Morocco Stun Belgium, Inch Closer To Knockout Phase

Morocco’s forward #14 Zakaria Aboukhlal (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group F football match between Belgium and Morocco at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on November 27, 2022. (Photo by Fadel Senna / AFP)

 

Morocco jeopardised Belgium’s World Cup hopes as Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal’s late goals secured a surprise 2-0 triumph in Doha on Sunday.

Belgium, third in Russia four years ago, could have qualified for the last 16 with victory but instead produced another insipid display after their fortunate opening win over Canada.

Substitute Sabiri was the hero thanks to a 73rd-minute free-kick which Thibaut Courtois allowed to bounce in at his near post, before Aboukhlal grabbed a second in stoppage time.

The tens of thousands of Morocco supporters responded by cheering their team home at a raucous Al Thumama Stadium.

Morocco replace Belgium at the top of Goup F and know they will qualify for the knockout phase for the first time since 1986 if they can avoid defeat against Canada on Thursday.

Belgium, the world’s second-ranked side, will have to beat 2018 runners-up Croatia to be sure of going through.

Roberto Martinez’s ageing side have reached at least the quarter-finals of each of the past four major tournaments.

Belgium, whose captain Eden Hazard has admitted are not as good as in 2018, lacked spark and were made to pay by inspired opposition.

Morocco were dealt a blow after the national anthems when goalkeeper Yassine Bounou appeared to gesture he would not be able to play.

The experienced Munir El Kajoui was sent out in his place.

The Atlas Lions fans vastly outnumbered their Belgian counterparts and breathed a sigh of relief when the Europeans almost grabbed a fourth-minute lead.

Hazard played in Michy Batshuayi whose effort from a tight angle was kept out by Munir.

Belgium dominated the early exchanges but Morocco did manage a shot at goal when Hakim Ziyech fired over from distance.

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Morocco gain confidence 

The African side continued to grow into the contest and Selim Amallah, who was born in Belgium, volleyed into the stands before Achraf Hakimi blazed a presentable chance off target.

The crowd erupted in raucous celebration when Ziyech’s free-kick flew all the way into the net in first-half injury time.

But the goal was ruled out after a VAR check, as Romain Saiss was leaning just offside and the former Wolves defender was in ‘keeper Courtois’ eyeline.

Both teams started the second period brightly, with Ziyech shooting straight at Courtois and Hazard bringing a save from Munir at his near post.

Sofiane Boufal almost broke the deadlock in the 57th minute after a jinking run but bent the ball narrowly wide of the far post.

Martinez made two changes on the hour mark, replacing the ineffective Hazard with Dries Mertens and bringing on Youri Tielemans for Amadou Onana in midfield.

Mertens almost made an immediate impact when his strike from just outside the area was beaten away by Munir.

The deadlock was finally broken with 17 minutes remaining as Sabiri’s free-kick from near the touchline, much like for Ziyech’s ruled out goal, caught out a flat-footed Courtois.

Martinez threw on Romelu Lukaku, expected to miss the game injured, in a desperate attempt to get back into the match.

But Belgium had long since run out of ideas and it was Morocco who scored the second goal of the game.

Brilliant play by Ziyech created space in the area for Aboukhlal to lash the Chelsea winger’s pull-back into the roof of the net.

Any tension in the stands was lifted and the Morocco fans were able to celebrate their first World Cup win in 24 years.

AFP

Lukaku Out Of First Two World Cup Games Over Injury

Belgium’s forward Romelu Lukaku arrives at the Hamad International Airport in Doha on November 19, 2022, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)

 

Romelu Lukaku will not play for Belgium at the World Cup until at least their final Group F match against Croatia, a team source told AFP on Sunday.

The forward did not take part in the Red Devils’ first proper training session since they arrived in Qatar on Friday as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.

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Lukaku is Belgium’s all-time top scorer with 68 goals in 102 appearances and was called up to their World Cup squad despite coach Roberto Martinez admitting he was not fully fit.

The 29-year-old has endured a difficult past 18 months, moving back to Inter Milan on loan after a dismal season with Chelsea.

However, he has played just twice for Inter since August after first picking up the injury in a 3-1 defeat at Lazio.

He returned to action in style last month, scoring in a 4-0 win against Viktoria Plzen that ensured Inter’s passage to the last 16 of the Champions League but he then injured his hamstring again a few days later.

Belgium begin their World Cup campaign on Wednesday against Canada and also take on Morocco before meeting 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia at the start of next month.

