WAFU B Tournament: Nigeria Reaches Final, Qualify For 2023 U20 AFCON

A file photo of the Flying Eagles after a training session. [email protected]

 

Nigeria’s Flying Eagles displayed good character to overcome a determined Cote d’Ivoire 2-1 in an explosive semi-final match to reach the final of the ongoing WAFU B U20 Championship in Niamey.

Reaching the final also means the Nigerian team have qualified for the  Africa U20 Cup of Nations taking place in Egypt next year.

Productive midfielder Daniel Daga put Nigeria in front after only five minutes when he cleverly escaped the attention of the Ivorian defenders to nod in from a well-weighted pull-out.

The seven-time African champions then launched onslaught after onslaught on the Ivorian goal but failed to add to the tally, before the Ivorians equalized just before halftime from an intelligently-taken free-kick at the edge of Nigeria’s eighteen-yard box.

Neither team could find another goal to gain upper hand before the end of regulation time inside the Stade General Seyni Kountché, and the game went into extra time.

Forward Ibrahim Yahaya got the winner for Nigeria in the 111th minute of play when he converted a penalty spot to make it 2-1.

Nigeria will take on the Benin Republic in Saturday’s final.

FIRST 11: Serena Williams’ Chelsea Ownership Push+Top Sports Stories This Week

 

With the sanctions on Russian businesses biting harder, the quest for a new Chelsea owner has been ramped up. This time, tennis icon Serena Williams and F1 great Lewis Hamilton, are the ones pushing to own a stake in the Premier League club.  

The Super Eagles also knew their opponents for the 2023 AFCON qualifiers just as the team’s former coach Gernot Rohr awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack.  These and more are some of the top sports stories covered in First 11 this week.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Bidders Set To Discover Their Fate

Condolences Pour As Ronaldo Loses Baby

We kick off from England where torrents of condolence messages have been poured in for Cristiano Ronaldo following his son’s death. The former Real Madrid star and wife confirmed their baby boy’s demise in a social media post.

Manchester United, his former clubs, players, and fans thronged social media to comfort the multiple Champions League winner over the sad incident.

The Portuguese star was excused from United’s tie with Liverpool earlier in the week. He, however, was available for selection as the Red Devils lost to Arsenal on Saturday.

Maguire Gets Bomb Threat

Still in Manchester United. Team captain Harry Maguire received a bomb threat but it was unknown who was behind it.

Cheshire Constabulary swept the 29-year-old’s home to ensure his safety. Maguire was up for selection against the Gunners.

The English defender, who stays with his fiancee and two kids, is having a turbulent campaign and has been the subject of stinging criticism from pundits and jeers from fans.

Man United Name Coach

Meanwhile, Manchester United has appointed Erik ten Hag as their manager next season.

The 52-year-old, who has signed a three-year contract, faces a huge task to revive the Red Devils’ fortunes after a fifth consecutive trophyless season. The Dutchman becomes the fifth permanent manager at Old Trafford since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 sent the 20-time English champions into decline.

Drogba, Others Inducted Into EPL Hall of Fame

Equally, Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes was in the news this week. The Englishman joined Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero as the latest inductee into the EPL Hall of Fame.

Vincent Kompany, Ian Wright, and Peter Schmeichel alongside Wayne Rooney and Patrick Vieira are also in the “Class of 2022” inductees.

Serena, Hamilton Join Chelsea Bid

For Man United’s rivals, Chelsea, the sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich over Russia’s war with Ukraine are set to cause major changes in the team. The club has been up for sale and tennis icon Serena Williams as well as Formula 1 legend Lewis Hamilton have expressed interest in having a stake in the London side.

They will be investing about £20m into a consortium to buy Chelsea and both are part of a group of investors backing the European champions’ takeover offer spearheaded by Sir Martin Broughton.

Serena and Hamilton have each pledged £10m to the bid. Lord Coe is believed to be part of the British-led consortium.

Russia, Belarussian Players Banned From Wimbledon

Aside from football, the Russian-Ukraine war is creating ripples in other sports. Earlier in the week, Russian players were barred from Wimbledon. Belarussian players were also affected, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) said.

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev; Aryna Sabalenka, and women’s four Victoria Azarenka are some of the top players affected. The move drew wide criticism from players, fans, and others stakeholders in the tennis world.

But Russian officials have rejected the ban, describing it as “unacceptable”.

Nigeria Paired For AFCON Qualifiers

In Nigeria, the Super Eagles were paired with Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and either Sao Tome or Mauritius in the qualifiers for next year’s AFCON. The draws were held in Jo’burg, South Africa, and qualifications for the tournament will start in May.

The Super Eagles, who failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will also be aiming to make amends for their early exit at the last AFCON. The Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 editions and won bronze in Egypt in 2019.

Rohr Awaits FIFA Verdict

The development came as a former coach of the team, Gernot Rohr, awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack. Rohr had reported the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to the football body for breaching contractual terms.

Reports suggest that FIFA had concluded their investigations and are set to deliver judgment on the $1m claims being made by former Niger Republic gaffer. The Franco-German had met all conditions in his contract but was sacked with one year left in the deal. While the NFF said it would pay Rohr his salary until the end of his contract, the ex-Niger boss took the NFF to FIFA. He is seeking compensation for his ‘unfair’ dismissal.

