NPFL 22: Plateau United Back To Winning Ways With Victory Over Wikki Tourists

Facebook/Plateau United FC JOS

 

Akila Jesse’s brace and Super Eagles invitee defender header were all Plateau United required to secure the maximum point with victory over neighbours Wikki Tourists at the new Zaria Road Stadium in Jos to keep pressure on Rivers United.

Wikki initially proved a hard nut to crack with an attacking exhibition that curtail Plateau adventures upfront causing a bit of uneasiness in the Plateau defence.

In spite of Wikki’s resistance, a defensive blunder committed in the box following Haggai Katoh’s cross saw Akila Jesse chasing a free ball and eventually latched on it to slot in Plateau’s first goal in the 14th minute.

READ ALSO: Asisat Oshoala Claims Golden Boot In Women’s Spanish Primera Division

Wikki succeeded in cancelling Plateau’s lead three minutes from resumption as Ridwan Adeshina capitalised on Ikefe’s faulty defensive blunder to send a long shot from 40 yards that left Akande Abiodun stranded for the equaliser.

Spontaneously, Plateau responded to restore the lead through Buhari Ibrahim who came from the defence to nod into the net for the Highlanders’ second goal of the day.

With desperation to increase the tally, Jesse Akila got his brace in a similar fashion from another defensive blunder from Wikki’s defence to score the third goal for the hosts in the 66th minute.

With the victory, Plateau still trail Rivers with four points on the log after 28 games.

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.

Hooliganism: LMC Slams N9m Fine On Kano Pillars, Banishes Team

A photo combination of the vandalised Katsina United bus.

 

The League Management Company (LMC) has fined Kano Pillars N9 million and also banished the team to the MKO Abiola Stadium following a fans’ violence that erupted in their game with Katsina United. 

A statement by the LMC on Monday said the Kano-based club violated the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Framework and Rules in the encounter at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano.

“Kano Pillars have been fined N1 million for the throwing of objects onto the pitch by their supporters,” the league body said in the statement.

“The Kano club will also pay a fine of N5 million for encroachment of the pitch by their supporters leading to the discontinuation of the match.

“For failing to provide adequate security, Pillars will pay a fine of N1 million & will pay another N1 million fine for allowing unauthorized persons access to restricted areas.

“The club are further fined N1 million for the unsporting behaviour of their supporters.”

“Kano Pillars will also play their remaining home matches for the current season at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja while the Sani Abacha Stadium is closed down indefinitely to league games,” said the LMC.

READ ALSO[World Cup Qualifier] Nigeria Thrash Egypt In First Leg

The sanction comes hours after the match was abandoned when Kano Pillars’ fans gained entrance to restricted areas during the game. They assaulted match officials and the away team.

“Some supporters of the club further encroached onto the pitch leading to the match being discontinued,” the LMC explained.

A Katsina United team bus was damaged in the violence with the LMC mandating Kano Pillars to “repair and/or replacement of the damaged bus of Katsina Utd as well as certified belongings (of players & officials of the away team) either damaged or lost in the bus.

“Kano Pillars supporters have also been suspended indefinitely from league matches & the club will ensure full compliance with this order.

“Kano Pillars have 21 days to pay all the fines & repair/replace the damaged bus as well as replace certified damaged/lost belongings of Katsina Utd, their players & officials.”

In addition to this, three points will be deducted from the former NPFL champions. The match will be continued from the 79th minute on a yet-to-be-announced date.

“Pillars will bear the costs for concluding the game including that of the away team as determined by the LMC,” the statement further read.

The incident is happening as the Sai Masu Gida returned to their home ground for the first time in two years after being banned for a similar infraction.

First 11: Ighalo’s AFCON Absence And This Week’s Biggest Sports Stories

 

From Romelu Lukaku’s row with Thomas Tuchel; Odion Ighalo’s AFCON absence to Watford’s eventual release of Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr for the competition, sports fans had a lot to chew on in the first week of the year.

On First Eleven this week, we capture the stories that made headlines to help sports lovers make sense of an eventful seven days.

AFCON Is Here!

AFCON trophy.

 

Finally, the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is here! The competition, which was postponed last year, will begin in Cameroon on Sunday.

Several clubs in Europe had criticised the timing of the competition as well as raised concerns over the rising rate of COVID-19 infections across the world, a development that triggered fears that the tournament may not hold.