Martinez has to decide who will replace Lukaku up front. Fenerbahce forward Michy Batshuayi started in Belgium’s one warm-up match before the tournament, a 2-1 defeat to Egypt on Friday.

Batshuayi was replaced by Lens forward Lois Openda, who pulled a goal back in the 76th minute of the clash in Kuwait City.

AFP

Lumumba’s Remains Arrive In DR Congo 


A portrait of slain Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba is carried as his remains leave for Shilatembo where the leader was killed along with two of his compatriots, at the airport in Lubumbashi on June 26, 2022.  Guerchom Ndebo / AFP

 

Slain Congolese independence hero Patrice Lumumba’s only surviving remains, a single tooth, arrived in Kinshasa on Monday where it is due to be laid to rest later this week.

The nationalist politician became an anti-colonial icon when he delivered a fiery speech against racism on June 30, 1960, when his native central African country proclaimed independence from Belgium.

But Lumumba, the country’s first post-independence prime minister, was overthrown that September.

Separatists from the southern region of Katanga and Belgian mercenaries then executed him and two close supporters in January 1961.

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His body was dissolved in acid after he was killed, but a Belgian police officer kept the tooth as a trophy. Belgian authorities in 2016 seized the relic from his daughter.

On June 20, Belgium finally returned the tooth to Lumumba’s family members during a ceremony in Brussels.

Lumumba’s remains were then transported to his native Democratic Republic of Congo, for a tour of the vast nation that included the southeastern region where he was assassinated.

On Monday, the independence hero’s tooth arrived in the capital Kinshasa for the final leg of the tour, in a coffin draped in the Congolese flag.

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi received the remains at Kinshasa’s international airport, where he bowed before the coffin.

Lumumba’s tooth is due to be laid to rest in a ceremony in Kinshasa on Thursday — the 62nd anniversary of independence from Belgium and his historic speech.

AFP

Three EU Countries Expel Dozens Of Russian Diplomats

An Algerian pilot died when his Russian-made fighter jet crashed during a training flight in the country’s west, the defence ministry said.

The MiG-29 went down “because of a technical fault, directly after taking off from Bousfer airbase” in the province of Oran, it said late Monday.

The pilot and co-pilot were able to eject but the pilot later succumbed to his injuries, the statement said.

Armed forces chief General Said Chengriha ordered an enquiry into the crash.

The North African country’s armed forces have suffered a string of aviation disasters in recent years.

In April 2018, an Ilyushin Il-76 heavy transport aircraft crashed south of Algiers with the loss of all 257 people on board, most of them military personnel, in the country’s deadliest air accident.

In February 2014, 77 soldiers or relatives were killed when a Hercules C-130 transport aircraft crashed east of Algiers.

Most recently, three Algerian navy officers died when their MS-25 Merlin helicopter crashed into the Mediterranean west of the capital in December 2020.

AFP

Eriksen ‘Very Happy’ To Be Back With Denmark Team

In this file photo, Denmark’s midfielder Christian Eriksen runs during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match between Denmark and Finland at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on June 12, 2021. (Photo by Friedemann Vogel / various sources / AFP)

 

Christian Eriksen said Thursday he was “very pleased” to join up with the Denmark team, just nine months after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Eriksen has linked up once again with the national side ahead of friendlies against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday and Serbia in Copenhagen on Tuesday.

“I’m very happy and pleased to be able to be back with national team again. It’s been a while, so I am very happy to be back,” the midfielder said in Marbella, where the Denmark squad are training.

Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening game of the European Championships against Finland in Copenhagen last June.

He had to be resuscitated on the pitch, lying unconscious for several minutes as the stunned crowd and millions of television viewers around the world watched on in horror.

Eriksen spent several days in hospital and had a pacemaker implanted to regulate his heartbeat.

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In this file photo, Denmark’s players gather as paramedics attend to midfielder Christian Eriksen (not seen) during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match between Denmark and Finland at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on June 12, 2021. (Photo by WOLFGANG RATTAY / various sources / AFP)

 

Eriksen, scorer of 36 goals in 109 appearances for Denmark, terminated his contract with Inter Milan by mutual consent in December as Italian league rules bar players with pacemakers.

He made his club comeback on February 26 for English Premier League side Brentford.

Eriksen said he had been “lucky with the doctors and I’ve been lucky with the diagnosis”.

“Everything is okay to go back to play again and that of course gave me the push to get me back to the life I had before.”

