Transfer deadline deals dominated much of the conversations in the sporting cycle this week. From England to Spain, it was fever-pitch high as clubs battled to shore up their squads for the marathon football season.
But away from the transfer madness, there was pretty much to talk about in sports this week. Actions have continued in the US Open; the race for elective posts in the Nigeria Football Football Federation (NFF) has also heightened. The home-based Super Eagles team will hope to revert a 2-0 first leg defeat to Ghana in the qualification race for the 2023 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN).
These and several others are covered in this edition of First 11, the weekly recap of major sports stories around the world.
Eagles Go For Broke
Starting from the home front, the Super Eagles Team B will be doing all to reverse a 2-0 loss to Ghana earlier in the week. Coach Salisu Yusuf’s Eagles had their wings clipped by the Black Galaxies in Ghana during the first leg qualification game for CHAN. And in Abuja, the Nigerians will hope for redemption when the second leg kicks off this weekend.
Already, Super Eagles Team A coach Jose Peseiro has linked up with the side as Nigeria plot Ghana’s downfall. When the game begins on Saturday, millions of Nigerians will expect the home-based side to revenge the Super Eagles Team A’s World Cup qualification ouster in the hands of their perennial rivals.
Parker Gets The Boot
Still on football but this time in the English Premier League where gaffer Scott Parker became the first casualty of the “sack race”. It took just four games into the new campaign for Bournemouth to dismiss Parker who led them back to the top flight. A string of poor results (three losses and one win) in August including a 9-0 thumping against Liverpool, culminated in his sack.
Former Bournemouth midfielder Gary O’Neil will take charge at the Vitality Stadium on an interim basis, the club said in a statement confirming Parker’s departure.
EPL Catches Transfer Bug
And as the action intensifies across Europe’s top leagues, English Premier League sides have beefed up their squads for the marathon games. The summer football transfer ended Thursday night but Premier League sides achieved a feat in spending. The gross spending by teams in the first division was pegged at £1.9 billion ($2.1 billion).
This eclipsed the 2017 record of £1.43 billion spent in that transfer window. Signings by Chelsea, Newcastle, Manchester United, and Arsenal among others, contributed largely to this. Deloitte’s Sports Business Group estimated the gross spending by the 20 English top-flight clubs during the transfer window that ended on Thursday was the highest in the history of the competition.
Arsenal on Cloud Nine
One of the teams responsible for the transfer feat, Arsenal, have also got many people talking. The Gunners are a revitalised side this season, winning their first five league games.
Mikel Arteta’s are on cloud nine, topping the league standings, two points ahead of holders Manchester City, a reality that strikingly contrasts their start to life last term. Arsenal were rooted to the bottom of the league after losing their first three matches last season but bounced back to push for a Champions League spot which they narrowly lost to London rivals Tottenham.
Against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, Arsenal will have their biggest test so far in the campaign. Their opponents, having recovered from a sloppy start to the season – they lost their first two matches – have a chance to make it four wins out of four. But how they will neutralise the bullets from Arsenal’s blazing cannons is yet to be seen!
Hard to Handle Haaland Scores for Fun!
Arsenal’s latest win over Fulham at the Emirates Stadium came on the same day Manchester City brushed aside Nottingham Forest in a league game. That day, Norwegian striker Erling Haaland’s first-half hat trick set the tone for a 6-0 thumping of Forest.
He proved unplayable and has silenced critics who called him “white Lukaku” after a poor outing in the Community Shield against Liverpool. The former Borrusia Dortmund forward also scored a treble in City’s 4-2 victory over Crystal Palace. In just five league games, Haaland has scored eight goals and there is no guessing that the striker, who has had rave reviews over his performances, will be a nightmare to defenders in the months to follow.
France Launches Probe
Meanwhile, France on Friday launched a criminal investigation into claims by World Cup winner Paul Pogba that he is the victim of a multi-million euro blackmail plot by gangsters involving his brother, the Paris prosecutor said.
Two investigating magistrates have been appointed to lead the probe, prosecutor Laure Beccuau said in a statement. Based on the findings of a preliminary investigation launched last month it will examine allegations — for now against persons unknown — including blackmail by an armed gang, kidnapping, and membership of a criminal conspiracy, she said, confirming a weekend statement from a judicial source.
Moving on to basketball! Nigeria’s D’Tigers failed to roar at the African qualification window for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. They were caged by Angola, 70-67, in the last game of the window on Sunday after winning and losing one game. Nigeria had beaten Guinea 89-70 after a first game loss, 78-66, to hosts Ivory Coast at the 3,500-capacity Palais des Sports Treichville.
The results leave them in a tight corner ahead of the next qualification window. Four tickets are up for grabs for Africa after the Ivorians booked a slot for the basketball showpiece billed to run from August 25 to September 10, 2023, in Japan, Indonesia, and The Philippines.
Falcons Face US Test
In football, the Super Falcons are up against the US in two international friendly games. They arrived in the US city of Kansas earlier in the week for matches which are part of preparations for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Coach Randy Waldrum invited four of the ladies that reached the quarter-finals of the just-concluded FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup to face the heavyweights. The first game of the two-match series is billed for Saturday at the Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. On Tuesday, the second tie of the clash with the World Cup champions holds at the Audi Field in Washington.
Peterside, Akinwunmi, Others Join NFF Race
As the Falcons battle the US, political activities are intensifying on the home front for elective posts in the NFF. President of the body Amaju Pinnick won’t be seeking re-election after two terms but the NFF first vice president Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi is among others contesting to replace him.
Aside from Akinwunmi, a former international Peterside Idah has also joined the race alongside the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Head of Safety and Security Christian Emeruwa. A former NFF first vice president Amanze Uchegbulam has equally declared for the position.
The presidential seat and other positions are up for grabs when the NFF congress holds later in the month in Benin City, Edo State.
Guinea Ready To Host Africa?
On the continental scene, Guinea’s ruling junta has told a Confederation of African Football mission that it will meet the timetable for staging the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN).
CAF has sent a team to the poor and volatile West African state to assess its progress in hosting the tournament. Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who appointed himself president after taking power in a coup in September 2021, met with the visiting experts on Wednesday.
No Farewell For Williams Sisters?
Heading to the court, Serena and Venus Williams’ glittering Grand Slam doubles career ended abruptly at the US Open as the reunited sisters crashed out in the first round against Czech duo Lucie Hradecka and Linda Noskova.
The Americans in what is almost certainly their final outing together as a Grand Slam doubles duo — slumped to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 loss at the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday. The Williams sisters – winners of 14 Grand Slam crowns and three Olympic gold medals — had not played together in a doubles tournament since 2018.
FIRST 11 is a weekly recap of some of the big sports stories told in a condensed form.