Kano Pillars Sanctioned, Banished

On the local scene, Kano Pillars were sanctioned for fans’ hooliganism. The former Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions were fined N9m and banished to Abuja for the rest of the season following the incident which took place last weekend. The club’s fans have, however, condemned the attack which led to the destruction of the visiting team’s bus.

Pele Hospitalised Again

Away from Nigeria, football great Pele was hospitalized in Sao Paulo as part of his treatment for colon cancer.

But the clinical condition of Edson Arantes do Nascimento is “good and stable, and he should be discharged from hospital in the next few days,” the Albert Einstein Hospital said on Tuesday.

Before his diagnosis of colon cancer, which led to Pele being hospitalized for a month last year, the former star of Santos and the Brazilian team was hospitalized in Paris in 2019 and transferred to Sao Paulo to have a kidney stone removed.

Five years before then, he was in intensive care due to a urinary tract infection that forced him to undergo dialysis on his left kidney. The right one was removed in the 1970s due to an injury when he was still a player.

Maradona Shirt Auction Opens

The auction for the jersey worn by Pele’s late friend, Diego Maradona, when he scored twice against England in the 1986 World Cup, including the infamous “hand of God” goal, kicked off with a bid of over $5 million.

Sotheby’s is selling the blue number 10 Argentina shirt in an online sale that runs until May 4. Hours after bidding opened, the site showed that the first offer of £4 million ($5.2 million) — matching the low end of the auction house’s pre-sale estimate — had been registered. That would set a new record price for a football jersey at auction.

The record for a game-worn shirt from any sport is $5.6 million, set in 2019 for a jersey Babe Ruth wore while on the New York Yankees.

Contract Termination: Huesca Threaten Legal Action, Says Nwakali’s Claims Lack ‘Veracity’

Nwakali is a former Nigerian youth international. [email protected]

 

Spanish side Huesca have threatened legal action against Super Eagles midfielder Kelechi Nwakali over his claims that the club terminated his contract for representing Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) earlier in the year. 

The club terminated his contract on Tuesday, claiming the player reported 10 days late after the competition and gave “incredible stories” for his lateness.

Although Nwakali broke silence over the matter on Wednesday, accusing Huesca of intimidation, the Segunda side have dismissed the claims, describing them as lacking “veracity”.

“On the statements made by Kelechi Nwakali earlier today after [a] premature termination of the contract that bound him and SD Huesca, the club wishes to express its total repudiation given their complete lack of veracity,” Huesca said in a statement issued on their website, hours after Nwakali’s outburst.

“All of this is done in the conviction that the club has acted at all times with the utmost respect for the player.

“Nevertheless, in view of the seriousness of certain statements referred to in his notice, this club reserves for itself the right to take the appropriate legal action to defend its rights to protect their legitimate interests.”

READ ALSO: Nwakali Accuses Huesca Of Contract Termination For Representing Nigeria At AFCON

‘I Will Never Regret My Decision’

Nigeria won all group stage game at the AFCON. [email protected]

 

Before Huesca’s comment, the Spanish Soccer Players Association (AFE) had vowed to challenge the contract termination, arguing that the move violated labour rights.

“In the face of the numerous information that is appearing, some erroneous, AFE wants to clarify that the dismissal will be challenged – as it cannot be otherwise – before the courts of the city of Huesca with the aim of continuing to safeguard the labor rights of the footballer,” the association said in a statement.

“AFE understands that, with this unilateral resolution adopted by the club, the labor rights of Kelechi Nwakali have clearly been violated.”

Despite the debacle, Nwakali insists he does not regret representing Nigeria at Africa’s premier football competition.

Playing for the three-time AFCON champions is an honour, the former youth international said in a lengthy post in which he accused Huesca of delaying his wages.

“I will never regret my decision to represent Nigeria and all I want to do is get back to playing the sport I love,” he maintained.

“Lastly, I want to thank the fans and my teammates of Huesca who have been amazing during my time here. I have always given 100% for the club, despite my treatment over the past three years.”

Football authorities in Nigeria have not commented on the issue. FIFA and CAF have also not issued any statement on the matter as of the time of publishing this report.

Nwakali Accuses Huesca Of Contract Termination For Representing Nigeria At AFCON

Nwakali is a former Nigerian youth international. [email protected]

 

Super Eagles midfielder Kelechi Nwakali has accused Spanish side Huesca of intimidation, claiming the club terminated his contract for representing Nigeria at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). 

The player made the comment in a post on his Instagram handle, hours after the Segunda Division side confirmed that his contract has been terminated even before it was due to expire in June.

Nwakali, who lamented the ill-treatment from the club, accused them of withholding his wages.

READ ALSONigeria Fail To Qualify For World Cup In Qatar After Ghana Draw

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kelechi Nwakali (@nwakali25)

“It comes with huge regret that I am writing this message after SD Huesca announced the termination of my contract,” the former youth international began in the lengthy post.

“I have kept silent out of respect for the Huesca fans and my teammates, but I will no longer suffer in silence. The time has come for people to know the truth and why these past few months have been awful for me and my family.