But in his visit to the Central African country late last year, CAF President Patrice Motsepe, who met with Cameroonian authorities, said the biennial football showpiece will go ahead as planned.

To make this happen, a string of measures including a mandatory COVID-19 test for fans, and a limited crowd at the stadia, were introduced. Earlier in the week, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had contracted the disease and is a doubt for Gabon’s opening game against Comoros on Monday.

Aside from concerns about the timing, security issues also appeared as a major stumbling block to Cameroon’s hosting of the AFCON. Fears of attacks from separatists have led to the tightening of measures in the nation.

Eagles Land Without Ighalo

Nigeria won the AFCON in 2013. Photo: Instagram/Super Eagles.

 

On Wednesday night, the Super Eagles arrived in Cameroon for the AFCON tournament but were without forward, Odion Ighalo. A post on the team’s social media handles showed the players disembarking from the plane.

Ighalo’s absence followed his club, Al-Shabab’s refusal to release him for the competition, further compounding the woes of a country already missing star man, Victor Osimhen.

Coach Austin Eguaveon, has, however, said there is no replacement for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) top scorer. Nigeria are in Group D alongside record winners, Egypt, Sudan, and Guinea Bissau.

Watford Bow

File photo: Watford’s Senegalese star Ismaila Sarr (C) celebrates after he scores the team’s first goal against Liverpool. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

The row over the release of players for the continental event did not only affect Nigeria. Watford – the club which barred Super Eagles’ Emmanuel Dennis from the competition – finally bowed to pressure from the Senegalese football authorities and released Ismaila Sarr to join his compatriots.

Sarr had been a doubt for the team with the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) claiming the Premier League side blocked the release of the 23-year-old. The federation in describing the claim said it was a “disrespectful, pernicious and discriminatory behaviour” from Watford. The club though dismissed the accusation.

Djokovic’s Ordeal Lingers On

Novak Djokovic was denied aces to participate in the Australian Open despite ab exemption from two panels of medical experts
In this file photo taken on October 22, 2020, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attends an open-air press conference in Belgrade. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP).

 

COVID-19 is also raising more debates in the tennis world and Novak Djokovic continues to make headlines.

The Serb has repeatedly refused to confirm if he has taken the shots. He, however, got a medical exemption to participate in the Australian Open. Hours after the move, the Australian authorities denied him a visa to the country.

As expected, the development sparked outcry globally but the conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison maintained that “rules are rules and there are no special cases”. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic waded into drama, describing it as a “political witch hunt”.

Osaka Expect Fun-Filled Return

In this file photo, Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts after a point against France’s Alize Cornet during their women’s singles match at the Melbourne Summer Set tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 4, 2022. William WEST / AFP

 

Also in tennis, Naomi Osaka is expecting fun on the court following her return from a four-month break! The four-time Grand Slam winner tearfully exited at the US Open in September.

The Japanese fell to 13 in the rankings and had said after her third-round defeat at Flushing Meadows that she was “dealing with some stuff” and was taking a break from the game!

She flew into Melbourne last week to prepare for her Australian Open defence.

Guardiola Gets COVID-19

File photo: Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola looks on from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Norwich City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on August 21, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

In England, COVID-19 cases have also continued to soar among Premier League teams. Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola and his Burnley counterpart, Sean Dyche, tested positive for the disease.

The duo is now in isolation and Guardiola will miss the team’s FA Cup trip to Swindon Town. Before then, the Carabao Cup tie between Arsenal and Liverpool was also moved due to the increasing number of cases in England. But other FA Cup games are expected to continue.

Messi Tests Positive

This file photo taken on December 7, 2021, shows Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on December 7, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Apart from Guardiola, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG)’s, Lionel Messi also tested positive to COVID-19. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was one of four PSG players to contract the virus, according to the club.

“He is constantly in contact with our medical service. When he is negative, he will be able to return to France,” PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino told a press conference.

Lukaku Backtracks

Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge in London on December 29, 2021. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Still in England. Following the controversy generated by an interview with Sky Italia, Romelu Lukaku apologised to manager, Thomas Tuchel.

The Belgian star was in the news after he claimed he was unhappy at the Stamford Bridge side, claiming Tuchel had been playing him out of position for the Blues.

He was axed for the game against Liverpool and days after the encounter, the former Inter Milan forward, said he was “sorry” over his comments.

