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Lagos state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, yesterday received 4-time world heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield, at the state house Ikeja.

 

Holyfield is in Lagos for a charity rumble fight with former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu at an exhibition boxing match as part of activities marking the Golden Jubilee anniversary of the state.

 

Welcoming him to the state, Ambode said Holyfield's visit is historic “This is exciting and historic moment for us coming at a time Lagos is celebrating the 50 years of its establishment and we want to say a big thank you to Holyfield for collaborating with us to put this as part of events marking the Golden Jubilee anniversary of Lagos State. We believe strongly that in all sectors that we have tried to celebrate Lagos, this is one momentous topic that we really mean to celebrate. As a government, we have always wanted to use sports as a way of driving our economy and there is no way we can showcase sports as the catalyst for economic growth than bringing somebody who is a champion; a revered person and for him to use his God given talent and resources to promote sports in our State,”he said

 

Responding, Holyfield said he was in Nigeria to give back to the society having achieved so much in life especially in boxing. He spoke on how he started off as a boxer. He also announced donation of $3million worth of health equipment to Lagos State Government.

“I became the person I am because I listened, I followed direction and I did not quit even when I lost. In giving back to the society, I am here to say I got a Real Deal Promotion. We are looking for young fighters who want to listen and follow instruction. This is about giving back to the society. I want kids to learn from me how I became four times heavyweight champion,”he said

Manchester United have overtaken Liverpool as England’s most decorated club after beating Ajax 2-0 in the Europa League final on Wednesday night. This is the first time the side have won the Europa League, adding yet another title to their trophy cabinet.

 

As result, United are now the most decorated club in English football having claimed 42 major trophies throughout their history (excluding European Super Cups, Club World Cups and Community Shields).

 

Liverpool previously stood alone at the top of the honours chart with 18 league titles, seven FA Cups, eight League Cups, five European Cups and three Uefa Cups in their history.

 

But United levelled the tally earlier in the season when Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s late strike at Wembley ensured their EFL Cup win over Southampton in February.

 

And following Wednesday night’s game at the Friends Arena, United have now pulled ahead of the Reds.

 

In total, United have 20 league titles, 12 FA Cups, five League Cups, three European Cups, one Cup Winners’ Cup and one Europa League.

Super Eagles in training on the Island of Corsica ahead of a friendly game against the Islanders

Former Super Eagles chief coach, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, has paid a glowing tribute to the late wife of one of Nigeria’s biggest legendary players, Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun, as the family marks the 19th year memorial of her demise.

 

Onigbinde, stated that, Alhaja Mulikat Balogun, was a great motivator to her late husband when he was an active Nigeria’s international footballer. “Thunder Balogun was a great asset to Nigeria because of the active contributions of his wife. She rendered quality assistance to various youth clubs in Lagos state that aided the development of the game that brought fame to her husband.”

 

The former General Manager of the IICC Shooting Stars Football Club of Ibadan noted that, Mulikat ‘Thunder’ Balogun left behind a memorable high profile of her immense contributions to the development of Nigerian football. “In 1958, she was the one who persuaded her husband to dump his British club, Queens Park Rangers to return to Nigeria so as to assist the West Rovers in their quest to win the Nigeria Challenge Cup title, which ‘Thunder’ eventually helped achieved. This followed a passionate plea to her by the then Premier of Western Nigeria, Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.”

 

The President General of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, in his tribute to the late Mulikat ‘Thunder’ Balogun, said she was a great lover who played a noble role on her husband’s glorious soccer career.

Pamodzi Sports Marketing,organisers of the Okpekpe international 10km road race has thanked sponsors and donors who provided the over N150m financial and other logistic support towards the success of the fifth edition of the race held penultimate Saturday in Okpekpe,Edo state.

 

”The Okpekpe road race since inception in 2013 is a private sector driven event and this is why we are grateful to corporate Nigeria who have stood by us in terms of their financial support to see that the race did not only grow but also become certified by the world governing body for the sport,the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) which accorded it a bronze label status in 2015,’said Mike Itemuagbor,promoter of the race and CEO of Pamodzi Sports Marketing.

 

‘We are grateful for the support Ecobank Nigeria, a subsidiary of the Ecobank Group has given us since we became a bronze label race in 2015.In fact this year the bank increased its financial support as official bank of the race,’revealed Itemuagbor who also thanked such banks as Access Bank and Keystone bank for their donation as well as a consortium of insurance companies who provided cover for the race.

 

‘Cornerstone Insurance,Sovereign Trust and Leadway insurance also contributed to the success story the Okpekpe race has become today,’he further said.

 

Itemuagbor is especially grateful to His Excellency,the executive governor of Edo state,Godwin Obaseki whose interest in the race attracted some of the donors who made some substantial donations to the race.

 

‘I want to thank the governor,the government and the good people of Edo state for their support.Edo state government provided the fantastic infrastructure that made the race possible in the first place.Without the road constructed from Auchi to Okpekpe I don’t think the idea to have a 10 kilometre race there would have even crossed our minds.’I also thank the governor and government of Edo state for also providing the enabling environment as well as helping with the payment of the prize money to make the race a success.I want to call on more corporate Nigerians and government to come on board and partner with us as we prepare to announce another race in another sate in due course,’Itemuagbor added.