“In December 2021, I experienced the biggest honour of my life after I received a full international call up for my beloved Nigeria.

“But the joy of this moment quickly came crashing down when the club’s sporting director, Ruben Garcia, put extreme pressure on me not to go to AFCON due to it ‘not being an important tournament’. He told me that if I go to AFCON I will not play for Huesca again. This behaviour and the lack of respect shown to my country Nigeria was truly heart-breaking and it was just the latest example of the club attempting to bully me into getting their own way.

“For months the club has been abusing its power to bully me into signing a new contract. These tactics have included paying me late on numerous contracts.

“The breakdown in negotiations came when my mother fell ill and I asked Ruben for the wages the club already owed me in order to pay for my mother’s hospital bill and treatment. Ruben Garcia responded to my request by saying: ‘Sign this new contract and we will pay you what’s owed tonight’.

“But despite these actions, I was not going to allow the club to stop me from representing my country at one of the biggest international tournaments in the world and I was honoured to join my teammates in Cameroon.

“Before Nigeria’s last 16 game against Tunisia on 23rd January 2022, I began to feel unwell and was diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection. As a result, I was not fit enough to play in the game against Tunisia. After we were eliminated from the tournament I was unable to return to the club immediately as planned because of my illness following advice from the doctor.

“Throughout this time, Huesca have not paid my wages, yet I have remained silent hoping that a reasonable resolution could be found. But yesterday when I turned up at the training ground, a member of the club tried to force me to sign mutual termination papers which I refused to do. I have a family that depends on me, and no player should have to go through this inhumane treatment.”

An Unregretable Decision

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, defender Kenneth Omeruo, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Samuel Chukwueze and forward Moses Simon pose prior to the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Nigeria and Sudan at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 15, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

Despite the treatment, he maintained that he does not regret playing for Nigeria at the competition.

“I will never regret my decision to represent Nigeria and all I want to do is get back to playing the sport I love,” he wrote.

“Lastly, I want to thank the fans and my teammates of Huesca who have been amazing during my time here. I have always given 100% for the club, despite my treatment over the past three years.”

Meanwhile, the Spanish Players’ Association (AFE) has pledged to wade into the matter and challenge the decision in court.

“In the face of the numerous information that is appearing, some erroneous, AFE wants to clarify that the dismissal will be challenged – as it cannot be otherwise – before the courts of the city of Huesca with the aim of continuing to safeguard the labor rights of the footballer,” the association said in a statement.

“AFE understands that, with this unilateral resolution adopted by the club, the labor rights of Kelechi Nwakali have clearly been violated.”

Super Eagles World Cup Disappointment Is ‘A Blessing In Disguise’ – George Abbey

Nigeria will be missing the World Cup for the first time in 16 years. Facebook/William Troost-Ekong.

 

Former Super Eagles defender, George Abbey, has said the team’s failure to make the 2022 World Cup should be a wake-up call to football authorities in Nigeria. 

Abbey said this in reaction to Nigeria’s 1-1 draw with Ghana in the World Cup playoff. The stalemate sent the Black Stars to the competition on the away-goal rule after the first leg ended goalless.

But George believes the development is a reality check on the three-time African champions. According to him, there are cracks in the team, explaining that the players could not pay attention to the “little details” during the double-legged game.

“This is a blessing in disguise because if we had made it to the World Cup, it kind of papers over the crack; it seems like everything is well.

“We need to reset, we need to find a way to plan and put in place a better quality organisation on and off the pitch,” George said on Channels Television’s Sports Tonight, hours after the game.

READ ALSO: Tear Gas Fired As Nigeria Fans Riot Over World Cup Loss

As far as the former Sharks player is concerned, there is a gulf in quality between the present Super Eagles team and other top African nations.

“We would have gone to the World Cup and probably end up losing all our group games and come back with an embarrassing showing at the World Cup,” he argued.

“So, we don’t want that. We want to be better prepared so when we get there, we deserve to be there and we can hold our own against these top teams.”

He also faulted the players for not putting up a fighting spirit during the fixtures.

“When you put on that Super Eagles jersey, the whole nation is expecting you to go to war for us,” George, who played at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, added.

“This is not a time when you want to come and entertain; show skills and dilly-dally on the ball; take your time. Everything has to be crisp. From the start, we need warriors. We need players who are ready to bleed for the nation and I did not see any of that.”

‘He Will Bring Some Value’: Eguavoen Wants Victor Moses Back To Super Eagles

In this file photo, Victor Moses poses with the Nation’s Cup in 2013

 

Super Eagles coach Austine Eguavoen believes Victor Moses has a lot to offer and wants him back to the team. 

The former Chelsea wingback quit international football after the 2013 African champions crashed out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Nearly four years after that and unsuccessful attempts to lure him back to the national team, Eguavoen says he is persuading Moses to come out of retirement.

“Whether we like it or not, Victor Moses will still bring some value,” he told BBC Sports. “But right now he is playing in Russia, we all know the problems with Ukraine and Russia. I am happy to say that my conversation with him is settled.”

The former U-23 Eagles coach said has been in touch with the player, admitting that he admires his style of player. According to him, while Moses is not part of the squad that will face Ghana in a 2022 World Cup play-off, the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) winner is part of his plan.

