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Paralympics champion, ONYEMA: Men still come for me despite being physically challenged, married



Paralympics champion, ONYEMA: Men still come for me despite being physically challenged, married

She is one of the best special athletes Nigeria has ever produced; she is a recipient of Member of the Order of Niger and a winner of Saturday Telegraph Sports Personality of the Year 2018, Esther Onyema, in this interview with AJIBADE OLUSESAN, says reaching the top of her career was a difficult journey.


Many Nigerians know you as world, Commonwealth, African and of course national champion, but they want to know how you started your career?

There were lots of challenges before I started doing the sport but the way I started was funny. I went to a birthday party; one of my friend’s birthday party who now live in London; So, when I got to the party, she said ‘ look at your shoulders, you have very nice shoulders, your hands are okay and I believe you can do powerlifting;. I asked her “what is powerlifting?” So she now demonstrated it for me, after the demonstration she asked me to come to the stadium the next day, that’s how we started. When I started it was like a joke. One thing about anything in life is determination, I love the game and I really put all my efforts because I saw they were doing well and travelling with it. So I said “wow, let me train and become one of them”. So that’s how it started. I started training for about five months and two weeks, that’s how I made it to the national team. I love the game with passion, it’s not because of anything, I love the game, you know, putting all your efforts.

Before you started the game, what were you thinking of doing or what were you doing?

I was in school; so as a student my dad was annoyed, he would always say I’m a special child  and he wanted me to finish secondary school and become somebody in future, but along the line he died so that was how there was nobody to cater for me because I’m from a polygamous home. My mother was just a petty trader and couldn’t sponsor my education.

So you actually stopped schooling along the line?

Yes, but I finished my secondary school and got admission into UNIBEN, before I started having problems, that was how I dropped out of school to start taking care of my mother with the little I’m getting from the sport.

Do you mean if your dad was still around, you probably wouldn’t have ventured into powerlifting?

Yes, I would do both together, so there will be comfort for my education. My powerlifting doesn’t disturb me from going to school, it doesn’t disturb me from doing anything, it doesn’t take anything away from me, it’s just after school I’ll go there. When there’s competition I go for the competition, come back and go to school. But there was no support that was why I dropped out of school.

If not powerlifting what would you have been doing?

I would have been a working class person by now.


What was your first competition like, as you said you trained for five months close to six months, then you went straight to the national team?

The year 2000 National Sports Festival was my first tournament; it was in that first competition I became a national athlete, my first outing.

That means just six months after you started doing the sports, you attended National Sports Festival; for which  state?

Edo State, that’s where I started.

So what was your first competition like?

My first competition was like wow! When I got there because we were trained for it, there was somebody there before me, the person was an African champion; there were a lot of challenges and they were telling me if you don’t do this, if you don’t that you’ll not be invited for national team. I was putting all my efforts, trying to be the best to come out with flying colours and when the time of the competition came,  I defeated the person who was the African record holder and she ended her career shortly after.

From there you went to the national team, so how was your experience with Team Nigeria?

There were a lot of challenges there; because it’s different from the way they are training you at home. There are a lot of differences, technical differences. I learnt more, all you need is discipline, when you’re disciplined, you’re good to go.

You have attended several international competitions; could you share experience of your  first international tournaments?

The international competition was Commonwealth Games 2010 in New Delhi, India; it was like my first time to travel and first time to go for an international competition. In short I was really prepared, I put all my efforts to make sure that I came out the best because anything might happen.

Going there, I met athletes from different  countries, made friends, there’s a lot of difference between our training facilities and what I saw there. We left Nigeria on time and on getting there we had to train more before the competition. We were surprised because there were not much facilities here but when we got over there we saw different equipment. When I got there, I was like I’m not going to give up, I’m going to take the medal back to Nigeria and I came home with the gold medal.

I left the 2010 Commonwealth Games with a record, I won the gold medal again in  2014 and  another with record in 2018. I was celebrated at the last Games  and was honored as the first woman to win this back-to-back but it wasn’t that easy.

Of all the international competitions you have attended, which one was the toughest for you?