“To the fans, I’m sorry for the upset that I’ve caused,” Lukaku told Chelsea’s website. “Obviously, it’s up to me now to restore your trust, and I’ll do my best every day to show commitment on the training ground and in games to make sure we win games.

“And also to the manager, my teammates, and the board, I apologise, because I think it was not the right moment, also.”

All Clear for Plumptre

Ashleigh Plumptre
Ashleigh Plumptre has been given a go-ahead by FIFA to represent Nigeria.

 

Back home, footballer Ashleigh Plumptre, formally switched her nationality to Nigeria after FIFA cleared her to play for the African nation.

The Leicester defender had indicated interest to represent the Super Falcons and last year played an unofficial game for the Nigerian side.

Spokesman of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Ademola Olajire, confirmed the development, saying the former England youth international fast-tracked the move.

“It was only possible because of her commitment and dedication. She made the federation’s work a lot easier by providing all the requirements in quick time,” Olajire told the BBC.

Finidi’s Honeymoon Over

 

George Finidi is a former international. Credit: Facebook/Enyimba FC

 

On the local scene, George Finidi’s Enyimba lost their second league game in a row on Sunday. The People’s Elephant fell 2-0 to Kano Pillars in a Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) matchday 4 encounter.

The team earlier on suffered a 1-0 defeat against Rivers United, the first loss for the Aba-based side since Finidi’s appointment. Enyimba had enjoyed a five-game unbeaten run before then. Matches continue this weekend in the league.

Mendy Granted Bail

In this file photo, France’s defender Benjamin Mendy arrives in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines on November 12, 2018, as part of the team’s preparation for the upcoming Nations League football match against the Netherlands and a friendly football match against Uruguay. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Away from Nigeria, Manchester City defender, Benjamin Mendy, was granted bail after four months in prison.

Mendy was granted bail by Judge Patrick Thompson at a private hearing at Chester Crown Court at a private hearing in a Chester Crown Court. But pressmen were barred from the hearing. He has been bailed until January 24 pending a further pre-trial hearing.

The Frenchman is facing a seven counts charge of rape and sexual assault and was held at the HMP Altcourse, Liverpool, from where he was transferred to HMP Manchester.

He was billed to go on trial this month but that has now been moved to June at the earliest.

NPFL 22: Enyimba Lose Again As Remo Stars Maintain Lead

Remo Stars have had a good start to the new season. Photo: Remo Stars

 

Kano Pillars defeated Enyimba 2-0 in a Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) game on Sunday, the second consecutive loss for the Peoples Elephants in the league.

Enyimba had lost by a lone goal to Rivers United in matchday 3 of the NPFL, after a sterling start to the new season that saw them winning their first two games.

Captain Rabiu Ali gave the Kano-based side the lead just before halftime after he converted a penalty.

In the 56th minute, Kokoette Udoh doubled the scoreline for the Sai Masu Gida. The defeat leaves Enyimba on ninth on the table with six points after four games.

On the other hand, Kano Pillars are now 13th having lost two games, drawn one, and won one.

READ ALSOUnsettled Chelsea Star Lukaku Dropped For Liverpool Clash – Reports

Another game on Sunday saw Remo Stars maintain their grip on the table despite a 1-1 draw against Dakkada FC in Uyo. The newcomers are on eight points after four games but Kwara United will leapfrog them if they beat Abia Warriors.

A Samuel Anakwe goal cancelled Dakkada’s early lead from Muritala Lawal to keep the Blue Stars at the zenith.

Nasarawa United also beat defending champions, Akwa United 2-0 in Lafia.

Elsewhere, Rangers International defeated Niger Tornadoes 4-0 in Nnewi thanks to a brace from Kenechukwu Agu, and a goal each from Aseigbu Shedrack, and Nnaji Christian.

This was as Plateau United returned to winning ways when they dispatch Heartland 3-0.

Meanwhile, MFM’s poor run continued following a 3-0 defeat to Wikki Tourists in Bauchi. The Olukoya Boys have only three points from four games and are 17th on the table.

And in Port Harcourt, Rivers United could not replicate the form that saw them beat Enyimba on matchday 3. They managed a goalless draw against Sunshine Stars at the Port Harcourt Stadium.