 

‘The Okpekpe race has aided sports development in the state and any rational mind would undoubtedly agree that sports development in Edo and Nigeria is something that we should pursue vigorously. To do so, it requires investment, it requires government commitment and that’s what Edo government led by Godwin Obaseki provided’.

Perhaps it would be wrong, after everything that has happened over the past few days, to describe it as a happy ending to José Mourinho’s first season at Manchester United. Yet there can be no doubt they will cherish these memories given what it means to the club: another trophy, a place in the Champions League and, more than anything, the opportunity to dedicate their latest prize to the people of the city.

 

It has been a harrowing week but as Mourinho had stated, United had a job to do and they went about it with all the qualities that would usually be associated with one of his teams. They reckon this match will earn United a minimum £50m, but what price can possibly be put on returning to Manchester with another reminder about why football is such an important part of what makes the place tick?

 

This was United’s 64th game of the season and it culminated with Wayne Rooney coming on as a late substitute so he was in place to lift the trophy that Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had secured with a goal in each half. Rooney did not even have time to get a scuff of grass on his kit but if this was his goodbye it was some way to go and, soon afterwards, Mourinho could be seen on one of his victory runs across the pitch.

 

The basic facts are that United had to win to warrant an invitation into next season’s Champions League and spare Mourinho a debate he probably could not have won about whether his first year in the job had turned out to be a crashing disappointment.

 

Super Eagles and AS Monaco wing- back Elderson Echiejile has said the Super Eagles will not underrate the Corsica Senior National Team when both sides lock horns on Friday evening at the Stade Francois Coty, Ajaccio.

 

The Super Eagles play the tiny island of Corsica in a warm up game ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa's Bafana Bafana on the 10th of June, and despite Corsica's non- affiliation with either UEFA or FIFA, Echiejile says they expect some kind of challenge from the team.

 

"I know a bit about them, when I was here in France. Most of their players play in the Ligue One so I expect a tough challenge from them. We cannot afford to, and will not underrate them," Elderson told thenff.com 

 

A number of first –team players are not in Corsica either as a result of visa hitch or injury, but Nigeria’s camp in Ajaccio boast a number of young, ambitious fresh legs called up to jostle for positions in the team. The former Sporting Braga FC defender believes healthy competition for first team places in the team is a welcome development.

 

"The team is improving after every game but there are places in the team the coach thinks need more competition which to me is a welcome development. Every good team needs a good back up and I think that is what has informed the reason for the new faces in the team for these friendlies," he opined.

 

The Eagles tackle Corsica Senior Team on Friday at the Stade Francois Coty, Ajaccio starting from 8pm.  

Southern Conference

 

Crown 1-0 Go-round

Bendel Insurance 1-0 Heartland

Akwa starlets 1-0 Osun utd

Bayelsa 1-0 Ikorodu

Warri Wolves 1-0 Unicem Rovers

AS Racine 1-0 My People

Delta Force 2-0 Gateway

First bank 1-1 Nnewi utd

Abia comets 0-0 Pappilo

Northern Conference

FRSC Abuja 2-1 Yobe Stars

Jigawa G'Stars 3-0 Taraba utd (W/O)

Mighty Jets 1-0 Sokoto utd

Kaduna utd 1-0 FC Abuja

Kwara uts 3-0 Adamawa utd

The General Secretary of Nigeria Football Federation, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi has donated three glittering trophies to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), FCT for its forthcoming sports competition.

 

The week –long competition that will see football as the cynosure of all eyes, will start on Tuesday.

 

Speaking at the presentation inside the Coordinator’s office at the NYSC permanent orientation camp, Kubwa, Abuja on Wednesday, the NFF scribe challenged the youth corpers to compete keenly but fairly, and to be good sportsmen and women.

 

“As a people, we have a responsibility to encourage the young ones. Sport is one area in which the youth can be meaningfully and productively engaged. I charge the youth corpers to conduct themselves with pride as they take part in this competition,” Sanusi said.

 

An elated Coordinator, FCT camp of the NYSC, Abdulrazak Salawu praised the gesture by Dr. Sanusi and assured that the youth corpers would be much encouraged by the glittering trophies.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has picked former 1st Vice President of Nigeria Football Federation, Mazi Amanze Uchegbulam and seasoned sports journalist, Morakinyo Abodunrin as part of its strong official delegation to the forthcoming Total U17 Africa Cup of Nations (Gabon 2017) to be held 14-28 May.

 

The high-calibre delegation to the 12th continental cadet competition is led by newly-elected CAF President Mr. Ahmad from Madagascar along with a member of the Executive Committee, Mr. Kwesi Nyantakyi from Ghana, and also includes 1988 African Player of the Year, Kalusha Bwalya who would preside over the organising committee.

 

In a letter dated April 20th and signed by CAF’s Acting Secretary General, Essam, Uchegbulam is designated as the vice-president of the of the Appeal Board while Abodunrin, the media officer of Nigeria U17 team (Golden Eaglets), would serve in the media as the English Editor for the competition. 

 

Meanwhile, fast-rising arbiter Ferdinand Anietie Udoh would be the only Nigerian referee at the event, and this would be his second successive attendance at the U17 AFCON after he made his debut in Niger Republic in 2015.   

 

NFF President Amaju Pinnick, a member of the CAF Executive Committee and also member of the influential Organizing Committee for FIFA Competitions, described the various appointments as a welcome development, saying he was confident the trio would bring their experience to bear towards a successful event in Gabon.