London 2012, because when I got there I saw these dwarves competing in my class, I was like are these ones males or females because they were mostly looking like men, you could hardly differentiate. I was scared. I have been training and as a captain I wouldn’t like anybody to come and defeat me so I had to go the extra mile to make sure that the record I set there before will work ahead of me and create another record. 2012 wasn’t easy, so many countries, in one category you have about two to three groups, having about 24 people going against you. It was really tough.

What would you actually describe as the best moment of your career so far?

All the moments of my career I enjoyed; I really enjoy it when we are taken good care of, when we share feelings with friends.

Out of all the medals you have won, which one is the most precious to you?

There is no medal that’s not special to me because I know I worked for all of them, all of them are special.

However, the most special one is the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the year I was honoured as the best female in the world that won the gold medals back-to-back so I was so excited then.

Many people doing your sports were not born with physical challenges while  some were born with disabilities; which one was it for you?

I was not born with a physical challenge, I had polio; I suffered it as a child.

What kind of experience did you have growing up with that challenge?

There wasn’t much challenges because my dad was educated; I wasn’t doing anything, I think I started school at the age of 6, my parents were there for me even when I finished my primary school they took me to a boarding school, so they were there for me, no complaints.

You  are married and what attracted you to your husband?

To me, I take myself just like other human beings because somebody may say this one is physically challenged or so, I don’t run my thought like that. I met my husband during a competition in Calabar. My husband and I were like Romeo and Juliet, and till today we are  still like that.

The first time he came I was like I don’t want problems, let’s mind our businesses but  he was so caring, loving and always listened to me. I was asking him what he wanted from me but he later took me to his family, his dad said if you know you’re not going to marry this girl please let her be, don’t break her heart.

When you went to his family, was the reception good for you?

Yes, in everything in life there are challenges, some people will say yes and some will say no. He is from Lagos, and some of his people were saying out of all the women in the world, it was a physically challenged woman that you want to marry. He said yes, that if we get married no one was going to take care of his wife for him, that I was his choice and I was good for him and at the end of the day everyone will like me. You know there were worries about how we were going to cope, how I would have children and perform my role as a wife. We are all humans, people that are physically fit  might be critically ill inside. Everybody is the same.

Before he came, did you suffer some kind of heartbreak from other men?

No, nothing like that.

Were men actually coming?

Wow, men were actually coming, I was only avoiding them because I wanted to be focused, men were really coming but I tried to concentrate on my career. Let me tell you,  even till this moment they are still coming regardless of my status but I am married and that can’t happen. Even when I go out my husband would call me and say “honey, where are you?, Who is there with you?” Laughter!

Will you allow any of your kids to go into sports?

We can’t force them to do anything, because these days when you’re telling a child this is what you want him to do and his mind isn’t there, what would you do? I love sports but I don’t want them to do sports in Nigeria.

Even representing Nigeria…

Yes, he can represent Nigeria when he is outside, but doing it here my dear brother, there’s nothing.

Was there any time you were approached by another country to represent them?

Yes, so many times.

Could you share some of the examples?

There’s not much, even if you get called upon to represent your country, you decline but because of the love you have for my country. It’s not encouraging at all, I believe with all I have done, all I have achieved, they are supposed to reach for endorsement and deals. They will use you and dump you, it’s not fair.

Is your husband a sport person?


You just mentioned some of the challenges, how best do you think Nigeria can actually take care of special athletes?

If they can make provisions for special people not even athletes, for physically challenged people all over, give them some allowances, free scholarships, because you see most of us are educated but there is no work, we need people to speak for us, we need representation, we need it.

Like in my area of sport, I’ve seen so many champions dumped in one corner, some are begging and it pains me that these are champions of the world.

Do you have regrets that you dropped out of school?

Yes, I really have regrets because I’m the eldest in my family and I was the one taking care of my family.

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Pellegrini ‘not worried’ about relegation after loss to Arsenal



Pellegrini ‘not worried’ about relegation after loss to Arsenal

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini is “not worried about relegation” from the Premier League even though his side are above the bottom three by only a point.

Monday’s 3-1 home defeat by Arsenal was a seventh loss in nine games.