READ ALSO: [WCQ] Onazi On Standby, Ighalo Returns As Nigeria Name Squad For Ghana Clash

Eguavoen Unveils Squad 

Victor Moses
Victor Moses quit international football in 2018. [email protected] Moses.

Earlier, Eguavoen put midfielder Ogenyi Onazi on standby as Nigeria named their squad, which included Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2022 absentee, Oghenekaro Etebo, for the World Cup play-off later this month.

The long-time absentee was part of the Super Eagles side that won the AFCON in 2013.

Leicester City forward Ademola Lookman was also included in the provisional squad.  Nigeria take on Ghana at the 20,000–capacity Cape Coast Sports Stadium on March 25, with the reverse leg set for Abuja four days later.

The winners from the tie will earn one of Africa’s five tickets to the World Cup finals in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.

Lookman has been cleared by FIFA to play for Nigeria after he represented England at various age-grade levels.

He is one of three uncapped players selected by Nigeria, along with Calvin Bassey of Scottish champions Rangers and FC Copenhagen youngster Akinkunmi Amoo.

WCQ: Onazi On Standby, Ighalo Returns As Nigeria Name Squad For Ghana Clash

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, defender Kenneth Omeruo, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Moses Simon and forward Samuel Chukwueze pose prior to the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

Midfielder Ogenyi Onazi has been put on standby as Nigeria on Friday named their squad, which included Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2022 absentee, Oghenekaro Etebo, for the World Cup play-off against regional rivals Ghana later this month.

The long-time absentee was part of the Super Eagles side that won the AFCON in 2013.

Leicester City forward Ademola Lookman was also included in the provisional squad.  Nigeria take on Ghana at the 20,000–capacity Cape Coast Sports Stadium on March 25, with the reverse leg set for Abuja four days later.

READ ALSO: [Waldrum] Our Mission Is To See Super Falcons Compete Creditably With The World’s Best

The winners from the tie will earn one of Africa’s five tickets to the World Cup finals in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.

Lookman has been cleared by FIFA to play for Nigeria after he represented England at various age-grade levels.

He is one of three uncapped players selected by Nigeria, along with Calvin Bassey of Scottish champions Rangers and FC Copenhagen youngster Akinkunmi Amoo.

The enlarged squad also includes Watford forward Emmanuel Dennis and striker Odion Ighalo, who were blocked by their clubs from featuring at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, who missed the competition, was also invited.

Taiwo Awoniyi, Peter Olayinka, and Chidozie Awaziem, who all played at the recent AFCON, as well as long-term absentee Ogenyi Onazi, are on a seven-man standby list.

The training camp opens in Abuja on March 21 with a 24–man final list for the two play-off games to be released at a later date.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia/CYP), Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs/RSA), Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam/NED)

Defenders: Semi Ajayi (West Brom/ENG), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes/ESP), Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers/SCO), William Ekong (Watford/ENG), Ola Aina (Torino/ITA), Calvin Bassey (Glasgow Rangers/SCO), Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia/CYP), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto/POR)

Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford/ENG), Joe Aribo (Glasgow Rangers/SCO), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City/ENG), Oghenekaro Etebo (Watford/ENG), Akinkunmi Amoo (FC Copenhagen/DEN)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk/TUR), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal/ESP), Victor Osimhen (Napoli/ITA), Moses Simon (Nantes/FRA), Sadiq Umar (Almeria/ESP), Odion Ighalo (Al-Hilal/KSA), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City/ENG), Emmanuel Dennis (Watford/ENG), Ademola Lookman (Leicester City/ENG)

Standby: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor/TUR), Jamilu Collins (Paderborn/GER), Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin/GER), Paul Onuachu (Genk/BEL), Peter Olayinka (Slavia Prague/CZE), Ogenyi Onazi (Al-Adalah/KSA)

AFP

First 11: Nigeria Vs Ghana Match Date Confirmation +This Week’s Biggest Sports Stories

First Eleven

 

After three weeks of action, the 2021 AFCON ended in Cameroon with a new champion. The uncertainty about the Super Eagles coaching job was also resolved. There was equally good news for Nigeria ahead of their 2022 World Cup playoff with rivals, Ghana. First 11 captures these and other stories that made the headlines, including’s Kurt Zouma’s travails.

The ‘Jollof’ Rivalry

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, defender Kenneth Omeruo, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Moses Simon and forward Samuel Chukwueze pose prior to the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Tunisia at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 23, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has fixed March 27th for the second leg of the 2022 World Cup playoff with Ghana, Secretary-General of the body, Ademola Olajire, said earlier in the week. In a statement, Olajire said the match will take place at the MKO Abiola National Stadium in Abuja but explained that the first leg of the encounter.

“Ghana Football Association now has to confirm whether the first leg inside the Cape Coast Stadium will be on Wednesday, 23rd March or Thursday, 24th March,” he said.

The winner of the tie will join four other countries to fly Africa’s flag at the global competition billed for late 2022 in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar. Qualification for the tournament will make Nigeria one of the few countries on the continent to have reached the FIFA World Cup more than six. The game is expected to rekindle the age-long rivalry between both West African nations.