Kumi Yokoyama a key figure in Japan's new-look side

Yokoyama is one of the few females to be shortlisted for a FIFA Puskas Award

The 2011 world champions are rebuilding under new coach Asako Takakura

 

If Kumi Yokoyama's scoring form is anything to go by, it seems that the 23-year-old forward looks set to continue her new-found role as the talisman of Japanese women's football.

 

The No9 finished as joint-top scorer in March's Algarve Cup alongside Denmark's Pernille Harder with four goals. But all the more impressive was the way she played. The diminutive 155-cm striker dazzled spectators through her mazy runs and finishing. Yokoyama opened her account in the 2-1 loss against eventual champions Spain in the opener, grabbed a brace as they beat Norway 2-0 before wrapping up her campaign with goal in a 3-2 loss to Netherlands. Japan may have finished with a modest fifth place, but Yokoyama's eye-catching performances have truly established her as a key player in Asako Takakura's new-look Nadeshiko.

 

Such displays may be pleasing and encouraging for most emerging players. Yokoyama was, however, far from satisfied reflecting on her performances in what was her first international tournament with the senior national team. "My aim was to score in every match," she told FIFA.com with an air of disappointment in her voice. "But I failed to make it because I couldn't find the back of the net against Iceland. This shows that I have to train harder. Of course, I wanted to score and my team won. So it was disappointing that I scored and my team didn't win."

 

For Yokoyama, it was the collective lessons learned and experiences gained during the tournament that is most important. "After playing in the Algarve Cup, we know what we are capable of and meanwhile, we are aware in which areas we need to improve,” she said. “We are clear about our place in the world of women’s football."

 

Maradona-like goal 

It wasn't the first time that Yokoyama impressed the watching world through her goal-scoring talents. She exploded on the international scene in the 2010 FIFA U-17 World Cup, managing to score six times as Japan finished second in Trinidad & Tobago. Notably, she scored in the semi-final victory against Korea DPR with a slalom run reminiscent of Diego Maradona in his pomp. So impressive was the goal, that it was eventually short-listed for the FIFA Puskas Award.

 

Despite the significance and stunning visual impact of the goal, Yokoyama maintained that her best is yet to come. She said: "My career is still running, so I wouldn't single out a goal as the most memorable until after my retirement."

 

The 2010 FIFA U-17 World Cup proved a launching pad for Yokoyama’s emergence. Yokoyama figured prominently as Japan stormed into the last four at the 2012 FIFA U-20 World Cup on home soil, before graduating into the senior side three years later. However, she didn't earn a regular place until Takakura assumed the reins last year.

Nine different coaches have won the FIFA Confederations Cup but, so far, none have managed to repeat the feat.

 

The youngest winning coach was Dunga, who guided his native Brazil aged 45 to triumph at South Africa 2009 after a dramatic 3-2 win against USA in the final. Next youngest was Alfio Basile, who won the debut Confederations Cup in 1991 at 48 years of age, and then Jacques Santini, who celebrated victory with France in 2003 when he was 51.

 

Theoretically, only New Zealand head coach Anthony Hudson, who turned 36 in March, could better Dunga’s achievement at the 2017 Confederations Cup. Nevertheless, even if Dunga loses this record, he has gone down permanently in the tournament’s annals as the first and, to date, only person to lift the Confederations Cup trophy as both a player (in 1997) and a coach.

The Nigeria Football Federation alongside the League Management Company have consummated a multi-faceted strategic agreement in general football development with the Football Federation and Premier League body of the Kingdom of Morocco.

 

On Thursday, NFF President Amaju Pinnick and NFF 2nd Vice President/LMC Chairman Shehu Dikko put pen to paper on a memorandum of understanding with their Moroccan counterparts, the result of detailed discussions, deliberations and considerations over time. The FA Presidents signed their own side in the offices of the Federation Royale Marocaine de Football in Rabat, while Dikko and and Chairman of the Ligue Nationale de Football Professionnel, Said Naciri signed at the LNFP office, watched by the two FA bosses.

 

Both Pinnick and FRMF President Fouzi Lekjaa (who is also Director of Budget in the Kingdom of Morocco) are Members of the CAF Executive Committee.

 

“The strategic partnership is for technical development, exchange of ideas and contacts, training support, friendly matches, use of facilities and joint marketing where necessary,” Dikko, who is also Chairman of NFF Marketing, Sponsorship and Television Advisory Committee and NFF Strategic Committee, explained to thenff.com. “Morocco has one of the best technical centres globally and they are still developing it, and they are delighted to make the facilities available for use by the National Teams of Nigeria and Nigerian Clubs. The Kingdom also has one of the most innovative structure in managing the domestic media rights of both their National Teams and the elite League, which we intend to replicate.

 

“The agreement between the two League bodies is to collaborate in areas of mutual interests between the Leagues and participating Clubs. The Moroccan FA only recently set up an independent elite League body in line with global practice, and wants to learn from LMC Governance Structure of the NPFL. On their side, they would help our Clubs understand the structure and principles of community club ownership, elite players development, youth development et cetera. It is all about fostering mutually beneficial relationships.”