The Hammers travel to third-bottom Southampton on Saturday knowing defeat could leave them in the drop zone.

“In our last five games at home we got one draw and conceded three goals in our last three. I am more worried about that,” said the Chilean.

Some people within the club believe Pellegrini, 66, could lose his job if the Hammers are beaten at St Mary’s, reports the BBC.

However, the club have repeatedly stressed they like to honour contracts, and the deal Pellegrini signed in May 2018 does not expire until 2021.

The Hammers have spent all but one season in the top flight since 2005. This is their eighth campaign since their last promotion and they have never finished below 13th.

Following their controversial move to the 60,000-capacity London Stadium in 2016, Hammers Chairman David Sullivan has give Pellegrini – appointed to succeed David Moyes in 2018 – around £165m to build a squad capable of challenging for European qualification.

Yet, with the exception of the bottom three, West Ham have the worst goal difference in the Premier League. Only four clubs have conceded in excess of their 28 goals, half of which have come in the past six games.

Striker Sebastien Haller, their £45m record signing, has scored once since August and after starting on the bench against Arsenal, the Frenchman made no impact after he was introduced 20 minutes from time.

Pellegrini accepts that, as manager, “you take responsibility for results”.

“For 65 minutes there was only one team on the pitch,” he added. “But we must score the second goal to decide the game. If Arsenal had scored three times from seven chances, that would be different. The game was decided in three minutes. We need to concentrate more, be more consistent and more solid.”

There were thousands of empty seats visible at the final whistle after a game in which the Hammers had led through Angelo Ogbonna’s deflected header, only for three goals in nine second-half minutes from Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to transform the game.

Those West Ham fans who were left greeted the end of the match with whistles and jeers.

Nevertheless, Pellegrini says they are still behind his team.

“If you get one point from five games at home and concede three goals in three games, you can’t expect them to be happy and not to boo,” he said.

“But I don’t agree the fans are not behind the team. There are 60,000 here for every game. If they weren’t behind the team, the stadium would be empty.”

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Gary Neville: Mourinho would have sold Martial



Gary Neville: Mourinho would have sold Martial

Jose Mourinho “would have probably sold or swapped” Anthony Martial had he remained at Manchester United, says Gary Neville, but the French forward is worth persevering with.

Big money was invested in the 24-year-old by the Red Devils back in the summer of 2015.

His potential was bought into by Louis van Gaal, with a promising start made to his time at Old Trafford.

There have been form and fitness issues since then, with it suggested at various stages that Martial may be edging towards the exits.

He eventually committed to a new contract in January, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking the reins at Old Trafford, and has become a key man alongside the in-form Marcus Rashford.

Neville believes the Red Devils should now be looking to bring even more out of a player who can confuse and amaze in equal measure.

The Red Devils legend told Sky Sports: “Martial, I think, Jose would have probably sold him or swapped him last season.

“I think the club dug their heels in, probably the start of their dispute of them between them in terms of overruling the manager.

“Myself, I’m confused as to whether he’s a world-class striker or whether he’s someone who is going to pretend to be something.

“You think he’s a fantastic player, great composure, cool, strong, can hold the ball up.

“And then other weeks you look at him… there’s definitely a persistence that needs to occur with Martial in the sense that he has to have his chance.

“Because the idea of selling him and then him coming back to bite you which he could do with his talent is something that you can’t risk.

“And that’s the reason why the club have kept him and now Ole is giving him his opportunity.”

“You see things and you think it’s worth persisting with him because if he can, something clicks, and he gets that confidence, and he can be a 20-25 goalscoring striker.”

Pressed further as to how long United should give Martial to become the No.9 he believes he is capable of being, Neville added: “I think they have to give it another year… certainly the rest of this season because he’s so talented.”

Martial was back among the goals in a derby date with Manchester City on Saturday and now has six efforts to his name through 13 appearances in all competitions.

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EPL: Arsenal strike back to end winless run at West Ham



EPL: Arsenal strike back to end winless run at West Ham

Arsenal came from behind to end their nine-match winless streak as Freddie Ljungberg enjoyed his first victory as interim manager at the expense of his former club West Ham.

