African Leagues: Tanzania First To Start New Season Amid Virus

A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.
A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.

 

 

Tanzania again became the first African League to kick off during the coronavirus crisis when they opened the 2020/2021 league season on Sunday.

The championship was also the first to resume last season after a Covid-19 shutdown, playing from June with spectators permitted.

While Tanzanian clubs have started their new season, South Africa only completed their 2019/2020 season two days ago. Tunisia will finish theirs this Sunday and clubs in Egypt have between nine and 12 fixtures still to fulfil.

A resurgence of the virus in Morocco led to many postponements, but leaders Raja Casablanca and potential title rivals Wydad Casablanca are scheduled to play Wednesday.

Here is the AFP round-up of all the football action in Africa across the weekend.

Tanzania
Defending champions Simba SC won 2-1 at promoted Ihefu 2-1 after naming Barbara Gonzalez as the first female chief executive of a top-flight Tanzanian club.

Zambian Clatous Chama starred for the winners, who completed a league and cup double last season, and set up captain John Bocco for the opening goal of the match.

Likely chief rivals Young Africans were held 1-1 at home by Prisons in their first league match under Serb coach Zlatko Krmpotic, who has worked in five other African countries.

Egypt
Zamalek defeated third-place Pyramids 2-0 and mid-table El Gaish 1-0 to build a six-point lead in the race for second spot behind runaway leaders Al Ahly.

Mostafa Mohamed and Democratic Republic of Congo-born Kabongo Kasongo scored against Pyramids and Youssef Obama netted to sink Gaish.

Finishing second is significant because it secures a place in the CAF Champions League, which carries a $2.5 million (2.1 million euros) first prize.

Tunisia
Etoile Sahel, the only club to win all five current and past CAF club competitions, slipped to a 1-0 defeat away at relegation-threatened CS Hammam-Lif and remain fifth in a disappointing campaign.

Fares Meskini snatched the winning goal three minutes from time to lift Hammam-Lif above JS Kairouan and out of the danger zone, but only on goal difference, with two rounds to go.

Esperance, who were crowned champions last weekend, play at US Monastir Monday while second-place CS Sfaxien drew 0-0 at Stade Tunisien.

Morocco
Raja suffered a shock 1-0 home loss against second-last Ittihad Tangier, ending an unbeaten seven-match run since the league restarted in August after a five-month shutdown.

Youssef Anouar scored for Tangier on 74 minutes to boost the title hopes of third-place Wydad, the defending champions who trail Raja by five points but have two matches in hand.

Twelve of the 16 top-flight clubs have reported at least one positive case for Covid-19, leading to all teams having to stay in a hotel or sport centre.

South Africa
Mamelodi Sundowns won a third straight title at the weekend and now the focus switches to three-club play-offs for one lucrative 2020/2021 elite league place.

Black Leopards, who came second last in the Premiership, second division runners-up Ajax Cape Town and third-place Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila will contest a double-round mini-league.

The table-toppers qualify for the richest African league with clubs guaranteed a 2.5 million rand ($150,000, 125,000 euros) monthly allowance and millions more in prize money.

AFP

Tanzania Resumes Football League Amid COVID-19 Concerns

A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.
A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.

 

Tanzania’s football league resumed on Saturday after three months of suspension as the country insists its coronavirus outbreak is under control despite coming under fire for keeping its data secret.

Tanzania has officially recorded 509 cases, but has not given any data update since April 29, and while President John Magufuli assures cases have dropped, the United States has raised the alarm about the outbreak.

Compared to its neighbours Tanzania took very few measures to combat the virus, and opened up universities and international flights earlier this month.

The football league resumed with two games, and one was broadcast live, showing fans shaking hands after the match and sitting closely together without masks — despite a government call for caution.

Government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said he had personally inspected the second game at Mkwakwani Stadium in northern Tanga and was “satisfied the preparations and health guidelines are observed.”

Ahead of the resumption of the league, players were optimistic.

“I’m prepared for the league and apart from taking the precautions, I leave the rest to God,” said Dar es Salaam Young African (Yanga) Sports Club player Deus Kaseke, whose team played Saturday.

