFF reportedly met with Queens Park Rangers of England midfielder, Eberechi Eze, with a view to convincing him to pledge his future to Nigeria but Rohr insisted he did not sanction anyone to approach any player.
Rohr has said would not bow to any pressure from his employers to force Eze or any other player on him.
Rohr stressed: “I will never ask the NFF publicly to approach any player for our team. We have our processes and it certainly doesn’t include sharing such information publicly.”
A cross section of Nigerian fans and soccer pundits reacting to the issue had said the task of inviting players should be left with the team’s gaffer.
The current situation might further severe the situation between both parties as Rohr has publicly asked for some of his unpaid allowances and salaries, the comment which later earned him a query from the soccer authority.
Rohr’s contract ends June 2020 and there strong indications that the 66 year old may walk away if there is no increment in his salary and allowances.
DR Congo has quietly been making enquiries about the Franco-German coach but his employers said he was still in contract with them.
‘No regrets benching Osimhen against Chelsea’
Lille coach Christophe Galtier has said he has no regrets benching his key players including leading scorer Victor Osimhen in their last group match against Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Osimhen was an unused substitute as Lille lost 2-1 at Chelsea to finish bottom of Group H with one point.
In a post-match press conference Galtier said it was a tactical decision to rest some of his big stars including Jonathan Ikoné and captain Jose Fonte because of the busy days ahead of the squad.
”I wouldn’t say I have regrets regarding my choices. Obviously, as you said, we’ve got some tough fixtures coming up, Montpellier then a Cup game and Monaco. There was in effect nothing to play for in this game, so I don’t have any regrets,” Galtier told reporters.
”I am also happy I managed to give some players the chance to start in this competition.”
”Our objective is clear for the next three games, that’s what we are focusing on. We’ll see what happens starting from Friday with Montpellier.
”There have been a lot of games back-to-back as well since November.”
Osimhen was named in Lille’s starting line-up for Champions League games five times this season, and was on target against Chelsea and Valencia on matchday two and four respectively.
Sports Minister promises to turn Dambe to national sport
The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Tuesday received members of the Dambe (traditional wrestling) association in Abuja and promised to turn the sport into national event.
Dare promised to restructure Dambe in order for it to compete favourably with other sports, while commending the founders of the association for taking the sport to other parts of the country.
The Minister who had addressed the fighters in Hausa language before speaking collectively to the delegation, said: “I grew up in the northern part of the country and Dambe was predominantly a northern sport for fun.
“I commend you for making something out of nothing. You have taken the sport to other parts of the country and that is highly commendable.”
The minister who expressed delight that the founders of the association are young people, said, that has been the main goal of the ministry.
Dare stressed that they really want to see youths who use their brains, hands and innovative minds to do something for themselves and the country as a whole.
He added: “What you have done is very encouraging and we are going to leverage on what you have done as co-founders.”
“You need to create domestic league of Dambe fighters and make it more competitive in nature. Dambe gives us another opportunity to keep the youth busy and take them off crime because it engages their mind and makes them productive.”
He also assured that Dambe would be brought into the fold of traditional sports so as to create structure and bring added benefits to it.
Iheanacho targets more records with Leicester
Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho is aiming to help his side break more records this season.
The Nigeria international played a key as the King Power Stadium outfit set a new club all-time best of eight consecutive Premier League wins.
Iheanacho, who endured a torrid time at the start of the campaign, as he found game-time difficult to come by, has been in excellent form lately for the Foxes.
The 23-year-old scored the match-winner in his first English top-flight game against Everton and went on to deliver another outstanding display against Aston Villa, where he found the back of the net and provided an assist.
The victories ensured Brendan Rodgers’ men are second on the league table with 38 points from 16 games, six above reigning champions Manchester City.
Iheanacho believes the Foxes can further extend their winning streak and make their fans joyful as Christmas draws near.
“It’s very good to be a part of this great squad. I’m happy to be part of it and going forward we have fantastic players and great quality,” Iheanacho told LCFCTV.
“Everyone is buzzing, everyone is happy. It’s a fantastic record and we have a great manager and great staff.
“I feel we can win the next game and we’ll keep going and get more records. There have been good Christmas presents so far, we’ll keep going and get more wins.”
Reacting to his sparkling performance against Aston Villa on Sunday, he said: “On a personal level, I’m excited, scoring again and assisting Jamie [Vardy].
“So I just need to keep going and keep the level up, working hard in training to make sure I keep my head up.
“It was a great performance from the whole team. I think we were all over them. We stuck to our plan and got spaces all over the place and we got the goals so it’s brilliant
“We’ve been great this season, we just need to keep going, keep our heads down. This one is done now and we’re looking forward to the next game.”