NPFL Fixtures

Three games will be played on Monday and they are as follow:

Abia Warriors Vs Kwara United
Gombe Vs Lobi Stars
Shooting Stars Vs Katsina

NPFL 22: Enyimba, Remo Stars Maintain Fine Form

Remo Stars starting line-up against Heartland FC

 

Enyimba Football Club of Aba and newly promoted Remo Stars have recorded wins on matchday 2 to continue their fine start to the new 2021/2022 Nigeria Professional Football League season.

Remo Stars produced arguably the major talking point from the opening day with a stunning 2-0 win over MFM FC at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos while Enyimba got their season to a flying start with a 2-1 victory over Abia Warriors in Aba.

In Enugu, the Peoples Elephant showed they mean business with this campaign as they laboured to a 0-1 win over rivals Rangers International Football Club. The Flying Antelopes also had a good opening day win, beating Katsina United 2-1 to open their campaign with an away win. They had hoped to consolidate on that performance against Enyimba but their plans didn’t materialize.

Whenever the Antelopes and Elephants clash, it’s always a tight encounter and Sunday wasn’t different. It was looking like it will end in a barren draw till the 77th minute when coach Finidi George sent in Emeka Obioma to replace Victor Mbaoma. That substitution made the difference.

In the 88th minute, Obioma proved to be a super-sub as he scored the only goal of the match to seal victory for the visitors. Perfect start to the season for the People’s Elephant who are enjoying a good time under new manager Finidi George.

READ ALSOSaka Stars In Ruthless Arsenal’s Mauling Of Norwich City

Remo’s Christmas Package

Remo Stars also made it two wins out of two matches with an impressive 3-0 win over Heartland FC of Owerri. Andy Okpe scored a brace to improve his goals tally to 3 in two matches. It was a beautiful Christmas package for Coach Gbenga Ogunbote and the fans who are so loving the Sky Blue Stars.

Beaming with confidence from Matchday One, the home team showed their intent early in the match. Three minutes into the game, Okpe opened the scoring with a lovely left-foot finish. A minute later, Okpe doubled the lead with a beautiful header. Heartland couldn’t explain what hit them. It was a rush!

The visitors had their moments and tried to get back into the contest but Remo defended the lead so well. In the 72nd minute, Samuel Anakwe sealed a fine performance for the hosts when he scored with a half volley. The win placed Remo Stars on top of the league table with 5 goals from two matches and 6 points.

Rivers United also had a good Christmas package beating Katsina United 3-0. The Pride of Rivers got close to winning on Matchday One but were held to a 1-1 draw at Lobi Stars. On Sunday, they were in control from the beginning till the end of the match.

Rafiu Ishaq scored a brace with Chijioke Akuneto registering one to give the host a comfortable victory. Rivers United are 4th on the log with 4 points.

Boxing Day Love

The number of draws recorded on Sunday in the league confirms that teams were in the boxing day mood.

League champions, Akwa United were held to a 1-1 by the newly-promoted Shooting Stars of Ibadan. Utibe Archibong scored first for the hosts but a late goal Ayo Adejubu spoiled the party for the host as the spoils were shared. An Ibibio man scored for the South West team, while a Yoruba man scored for the South-South team. That’s the power of football!

In Kaduna, Kano Pillars and Lobi Stars played a goalless draw while Nasarawa United and Gombe United played 1-1. This is the second draw result for both teams. Abubakar Abdullahi scored for the Solid Miners in the 48th minute and it stayed that way till the closing minutes of the match when Yusuff Abdulazeez scored the equaliser and spoiled the Christmas party for the hosts.

In another Matchday 2 games played, Dakkada FC bounced back from their opening day defeat to Kwara United to beat MFM FC 2-0. Aniekan Ekpe and Musa Bashiru scored the goals while Mohammed Zulkifilu’s goal gave Plateau United a 1-0 win over Kwara United.

Abia Warriors also recorded their first win of the season with a 1-0 win over Sunshine Stars of Akure while Wikki Tourists got their campaign going with a 1-0 win over newly-promoted Niger Tornadoes.

First 11: NFF Consults Mourinho Over Eagles Job + Other Top Sports Stories

A photo collage used to illustrate the story.

 

It was yet another fun-filled and exciting week in sports as FIFA ramps up its push for a biennial World Cup. 

The move, which has triggered debates in the football world, was not the only talking point in a busy sports circle. FIFA, the global football body, is also leading calls to fix the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the off-season.