 

On Friday, Pinnick and Dikko were at the offices of a Moroccan multinational company with extensive business interests in Nigeria, where an MOU was executed to explore the sponsorship of some activities in Nigerian Football including the NPFL. A steering group has been set up to ensure the conclusion and activation of the milestone MOU.

 

The agreements represent another landmark feat by the Amaju Pinnick –led Nigeria Football Federation, coming exactly one month after the N2.5 Billion, 5-Year partnership with Nigeria’s foremost energy solutions company, Aiteo Group for payment of salaries of Coaches of the National Teams.

 

The latest pact also sits comfortably with the ever –improving strong working relationship between the Governments of Nigeria and the Kingdom of Morocco.

 

Only last week, both Governments signed pacts to drive the implementation of gas regional pipeline and fertilizer initiative. The proposed Morocco-Nigeria Gas Regional Pipeline will have a direct impact on 300 million people through the speeding up of electrification projects in West Africa. 

The Confederation of African Football has appointed Tunisian arbiter, Youssef Essrayri as the referee for next month’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in Uyo.

 

Essrayri, 40, who became an international referee five years ago, will be assisted by compatriots Yamen Melloulchi (Assistant Referee 1), Hassen Abdelali (Assistant Referee 2) and Said Mohamed Kordi (Fourth Official).

 

The match commissioner is Andy Quamie from Liberia and Kotey Alexander Neequaye from Ghana will be referee assessor.

 

The encounter at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo on Saturday, 10th June will open the curtain on the qualifying race in Group E for Cameroon 2019, with only the group winners guaranteed slots at the finals. Libya and Seychelles are the other teams in the pool.

 

Meanwhile, the Super Eagles had their first training session in Ajaccio on Wednesday morning, ahead of Friday’s friendly match against the Corsica Senior Team at the Stade Francois Coty.

 

Expected at the team’s Best Western Hotel camp by Wednesday night are Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Mikel Agu and Abdullahi Shehu.

 

An interesting game is at hand for the three –time African champions, against a team that has only lost once in the nine matches it has played since forming a squad in 1967.

 

The only defeat the Corsica Senior Team has suffered was a 0-1 reverse to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in a friendly in Bastia on May 14, 1998. The Lions were then preparing for the 1998 FIFA World Cup finals in France.

 

The only time Corsica had played 1998 FIFA World Cup champions France was in February 1967, and the former won 2-0.  

 

CORSICA’S ACCOUNT

 

28 Feb 1967 France 0 Corsica 2 (Marseille)

14 May 1998 Corsica 0 Cameroon 1 (Bastia)

6 June 2009 Corsica 1 Congo 1 (Ajaccio)

19 May 2010 Corsica 2 Brittany 0 (Ajaccio)

21 May 2010 Corsica 1 Gabon 1 (Bastia)

31 May 2011 Corsica 1 Bulgaria 0 (Ajaccio)

24 May 2012 Corsica 2 A Squadrra Internaziunale 2 (Ajaccio)

29 May 2015 Corsica 1 Burkina Faso 0 (Bastia)

27 May 2016 Corsica 1 Basque Country 1 (8-9 penalties) (Ajaccio)

Gombe United’s Afolabi Abdulwaheed, Ayo Saka of Rivers United and Enyimba’s Ogechukwu Leonard have been shortlisted for the inaugural VAT Wonder Goal award for Match Day 20.

 

The three made the cut from the total of 18 goals scored across the centers in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) last weekend.

 

The video footage of the nominees’ goals have been uploaded on the NPFL website, www.npfl.ng and fans are now to vote for any of the players whose goal is considered the most spectacular.

 

The League Management Company (LMC) had introduced the Wonder Goal scheme to reach out to fans and enhance engagement between the Clubs, the fans and the communities. The scheme has now be renamed VAT Wonder Goal after it was endorsed by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) as a platform to promote tax education and engage football fans on the necessity and benefits of paying taxes to government.

 

Abdulwaheed scored on the 10th minute of the first half for Gombe United in their match in Enugu which though ended 2-1 in favour of Rangers International with goals from Godwin Aguda and Ebuka Okeke.

 

Saka’s lone strike on the 39th minute had secured all three points for Rivers United while Leonard’s long range effort in Shagamu gifted former champions, Enyimba International their first away win this season.

 

“The VAT Wonder Goal while seeking to reward marksmanship of the highest quality in the NPFL by celebrating eye-catching and brilliant goals is also a platform to support the Federal Government’s drive to increase revenue from the non-oil sector, especially through taxes”, the LMC stated while announcing the partnership with FIRS.

 

Voting will end by 11.59am on Sunday, May 27 and the player whose goal attracts the highest number of goals will receive the prize money of N150, 000 from which 50% will be donated to a Charity of his choice within the city where the club is based.

Nigeria’s lone survivor in Caf’s inter club competition, Rivers United have returned to reckoning in the Confederation Cup after recording a 1-0 win over Moroccan club, Faith Union de Sportive (FUS) on Wednesday. 

 

Emeka Atuloma scored the game’s decisive goal, 19 minutes from the end, turning home Zoumana Doumbia’s free kick with the FUS defence failing to clear their lines, to hand three crucial points to the hosts.

 

United had the better goal scoring opportunities in a cagey first half but few were of a clear-cut nature.

 

Emeka Ogbugh was the first to have a sight of the FUS goal but he shot wildly in the 16th minute after goalkeeper, Aymane Majid successfully foiled John Odumegwu’s attacking run on intent. 