Iheanacho, who has four goals in four games this term, will hope to maintain his form when Leicester slug it out with Norwich City on Saturd
2022 World Cup qualifiers: Eagles know foes Jan 21
The Super Eagles opponents in the second round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will emerge at a draw slated for January 21 in Cairo, Egypt, New Telegraph can report.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Confederation of African Football announced that the ceremony scheduled to take place at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cairo, Egypt would see 14 winners from the first round join 26 top-seeded teams including Nigeria to form 10 groups of four (based on the December 2019 edition of the FIFA Rankings.
This second round, which will be played on home and away basis, will begin in March 2020 and conclude in October 2021.
The 10 winners of these groups will then advance to the third round scheduled for November 2021.
They will be drawn against each other with the five eventual winners progressing to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which will be played between November 21 and December 18, 2022.
Nigeria have featured at six World Cups including the last three editions in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Their best performance was reaching the knockout rounds in 1994 and 2014.
AFN Crisis: NOC sets up 4-man committee
The Nigeria Olympic Committee during its board meeting which is part of its Annual General meeting on Wednesday set up a four-man investigative panel to mediate in the crisis rocking the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN).
According to Phemmy Adetula, Public Relations Officer of NOC the panel has Barrister Francis Orbih, President of Badminton Federation as chairman with Binga Margaret, President, Taekwando federation, Toyin Aluko and Emmanuel Nweri as secretary.
According to Adetula, the NOC cannot afford to close its eyes to happenings in the AFN. The Olympic movement and solidarity is known for peaceful co-existence. So, for this simple fact, athletics as a sport including other federations in the country must enjoy a peaceful environment without any rancour as they prepare for the forthcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan next year.
He said the committee was mandated to report its findings within the shortest possible time to NOC.
Also, the NOC hosted its first Patrons Forum.
The objectives of this Forum is to further highlight our roles, expectations as Patrons of the Olympic and Commonwealth movement amongst other vital issues that is affecting our sport.
In attendance were Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, representative of HRM Oba Saheed Elegunshi, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, Rt. Hon Marc Wabara, Mrs kofo Nwokedi and Maj. Gen. Adamu Dyeri.
The Annual General meeting of the NOC will take place today at the Starview Palace Hotel in Abuja.
26 Ikoyi Club smashers hit Accra today
…for international tournament
A total of 26 tennis players from Ikoyi Club will travel to Accra, Ghana for an international tennis contest to be hosted by Accra Lawn tennis Club.
The three-day tournament which starts this evening ends on Sunday with the top players of both clubs competing for honours.
Some of the players billed for the trip are Olaniyan Babatunde, Nwaokolo Ekenedilichukwu, Ebhohimen Pascal, Okoronkwo Banabas, Ajayi Olakunle, Effiong Iyang, Alawiye Kolawole, Okubena Abimbola, Ayorinde Bola, Jibuna Walter, Lawal Aminat, Eledu Hilary, Oduntan Kayode and Okwuosa Chinedu.
Our correspondent learnt reliably that the Ghana trip is being sponsored by Zenith Bank, Rainoil Ltd. Air Peace, Chief Mike Nwokoni and the members of Ikoyi Club Tennis Section.
The International tournament which took place last year in Nairobi, Kenya is aimed at fostering bilateral business relationship within the ECOWAS region.
The chairman Ikoyi Club Tennis Section, Bimbo Okubena, said the event was one that many members look forward to every year.
Okubena said: “You meet people, make new friends and compare notes in all things we do respectively in our clubs.
“I am very happy that the series of competitions we played are enough to keep us fit for the games in Accra.
“Our sponsors have been very fantastic and this time, they are again there to support us for this tournament.”
The club members will start arriving back in Nigeria from Saturday and the last batch will arrive Sunday.
Obaseki’s wife calls for Edo Women Football Supporters’ Club
Wife of the Edo State Governor, Betsy Obaseki, has called for the formation of Edo State Women Football Supporters Club.
She said it was very necessary for the female clubs in Edo to have uniformed women as supporters who will always come out to support female teams.
“Looking at these crowds in this hall, I can see that men are more in numbers. And each time you watch football competitions the greater number of viewers that you see are men, so as our state women darling team prepares for the new NWFL season, I want the state government to form women football supporters group. Together with the wife of the deputy governor, we will be part of the supporters club”
“I also want to use this opportunity to charge Edo Queens FC to wake and do everything thing within their football prowess to see that they win laurels for the state. Because now that the state government has given them all they needed to excel, they must also play their own role to justify the good welfare packages being given to them by the state government because the only way to make government do more is to win medals.”
“Again, Edo Queens should count themselves lucky that the head of Nigeria Women Football League, Aisha Falode, is our own daughter.”
Joshua earns £8.3m endorsements after beating Ruiz
…world champion to meet with Buhari
The value of World Boxing Heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua, has risen in terms of endorsements following his rematch victory over Andy Ruiz last Saturday in Saudi Arabia.
Aside from waiting for a £100m purse for winning, the 30-year-old will be smiling to the bank before the end of the year with £8.3million buzzing in his account from sponsorship deal and endorsements from top brands.