The cardiac arrest, Eriksen added, was “difficult for everyone…. we had a lot of conversations, of course, to walk and talk through everything that’s happened”.

“But since then time has really tried to heal everything and it’s been going well. So obviously when it’s going well and the time comes with it, then it’s a very good mix and that helps definitely.”

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said having Eriksen back was “a good feeling, of course, we are happy to have him here”.

“It was a nice moment yesterday when he entered to the group, and so it’s great to have him back.”

Denmark have qualified for the World Cup in Qatar at the end of the year. After Eriksen’s cardiac arrest Denmark reached the Euro semi-finals where they lost to England.

AFP

Six Killed As Car Rams Into Carnival Crowd In Belgium

People gather near a gymnasium where witnesses and relatives of victims are received near the site where a car crashed into a crowd of early morning carnival-goers killing four people and injuring 12 people seriously in Strepy-Bracquegnies, on March 20, 2022.  Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

A car ploughed into a crowd of early morning carnival-goers in Belgium on Sunday, killing six people and injuring dozens of others, authorities said, as they ruled out an act of terrorism for now.

The tragedy took place around 5:00 am (0400 GMT) as the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies, a district in the former coal-mining town of La Louviere, was getting underway.

“At this stage of the investigation, we know that a vehicle slammed into a group (of carnival goers) and that there are six dead and 26 injured, including 10 people whose life is in danger,” prosecutor Damien Verheyen told reporters at the town’s city hall.

The main suspects, who were arrested, were born in 1988 and 1990, he said, adding that terrorism was not at this stage considered a motive.

Verheyen said the two came from La Louviere, a town near the French border in Belgium’s rust belt, and are not known to authorities for similar acts.

Belgian towns and villages host many street carnivals around the season of Lent, with the parades in Binche and Aalst the best known internationally.

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‘Folklore To Horror’

People gather near a gymnasium where witnesses and relatives of victims are received near the site where a car crashed into a crowd of early morning carnival-goers killing four people and injuring 12 people seriously in Strepy-Bracquegnies, on March 20, 2022. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Like Binche, the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies involves participants dressed up as “Gilles”, extravagantly attired comical figures who are “called out” to the parade in the early hours.

La Louvriere mayor Jacques Gobert said there were 150 to 200 people participating in the carnival’s pre-dawn prologue, including the “Gilles” in their garb.

When they reached a road, “a car coming from behind at high speed literally pulverised a large number of people,” he said at the news conference.

Witnesses described a horrific scene of a car that apparently willfully drove into the carnival-goers that included children.

Fabrice Collingnon, a Belgian TV presenter, told AFP the procession was joyfully underway when in a “snap of the fingers we went from fun and folklore to absolute horror.”

The car seemed to “deliberately enter into the pack,” said Collingnon.

Another witness, Theo, told RTBF news he saw a car that moved “very fast and didn’t brake”.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo deplored the “horrible news” on Twitter, saying “a community gathering to celebrate has been hit in the heart.”

De Croo and other ministers rushed to the scene along with Belgium’s King Philippe who met first responders in the Strepy-Bracquegnies sporting hall, where the morning’s carnival procession began.

The RIAAL La Louvriere football team said that one of the victims was a steward at the club and that a match scheduled later on Sunday was cancelled.

“Words fail us,” the team wrote on its Facebook page.

In neighbouring France, just a few kilometres from the scene of the tragedy, President Emmanuel Macron “assured the Belgian prime minister of his support and friendship after this tragedy”, his office said.

In February 2020, a man rammed his car through a carnival procession in Germany, injuring dozens of bystanders including children.

Germany and other countries at the time had been on high alert for car ramming attacks since December 2016, when an Islamic State group sympathiser ploughed a truck through a Christmas market leaving 12 dead.

German towns had seen several such attacks since, with most carried out by people who were found to have psychological issues.

AFP

Four Dead In Belgium As Car Hits Early Morning Carnival Crowd

A Belgian Flag.

 

A car crashed into a crowd of early morning carnival-goers in Belgium on Sunday, killing four people and injuring 20 people seriously, authorities said.

“A car driving at high speed ran into the crowd that had gathered to attend (the carnival),” La Louviere mayor Jacques Gobert told Belga news agency.

The incident took place at about 5:00 am (0400 GMT) at the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies, a district of the former industrial town of La Louviere, authorities said.

“This Sunday morning, a vehicle collided with… a group of around 100 people which had just left the sports hall to go back up to the centre of the village,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

The public prosecutor’s office did not wish to communicate on the case for the time being, but will speak later in the day, it said.