 

The ‘Pride of Rivers’ began the second period on the front foot and were almost ahead two minutes after the restart when Ogbugh rose highest in the opposition half to head Obomate Frederick’s corner inches wide. 

 

Substitute, Onoriode Odah, full of running and activity all afternoon, shot wide from a tight angle seconds later after showing FUS’ Elmehdi El Basil a clean pair of heels as United introduced urgency, hitherto missing in a largely-dour first half, into their game.

 

Atuloma was to decide matters in the 71st minute as he reacted in lightening fashion to steer home from two yards amidst claims by the visitors that the goal was scored from an offside position. 

 

FUS, previously content with sitting back and containing wave after wave of Rivers United attacks, then altered their tactics dramatically, playing offensive with speed and intelligence, in a bid to hurl themselves back into the contest.

 

They almost claimed an equalizer in the 86th minute when an uncharacteristic Festus Austine error allowed Abdelssalam Benjelloun have a clear sight of goal.

 

The Moroccan duly curled a left-footed effort that seemed destined for the bottom corner only for the Rivers United goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi to produce an extraordinary save to push the ball away for a corner.

 

It was a huge let off for the Nigerian side as the Stadium held its collective breath.

 

With spaces opening up as the visitors pushed farther up the pitch, Rivers United almost put the game to bed with a stunning counter attack in the 89th minute but Odah, at the tip of the spear, saw his goal-bound shot pushed away onto the post by Majid and away for a corner.

 

The win at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Port Harcourt means Rivers United and all other three sides in Group A, FUS Rabat, Club Africain and Kampala CCA are now level on three points after their first three matches.

 

Technical manager of Rivers United FC, Stanley Eguma and his counterpart at FUS Rabat Hoalid Regragui addressed the media after the game in a joint press conference captured by our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com (audio files have been attached).

 

Match Statistics: Rivers United versus FUS Rabat.   

Teams

Rivers United: Sunday Rotimi, Markson Ojobo, Doumbia Zoumana, Emeka Atuloma, Festus Austine, Ayobami Asekunuwo, Emeka Ogbugh, Guy Kuemian {(Onoriode Odah 35' (Gabriel Olalekan 90’)}, Odumegwu John (Bolaji Sakin 73')  Ayo Saka and Obomate Frederick.   

Substitutes not Used: Abiodun Akande, Gabriel Wassa, Godbless Asamoah and Christian Weli.   

 

FUS Rabat: Aymane Majid,  Abdessalam Benjelloum,  Mahiri Mohammed, Elmehdi El Basil,  Ass Mandawsy, Nayef Aguerd,  Ibrahim El Bahri (Karim Benarif 70'),  Badri Boulharoud,  Ayoub Skouma (Elmehdi Bettache 86’),  Mohammed Fouzair and Yousoupha Om Njie (Mehdi Khalis 76').  

 

Substitutes not Used: Youness Azziadi,  Yassir Jarici,  Ibourahima Sidibe and Mohammed Saoud.   

 

Yellow card: Ibrahim El Bahri 57'.   

 

Goal: Emeka Atuloma (Rivers United, 71')

 

The Confederation of African Football has appointed Tunisian arbiter, Youssef Essrayri as the referee for next month’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in Uyo.

 

Essrayri, 40, who became an international referee five years ago, will be assisted by compatriots Yamen Melloulchi (Assistant Referee 1), Hassen Abdelali (Assistant Referee 2) and Said Mohamed Kordi (Fourth Official).

 

The match commissioner is Andy Quamie from Liberia and Kotey Alexander Neequaye from Ghana will be referee assessor.

 

The encounter at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo on Saturday, 10th June will open the curtain on the qualifying race in Group E for Cameroon 2019, with only the group winners guaranteed slots at the finals. Libya and Seychelles are the other teams in the pool.

 

Meanwhile, the Super Eagles had their first training session in Ajaccio on Wednesday morning, ahead of Friday’s friendly match against the Corsica Senior Team at the Stade Francois Coty.

 

Expected at the team’s Best Western Hotel camp by Wednesday night are Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Mikel Agu and Abdullahi Shehu.

 

An interesting game is at hand for the three –time African champions, against a team that has only lost once in the nine matches it has played since forming a squad in 1967.

 

The only defeat the Corsica Senior Team has suffered was a 0-1 reverse to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in a friendly in Bastia on May 14, 1998. The Lions were then preparing for the 1998 FIFA World Cup finals in France.

 

The only time Corsica had played 1998 FIFA World Cup champions France was in February 1967, and the former won 2-0.   

 

CORSICA’S ACCOUNT

28 Feb 1967 France 0 Corsica 2 (Marseille)

14 May 1998 Corsica 0 Cameroon 1 (Bastia)

6 June 2009 Corsica 1 Congo 1 (Ajaccio)

19 May 2010 Corsica 2 Brittany 0 (Ajaccio)

21 May 2010 Corsica 1 Gabon 1 (Bastia)

31 May 2011 Corsica 1 Bulgaria 0 (Ajaccio)

24 May 2012 Corsica 2 A Squadrra Internaziunale 2 (Ajaccio)

29 May 2015 Corsica 1 Burkina Faso 0 (Bastia)

27 May 2016 Corsica 1 Basque Country 1 (8-9 penalties) (Ajaccio) 

General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi has charged organizers of the annual Nigeria Pitch Awards to ensure the sustenance of the values of transparency, credibility and integrity that have assured the project a pride of place in Nigerian Football in the few years that it has been in existence.