Eighteen-year-old Gabriel Martinelli marked his full Premier League debut by side-footing an equaliser which cancelled out Angelo Ogbonna’s deflected first-half opener at London Stadium.

Within nine minutes, Nicolas Pepe had curled a magnificent second into the top corner and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired in a third reports the BBC.

The salvo turned the game on its head and piled the pressure on West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini, whose side have taken four points from their past nine league games and conceded three times in three successive home games.

The Hammers remain a point above the relegation zone in 16th and face a trip to third-bottom Southampton on Saturday. Arsenal move up two places to ninth.

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Sports Minister moves to resolve AFN crisis



Sports Minister moves to resolve AFN crisis

Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, has promised to set up a Committee to look into the current crisis rocking the board of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria with a view to resolve it.

The Minister said in his official Tweeter that: “I will be announcing shortly the constitution of a Crisis Resolution Team (CRT) to look into the AFN crisis.

He stated that interest of Nigeria and her athletes trumps every other consideration at this point.

The AFN had announced its breakout from the Sports Ministry on Thursday after its extra-ordinary Congress in Awka, Anambra State, where it made resolutions including rejecting the resignation of Solomon Ogba from the board alongside sacking six of its members.

Amidst the debacle, the Sports Ministry was blamed for meddling with activities of the Athletics body.

Dare who had ordered for the sacking of the body’s Technical Director Sunday Adeleye had yet to make a statement concerning the issue until yesterday.

The former NCC stalwart, a vibrant Twitter user, announced that the CRT was underway.

Only on Sunday, AFN President, Ibrahim Gusau, stated that the crisis was a sad development for the country and that he was ready for dialogue.

He explained the autonomy the athletics body was yearning for which angered the ministry of sports.

Gusau said: “The autonomy we are talking about is in so far as administering the Federation is concerned and had always been in existence in the statutes of the AFN, the CAA and the WA.  We have always borne all expenses associated with the administration of the Federation.

“This does not however, preclude the Government, through the FMYSD, from meeting its obligations to the athletes.  If athletes are representing Nigeria in a competition, it behoves on the government to take care of them because they are representing the country, not the Federation.”   

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Lagos hosts Kaita Athletics Feb 29



Lagos hosts Kaita Athletics Feb 29

As part the efforts to boost athletics in the country, the inaugural Ahmed Ahijo Kaita Athletics meet will take place at the Yaba College of Technology Sports Ground, Lagos on February 29.

The sponsor, Alhaji Ahmed Kaita, who is the Chairman of Katsina State Athletics Federation stated that he was doing this to prepare the country’s athletes ahead of the National Sports Festival in Edo State in March next year and the Tokyo Olympics Games next year August.

He said his decision to do this was informed by the poor run of Nigerian athletes in international championships recently especially the last World Championship in Doha, Qatar.

Kaita said the Lagos Meet would be an International of Athletics Association Federations IAAF sanctioned championship adding that gold, silver and bronze medalists will go home with some cash prizes.

According to him, events will hold in 100m men and women, 4 x 100 relay, 4 x 400, mixed relay races, shot put, long jump and discuss for men and women.

He said the major focus would be on the relay races which gave Nigeria her first medal at the Olympics in Los Angeles Games in 1984.

The Katsina Athletics boss disclosed that since the relay race of the quartet of Nigeria’s Innocent Egbunike, Sunday Uti, Moses Ugbesien and Rotimi Peters was the first that won the first medal in athletics for the country at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, there is need to focus more on the relay events.

“We want to bring back the old memories of Nigeria in athletics particularly in the relay races at the Olympic level.

“This is what we are coming out to correct. We do not want such abnormal experience of Doha to occur again. We condemn it in totality,” he added.

He also said foreign based athletes representing Nigeria at international competitions must be compelled to take part in trials against the home based as was the practice in the past.

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Sylvester, Quadre win Rainoil tennis meet



Sylvester, Quadre win Rainoil tennis meet

Nigeria’s male and female No 1 players, Sylvester Emmanuel and Oyinlomo Quadre continued their dominance of the local scene when they defeated all comers to be crowned winners of this year’s Rainoil tennis open championship which ended on Sunday.

