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.

Eguavoen: A Steady Pair Of Hands For Nigeria As New Coach Waits In Wings

File photo of Austin Eguavoen

 

In Augustine Eguavoen, Nigeria are relying on an interim appointment to lead them at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, albeit a familiar face who knows what it takes to be a continental champion.

The Super Eagles defeated Guinea-Bissau in their final group game in Garoua on Wednesday having already secured a place in the last 16 as winners of their section with two victories from two outings, including one over Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.

Garoua is a short hop from Cameroon’s border with Nigeria, where fans could be forgiven for already feeling optimistic about their team’s chances of winning a fourth Cup of Nations.

Their smooth start to the tournament has been in contrast to their tumultuous build-up which saw long-serving German coach Gernot Rohr sacked in December and Eguavoen named as a caretaker.

The vastly experienced Rohr, 68, had been at the helm since 2016, notably leading Nigeria to third place at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt. Many in the country felt Rohr had overstayed his welcome.

READ ALSO: [Christian Chukwu] Unlike Rohr, Eguaveon Brought Out Eagles’ Attacking Flair

Eguavoen, 56, had been working as the Nigeria Football Federation’s technical director before being asked to replace Rohr and fill in on the bench until Portugal’s Jose Peseiro takes over.

The interim boss belongs to a golden generation of Nigerian players. He was stand-in captain as the team raced to victory in the 1994 Cup of Nations final against Zambia.

A defender, Eguavoen played alongside Jay-Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George, Daniel Amokachi, and Emmanuel Amunike, the last match-winner in 1994.

Nigeria also reached the last 16 of that year’s World Cup and Eguavoen later led the team to a third-place finish at the 2006 AFCON.

This is his third spell in charge. This time it came as a surprise to many in Nigeria where the decision to hand him the reins was not warmly received.

Many felt he was too close to the current leadership of the NFF in his role as technical director.

 Commands Respect

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

 

Remembered as a big and effective central defender, Eguavoen is a gentleman off the pitch and commands respect without being as popular as the likes of Okocha or Oliseh.

Yet he is confident of what he can achieve with a strong squad that is particularly fearsome in attack with Europe-based stars like Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon, and Taiwo Awoniyi.

Nigeria have started well and a favourable path is opening up to the latter stages. Should they go all the way, it could leave the NFF in an awkward position.

Peseiro, who has notably coached Sporting in his homeland, Egyptian giants Al Ahly and Saudi Arabia, is due to start work after the Cup of Nations, meaning he will be tasked with ensuring they qualify for the World Cup.

Yet NFF president Amaju Pinnick hinted that Eguavoen could keep the job should he lead Nigeria to glory in Cameroon.

“We know that Eguavoen can do the job expertly, but we also know that he will be more useful controlling the technical department,” Pinnick said following his appointment.

“If Eguavoen won the Cup of Nations, we might have a rethink. In that case, the foreign coach would become the technical director.”

For now, though, Eguavoen is not getting carried away.

“It is important for us to sustain the winning mentality while we keep our heads on our shoulders,” he told Nigerian media this week.

“We are yet to win anything here except points.”

AFP

Christian Chukwu: Unlike Rohr, Eguaveon Brought Out Eagles’ Attacking Flair

 Austin Eguaveon
File photo of Austin Eguaveon. Credit: [email protected]_Supereagles

 

Super Eagles legend, Christian Chukwu, has hailed Austine Eguaveon for his handling of the team, saying the Nigerian side have been transformed since he took over from long-time coach, Gernot Rohr.

The former international said this during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Sports.

“Based on what I have seen, I give thanks to Eguaveon. He has turned around the team. We are now playing as Nigerian Super Eagles. And if they continue this way, we are to win the cup at the end of the day,” Chukwu, a former coach of the team, added.

“You can see attacking force in the team, unlike when Rohr was there. Our game has changed completely and if they continue like this, I can assure you we will get to the final and, if possible, lift the cup.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria Put Three Past Sudan To Qualify For Round Of 16

Chukwu also accused the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) of undervaluing local coaches, insisting that foreign managers cannot do better than their indigenous counterparts.