But CAF says the competition will hold as planned. Several teams, including the Super Eagles, have also named their squad for the tournament.

First Eleven captures this and other major sports stories that made headlines this week. 

Nigeria Unveil AFCON Squad

Ahmed Musa Augustine Eguavoen Victor Osimhen

 

With the AFCON less than two weeks away, Nigeria on Saturday named a 28-man squad for the competition billed for Cameroon.

Interim coach Austine Eguavoen released the list which included captain Ahmed Musa, and Napoli’s Victor Osimhen.

Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and Watford hitman, Dennis Emmanuel, also made the cut as the three-time African champions begin their quest for a fourth continental crown.

In Search For Rohr’s Successor

A photo combination of Mourinho and Wenger.

 

Another story that triggered conversations was the revelation from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) that it consulted some top coaches in the search for a new Super Eagles manager.

The President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, had told journalists in a media parley that former Arsenal long-time coach, Arsene Wenger, and Portuguese gaffer, Jose Mourinho, were contacted for counsel.

“These are some of the best coaches in the world. And there is nothing wrong with it because he [Wenger] is equally concerned just the way we are,” a few weeks before the commencement of the AFCON.

FG Fixes Date For National Sports Festival

A photo taken on April 10, 2021, shows athletes running in the Women’s 400M Semi-Finals of the 20th National Sports Festival at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin, the Edo State capital.

 

Away from the AFCON, the Federal Government has fixed November 2 to 15, 2022 for the National Sports Festival.

The competition is billed to hold in the country’s oil-rich Delta State, according to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare.

“Interestingly, Delta State came first at the recently concluded Edo 2020,” he said.

“Now, we are happy that they have the opportunity not just to host, but to validate their first position.”

NPFL Enters Second Week 

Remo Stars and MFM FC. Photo: Remo Stars

 

The restart of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) equally made the news.

Ten matches were played in the opening weekend of the season, leading to some shocking results. Akwa United began their title defence on a good note, just as MFM FC lost to new boys, Remo Stars.

Action returns again this weekend in the elite league as teams seek to consolidate on their first-week gains.

Kano Pillars, NSCDC Crowned Champions

Credit: Facebook/Supporters of Kano Pillars in Malaysia.

 

Earlier in the week, Kano Pillars and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) won the men and female categories of the 2021 National Volleyball Premier League respectively.

Their victories followed 10 days of action at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

Kano Pillars (male) beat Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) 3-0 (32-30, 25-20, 22-25,), as the NSCDC defeated Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) 16-2, 25-19, 23-25,22-25).

Nigeria Gets AFCON Boost

Nigeria’s forward Victor Osimhen (C) is challenged during the 2022 Qatar World Cup African qualifiers group 3 football match against Central Africa Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Surulere in Lagos State, on October 7, 2021. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

While talks about the AFCON is still making frontpages, Nigeria received a boost ahead of the January competition when hitman, Victor Osimhen, indicated he will be available for selection.

The former Lille star had been ruled out for three months following a head collision. After the incident in a Serie A game, Osimhen had surgery and was expected to miss the party in the Central African country.

But in a recent social media post, the Napoli forward said he is ready to play for the 1994 African champions, raising hopes among fans in Nigeria. Reports, however, suggest that his club might not allow him feature in the competition over COVID-19 fears.

An Optimistic CAF

AFCON trophy.

 

Napoli’s comment about Osimhen is not the first opposition to the tournament. Several European clubs had raised concerns about the competition due to the pandemic.

As calls to push the competition to the summer gains traction, CAF insists there is no going back. During his visit to Cameroon, CAF President Patrice Motsepe said it will hold despite the challenges of COVID-19. He noted that fans would, however, need negative COVID-19 results to enter the stadiums much to the delight of the Cameroonian authorities.

Promises of a Biennial World Cup 

File photo: The World Cup winner’s trophy is seen during the 68th FIFA Congress at the Expocentre in Moscow on June 13, 2018. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

 

And as preparations for the continental showpiece enter the final stages, FIFA is also preaching the gospel of a biennial World Cup already backed by CAF.

Gianni Infantino in a meeting on Monday said the proposal will improve the financial fortunes of the game to the tune of  $4.4 billion despite opposition from Europe and South America.