Lookman Switches Allegiance

Ademola Lookman won the U-20 World Cup with England in 2017. Photo: [email protected] Leipzig

 

And in a major boaster for the Super Eagles ahead of the two-legged tie, Ademola Lookman is now qualified to wear Nigeria’s green and white. The former Fulham man was cleared by FIFA on Thursday; months after fans questioned his omission from the Nigerian side that featured at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon. The Leicester City forward had played for England at age-grade levels and had been courted for years by football authorities in Nigeria. Born in Peckham, England, Lookman won the 2017 U-20 World Cup with the English team and will be likely feature for the side during the clash with Ghana.

Eguavoen Stays!

File photo of Augustine Eguavoen

 

Before Looksman’s switch, the NFF had confirmed the retention of Augustine Eguavoen as the interim manager of the senior side but made former international, Emmanuel Amunike, his assistant. The football body explained that the move followed a recommendation from its technical and development committee. It also cited what it described as the “positive performance” of the Super Eagles at the 2021 AFCON despite an early exit.

“The NFF Board has approved a recommendation of the Technical and Development Committee retaining Augustine Eguavoen as Technical Director/Technical Adviser (interim) while Emmanuel Amuneke becomes the Chief Coach of the Super Eagles. Salisu Yusuf will be the 2nd Assistant Coach/Chief Coach of the CHAN team and Joseph Yobo will be 3rd Assistant while Aloysius Agu remains the Goalkeepers’ Trainer,” the NFF said.

Monday’s development finally ended the uncertainty surrounding the Eagles’ coaching role. In the wake of Gernot Rohr’s dismissal, football authorities in Nigeria had appointed Jose Peseiro as the team’s coach. The Portuguese was expected to be an observer at the AFCON before taking over. But the NFF said it did not sign a contract with the former Ah Ahly manager, yielding to calls for a local coach for the national team.

Peseiro Faults NFF

Venezuela’s Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro gestures during the Conmebol Copa America 2021 football tournament group phase match between Venezuela and Peru at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 27, 2021. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Hours after the NFF’s decision, the Portuguese said he never agreed to go to the AFCON with the team, faulting the ‘Glass House’ for not reaching an agreement with him before announcing his appointment. Talks to take over the three-time African champions’ coaching role broke down due to financial disagreements, Paseiro posted on his Instagram page.

Up The Ladder!

Nigeria supporters cheer after their team won the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2021 football match against Guinea-Bissau at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 19, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

 

News of the NFF’s U-turn was quickly followed by the Super Eagles’ jump in the FIFA ranking despite an early ouster from the 2021 AFCON. Nigeria moved three places on the continental ranking to become the number three team on the continent. Before the latest ranking, the Super Eagles were 36th globally and 5th in Africa. Senegal are number one in Africa.

The Jinx Is Over

Senegal's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Senegal’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Their global ranking, which has moved from 20th to 18th, was a direct reward for their historic AFCON win. They defeated Egypt by a penalty shootout to claim the title for the first time after losing twice in the final. Senegal reached the final in 2002 and 2019. Their feat prompted wild celebrations across cities in the West African nation. The government also declared a national holiday to celebrate the win and also handsomely rewarded the team.

D’Tigress Keep W/Cup Hopes Alive

The D’Tigress in action during the game against France. Photo: [email protected] DtigressNG

 

On Friday, the D’Tigress defeated France 67-65 to make amend for their opening day loss to China at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup qualifiers. The win keeps the team’s qualification hopes alive. The African champions had earlier lost – 90-76 – to China in their quest for a ticket for the competition billed for Australia in September. They will now play Mali in the last group fixture of the qualifiers.

Zouma’s Travails

West Ham United’s French defender Kurt Zouma warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Watford at the London Stadium, in London on February 8, 2022. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Away from Africa, former Chelsea defender, Kurt Zouma, made headlines for kicking his pet cat. Although he apologized after the video went viral, the French international was fined 250, 000 pounds by his club West Ham while kit maker, Adidas, ended their deal with the player. There are also calls for David Moyes to drop him for the club’s league game this weekend. But several players and fans have questioned the sanctions meted out to Zouma, describing them as overtly harsh.

Chelsea On the Cusp of History

Chelsea players celebrate their opening goal during the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup semi-final football match between Saudi’s Al-Hilal and England’s Chelsea at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, on February 9, 2022. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

Zouma’s former team defeated Al-Hilal by a lone goal to reach the final of the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup and moved a step closer to winning the title for the first time. The European champions will take on Palmeiras on Saturday, a game that could define Chelsea’s season.

The Blues have fallen off the pace in the Premier League after three wins in 10 matches but are still vying for multiple honours at home and on the continent. They will play Liverpool in the League Cup final later this month, four days after the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against French club Lille. The defending champions are also in the running for the FA Cup.

“We are desperate to win this trophy. We could be the first team in Chelsea history to bring this trophy to London so we are happy that we are in such a big final,” said the midfielder, Mateo Kovacic. “We will do everything to win it on Saturday.”