Held at the Clay Court of the Lagos Country Club, Ikeja Lagos, Sylvester defeated men’s singles defending champion, Joseph Imeh, by two straight sets of 6/2, 6/3 to emerge winner and cart away the trophy and N500,000 at stake while Imeh got N250,000 for his efforts.

In the women category, Oyinlomo wasted no time in beating old war horse, Christie Agugbom, 6-1, 3-0 (rtd) to take the title and N400,000 prize money while the runners- up got N200,000.

The men’s doubles was won by Uche Oparaoji and Godgift Timibra  just as Oyinlomo Quadre and Omolayo Bamidele won the women doubles event.

Winners for the men and women doubles got N250,00 and N200,000 respectively.

Speaking on her victory, Oyinlomo said that hard work and dedication made it possible for her to overcome experienced Agugbom whom she praised for her fighting spirit just as she commended the sponsors for putting up the tournament.

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Lyon donates N750,000 to chess championship winner



Lyon donates N750,000 to chess championship winner

Bayelsa state Governor-elect,  David Lyon  at the weekend said his administration would use sport to restore hope  among the youth in the state.

The Governor-elect  was represented by Prince Ebitimi Amgbare at the presentation  N750,000 to  Miss Deborah Quickpen.

Quickpen  who is only seven yerae old will represent Nigeria at the African Youth Chess Championship coming up in Namibia this month.

According  to Hon. Lyon, “It is for this reason that our incoming administration intends to use sport as a veritable tool for development, with  the understanding that sport can serve as an impetus for social transformation and change as the state moves to the next of rapid socio-economic development.

He noted that sport can also serve as a tool for crime prevention, conflict resolution and promote inclusive good governance,  with a view to creating a peaceful environment for meaningful development.

While appreciating the good gesture of the Governor-elect, recipient of the seven hundred and fifty thousand naira cheque, Miss Deborah Quickpen thanked the Governor-elect for coming to her aid to enable her represent Nigeria at the forthcoming African Youth Chess Championship in Namibia,  assuring that she will not disappoint the country at the continental competition.

Also speaking,  father of the girl, Mr. Ben Quickpen, who also is the current world’s number 10th man in scrabble and a three times national champion in the game, expressed surprise that his daughter would be sponsored to participate in the forthcoming African Chess Youth Championship in Namibia by the Governor-elect whom he had never met in life.

On his part, Chairman,  Bayelsa State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Samuel Numonengi, said the good gesture of the Governor-elect in taking up the bills of Miss Quickpen to enable her participate in the African Youth Chess Championship speaks volumes of his benevolence and passion for sports development.

Also speaking, a lecturer with the Niger Delta University,  Amassoma,  Dr. Phillips Okolo described the gesture of the Governor-elect as a pointer to good things to come to Bayelsa state. 

He used the occasion to appeal to the incoming administration to run an open and inclusive government where every stakeholder would be accommodated irrespective of political divides.

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AFCON 2021: Eagles’ll qualify for final – Aribo



AFCON 2021: Eagles’ll qualify for final  – Aribo

Super Eagles new sensational midfielder, Joe Aribo, has declared that the Super Eagles will qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, as he believes they will maintain their momentum in the qualification series.

The Glasgow Rangers of Scotland midfielder added that he was happy being part of the Eagles’ in the matches and victories against Benin Republic and Lesotho, which were his first two competitive games for Nigeria, and he is now optimistic of better results coming ahead.

He stated further during 101.5 FM Radio programme monitored yesterday that he was equally happy that his decision to commit his international future to Nigeria was paying off, as he has two goals to his name in four matches,adding that the team is doing well within the short time he has been with them.

The 23-year-old box-to-box midfielder also spoke on his decision to accept playing for Nigeria, rather than stick out for an international future with England, saying it was mostly about the love of donning the colours of his father’s country, and he has nothing to rue in that decision.