A report commissioned by UEFA recently estimated a shortfall of between 2.5 and three billion euros ($2.8 to 3.4 billion) over four years for European federations if FIFA’s plan goes through, however.

Game On!

Manchester City’s Spanish midfielder Ferran Torres (C) scores his team’s fifth goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on August 28, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) /

 

Before FIFA’s recent remarks, English Premier League clubs earlier confirmed that there won’t be a COVID-19 break.

The decision came on the heels of a surge in infections leading to the postponement of games in the English topflight.

“The health and wellbeing of all concerned remain our priority and the League will continue to monitor and reflect public health guidance, always proceeding with caution,” the Premier League said in a statement.

Pele Discharged

In this handout file photo released by WEF and taken on March 14, 2018, Brazilian football legend Pele smiles during the opening plenary at the World Economic Forum on Latin America 2018 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 14, 2018. Benedikt VON LOEBELL / World Economic Forum (WEF) / AFP

 

It was not all gloomy for sports in recent days. Brazilian legend, Pele, was discharged from the hospital on Thursday after two weeks of chemotherapy for a colon tumor.

The 81-year-old is stable and will continue treatment for the disease, the Albert Einstein Hospital said in a statement three months after the Brazilian spent a month in hospital.

Pele’s latest health challenge is expected to decrease the aging star’s public appearances.

Al Ahly Continues Dominance

Ahly’s players celebrate with the winners trophy following the CAF Super Cup football match between Egypt’s Al-Ahly and Morocco’s Raja Club Athletic (Raja Casablanca) at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in the Qatari city of Ar-Rayyan on December 22, 2021. KARIM JAAFAR / AFP

 

In Africa, Egyptian giants, Al Ahly, have continued their dominance of club competitions on the continent after they won the CAF Super Cup.

Pitso Mosimane’s men defeated Raja Casablanca of Morocco 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 in a thrilling encounter in Qatar.

Wednesday’s victory seals Al Ahly’s position as a dominant force in Africa. They now have 23 titles — 10 in the CAF Champions League, eight in the Super Cup, four in the Cup Winners Cup, and one in the Confederation Cup.

NPFL 22: Akwa United Spank Kano Pillars To Begin Title Defence

File Picture of Akwa United players celebrating a league win

 

Defending champions of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Akwa United, have kicked off their title defence campaign with an impressive 3-0 victory over Kano Pillars in Uyo.

Opening day action against a decent Pillars team was the sort of test coach Kennedy Boboye was hoping to use in assessing if his team can continue the brilliant show they put up last season. And, oh yes, the champions showed class.

The first half was a cagey affair and just when the home fans thought there will be no celebration before the break, Ezekiel Bassey, broke the deadlock. The hosts took the lead into the break.

When action resumed, it didn’t take long before Stephen Chukwude opened his goal account for the Promise Keepers with a brilliant finish off Ubong Friday’s low cross.

In the 79th minute, the visitors had a chance to pull one back but Kokoette Udoh’s strike flashed across the face of goal and goes wide. That move reawakened the attacking prowess of the league champions. In the closing minutes of the match, Ubong Friday made a good run onto a long ball, dribbled Bassey Akpan cleverly, and finished calmly.

Good start to the 2021/2022 NPFL season for the Promise Keepers who showed their intent to defend the title they won in style last campaign.

READ ALSOGov. Udom Splashes N100m On Title-Winning Akwa United

Away Wins For Remo Stars, Rangers

MFM and Remo Stars clashed in the opening game of the new season. Photo: Remo Stars

 

Newly-promoted Remo Stars produced a stunning performance to beat MFM FC 2-0 at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos. This is the first league win for the Sky Blue Stars over the Olukoya Boys since 2017.

Akanni Qudus gave the visitors the lead in the 55th minute, and Andy Okpe with an easy tap in at goal placed the icing on the cake. New manager, Gbenga Ogunbote, praised his team for not respecting the hosts and wants the team to continue the season-opening form in the next home match against Heartland FC of Owerri.

Enugu Rangers also got their league campaign to a flying start with a 1-2 win over Katsina United. The Flying Antelopes gave new manager, Abdul Maikaba the sort of experience he needed to get things going.

Ossy Martins is still on fire. He continued his impressive league form to score a brace for the visitors. The former Lobi Stars man opened the scoring in the 13th minute, Saliu Mustapha, scored to level up for the hosts. In the 54th minute, Martins scored again to give Rangers a vital away victory.