“I can assure you that the present Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) does not believe in Nigerian coaches,” he noted.

“Nigerian coaches can perform even better than foreign coaches but our federation doesn’t have respect for the Nigerian coaches,” the former defender said.

Chukwu joins fans and pundits who maintain that the Super Eagles need a local handler, citing the fact that all World Cup-winning teams were handled by their nationals.

Eguavoen, who led the Nigerian side to a bronze medal finish at the 2006 edition of the continental showpiece, was appointed as the team’s interim boss in November following the dismissal of Rohr.

The NFF had in a statement said the German coach was sacked to avoid a “disaster,” adding that the former Niger Republic coach lost the dressing room.

But weeks after the move, the football body also appointed Jose Peseiro who is expected to take over once the AFCON finishes.

Egypt, Sudan, And Guinea-Bissau: How Tough Is Nigeria’s AFCON Group?

Super eagles
The Super Eagles last won the AFCON in 2013. Photo: [email protected]_supereagles

 

The Super Eagles will be gunning for their fourth continental trophy when the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) begins on January 9th. 

Nigeria, slated for their 19th appearance in the competition, will play in Group D of the tournament billed for Cameroon this month 

The team last won the AFCON in 2013 in South Africa after beating fellow West Africans, Burkina Faso. 

Nigeria were the winners of Group L AFCON qualifier as Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen struck five times.

In spite of the shakeup that involved the sack of long-time manager, Gernot Rohr, and the appointment of Austine Eguavoen in his stead [on an interim basis] for the tournament, and a surprising naming of Portuguese tactician, Jose Peseiro as a replacement- pundits and fans alike, see the 1994 champions as one of the favourites for the trophy.


RELATED

[Qatar 2022 Qualifier] Super Eagles Survive Blue Sharks Battle To Reach Final Qualifying Round

‘Winning Is The Goal’: Simon Moses Aiming For AFCON Glory With Nigeria


group D Afcon 2021
Credit: CAF Online

 

Ahead of the competition, Channels Television takes a look at Nigeria’s Group D opponents, providing an overview of their history in the tournament (and major successes), their strengths, and key men among others.


Sudan


Sudan’s best performance at the AFCON in recent times was a quarter-final finish in 2012. [email protected]

 

Sudan hosted the first-ever AFCON in 1957  – which was won by Egypt – and finished third. They went a step better as they came second both at the 1959 and 1963 editions

Seven years later in 1970, the Falcons of Jediane emerged champions of the continent on home soil.

But a lull saw them miss the competition for 32 years, only to qualify in 2008 as Ghana hosted Africa.

In 2012, they reached the quarter-finals of the AFCON, signalling one of the best performances in the competition in recent times.

Nigeria and Sudan met at the 1963 AFCON, a game the latter won 4-0.

Hubert Velud’s men, who qualified for the competition after earning 12 points from their qualifying group, also beat South African en route making it to the finals. The Desert Hawks were second in Group C and scored nine goals.

In Ramadan Agab, Nasr Eldin El Shigail, and Mohamed Abdel Rahman  – who scored thrice during qualification – the Falcons of Jediane will be looking to cause a major upset in Cameroon.


Guinea-Bissau


Guinea Bissau afcon
Guinea-Bissau made their AFCON debut in 2017. Photo: CAF Online

 

Guinea-Bissau secured qualification after beating Congo 3-2 in March 2021, ensuring they finished second behind Group I winners, Senegal.

The Djurtus and Nigeria have never met at the international level. In Cameroon, the Super Eagles will play them at Roumde Adjia Stadium on January 19. It is the last group game for the West African teams.

Despite a winless run in Africa’s premier competition, Guinea-Bissau coach, Baciro Candé, is confident his team will pull up a surprise against continental heavyweights, Nigeria and Egypt.

“I think that, by the time of the competition, Guin­ea-Bissau will be prepared to face its opponents,” he told local media after the draws in late August.

“As al­ways in football, there are accessible teams, there are also surprises and we will work to make a good CAN for us by being a surprising team.”