Authorities are to hold a press conference at 11:00 am in La Louviere.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo deplored the “horrible news” in which “a community gathering to celebrate has been hit in the heart”, he wrote on Twitter.

De Croo was to visit the scene later on Sunday accompanied by Belgium’s King Philippe, the prime minister’s office said.

Belgian towns and villages host many street carnivals around the season of Lent, with the parades in Binche and Alost the most known, internationally.

Like Binche, the carnival of Strepy-Bracquegnies involves participants dressed up as “Gilles”, comical figures who are “called out” to the parade in the early hours.

“I was walking by,” one witness, Theo, told RTBF news.

“I turned around and saw a car running into the troop. It came very fast and didn’t brake. It continued and it took a girl 100 metres further,” he said.

In neighbouring Germany, a man in February 2020 rammed his car through a carnival procession, injuring dozens of bystanders including children.

Germany and other countries at the time had been on high alert for car ramming attacks since December 2016, when an Islamic State group sympathiser ploughed a truck through a Christmas market leaving 12 dead.

Germany has seen several such attacks since, with most carried out by people who were found to have psychological issues.

Nigerian Player Ozornwafor Collapses Twice On The Field In Belgium 

Ozornwafor is a former Enyimba player. [email protected]

 

Super Eagles defender, Valentine Ozornwafor, collapsed twice on the pitch over the weekend but is in good condition, his club, Sporting Charleroi, have said.

The Belgian club said this in a tweet on their official handle on Sunday. According to them, the player became unconscious twice during a league match against Royale Union Saint Gilloise (RUSG) on Saturday.

“The first news about our defender Valentine Ozornwafor is reassuring. After losing consciousness twice in the field, he is now conscious and will remain under observation, according to the concussion protocol,” the club wrote.

He was hit in the face by Royal Union’s striker, Dante Vanzeir, in a 46th-minute clash and fell facedown. He then lost consciousness before being stretchered off the pitch. The former Enyimba man played twice for the Super Eagles.

Buhari Demands Weighty Sanctions For Coup Plotters In Africa

President Muhammadu Buhari spoke at the African Union - European Union Summit in Brussels, Belgium on February 18, 2022. Sunday Aghaeze/State House
President Muhammadu Buhari spoke at the African Union – European Union Summit in Brussels, Belgium on February 18, 2022. Sunday Aghaeze/State House

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Brussels, Belgium, called on European leaders as partners in promoting democracy and good governance to lend their weight behind measures put in place by the African Union to stem the tide of unconstitutional leadership changes, rearing its head again on the continent.

In his contribution to the roundtable discussion on Peace, Security, and Governance at the ongoing 6th EU-AU Summit, President Buhari equally stressed the need to nip the root causes of extremism, conflicts, and tensions in Africa at inception.

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“Africa has continued to witness different waves of violent extremism, community-based conflicts, and inter-ethnic tensions, notably in rural areas. For many decades, our continent has been deprived of political stability and socio-economic development due to terrorism and violent extremism,” he said.

“More worrisome is the current state of democracy on the continent, which has become a great source of concern to many of us, with increasing cases of unconstitutional change of governments across the continent, particularly in West Africa. This is in addition to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The African Union has often responded to these challenges through its different structures, such as the African Peace and Security Architecture and the African Governance Architecture.

“Through enhanced collaboration with our development partners, especially the European Union, we can identify areas of cooperation for quick and substantive results.

“As leaders and policymakers, it is important for our partnership to place priority on tackling the root causes of conflicts in Africa, as well as taking measures in safeguarding peace and security if we are to achieve the African Union Agenda 2063.

“We also call for stronger support from the European Union in the condemnation and imposition of weighty sanctions on countries that engage in unconstitutional change of governments, as well as manipulation of constitutions in favor of extension of term limits.”

According to his spokesman, Garba Shehu, the Nigerian leader added that it was imperative to ensure that election processes in Africa have outcomes that truly reflect the wishes of the electorate, as to go contrary to these is courting instability.

He said, “we have a responsibility to reduce conflicts that stem from lack of good governance, unaccountability, corruption and social exclusion.

“Free, fair, credible, and transparent elections remain crucial elements in ensuring peace and security and promoting constitutional order, democracy, and inclusive governance on the continent.

“It is, therefore, imperative for our partnership to also focus on strengthening election processes in Africa and prevent interference to influence the process and outcomes of elections.”