Shooting stars are making a return to the NPFL.

 

Shooting Stars of Ibadan, also making a return to the top flight held another newcomer, Gombe United to secure a vital away point on the road.

Enyimba Rules Abia Derby

Enyimba Football Club of Aba continued their dominant display in the Abia Derby with a 2-1 win over Abia Warriors.

The Peoples Elephant got the lead through Ekene Awazie’s goal in the 34th minute. Proceedings stayed that way till the second half when Paul Samson equalized for the visitors. Coach Finidi George made some useful changes to take control of the game and in the 77th minute, Chigozie Obasi, scored the winner.

Meanwhile, in Owerri, it was goals galore. Visiting Nasarawa United held Heartland FC to a 3-3 draw. Some familiar names in the goalscorers sheet include Chinedu Ohanachom and a brace by Otegbeyi Ajibola.

In Ilorin, Dakkada FC was no match for last season’s surprise package, Kwara United. Steven Jude’s brace and one from Junior Lokosa sealed a 3-0 win for the Harmony Boys who will be looking forward to repeating their impressive performance from the last campaign.

In Makurdi, Lobi Stars were held to a 1-1 draw by Rivers United, Niger Tornadoes beat Plateau United 1-0 while the game between Sunshine Stars and Wikki Tourists couldn’t hold because the Elephants failed to show up. The League Management Company (LMC) is yet to make an official statement on the situation

NPFL: Newly-Promoted Remo Stars Beat MFM FC In League Opener

Remo Stars and MFM FC have met four times in the elite league. Photo: Remo Stars

 

Newly-promoted Remo Stars beat MFM FC 2-0 in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) 2021`/2022 season opener on Friday. 

Remo Stars dominated much of the proceedings in the first half of the encounter and came close to taking the lead in the 13th minute. But Ifeanyi Ojukwu’s effort was not enough.

The game ended goalless after 45 minutes. When the match resumed, it took Akanni Qudus 10 minutes to connect beautifully to Ifeanyi Ojukwu’s pass for the opening goal.

Oyedele Adebayo almost levelled things for the Olukoya Boys but his effort was denied by Kayode Bankole.

READ ALSO: Gov. Udom Splashes N100m On Title-Winning Akwa United

MFM FC finished 10th on the log last season. Photo: Remo Stars

 

The match was almost headed for a 1-0 victory for Remo Stars but Andy Okpe doubled the lead for the Sky Blues three minutes into added time with an easy tap-in.

Before the clash, both sides have met four times in Nigeria’s elite league. MFM won thrice while the other game ended in a draw.

Asides from Friday’s tie, nine other fixtures will be played later this weekend – Sunday by 4 pm.

Akwa United face Kano Pillars; Lobi Stars battle Rivers United while Finidi George’s Enyimba host Abia Warriors in the Abia derby.

Other games will see Heartland welcome Nasarawa United; Sunshine Stars play  Wikki Tourists and Katsina United vs Rangers.

NPFL Matchday 1 Fixtures 

Below is the full list of matches for the opening games in the 2021/2022 season:

Akwa United vs Kano Pillars

Lobi Stars vs Rivers United

Enyimba vs Abia Warriors

Heartland vs Nasarawa United

Sunshine Stars vs Wikki Tourists

Gombe United vs Shooting Stars

Kwara United vs Dakkada

Niger Tornadoes vs Plateau United

Katsina United vs Rangers

Gov. Udom Splashes N100m On Title-Winning Akwa United

Akwa United won the league with 71 points. Photo: Akwa United.

 

Governor Emmanuel Udom has promised a reward of N100m to Akwa United for their title-winning feat in the last Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season. 

The Akwa Ibom governor said this during a reception for the team at the Government House in Uyo on Thursday.

“I just want to say thank you for making the state proud. Becoming champions is a thing of joy to all Akwa Ibomites. Keep that winning flag flying and we will continue to support the team to succeed,” he said, in addition to giving a plot of land to each member of the team and a brand new 32 seater Coaster bus.

“You have gone to the top, you have to redouble your effort this new season to ensure you remain at the top, once again congratulations for winning the league title”.

READ ALSO: Akwa United Wins 2020/2021 NPFL Title

Historic Feat

Governor Udom
Governor Udom is urging Akwa United to do more after their title-winning feat.