Jorginho and Piqueti Silva, top scorers during the qualification race with two goals each, are expected to carry the West Africans past the group stage of the competition for the first time.


Egypt


egypt-2021-afcon
Egypt are the record AFCON winners. Photo: CAF Online.

 

When they hosted the 2019 AFCON, critics had tipped The Pharaohs to win the prize. But a round of 16 defeat to South Africa, left the home fans dejected.

Egypt had topped Group C of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers as Salah, Mohamed Sherif and Mohamed Magdy Afsha scored twice each to emerge the 2006 AFCON winners’ top scorers.

With seven titles –  1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, and 2010 – they are the most successful team in the competition, a feat Carlos Queiroz’s men will want to extend.

Having beaten Nigeria eight times in 18 meetings, Salah, and his teammates will be aiming to stretch their dominance over the 2013 African champions.

In their most recent clash in the competition, the North Africans swept to a 3-1 win in Angola as they sealed their seventh AFCON.

But the Super Eagles billed to clash with Egypt in the Group D opener on January 11, won the last meeting between both sides in 2019.


Nigeria


Super eagles
Super Eagles after their game against Liberia in Tangier, Morocco. Photo: [email protected]_supereagles

 

Despite changing guards few just a little over one month to the competition, the Nigerian side are no pushovers.

The Super Eagles will be going for their fourth continental title having last won it in South Africa in 2013.

Austine Eguavoen, a former international, is not new to the AFCON. He was in charge when the team clinched a bronze medal in 2006 in Egypt. Although he is leading the side on an interim basis, the former defender is expected to lead a young squad to victory in Cameroon.

While the Super Eagles are without star striker, Victor Osimhen, as well as 2019 AFCON top scorer, Odion Ighalo, the football-crazy nation are one of the powerhouses of football on the continent.

Currently, they are number five on the FIFA African ranking; they were champions in 1980, 1994, and 2013.

Pundits have tipped the team as well as Egypt to make it to the next round and it won’t be a surprise to see them go all the way.

Nigeria’s Fixtures For 2021 AFCON

A Nigerian supporter dances during the 2022 Qatar World Cup African qualifiers group 3 football match between Nigeria and Central Africa Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Surulere in Lagos State, on October 7, 2021. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Having looked at Nigeria’s opponents for the 2021 AFCON, here is a list of the team’s fixtures, the date and time they will be played:

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.

Eagles Coaching Job: I Spoke With Wenger, Mourinho  – Pinnick 

Mourinho and Wenger have coached several Nigerian players in Europe.
Mourinho and Wenger have coached several Nigerian players in Europe.

 

President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick said he consulted Portuguese gaffer Jose Mourinho and French manager Arsene Wenger in the search for a new Super Eagles coach. 

The NFF boss said this in a media parley on Wednesday in Lagos State, noting that the football body will bring a coach that is “hungry” and “ready for the challenge” of tutoring the three-time African champions.

“I also spoke with Arsene. Arsene is our technical director at FIFA. I had an interface with him about some of these coaches. And of course [we spoke to ]Mourinho. I am not going to tell you that we did not speak to Mourinho,” Pinnick explained, less than two weeks after Gernot Rohr was dismissed as the team’s coach.

“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.”


RELATED

Morocco Coach Halilhodzic Fears Africa Cup Of Nations Could Be Called Off

NFF Sacks Rohr, Appoints Eguavoen As Super Eagles Interim Manager

Rohr’s Sack: We Didn’t Want To Wait For A Disaster To Happen – Pinnick


Hunger For Success

File photo: Nigeria’s players line up before the 2022 Qatar World Cup African qualifiers group 3 football match between Nigeria and Central Africa Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Surulere in Lagos State, on October 7, 2021. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Pinnick, who also noted that the NFF has held talks with a former Real Madrid assistant coach and FC Porto head coach Jose Peseiro; Serbian Mladen Krstajic, said the body will stick to its recruitment process in hiring a new manager for the Super Eagles.

“The emphasis on the new coach is discipline. We will look at his antecedents on discipline,” he added.