Defending champions Simba hold an unassailable lead of 71 points from 28 matches, with a further 17 more rounds of games before completion of the championship in July.

The winner will qualify for the African Champions League next season.

No Talking Or Goal Celebrations As South Korea Restarts Football Season

In this file photo taken on May 7, 2019, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors players celebrate scoring a goal during the AFC Champions League group stage football match between China's Beijing Guoan and South Korea's Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Beijing.  STR / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 7, 2019, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors players celebrate scoring a goal during the AFC Champions League group stage football match between China’s Beijing Guoan and South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Beijing. STR / AFP

 

South Korea’s football season kicks off on Friday after a two-month coronavirus delay, leading the way for the global game as other leagues strive to return to action.

Goal celebrations, handshakes and even talking are out under stringent new safety guidelines designed to prevent any contagion during games, which will be played behind closed doors.

While countries such as Belarus, Turkmenistan and Taiwan defied the virus to keep playing football, South Korea — the 2002 World Cup co-hosts and semi-finalists — are the first prominent nation in the sport to allow matches.

South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of COVID-19 outside China, prompting professional sports to suspend or delay their seasons, a pattern that was repeated worldwide.

But the country appears to have flattened the curve thanks to an extensive “trace, test and treat” programme, and football’s return comes after baseball started without fans on Tuesday.

The K-League is Asia’s first major competition to return to action, while Europe’s giants remain sidelined with only Germany’s Bundesliga so far making concrete plans to resume.

Friday’s opening game will be between defending champions Jeonbuk Motors — who are managed by Jose Mourinho’s former assistant Jose Morais — and Cup-holders Suwon Bluewings.

Jeonbuk have been the dominant team for the past decade, winning five of the last six league titles, and are again one of the favourites.

Another top contender among the K-League’s 12 teams are Ulsan, who have finished in the top four in each of the past four years.

But it will be football with a difference from Friday, with strict health checks and hygiene measures enforced on the field.

Players and coaching staff are subject to temperature checks ahead of each game and if anyone gets infected during the season, the affected team and those who played against them will have to take a two-week break.

Instead of the traditional pre-game handshakes, players have been asked to bow their heads from a distance, while also avoiding celebrating goals with teammates — and talking.

‘Impossible not to talk’

The K-League’s step-by-step response manual to the virus outbreak has been shared with some 40 professional football competitions worldwide including England’s Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga, the K-League said.

But questions have been raised about the new safety guidelines.

“It’s impossible not to talk to your teammates,” Incheon United captain Kim Do-hyeok told reporters.

“If we can’t have conversations on the field, we may as well not play football at all.”

The new K-League season will be an oasis of live action in a world where sports fans have been starved of such content by the virus, with broadcasters resorting to repeats of matches from past years.

The lack of live sport has resulted in a new-found global interest in South Korean football.

Ten foreign broadcasters from China, Hong Kong to Croatia have purchased rights to air the upcoming season, while those in Germany, France, Italy, US and Australia have also made inquiries, the K-League said.

The K-League will livestream Friday’s match on YouTube and Twitter with English-language graphics and commentary for international fans, it added in a statement.

On the ground, the K-League said spectators will be allowed back into stadiums progressively as the government eases its quarantining measures.

The new football season comes just two days after the return of professional baseball in South Korea, which has struck a television deal with ESPN for US fans.

And South Korea will next week become the first country to see women’s professional golf resume after COVID-19.

South Korean players dominate women’s golf with eight featuring in the world’s top 20, including number one Ko Jin-young.

The $1.8 million Korea Ladies Professional Golf Association Championship begins on May 14 in Yangju, east of Seoul with world number six Kim Sei-young and 10th-ranked Lee Jeong-eun in the 144-strong field.

South Korea has seen only a trickle of new coronavirus infections in recent days, with two fresh cases reported on Wednesday — both of them overseas arrivals — taking the total to 10,806.