Neymar’s Account Hacked

File photo: Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar walks off the pitch after a red card during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Marseille (OM) at the Parc de Princes stadium in Paris on September 13, 2020. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

 

Police authorities in Brazil have arrested a man for hacking into Neymar’s bank accounts and repeatedly stealing money to the tune of 40,000 dollars. According to officials, the suspect worked with an unidentified bank where the former Barcelona player and his business manager father had accounts. The hacker was arrested on Wednesday “for defrauding bank clients”, a police statement explained. While the security agents did not mention Neymar in the statement, the officer in charge of the case said it was Neymar. He also explained how the alleged theft occurred to Brazilian TV show Brasil Urgente.

Ex-AFN Scribe Arraigned Over $150,000 IAAF Fund

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

And back home, the anti-corruption agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) arraigned a former Secretary-General of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Mr Amaechi Akawu, for reported complicity in a $150,000 fraud. He was arraigned before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court 5 in Abuja on Friday over allegations bordering on money laundering and fraudulent diversion of public funds.

The ICPC filed 10 charges against him before Justice Ekwo, in which it accused Akawu of diverting monies released by the International Association of Athletics Federation for the hosting of the CAA Grand Prix Competition in Delta State, popularly known as the 2017 Warri Relay Competition. The offence was allegedly committed in July and August 2017, when he, on several occasions, fraudulently diverted funds from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development into personal use.

“Akawo entered a not guilty plea when the charge was read to him. His counsel, Emmanuel Aghedo, moved his application, praying the court to grant him bail on liberal terms,” the ICPC said in a statement. “Counsel to ICPC, Mashkur Salisu, who did not object to the bail application, however, urged the court to grant him bail on stringent terms that will ensure he stands trial.”

While ruling on the bail application, Ekwo reportedly admitted him to bail in the sum of N15 million, with one surety in like sum.

Buhari Congratulates Senegal On AFCON Victory, Bids Farewell To Outgoing Ambassador

President Muhammadu Buhari presents a gift to The outgoing Senegal Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E Mr. Babaca Matar Ndiaye during a farewell audience at the State House Abuja.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Senegal for winning the just concluded AFCON while bidding farewell to the outgoing ambassador Babacar Matar Ndiaye at State House, Abuja on Thursday.

The President asked him to convey Nigeria’s congratulations to President Macky Sall on the Teranga Lions victory at the biennial soccer fiesta.

“I’m sending the congratulations reluctantly because our own country got beaten in the tournament,” the President jocularly told His Excellency, Babacar Matar Ndiaye.

READ ALSO: [Aliou Cisse] The 2002 World Cup Hero Who Broke Senegal’s AFCON Jinx

President Muhammadu Buhari and The outgoing Senegal Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E Mr. Babaca Matar Ndiaye during a farewell audience at the State House Abuja.

 

He lauded him for a successful tour of duty in Nigeria, which lasted almost four years, and observed that “our relationship is very strong. I congratulate your President for keeping the country together. Please extend my best wishes to him”. President Buhari also wished the outgoing ambassador success in his next tour of duty.

Ambassador Ndiaye said Nigeria was like a second home to him, having first served in the consular section of the embassy, before he came back as ambassador for almost four years.

“Thanks for the success of my term. I will always have good memories of Nigeria,” Ambassador Ndiaye said.

Aliou Cisse: The 2002 World Cup Hero Who Broke Senegal’s AFCON Jinx


Senegal’s head coach Aliou Cisse holds a Senegalese flag as he celebrates after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Twenty years ago, Senegal’s golden generation of players, including ex-Liverpool star, El-Hadji Diouf, lost the Africa Cup of Nations crown to Cameroon. Aliou Cisse, who now coaches the team, missed the decisive kick in the penalty shootout as Cameroon won a second consecutive AFCON trophy in Mali.

Months later, the Teranga Lions bounced back from that heartbreaking defeat to stun France at the 2002 World Cup, beating the then-holders by a lone goal in their first game. Led by the iconic Bruno Metsu, they raced to the quarter-final of the Korea/Japan tournament but a ‘golden goal’ in the last eight saw them crash out to Turkey in their first World Cup outing.  Cisse was the captain of that golden generation that took the world by storm in the early 2000s.

Despite being perennially tipped as favourites since then, the West African side had failed to win the continent’s most treasured football medal. In 2019, they fell to Algeria in the final, the closest they have gone since the defeat to Cameroon.

“All of that is in the past,” Cisse said about the twin final defeats ahead of Senegal’s final match against Egypt on Sunday. “We have a different squad that is even better than 2002 and better than 2019. We will try to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes as in these finals, and we are very excited to have the chance to put the past behind us.”

Born in Senegal’s southwestern town of Ziguinchor on March 24, 1976, Cisse’s family moved to France when he was nine. They lived in a Paris suburb called Champigny-sur-Marne. His childhood dream of playing for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) became a reality as he featured for the Parisians between 1998 and 2002. The player later wore the colours of English sides, Birmingham City and Portsmouth, featuring as a defensive midfielder and occasionally as a centre back. Unlike his days with the Teranga Lions, his club career never caught the limelight as he retired at Ligue 2’s Nîmes in 2009.

READ ALSO: Senegal Declares National Holiday To Celebrate AFCON Win

A Winning Mission

Senegal's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Senegal’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

The former midfielder then delved into management and quickly worked for his badges before he got his big break as the assistant coach of the U-23 side between 2012 and 2013.  He later became the head coach between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, he replaced Frenchman Alain Giresse as the Teranga Lions coach after they crashed out of that year’s AFCON at the group stages.