“Secondly, we will also look at how hungry he is to win trophies because if they are hungry it supersedes so many things and if he wants to win, he will instill discipline. We will look at all these things but I cannot make a pronouncement emphatically because I will be undermining my executive committee.

“So, until my executive committee comes out within the next week or so to say this is the name because the technical committee has to bring their presentation to the executive committee. It is going to be a seamless movement to the current team headed by Eguavoen.”

Rohr’s Sack, European Clubs’ AFCON Threat + Other Top Sports Stories This Week

 

As COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to sports globally amid the Omicron variant, calls for the postponement of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), have gathered steam. 

In Nigeria,  the Super Eagles’ longest-serving coach was dismissed, while Akwa United got rewarded for their title-winning feat.

These and others, make up First Eleven, as we try to make sense of events in the sporting world in the past week.

Rohr’s Sack

Rohr maintains there was no justification for sacking him.

 

We begin from home where Nigeria on Sunday sacked long-time coach, Gernot Rohr, following a string of unconvincing results.

The decision came months after Nigeria lost at home to the lowly-rated Central Africa Republic (CAR), and survived a nervy game against Cape Verde to book a place in the playoff stage of the 2022 World Cup qualifier.

Days after Rohr’s dismissal, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, explained that the decision had to be made to avoid disaster.

According to him, the German had lost the dressing and indiscipline was rife in the team.

But Rohr faulted the NFF for sacking him, maintaining that he met all targets.

A ‘Surprised’ Move

Eguavoen is a former Nigerian defender.

 

Although the NFF’s decision may not be surprising to many fans in Nigeria, the interim coach of the team, Austin Eguavoen, said he never expected to be handed the role.

The former Super Eagles defender explained that he also did not see Rohr’s sack coming.

“I would say I was shocked, I was surprised when my name was announced after a brief discussion but I thought Gernot Rohr will continue because it has always been, ‘Is he going to continue? Is he not going to continue?’ We’re going to sort things out,” Eguavoen told Channels Television.

“And then when my bosses spoke to me about it a couple of days ago I was like why not but is there a possibility that we can sort things out with him.”

Money Rain For Akwa United 

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

 

Away from Rohr’s sack, Governor Emmanuel Udom rewarded Akwa United following their title-winning feat in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

Udom in a ceremony to honour the team at the Government House in Uyo on Thursday promised them N100m, a bus, and a plot of land each to the players.

The Akwa Ibom Governor aside from the reward also urged the team to build on their league victory in the coming season.

NWFL Continues

Rivers Angels are seven-time NWFL champions. Photo: [email protected]

 

While Akwa United will be waiting for the start of the NPFL to defend their crown, matches have already started in the women’s league better known as the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL).

The league which began last weekend is already in Match Day 2. Fourteen teams will be competing in two groups of seven teams each.

Rivers Angels, last season’s winners, have started their title defense and have four points from two games played so far. But Bayelsa Queens are the leaders in Group A with four points having scored more goals.

In Group B of the NWFL, Confluence Queens led the chart after winning two of their games played so far.

Okpekpe Race Returns

East Africans Sweep Okpekpe Road Race

 

World Athletics has confirmed May 28, 2022, as the new date for the eighth Okpekpe International Road Race.

The decision is coming after the competition was twice moved – in 2021 and 2020 – due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Pamodzi Sports Marketing – organisers of the competition –   Mike Itemuagbor, the road race will be back in a better form.

“We have done all the documentation required and we are delighted that World Athletics has confirmed the date we set for the race,” he said, adding that the Okpekpe Road Race will be held in line with COVID-19 guidelines.

AFCON: Pressure Mounts On CAF

AFCON trophy.

 

With less than a month to kickoff, there is pressure on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to postpone the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The European Club Association, which represents leading clubs across the continent, is among leading voices calling for the postponement of the competition billed for Cameroon early next year.

With a host of African top stars playing in Europe, several big clubs are expected to lose players for at least to three-week.

Worried by the outbreak of the Omicron variant and a “suitable medical and operational protocol for the AFCON tournament,” ECA is threatening that the clubs will not release players for the competition. Amid clamours for the postponement, CAF insists the AFCON will hold as planned.