 

Aside from the governor, the Chairman of the club, Paul Bassey, was also on ground and appreciated the Akwa Ibom leader for his gesture.

According to the Senior Special Assistant to Governor on Sports, the club is determined to defend the trophy.

Players of Akwa United during the event.

 

“A little over six years in the saddle, Akwa United established 24 years ago, won three major trophies in 2015, 2017 and the historic league trophy this year 2021,” he added.

“Your Excellency, thank you, your tireless and unrelenting funding of development potential in our youths have in the recent years brought about a total explosion of talents in all the broad fields of sports.

“The entire Akwa United family is determined to march out and defend the trophy we won last year this coming season”.

Players of Akwa United during the event.

 

The governor’s gesture is coming about four months after Akwa United won their first league title. They had 71 points from 38 matches.

Akwa United Beat Algeria’s CR Belouizad  In CAF Champions League

A file photo of Akwa United players.

 

Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title holder, Akwa Utd shocked visiting Algeria champions, CR Belouizad with a lone goal in the CAF Champions League preliminary first leg encounter on Sunday.

The lone goal was netted in the 87th minute by team captain, Ubong Friday, to the amazement of the enthusiastic fans at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo. 

Akwa Utd head coach Kennedy Boboye, during a post match interview, attributed the win to the players’ commitment on the field, in spite of being new entrants in the CAF competition.

Boboye expressed optimism that the boys would fill in the noticeable gaps to ensure victory as they go for a return leg in Algeria.

“We approached the match with the determination to win, and it paid off though it was not easy because the Algerians were more experienced,” Boboye added.

READ ALSO: Akwa United Wins 2020/2021 NPFL Title

On his part, the CR Belouizad Coach, Bekhti Khoum described the encounter with Akwa Utd as a tough match.

He lamented that even though his players held possession of the ball, they could not get a goal because of the Promise Keepers discipline.

“Anything can happen in football. We came expecting to win but it turned out to be a different side,” Khoum added.

“We did very well but what happened [was that] our players were getting tired in the second half. We are moving forward to ensure a good result back home.”

The Promise Keepers are making their first appearance in the CAF Champions League after clinching their maiden NPFL title last season.

Akwa United Wins 2020/2021 NPFL Title

Akwa United have been crowned champions for the 2020/2021 NPFL on August 1, 2021.

 

Akwa United have been crowned champions of the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League season after producing a remarkable 5-2 victory over MFM FC in Uyo on matchday 37 in Uyo.

Charles Atshimene capped a fine performance with a hat-trick and improved his goals count to 18 this season. Akwa United confirmed their intention to win the league after recorded the longest unbeaten run of 18 games.

The Promise Keepers have also kept the most-clean sheets this campaign.

This is the first time the Promise Keepers will be winning the NPFL title since the club was established 25 years again. But it is the second time coach Kennedy Boboye will be winning the trophy, he also led Plateau United to win their first league title in 2017.

MFM came to Uyo in fine form after FC Ifeanyi Ubah 0-2 in Enugu in a rescheduled fixture to consolidate their position on the league table. A win over Akwa United in Uyo would have one they will relish but they knew it was an almost impossible task.

 

23 minutes into the match, man on fire, Charles Atshimene won an aerial battle and sent his header into the back of the net to give the hosts the lead.

With spectators at the Nest of Champions singing, dancing and hailing their team, the Promise Keepers came out in search of more goals. They mounted pressure on the visitors and force in an own goal just before half-time. Samuel Amadi’s effort was sent into the net by Ubukama Peter after good pressure by Charles Atshimene.

Akwa United took a 2-0 lead into the break.

Supporters of the Akwa United FC cheer the players on.

 

When action resumed, Mfon Udoh scored the third goal with a stunning finish after a good work by Ubong Friday. That was Udoh’s 8th goal of the season. But the hopes of keeping a clean sheet were dashed in the 67th minute when the Olukoya Boys were awarded a penalty. Michael Mbonu sent goalkeeper Efala the wrong way and scored.

Akwa United came out for more goals. Substitute, Wisdom Fernando made immediate impact sending in a fine cross for Atshimene to score his second goal of the encounter. MFM pulled one back before the former Warri Wolves striker sealed his hat-trick.

A seven-goal thriller and a maiden league title was quality football experience for spectators at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium who have waiting for this day since 1997.