 

Speaking in Abuja at the weekend, Sanusi lauded the diligence and efforts that Matchmakers Consult International Limited have put into the organization of the Awards since its first edition in 2013.

 

“I am delighted that despite all the challenges faced by the organizers over the years, they have managed to sustain the Nigeria Pitch Awards. It is a noble programme because Awards are very special in the role they play in motivating and galvanizing people to strive to be better in whatever they do.

 

“With regards to the Nigeria Pitch Awards, the existence of such a project makes our football players, referees, coaches, administrators, sponsors and even player-managers to aim to do their job better. I advise the organizers to remain upright and rigid about the values inherent, and not to succumb to any temptation to tamper with the credibility and transparency that the Awards are known for.”

 

Just as the NFF, the Super Eagles and indeed all Nigerian football fans are eagerly looking forward to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between the Eagles and Bafana Bafana of South Africa, scheduled for Uyo on Saturday, 10th June, organizers of the Nigeria Pitch Awards are also looking forward to the day.

 

It is on that day that the fourth edition of the Nigeria Pitch Awards will take place, hours after the match scheduled for the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.

 

“We are making all necessary arrangements and tying up every necessary end to ensure another successful Nigeria Pitch Awards ceremony,” Shina Phillips, President of the Awards, told thenff.com on Sunday.

 

“We are indeed happy at the level the Awards have grown to and very much aware of the expectations of Nigerian Football stakeholders. For us, the Pitch Awards is a national project, something that must be sustained and alongside, the values of credibility and integrity that have taken us thus far.

 

“We treasure the endorsement of the Nigeria Football Federation and the encouragement that we continue to receive from highly placed football administrators and other stakeholders of the game.”

 

The Nigeria Pitch Awards is the only ceremony that honours players in all departments of the football field as well as almost all workers in football in a single night.

 

Phillips revealed that the nominees for this year’s Awards will be announced during the week.

 

At a ceremony held in Lagos in February to present certificates to some of last year’s winners, Phillips declared that from next year, the award statuette would be fully gold –plated.

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Grid List

Victor Wanyama insists Tottenham have eyes on bigger prizes than finishing ahead of rivals Arsenal in the Premier League.

 

Spurs secured a 2-0 win in the north London derby at White Hart Lane on Sunday and are guaranteed to finish ahead of the Gunners in the league for the first time in 21 years.

 

Mauricio Pochettino's side are sat just four points behind leaders Chelsea after a nine-match winning streak in the top flight, and Wanyama insists the win over Arsenal was nothing unexpected.

The Bernabéu bounced and burst into song, the lyrics ringing around this arena the same that had adorned the huge banner unfurled at the south end before the kick-off. “Tell me how it feels,” they gloated. High in the north end, Atlético’s supporters sat in silence, stunned. This felt terrible. It was happening again, the pain unbearable. For a fourth consecutive year, they had met their rivals and for a fourth consecutive year they had fallen.

 

There will be another meeting between these sides but like all those derbies from an era of dominance Atlético thought they had left behind, it is likely to be irrelevant. Real were leading 3-0, on course for a third final in four years. Five times Cristiano Ronaldo scored against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final; three times he scored against Atlético in the semi-final. The first leg of the semi-final, that is. The first came after 10 minutes, the last after 86. In between them, Atlético did not manage a shot on target for the first time this season.

 

Real’s past 11 goals in this competition had come in the second half and opponents had scored first in each of their four games in the knockout stage, but here a goal arrived early. Ten minutes had gone when Sergio Ramos was given time to cross from right, curling towards Ronaldo, hovering behind Diego Godín. The defender headed out, but only as far as Casemiro, who struck the ball straight back in. He did not hit it well but it bounced up and Ronaldo, six yards out, headed past Jan Oblak.

 

The Bernabéu went wild. On the touchline, Diego Simeone was tapping his head. Think, but about what? It would have been difficult not to think about all those other times, three European defeats in three seasons, all at the hands of Real; difficult not to feel that pessimism returning, the inevitability of it all, the cruelty. Much of the buildup had focused on psychology. “If the past has to weigh on someone, let it be them,” Dani Carvajal had said, and that did appear to be happening.

 

Atlético looked rattled; even when they had the ball – and there were periods when they had a significant amount of it – there was a lack of conviction. They passed but rarely with intent or belief; often it was underhit. Koke swapped sides with Yannick Carrasco, seeking control, and while there was an improvement he was unusually imprecise. When he tried to thread it through gaps, the gaps closed. One superb pass that did cut through Real’s back four found Kévin Gameiro racing alone into the area, but as he slowed momentarily Keylor Navas sprinted towards him and, diving full length, took the ball from his toe.

 

When Atlético looked up, Real stood in their way. On the wings, especially, Atlético were struggling. Lucas Hernández, drafted in at right-back, was not enjoying himself. Oblak had already made a sharp save from Karim Benzema before the goal. After it, Luka Modric struck wide, Raphael Varane’s header was superbly saved and Benzema hit a wonderful overhead kick just past the bar.