 

AFP

NPFL: Rivers United Vow To Fight For Title In Uyo

NPFL, Rivers United, Rangers, Rivers United, wikki tourists, NPFL, Abia WarriorsRivers United will be hoping for the impossible to happen in their last game of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season.

The Port Harcourt based team are vying for the title and will play Akwa United in Uyo on Sunday in what they have described as the most decisive game of their campaign.

Coach of the team, Stanley Eguma is indifferent about what will happen in Uyo because even if they win, Enugu Rangers need just a point in their game against El-Kanemi to emerge champions.

Eguma admits they no longer have their destiny in their hands but as professionals, they will play for a victory against Akwa United.

Meanwhile, Nigerian football fans are pleased with the organization of the 2015/2016 NPFL season.

In their opinion, the quality of play has improved with Enugu Rangers’ consistency and Rivers United taking the fight for the title to the last game.

The fans also want the government and private institutions to show more interest for the development of the league.

 

NPFL: Rangers Extend Lead, Ikorodu United’s Struggle Continues

NPFLMatchday nine of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) produced 21 goals (2.1 goals per game), six home wins, three draws and one away victory.

Enugu Rangers consolidated their lead on top of the league table to two points with a hard fought 2-1 win against oriental rivals Enyimba FC of Aba.

Joseph Osadiaye got the champions in front in the 14th minute, when he curled in Ikechukwu Ibenegbu’s lofty pass from the edge of the area. Godwin Aguda levelled terms for the Flying Antelopes in the 21st minute from a Bobby Clement assist. Clement again turned provider for Chisom Egubuchulam, who finished it with a fine goal eight minutes to the break.

In Owerri, Heartland FC saw off a difficult Giwa FC challenge with a 2-0 win, which saw Roland Koffi smashing home a cracker at the death.

Shagari Mohammed was the hero in Kano, providing assists for Prince Aggreh and Suleman Usman to slot in the goals in the 28th and 47th minutes respectively. Pillars move into second place on the log.

In Jos, MFM FC played 1-1 away to Plateau United. The result increases pressure on head coach, Zachary Baraje, who has been asked to spring results or face the music.

Federation Cup champions, Akwa United, held Wikki Tourists to a barren draw at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi, despite being without their technical adviser, Maurice Cooreman, who failed to travel with the team due to illness. The home side will have Godwin Obaje to blame for failing to convert outright opportunities in the opening half.

In Akure, Tope Orelope’s equalizer in the 63rd minute, appeared to have secured a point for Shooting Stars, but that was not the outcome, as the Akure Gunners snatched a late winner through Okiki Afolabi. Dele Olorundare also had a goal to his name in the sixth minute.

Elsewhere, Abia Warriors grabbed a narrow 1-0 win at home to Niger Tornadoes, at the Umuahia Township Stadium through Chisom Chikatara’s late goal. Ladan Bosso’s El-Kanemi side thrashed Nasarawa United 3-0 in Katsina, while Warri Wolves drew goalless with visiting Lobi Stars at the Warrior Township Stadium.

Rivers United appear to have finally found their rhythm, edging newcomers Ikorodu United in a five-goal thriller at the Onikan Waterfront.

Guy Kuemian got the visitors in front, in the ninth minute before the home side levelled terms through Ifegwu Ojukwu just before the quarter of an hour mark. Nonso Okonkwo and Wilson Andoh put the game beyond the Lagos side before the break, with stunning goals.

Ikorodu United’s late chase only aided them to reduce the deficit through Ojukwu, before end of proceedings. But Ojukwu’s brace proved too little to help them avoid a fifth defeat on the bounce as they drop to second from bottom.

After the game, new technical adviser, Sam Okpodu described the team as young and inexperienced.

”This team has a lot of learning to do and with time they will understand themselves and start getting the desired results” he concluded.

NPFL: Plateau United, MFM React To Week 7 Results

NPFLPlateau United Assistant Coach, Sani Adamu, says the newly promoted side will continue to push for a continental finish at the end of the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL.

Two quick-fire goals by Plateau United’s Nuhu Julius and Sunday Ingbede cancelled out Tony Okpotu’s opener for Lobi.