UEFA Draw Drama

 

In Europe, the UEFA Champions League knockout draws were held earlier in the week but an “error” from the organisers meant it had to be redone.

UEFA blamed a “material error” due to a “technical problem with the software of an external service provider” as it announced that the draw for the first knockout round of its flagship competition would be redone at 1400 GMT.  The full fixtures for the knockout phase of the Champions League can be found here.

Aguero Bows Out 

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Kun Aguero looks on as he addresses a press conference to announce his retirement from football, at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on December 15, 2021. Pau BARRENA / AFP

 

Two days after the Champions League knockout phase draws, Argentine star, Sergio Aguero retired from football, ending a career that saw him score 260 goals for Manchester City.

The 33-year-old, who recently moved to Barcelona and only managed five games, broke down in tears while announcing his retirement from the game in a press conference.

Compatriot, Lionel Messi, was among the first set of people to pay tribute to the former Atletico Madrid forward both of whom won the Copa America earlier this summer.

Messi and Aguero won the football event of the 2008 Olympics. Photo: Instagram/Leomessi

 

COVID-19 Ravages EPL

Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva (2L) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal with teammates during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on November 6, 2021. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Aguero’s retirement was not the only health-related issue in European football this week. The English Premier League is battling a wave of COVID-19 infections. Owing to the resurgence of the disease, several league games have been called off but opinions are divided on moves for a COVID-19 break.

Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, is among those who maintain the league should continue while his Arsenal counterpart, Mikel Arteta, is calling for fairness before a decision is taken on the matter.

England is also not the only nation where the virus is disrupting football. In Spain, several Real Madrid players have contracted the disease.

F1 Great Hamilton Knighted

Mercedes’ British F1 driver Lewis Hamilton poses with his medal after being appointed as a Knight Bachelor (Knighthood) for services to motorsports, by Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London on December 15, 2021. Andrew Matthews / POOL / AFP

 

And just days after missing out on a record-breaking eighth Formula One title in controversial fashion, Lewis Hamilton was knighted by the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old was recognised in the New Year Honours list for services to motorsport following a year in which he broke Michael Schumacher’s all-time tally for Grand Prix wins and emulated the German by winning a seventh world title.

On Sunday, however, championship rival Max Verstappen won his first Formula One world title after a season-long battle with Hamilton came down to a one-lap shoot-out in Abu Dhabi.

‘Greatness!’ Steve Curry Sets Record

ead Coach Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrate after passing Ray Allen for most three-pointers made in NBA history with 2,974 during the game against the New York Knicks on December 14, 2021, at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP

 

In basketball, Golden State Warriors star, Stephen Curry, eclipsed Ray Allen’s all-time record for NBA three-pointers with his 2,973rd career three-pointer.

It came on his first shot of the clash with the New York Knicks, less than two minutes into the contest, and had the crowd on its feet.

 

‘We Reached All Targets’: Rohr Criticises NFF For Firing Him

Rohr maintains there was no justification for sacking him.

 

Gernot Rohr has criticised the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for sacking him as the Super Eagles coach, maintaining that the team’s performance under him was not below expectations.

The German, who is Nigeria’s longest-serving coach, was fired earlier in the week following some unconvincing results with the 1994 African champions.

But the coach has faulted the move, insisting that he met all targets set by the NFF upon his appointment in 2016.

“It was not necessary to do this so close to AFCON,” he told ESPN, saying the team had chances to score more goals in their last two matches – against Sierra Leone and Cape Verde but were unlucky.

“After what the team did, and after what the team had achieved with [reaching] the targets… but it happened, and we are realistic people.”


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‘Close To AFCON’

File photo: Nigeria’s players line up before the 2022 Qatar World Cup African qualifiers group 3 football match between Nigeria and Central Africa Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Surulere in Lagos State, on October 7, 2021. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

According to him, the Super Eagles had become better since he took charge, citing the team’s improved FIFA ranking.

Rohr said that he has built a reliable team since 2016 and tipped them for glory in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon.