 

Atlético’s first shot did not arrive until the half hour, when Antoine Griezmann’s clever free-kick found Godín sliding in at the far post. Real had taken 10 by then, although as the half progressed Atlético did wrestle back some control – they had stemmed the bleeding for now.

 

Atlético had been unexpectedly passive defensively and while there was little danger when they came forward, the good news was that trailed by only one. Real also lost Carvajal, going to ground holding his hamstring at the end of the first half. From full-back, he had been Real’s greatest threat; Marcelo on the other side had also concerned the visitors. Carvajal was replaced by Nacho Fernández who drew applause from the stadium when he won a race with Carrasco.

 

Atlético took a step forward, Real a step back. Yet if they appeared to be dropping too deep, Atlético lacked clarity in the final pass and the counterattack is a weapon Zinedine Zidane’s side use better than anyone. If a lot happened in the first half, little was happening now.

 

Fernando Torres and Nico Gaitín replaced Saúl and Gameiro, then Correa went on for Angel Carrasco, but their impact was minimal. Atlético advanced, but only so far. Ronaldo’s impact, by contrast, was gigantic. Real controlled, rarely suffered, and then hit. They had been the better side almost from the start, but it was not resolved until the end. With 73 minutes gone, Marcelo crossed from the left, Benzema held off Godín and nudged it on for him. Opening up his body, he smashed the shot into the top corner.

 

Soon another followed. Atlético sought the goal that would give them a chance; instead, they conceded the goal that means they surely have no chance. Lucas Vázquez broke up the right and pulled back for Ronaldo to finish with a simple side-foot shot. It was his 103rd Champions League goal, more than Atlético have ever scored.

 

Five years before 2022 FIFA World Cup, Khalifa International Stadium sells out at inauguration - 45th Emir Cup Final match

by Shaikha Al Thani, Supreme Committee

 

DOHA, May 24, 2017 - In September 2016, during a visit abroad with His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, in Los Angeles, a question was raised by students during the event in which major Qatari projects took part, including the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), the entity in charge of the delivery of the infrastructure for the 2022 FIFA World Cup: “Is it worth it?”

 

Since winning the bid in 2010, there were various elements to this question – did we deserve the press that targeted us with false headlines? Were we supposed to fight fire with fire? Were we losing the community – who were asked all over the world about corruption, safety concerns, workers’ rights and the expanding growth at the expense of cultural and traditional norms?

 

The answer may not please everyone, but there is something we all agree on: the common language of sport. Football may not be what you love, but an event like the World Cup is undoubtedly supportive of what His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the father Emir, said in the bid book: “Hosting the world’s most prestigious sporting competition here in an Arab country for the first time would make incredible strides in further uniting the Middle East with the rest of the world and forging links between people of all backgrounds.”

 

In 1976, Khalifa International Stadium opened its doors for the first time to welcome the GCC for the fourth edition of the Gulf Cup of Nations. Since then, it has hosted the same event again in 1992, the 2006 Doha Asian Games, the 2011 Asian Cup and various other major friendlies and competitive matches. The proposed renovation for Khalifa International Stadium was fittingly revealed during the Gulf Cup in November 2014 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. No other sporting facility in Qatar has seen the amount of legends, historic or momentous occasions as Khalifa, the national stadium.

 

For the past five months, the country has been asking the same question: “Will it be revealed at the Emir Cup Final?” To non-engineers, various opinions floated around (“It doesn’t look finished.”) None of which mattered when you’re around 2000 days away from the tournament. The only thing that mattered was that it was done right.

 

For the estimated 5000 people who worked on Khalifa, and the hundreds of engineers and designers, the decision always revolved around one conclusion: it has to be done right. On the other hand, for the past few months, while the Technical Department Office worked tireless nights on the delivery of the venue, the Local Organising Committee did the same on the match organization, venue operations, marketing and ceremonial reveal of the first stadium ready for the tournament.

 

“Who said that this can’t be achieved? This is the future of football, this is Khalifa International Stadium.” The ceremony team was led with incredible support from the SC’s Assistant Secretary General, Nasser Al Khater, who never took the credit, but worked twice as hard as everyone. He gave the best piece of advice when I felt like I was losing sense of the plan for the reveal: “Your only aim should be delivering a successful event.” It’s easier than it seemed at that moment, but was one of the hardest lessons to learn – do your best, and that will be good enough.

 

The aim was the same for all members of the team: a World Cup-worthy experience. Anyone who walked away and asked the question asked in the beginning (is it worth it?) can make up their own mind based on facts, based on the experience and based on a sold out stadium. The speech of His Highness that night followed a narrative of Khalifa’s journey by the legendary commentator Youssif Saif, a solo violinist and a joint ribbon cutting ceremony by the Emir and 47,000 people.

 

“On behalf of every Qatari and every Arab, I declare Khalifa International Stadium ready to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” said HH the Emir. Behind the scenes, His Highness was aware of the ribbon cutting ceremony, but he spoke from his heart when he said that, insisting on what the first World Cup essentially is in the Middle East, a tournament for the region.

