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
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
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.
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.