“Everybody knows that we are close to the AFCON, and I think this team should win it because this team is built to win matches, important matches, decisive matches,” he added.

Beyond his sacking and the team’s performance, Rohr also refuted claims by the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, that he had lost the dressing room.

He claimed that the football body had been planning to sack him over a year ago. This, he said, was the reason they brought in Austin Eguavoen to become a part of his crew.

“The dressing room was 100% behind me,” Rohr noted and hoped that “it will also be 100% behind the new coach [Eguavoen]”.

 

‘There’s A Procedure For Disengagement’: NFF Debunks Sacking Rohr

Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr briefs reporters in Lagos on March 22, 2021.

 

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has debunked reports that it has sacked Super Eagles’ Head Coach, Gernot Rohr.

The reports have circulated both local and international media following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Cape Verde and most platforms stated authoritatively that the 68-year old has been relieved of his duties by his employers.

However, the President of the NFF, Mr Amaju Melvin Pinnick, said that no such decision has been taken.

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“The Board of the NFF is studying the report of the Technical Committee, which it submitted after the match against Cape Verde in Lagos on Tuesday. There are a number of possibilities but we have not taken a decision to sack Gernot Rohr. I want to assure you that whatever decision is eventually taken will be one that will please the generality of Nigerians.

“Mr Rohr has a contract with the NFF and there is a procedure for disengagement. If we get to that bridge, both parties will look at the contract and see what has to be done both ways,” he said.

“The Super Eagles’ squad is a national asset and we are just fortunate to be in that space to make decisions. Any decision we take must be what will be acceptable to Nigerians from far and near.”

Rohr, who was appointed head coach of the Super Eagles in August 2016, and has led the team in 54 international, winning 28 of those matches including a third-place finish at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

 

 

Rohr To Know Fate Next Week, Says Sports Minister

File photo: Nigerian Coach Gernot Rohr looks during the African Cup of Nations qualification match between Nigeria and Libya in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in southern Nigeria, on October 13, 2018. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Super Eagles Head Coach, Gernot Rohr, will know his fate next week, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, has said.

The minister gave the hint during the weekly ministerial briefing in Abuja on Thursday, days after Nigeria endured a nervy 1-1 draw with minnows, Cape Verde, to book a spot in the next round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Tuesday’s outing had renewed calls for the sacking of the German gaffer who has been in charge of the Super Eagles since 2016 but Dare said a decision on Rohr’s future would depend on a report to be submitted by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in the coming days.

According to him, the football body’s report would contain a review of the team’s performances in recent times.

His ministry follows due process in addressing issues concerning the national team and their coaching staff before actions are taken, Dare explained during the meeting organised by the presidential media team at the State House.

Dare has, however, assured of his ministry backing to ensure the three-time African champions make it to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.


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File photo: Nigeria’s players line up before the 2022 Qatar World Cup African qualifiers group 3 football match between Nigeria and the Central Africa Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Surulere in Lagos State, on October 7, 2021. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

The minister’s comment is the latest in reignited calls for the sack of the Super Eagles coach.

Nigeria’s recent performances, including a shocking home defeat to lowly-rated Central Africa Republic (CAR), were followed by a drab 1-1 draw against Cape Verde in Lagos.  That was enough to see Nigeria to the play-off stage of the qualification race for the quadrennial competition billed for the Middle East country.

Despite this, many football fans and former players, who have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with Rohr, claim he lacks the technical nous to lift the 1994 AFCON winners to the zenith of African football.

A Nigerian supporter dances during the 2022 Qatar World Cup African qualifiers group 3 football match between Nigeria and the Central Africa Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Surulere in Lagos State, on October 7, 2021. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Rohr, is, however, enjoying the backing of the Glass House. According to the president of the NFF, Amaju Pinnick, the coach is staying abroad because most Eagles players are based in Europe.

While debates over the German’s future continue, fans are waiting with bated breathe to know Nigeria’s foes in the next round of qualifiers set to take place in March.

But before then, the Super Eagles will be heading to Cameroon for the AFCON, a tournament they last won in 2013.