President Buhari also called for the concretization and transformation of promises of cooperation made by the European leaders to actions.

“I wish to underscore the need to convert our pledges on political cooperation in the area of peace, security, and conflict prevention into concrete initiatives such as joint field missions, shared understanding and analysis on crisis situations, as well as joint early action and swift implementation of agreed positions.

“The movement and operation of terrorists and violent extremist groups along the Sahel could better be addressed through an improved Continental Early Warning Mechanism. Consequently, we believe there is a clear need to strengthen our cooperation on security with the European Union, particularly through improved intelligence sharing and acquisition of military equipment and hardware.

“We invite the EU to upscale its support for the G5 Sahel and the Multinational Joint Taskforce in the Lake Chad Region as we strive to further degrade the Boko-Haram insurgents and their Islamic State in the West Africa Province counterparts. Africa also looks up to Europe for enhanced support in the area of combating Illicit financial flows and terrorism funding that aid the activities of terrorists and violent extremist groups,” the president added.

He called for all hands to be on deck to ensure that Africa’s Blue Economy Agenda for development is realized.

“I must emphasize the importance of expanding regional and international cooperation on ocean governance, on the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as well as on maritime security, including piracy, illicit trafficking and other maritime crimes and threats as reflected in the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy,” the Nigerian leader added.

President Buhari Departs Abuja For EU-AU Summit In Belgium

President Muhammadu Buhari left the country on February 15, 2022 for Brussels, Belgium.
President Muhammadu Buhari left the country on February 15, 2022 for Brussels, Belgium.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday departed Abuja for a summit in Brussels, Belgium involving African and European leaders.

He is expected back in the country on Saturday.

According to a statement signed by presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu, “the summit, which holds February 17 – 18, 2022, will have the participants deliberate on themes currently affecting the world.

“Such areas of discussion include: Financing for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth; Climate Change and Energy Transition, Digital and Transport (Connectivity and Infrastructure); Peace, Security and Governance; and Private Sector Support and Economic Integration.

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“Others are: Education, Culture and Vocational Training, Migration and Mobility; Agriculture and Sustainable Development and Health Systems and Vaccine Production.

“The Nigerian leader will use the opportunity of the meeting to have other bilateral engagements.

“The President will be accompanied on the trip by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of State for the Environment, Sharon Ikeazor.

“The National Security Adviser, Maj.Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), Director General of the National Intelligence Agency , Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar and the Chief Executive Officer of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa will also be part of the entourage.”

Buhari To Attend EU-AU Summit In Belgium

File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari will today leave Abuja to attend the 6th European Union-African Union summit in Brussels, Belgium.

He will be joining European and other African leaders as Heads of Multilateral Organisations at the summit.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said, the summit which holds February 17 – 18, 2022, will have the participants deliberate on themes currently affecting the world.

Such areas of discussion include: Financing for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth; Climate Change and Energy Transition, Digital and Transport (Connectivity and Infrastructure); Peace, Security, and Governance; and Private Sector Support and Economic Integration.

Others are education, culture and vocational training, migration and mobility; agriculture and sustainable development and health systems, and vaccine production.

READ ALSO: Buhari Earmarks N2.5tn For Subsidy In Supplementary Budget Proposal To NASS

The Nigerian leader will use the opportunity of the meeting to have other bilateral engagements.

The President will be accompanied on the trip by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of State for the Environment, Sharon Ikeazor.

The National Security Adviser, Maj.Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Rufai Abubakar and the Chief Executive Officer of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa will also be part of the entourage.

President Buhari is expected back in the country on Saturday.

Belgium Closes Entertainment Venues As Omicron Spreads

A medical worker unpacks 50 Decathlon snorkeling masks, to be used with 3D-printed respiratory valves fittings on March 27, 2020. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Belgium’s government on Wednesday announced concert halls, cinemas and other entertainment venues would have to close from the weekend as Omicron cases increased.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a media conference that while overall Covid infections were down 60 percent from where they were three weeks ago, worryingly three out of 10 positive tests were now of the Omicron variant.

“We have to be more careful than ever in this period where there are many uncertainties,” he said.

While entertainment venues would have to shut from Sunday, the additional restrictions would not affect museums, De Croo said.

He added that restaurants and bars would still be able to remain open until 11 pm, under curtailed hours imposed since the start of the month.

But, if the increase in Omicron cases led to more hospitalisations, he did not rule out stricter restrictions being brought in.

De Croo noted that so far nearly 40 percent of adults in Belgium had received booster shots.