Although the 23-year-old former Charlton Athletic sensation admitted it is a big challenge for him to wear Nigeria’s number 10 jersey vacated by the immediate past captain, John Mikel Obi, Aribo enthused that the team’s united spirit and his own determination to succeed with the squad will spur him into making his impact felt in all subsequent matches he is involved in.

“I am happy that we started well in the qualifiers. We’ve won our first two matches, and now we have to keep the momentum going. I am happy that I am part of this team and I believe we will qualify,” he said.

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WADA bans Russia from 2022 World Cup, 2020 Olympic Games



WADA bans Russia from 2022 World Cup, 2020 Olympic Games

WADA bans Russia from 2022World Cup, 2020 Olympic Games

Russia has been handed a four-year ban from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

It means the Russia flag and anthem will not be allowed at events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and football’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

But athletes who can prove they are untainted by the doping scandal will be able to compete under a neutral flag.

WADA’s executive committee made the unanimous decision in a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It comes after Russia’s Anti Doping Agency (Rusada) was declared non-compliant for manipulating laboratory data handed over to investigators in January 2019.

It had to hand over data to Wada as a condition of its controversial reinstatement in 2018 after a three-year suspension for its vast state-sponsored doping scandal.

WADA says Rusada has 21 days to appeal against the ban. If it does so, the appeal will be referred to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Wada vice-president Linda Helleland said the ban was “not enough”.

“I wanted sanctions that can not be watered down,” she said. “We owe it to the clean athletes to implement the sanctions as strongly as possible.”

A total of 168 Russian athletes competed under a neutral flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after the country was banned following the 2014 Games, which it hosted in Sochi. Russian athletes won 33 medals in Sochi, 13 of which were gold.

Russia has been banned from competing as a nation in athletics since 2015.

Despite the ban, Russia will be able to compete at Euro 2020 – in which St Petersburg will be a host city – as European football’s governing body UEFA is not defined as a ‘major event organisation’ with regards to rulings on anti-doping breaches.

Rusada was initially declared non-compliant in November 2015 after a Wada-commissioned report by sports lawyer Professor Richard McLaren alleged widespread corruption that amounted to state-sponsored doping in Russian track and field athletics.

A further report, published in July 2016, declared Russia operated a state-sponsored doping programme for four years across the “vast majority” of summer and winter Olympic sports.

In 2018, WADA reinstated Rusada as compliant after the national agency agreed to release data from its Moscow laboratory from the period between January 2012 and August 2015.

However, positive findings contained in a version courtesy of a whistleblower in 2017 were missing from the January 2019 data, which prompted a new inquiry.

WADA’s compliance review committee (CRC) recommended a raft of measures based “in particular” on a forensic review of inconsistencies found in some of that data.

As part of the ban, Russia may not host, or bid for or be granted the right to host any major events for four years, including the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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Basketball player fined in China for not looking at flag during national anthem



French former NBA player has been reprimanded and fined $1,400 by sports officials in China for not looking at the Chinese flag during the national anthem before a game.

Players with the Chinese Basketball Association are supposed to stare at the national symbol during the “March of the Volunteers”, but television images showed Guerschon Yabusele, who plays for Nanjing Tongxi Monkey King, had his head down before Friday’s game.

Yabusele was given a “serious warning” and a 10,000-yuan fine for not looking at the flag as required, the CBA said in a statement on Saturday.

Yabusele, who played forward for the Boston Celtics for two seasons before joining the CBA team this year, has not commented on the incident.

China’s government has stepped up the promotion of patriotism under President Xi Jinping, with legislation approved in 2017 to punish anyone who disrespects the national anthem with up to three years in prison.

Opinions on Yabusele’s punishment were divided on Chinese social media.

“He’s happy to take money from China, but he doesn’t respect it,” one person wrote on the popular Weibo social media platform.

“This player must be expelled immediately and his club must be disqualified from the championship,” another said.

But many found the sanction to be harsh.

“It’s nonsense. First, he’s not Chinese. Moreover, he stood up and didn’t make any insulting gesture,” one person wrote.

“He has his head down. So what? In what era does the CBA live? It’s 50 years behind.”

Yabusele is not the first foreign athlete to break patriotic rules in China.

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