W/Cup Qualifier: Ighalo Returns To Super Eagles Squad For Liberia, Cape Verde

File photo: Nigeria’s players line up before the 2022 Qatar World Cup African qualifiers group 3 football match between Nigeria and the Central Africa Republic at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in Surulere in Lagos State, on October 7, 2021. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr, has given a surprise invitation to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations top scorer, Odion Jude Ighalo, who announced his retirement from the international game after the tournament in Egypt.

Coach Rohr has also listed team captain Ahmed Musa, deputy captain William Ekong, defenders Kenneth Omeruo and Leon Balogun; midfielders Wilfred Ndidi and Alex Iwobi; forwards Moses Simon and Victor Osimhen for Nigeria’s closing Group C games of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 African race against Liberia and Cape Verde this month.

The Super Eagles will tackle the Lone Star of Liberia at the Grand Stade Tangier in Morocco on Saturday, 13th November, and then fly into Lagos for the final group game against Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Tuesday, 16th November.


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The invited players and overseas-based members of the technical crew are to report directly to the city of Tangier on Monday, 8th November while technical officials from Nigeria are to report in Tangier the same day.

Top of their pool with nine points but hotly chased by seven-pointer Cape Verde who host the Central African Republic on the island of Mindelo, the Eagles need the three points against the Lone Star on the neutral turf of Morocco’s principal northern city to remain on firm ground when hosting the Blue Sharks three days later in Nigeria’s commercial and industrial capital.

Leicester City of England’s midfield enforcer Wilfred Ndidi, who missed the last round of games home-and-away against the Central African Republic, is back in the trough, just as fellow Premiership boy Alex Iwobi and Spain-based forward Samuel Chukwueze.

INVITED SUPER EAGLES PLAYERS

Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Alanyaspor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Paderborn 07, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Kevin Akpoguma (TSG Hoffenheim, Germany)

Midfielders: Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Shabab Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

‘I Have Not Said Yes Or No’: Ighalo Mulls Super Eagles Return

Ighalo retired from the national team in 2019. Photo: [email protected]

 

Striker Odion Ighalo is undecided on a possible return to the Super Eagles, more than two years after he retired from the national team. 

Super Eagles Head Coach Gernot Rohr had recently hinted at a potential return for the former Watford forward.

But Ighalo, who is enjoying an impressive form with Saudi Arabian top side Al Shabab, is yet to make a decision on the matter.

“They have been in contact with me about the possibility of coming back, Amaju and coach,” the former Manchester United star told ESPN. “I don’t know. I have not said yes or no. I haven’t made any decision concerning the national team.”


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‘A New Chapter:’ Nigerian Star Ighalo Joins Saudi Club Al Shabab
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‘No Reason Not To Take Him’

File photo: Nigeria’s coach Gernot Rohr (2nd-R) celebrates with forward Alex Iwobi (R) and Odion Ighalo during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) Round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Cameroon at the Alexandria Stadium in the Egyptian city on July 6, 2019. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Football authorities in Nigeria have never hidden their desire to see the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) top-scorer make a u-turn on his international career.

Earlier in the year, Rohr had said he would not rule out the possibility of a national team return for the 32-year-old.

“There’s no reason not to take him if he’s doing well. The question is if he wants to come back,”  the German said in an interview on the Super Eagles YouTube channel. “We hope so because he’s an experienced player. He can be very useful to his partners. We’re waiting…”

The coach, who made the comment just as Ighalo joined the Middle East side after a loan spell with Manchester United, believed the switch would help the Nigerian gain fitness.

“He’s fit, playing regularly for his new club (Al Shabab), a big club in Saudi Arabia, and doing well,” Rohr maintained.

“There’s no reason not to have him back. We also had Ahmed Musa when he was playing in Saudi Arabia.”

Ighalo featured 35 times for the Nigerian senior national team after making his debut in 2015. He scored 16 goals.

News about the former Shanghai Shenhua man’s possible return to the three-time AFCON winners will be a major boost for the Eagles in their quest for a 2022 World Cup ticket.

They will play two games next month –  Liberia and Cape Verde – in the final round of group stage qualifiers for the competition in Qatar.