Top brands like Hugo Boss, Jaguar, Land Rover, Audemars Piguet and Beats By Dre, have made Joshua the poster boy adverts because of his success in the sport and his good looks.
His comeback win against Ruiz Jr, puts him as one of the most marketable sports stars on the planet but Joshua is still behind the likes of David Beckham, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Joshua’s stock would have dropped if he had lost to the Mexican-American for the second time in six months, but his win cemented his place as boxing’s highest earner in 2019.
The Nigerian – British reclaimed his four belts (IBF, WBA, IBO and WBO) following a unanimous point victory over Andy Ruiz Jr.
Meanwhile, Joshua will present his title belts to President Muhammadu Buhari at a date to be decide soon.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Akande said the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare briefed the council on how Joshua regained his titles from the Mexican, Andy Ruiz Jr, during a repeat match in Saudi Arabia last Saturday.
Iheanacho’s redemption Super Eagles’ gain
Three weeks ago, Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr must have been satisfied with his squad, especially the forward line.
If any part of the squad needed any strengthening, it surely was not the attack. With Victor Osimhen and the others firing, the German had no worries.
But the recent return to form of Kelechi Iheanacho has changed the dynamics.
When Iheanacho was dropped from Rohr’s squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, it was seen by the majority as the right decision.
The Leicester City forward was horribly out of form and he did not deserve a spot in a squad going for the title. Even Iheanacho’s staunchest fans would agree that it he was not good enough at the time to be in an ambitious set-up looking to win Nigeria’s fourth African title.
The 23-year-old, who was phenomenal as the Golden Eaglets won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013, had been a key part of Rohr’s plans during the qualifying campaign for the Russia 2018 World Cup. He also, as widely expected, was in the squad to the global showpiece. But one year after, his stock had plummeted to new depths and he no longer merited a place in the national team.
However, he appears to have found some kind of redemption after a tough year and he can no longer be ignored.
Between the 2018 World Cup and 2019 AFCON, Iheanacho had scored only two goals for Leicester City in 35 matches, where he played mostly as a late substitute. As expected, his club form affected his international chances.
To make matters worse for Iheanacho, the Super Eagles attack has developed quite well without him. The man who kept him out of the centre forward spot, Odion Ighalo, was unstoppable during the qualifiers for AFCON and during the tournament itself, emerging as the top scorer for both.
Even after Ighalo’s retirement from the national team, the striker position has already been filled by Victor Osimhen, the Lille striker who incidentally followed in Iheanacho’s footsteps to emerge as the star attraction in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup when Nigeria retained the trophy.
Iheanacho has more than Osimhen to contend with. The Leicester man can also play as a second striker or the man just behind the No.9, but that is a role Alexander Iwobi has been decent in.
The former Manchester City star is also useful either side of the centre forward, but those positions are pretty much sewn up for now.
There is a new, vibrant front four available to Rohr, and some quality in reserve.
At the moment, the front four of Osimhen, Iwobi, Samuel Chukwueze and Samuel Kalu are excelling under Rohr’s guidance, as seen in the Super Eagles’ wins over Benin Republic and Lesotho in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers, as well as the credible friendly draws with Ukraine and Brazil. It would take extraordinary performances from other players to break that group up.
The back-up for now for that front four includes Moses Simon, Ahmed Musa, Paul Onuachu and Peter Olayinka, who could not even get into the last AFCON qualifiers squad despite being in impressive form for Slavia Prague, especially in the UEFA Champions League.
However, Iheanacho can no longer be ignored if he carries on with his new-found form. After failing to make a single Premier League appearance all season, the Nigeria forward has scored two goals and recorded two assists in just two games for title-chasing Leicester City. He has scored four goals in four matches for the club this season in all competitions, netting in every game he has played.
That is a serious turnaround, going from two goals in 35 matches to four goals in four games. Obviously, Iheanacho has decided to take his career more seriously and be ready to seize every opportunity given to him.
All of a sudden, as 2019 draws to a close, Iheanacho has found favour with Brendan Rodgers, the manager who has revived the Foxes.
So, will Rohr follow in Rodgers’ footsteps and consider Iheanacho for the Super Eagles matches in 2020?
If Iheanacho has to return to the squad, who is going to have to give way in the matchday squad or even the starting XI?
Although Nigeria’s next fixture is still months away, the above and other questions will be occupying Rohr’s mind as he ponders the Iheanacho option.
If Iheanacho continues to get in the Leicester City side up until around March, while the other Super Eagles boys also keep up their form, Rohr will have a decision to make. And it won’t be an easy one.
This is a welcome headache for coaches though. They would rather have too many options than have too few.
Whichever way one looks at it, it is always pleasing to see a young man rediscover himself and fulfil the potential everyone sees he has.
Hopefully, Iheanacho will continue on the positive path and find his way back to the Super Eagles. The more options the head coach has, the better for the team.
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