Saddled with the responsibility of building a formidable team after one of the lowest moments of Senegalese football, the bespectacled Cisse had his work cut out.

“I have a lot of ambition for Senegal, but it can mostly be summed up in one word: win and win again,” he said in a televised interview following his appointment.

Under his guidance, the Teranga Lions fortunes took a new twist. Apart from helping the team become the best African side in the FIFA ranking, Cisse set up a flourishing side which allowed star men, Sadio Mane, Edouard Mendy, Idrissa Gueye, Kalidou Koulibaly to play to their strengths. Aside from qualifying the team for the 2017 AFCON in grand style by winning all six qualifiers – a first in the country’s football history – he also led the Teranga Lions to the World Cup in 2018 to humble his critics.

READ ALSO: Dakar Explodes With Joy As Senegal Crowned African Champions

In his first AFCON outing, Senegal were sent out in the quarter-final stage of the competition after a penalty shootout loss to eventual winners, Cameroon. At the 2018 World Cup, the second in the nation’s history, Cisse’s men were hard hit by ill-luck after they went out of the group stage on disciplinary grounds. Tied on the same points and goal difference with Japan, the Africans left the competition having gotten six yellow cards, two more than the Blue Samurai.

After the disappointment of Russia, Senegal set their sights on the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Like previous tournaments, they were one of the favourites and lived up to that tag when they reached the final of the competition. But for the second time, the star-studded Lions of Teranga were beaten by Algeria.

“The last time Senegal reached this point was in 2002. The experience of big matches, we want to be here more often. We’re getting closer to winning,” the distraught coach said after Algeria defeated them in the final in Egypt, the second time in that tournament. “The team has been making progress these past five years. A final is decided by fine margins and we deserved better tonight.”

Indeed, the Senegalese deserved better but started the 2021 campaign on a cautious note, playing what many tagged as “dirty football” as they gathered momentum in Cameroon. In the group stage, they managed just one goal (a Mane late penalty against Zimbabwe) in three games to top the chart. Injuries and COVID-19 also hit as they played their first few matches without key players like Chelsea’s Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly; midfielder, Nampalys Mendy, and gifted winger, Ismaila Sarr.

Heading into the knockout phase with five points, the 2002 runners-up defeated Cape Verde 2-0 before seeing off Equatorial Guinea in the next round of clashes. They, however, showed their strong title credentials and depth when they swept away Burkina Faso 3-1 in the semi-final with Cheikhou Kouyate of Crystal Palace and Sarr coming off the bench to score.

“We know we can do better, but we know we’re getting stronger,” Koulibaly said after the quarter-final win over Equatorial Guinea at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde. “I think that after the first and second games, or even the group games, nobody saw us there, but today we can be happy.”

‘We Waited Long’

Supporters celebrate in Dakar on January 06, 2022, after Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nation (CAN) final against Egypt in Yaounde, Cameroon. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

In Senegal, the former midfielder is seen as more than a coach to the players. He was a fans’ favourite and was expected to deliver the nation’s first AFCON title. That wish materialised when former Southampton star, Mane, scored the decisive kick at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, leaving fans back home in an explosion of joy. A festive atmosphere erupted in the capital city as thousands of supporters trooped to the Independence Square, near the presidential palace, to celebrate the historic moment. Supporters were drowned in the sound of car horns, vuvuzelas, and firecrackers at the square. The Senegalese flag was hung from buildings, on vehicles, and on sidewalks. 

Fans hugged each other amid bonfires outside the streets of Dakar and across the country.

“I’m happy. It’s the best day of my life,” a 25-year-old car washer, Modou Ba, said.

“We waited a long time. (The cup) is finally here. We really needed it,” an accountant, Seydou Nourou Diop, said after the final whistle.

President Macky Sall, who had declared a national public holiday hours after the win, had earlier praised the team for bringing pride to the nation.

“African champions. What a game! What a team! You did it. Beautiful moment of football, beautiful moment of communion and national pride. Congratulations to our heroes,” he tweeted on Sunday night.

He had also cancelled his travel plans to welcome the triumphant men who are billed to hit Dakar at 1300 GMT Monday.

For Cisse, the AFCON win is a dream come true.  His former teammate, Salif Diao had quoted the coach as saying “If I don’t win it as a player, I will win it one day as a coach”.  But beyond the craving for personal glory, Sunday’s victory is the ultimate gift for a football-mad nation that fought hard to land the elusive title.

Dakar Explodes With Joy As Senegal Crowned African Champions

Supporters of Senegal national football team celebrate in Dakar on January 6, 2022, after Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nation (CAN) in the final match against Egypt in Yaounde, Cameroon. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

 

Dakar exploded with joy at the final whistle as Sadio Mane’s Senegal beat Mohamed Salah’s Egypt for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations crown.

“African champions. What a game! What a team! You did it. Beautiful moment of football, beautiful moment of communion and national pride. Congratulations to our heroes,” Senegalese President Macky Sall tweeted after the Lions’ win Sunday night.

Sall declared Monday a national holiday to celebrate the “brilliant victory”, public television announced.