 

His Highness also honored the Chairman of the Technical Delivery Office at the SC, Engineer Hilal Al Kuwari to join him in cutting the ribbon. Al Kuwari was one of the children that took part in the 1976 Gulf Cup Opening Ceremony at Khalifa Stadium. He also led on the Khalifa International Stadium project and Aspire Zone Foundation since 2002, the SC’s stakeholder and the entity of the SC to which Khalifa International Stadium belongs. If anyone deserved to be next to His Highness during the cutting, it would have been Hilal. He was something of an icon of encouragement during the tough days at the SC, even when things weren’t perfect – he would always be the first person at work, and long after the last person to leave.

 

“I can make it snow, you know,” said Dr. Saud Abdul Ghani, the engineer leading the team behind the cooling technology at Khalifa International Stadium, where it is 42 degrees Celsius outside and could go down to 9 degrees Celsius inside. He was one of the many at the SC who worked hard for the love and passion of the project – never for the credit. 

 

At various times during the experience of working on the May 19th Emir Cup Final inauguration of Khalifa International Stadium, where the team entered the stadium at 7am and left at 1am, the bid team’s message during the 2010 win became very relevant: “we won’t let you down.” 

 

Which aims to answer the original question. If it wasn’t worth it – then we wouldn’t have fought this hard to prove our critics wrong. With five years left to the tournament, there is far more to come, but it has proven to be a worthwhile journey so far. 

LAUSANNE, May 25, 2017 - Tonight Paris 2024 joined the glittering world of celebrity at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. A Paris 2024 delegation climbed the famed 24 steps of the Palais des Festivals, at the invitation of Pierre Lescure, President of the Cannes Film Festival and Thierry Frémaux, Delegate General of the Cannes Film Festival.

 

France’s new Minister of Sport and Olympic Champion Laura Flessel accompanied Paris 2024 Co-Chairs Tony Estanguet and Bernard Lapasset, Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, Valérie Pécresse, President of the Ile-de-France Region, Denis Masseglia, President of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF), Emmanuelle Assmann, President of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee (CPSF) and Thierry Rey, a World and Olympic judo champion and special advisor to the bid.

 

The delegation’s ascent of the red carpet was followed by an outdoor screening of the film Chariots of Fire at the Cinéma de la Plage in the presence of director, Hugh Hudson. The Oscar winning film from 1981 is based on the duel between two British athletes competing during the Paris 1924 Olympic Games. Should Paris be successful in its current bid, the 2024 Olympic Games will mark the centenary of this great event.

 

A number of Paris 2024 athlete ambassadors also joined the delegation in Cannes, including:

 

• Sarah Ourahmoune, Rio 2016 silver medallist and member of the Paris 2024 Sport and Society Committee

• Martin Fourcade, double Olympic champion and 11-time World Champion biathlete

• Muriel Hurtis, Olympic bronze medal winning athlete at Athens 2004

• Chloé Trespeuch, Sochi 2014 snowboard cross bronze medallist

• Victoria Ravva, French volleyball champion for RC Cannes

• Cyrille Maret, Rio 2016 bronze medal winning judoka

 

This is the second year Paris 2024 has had a presence at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2016, a delegation led by Paris 2024 Co-Chair and triple Olympic gold medallist Tony Estanguet, triple Olympic champion Marie-Jo Pérec and Victoria Ravva accompanied France’s double gold medal winning judoka, Teddy Riner, for the premier of the film "In the Shadow of Teddy Riner”.

 

Bernard Lapasset, Paris 2024 Co-Chair, said:

 

"Sport and culture share a common theme – both take viewers on an emotional journey. Athletes, like actors, are performers and when they step onto the track they invite spectators to share in the experience with them. By coming to the Cannes Film Festival this year, Paris 2024 reaffirms our strong desire to combine sport with culture in order to share the positive values ​​of Olympism with the greatest number of people.”

 

Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, said:

 

"Cinema, like the sport, is a formidable way to share emotions. Paris is proud to be one of the cinema capitals of the world with the city providing the backdrop for greatest number of film shoots and one of the highest numbers of cinemas per capita of any city. Hosting hundreds of filmmakers and their crews every year, and screening films from every country every day, this is one of the ways in which our city opens itself up to new perspectives and enriches itself with other cultures. This sense of sharing, this spirit of openness, can be found in the candidature of Paris 2024."

 

Laura Flessel, Minister of Sport for France, said:

 

"A few months ahead of the Host City decision for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Paris 2024 family is mobilised more than ever. By gathering at this global event that places our country on the world stage, we are sending a strong message. The Cannes Film Festival is a further demonstration of France's ability to open up to the world and organise major international events, whether cultural or sporting."

 

Valérie Pécresse, President of the Ile-de-France Region, said:

 

"Excellence, inspiration, sharing…These values ​​are in the DNA of the Ile-de-France Region and can be demonstrated through our support of 14 films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, this great festival that gives voice to the diversity of cinema around the world. This is why we are also a founding member of Paris 2024, a project to celebrate sport and culture through the lens of the world's greatest sporting competition."

 

In a joint statement, Pierre Lescure, President of the Cannes Film Festival and Thierry Frémaux, Delegate General of the Cannes Film Festival, added:

 

"Cinema and modern sport were born at the same time. The Cannes Film Festival is a manifestation, which, like the Olympic Games, celebrates those who dream and provoke emotion. It is above all the symbol of a France that is open to the world and welcomes the cultures of all countries. By joining the Paris 2024 Bid Committee for this 70th edition, we support the ambition to host the Games and reaffirm that sport and culture share in this celebration.”

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