Coach Adamu and Ingbede said that the team is made up of young players who are thirsty for continental action.

Meanwhile, newly promoted side, MFM FC have waved off their away defeat to Heartland of Owerri in week seven of the Nigerian Professional Football League.

A lone goal by Fortune Omoniwari handed MFM their second defeat of the season from seven games.

The Olukoya boys are, however, confident they can make up for the defeat when they host former champions Kano Pillars at home in week eight of the domestic league.

Gov Ahmed Advocates Public-Private Partnership In Sports

The Kwara State Governor, Mr Abdulfatah Ahmed, kwarahas advocated for Public-Private Partnership in the sports sector to harness the opportunities therein.

Governor Ahmed made the call while receiving board members of the Nigeria National League (NNL), led by its Chairman, Mr Emeka Inyama, at the Government House, Ilorin, Kwara state capital.

He also emphasised the need to create a sustainable entertainment world that would allow interface between football and business and called for investments in that sector for the growth of the round leather game.

Governor Ahmed, who identified sport as a unifying factor for national cohesion, stressed the need to use football in molding youths in Kwara and Nigeria at large, to shape their mental capacities, for the growth and development of the nation.

The Governor further said the state had positioned itself at both sub-national and national levels, assuring the gathering that the state would continue to host more competitions for the mental strength of players and spectators.

Earlier in his remarks, the Board Chairman of the NNL, Mr Inyama, explained that the NNL had been re-branded with enhanced credibility and integrity, calling for sponsors to further promote the league.

Mr Inyama commended the state government for its investment in sports and for the promotion of the Kwara United Football Club to the elite division; the Nigeria Professional Football League.

Showing Racism The Red Card

Before the start of the new English Premier League and Football League season, players will receive guidance from the Professional Footballers’ Association about tackling racist language.

According to a release by the PFA, managers of all 92 clubs have been contacted by the Association asking them to ensure the players attend the sessions that will focus on what is considered banter or acceptable jibes towards opponents and what is not.

PFA Chief Executive, Gordon Taylor confirmed the decision to educate players: “Racism is still a significant problem in football; we need to avoid any embarrassment again after recent cases.”

In the interactive sessions, players will be given scenarios where abuses can occur; either from fans or from other players and be guided on the correct response to give.  They will also be warned not to use discriminatory language referring to religion or disability.

The new FA sanctions carry a minimum five-match ban for a first offence of racist or homophobic abuse. In the last two seasons, Chelsea’s defender John Terry and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez have both received bans for racial abuse.

The letter from the PFA to the managers states that “We are looking to arrange this session in the near future and would appreciate you ensuring players attend as a matter of priority.”

NPL Interim Management Inaugurated, Baribote Heads To Court

The controversy plaguing the board of the Nigerian Premier League has been laid to rest, at least for now as a new 13-man interim management of the league was inaugurated yesterday.

The management will be responsible for the running of the affairs of the NPL, pending the election of a new board.

Corruption charges were brought against the head of the previous board; Rumson Victor Baribote as he was accused of misappropriation of funds and a lack of transparency and accountability which was held to blame for the failure of the NPL to attract sponsorship.

How the legal practitioner has decided to take his case to the Federal High Court despite his removal.

The committee will be headed by former member of the House of Representatives, Nduka Irabor and includes Nwankwo Kanu; NPL Secretary-General, Tunji Babalola; Mike Enahoro; Shehu Dikko; Modele Sarafa-Yusuf; Abubakar Nuhu Dan Buran; Kunle Elebute; Mike Idoko; former Secretary-General of the NPL Salisu Abubakar; chairman of Kaduna United FC Sabo Babayaro; chairman of Lagos State Football Association Seyi Akinwunmi and Ifeanyi Dike.

The new committee has been charged with organising the 2012/2013 season, which does not yet have an agreed start date, with reviewing all NPL contracts, with dealing with TV and sponsorship rights, developing strategy, reforming the League to achieve profitability and reviewing procedures for elections to the NPL board. It will also develop new standards for players contracts.