The president, who had been due to visit Comoros at the end of a trip that took in Egypt and Ethiopia, also cancelled the last leg in order to welcome the triumphant Lions on their return to Dakar at 1300 GMT Monday, RTS television said.

Dakar erupted when Liverpool star Mane scored the decisive penalty to give Senegal the win in a shoot-out (4-2) after the final finished goalless at the end of extra time.

Hundreds of supporters in Senegal jerseys flocked to Independence Square, near the presidential palace in the heart of Dakar, to celebrate.

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The square vibrated to the sound of car horns, vuvuzelas, whistles and firecrackers.

A festive atmosphere spread across the capital, with national flags hung from buildings, on vehicles and sidewalks.

At the massive African Renaissance Monument which towers above the capital from a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, dozens of fans hugged each other amid bonfires after the penalty shoot-out.

“I’m happy. It’s the best day of my life,” 25-year-old Modou Ba, a car washer, told AFP.

“We waited a long time. (The cup) is finally here. We really needed it,” said Seydou Nourou Diop, a 27-year-old accountant.

Student Khadim Lo, 21, said he was “very proud of our Lions. It’s exceptional.”

At the foot of the monument, supporters then left the fanzone to reach the street, some standing on cars and mingling with the crowds coming out of their homes to celebrate.

Earlier, the tense shoot-out saw some anxious supporters in tears and even unable to watch the screen, Mane having missed a penalty during normal time, his shot saved by Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed Abou Gabal.

“He must not miss the penalty. For a final the great player does not miss. It’s unacceptable,” fumed Pape Mbaye, a 24-year-old driver.

The crowd started to relax as two Egyptian shots missed the mark.

They finally exploded with joy after Mane converted the last shot to make Senegal African champions.

Senegal Win AFCON 2021, Claim First Continental Title

Senegal's players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d'Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Senegal’s players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Sadio Mane made up for missing from the spot in normal time to score the decisive penalty as Senegal overcame Mohamed Salah’s Egypt 4-2 in a shoot-out to win their first Africa Cup of Nations title after Sunday’s final finished goalless at the end of extra time.

Mane had seen Mohamed Abou Gabal save his seventh-minute penalty at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde but Egypt could not capitalise as they went all the way to extra time for the fourth consecutive game at this Cup of Nations.

Salah was due to step up to take Egypt’s fifth penalty but with Mohamed Abdelmonem hitting the post and Mohanad Lasheen having his kick saved by Edouard Mendy, the Liverpool star did not get his chance and was already on the verge of tears as his club team-mate Mane prepared to strike the decisive blow.

After two previous final defeats, Senegal are Cup of Nations winners at last, while Egypt missed out on a record-extending eighth continental crown that would also have been a first for Salah.


Senegal’s goalkeeper Edouard Mendy (C) celebrates with teammates after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Senegal’s celebrations followed a disappointing final, the fifth in the last 11 editions of the tournament to be decided in a shoot-out after a goalless draw.

Indeed Egypt had already twice won finals that had been settled on penalties after finishing 0-0, and they had already won in the same manner twice in the last fortnight, against the Ivory Coast in the last 16 and the hosts in the semi-finals.

 Salah’s night

This time their luck ran out as the tournament ended at the venue where eight people died and 38 were injured in a crush on January 24.

The country’s 88-year-old President, Paul Biya, attended the closing ceremony where he was paraded in an open-top car to hysterical crowds along with his wife, First Lady Chantal Biya.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino and CAF chief Patrice Motsepe were also in attendance although the biggest cheers were reserved for Cameroon great Samuel Eto’o, now the head of the country’s football federation, when his face appeared on the big screens.

A four-time African player of the year and two-time AFCON winner, Eto’o is one of the continent’s all-time great footballers, but this final brought together Africa’s current superstar duo in Salah and Mane.

Desperate to make up for losing the 2019 final to Algeria, Senegal had a golden early chance to take the lead when outstanding left-back Saliou Ciss was chopped down by Abdelmonem in the box.

Mane stepped up, but his kick was too close to the middle of the goal and Abou Gabal was able to save.

Salah needed nearly half an hour to make a genuine impact with a jinking run in from the right and a shot easily saved by Mendy, and the Chelsea goalkeeper then produced an excellent stop to tip a Salah effort over just before half-time.

Extra time again

Aliou Cisse’s Senegal team boast a plethora of stars based at major European clubs while Salah and Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny are exceptions in an Egyptian side still largely based at home.

Carlos Queiroz’s team are masters of the dark arts and the Portuguese coach himself was suspended here after losing his temper in the semi-final and being sent off.

Their coaching staff pulled the strings on the touchline, moving Salah into a central role after an hour, and substitute centre-forward Marwan Hamdy missed a glorious chance soon after as he headed wide from point-blank range.

By then it was clear that Egypt were willing to go to extra time again, sure that they could rely on more heroics from their goalkeeper.

Abou Gabal, nicknamed Gabaski, clawed away Boulaye Dia’s 100th-minute header after a fine cross by Ciss, and he also kept out a Bamba Dieng piledriver in the second period of extra time.

With Mendy saving from Hamdy at the other end, penalties were inevitable, and it proved to be Senegal’s night with Bouna Sarr their only player to miss his kick.

 

 

AFP