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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.

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From the moment the final blows of a magnificent fight rippled down Anthony Joshua’s 27-year-old arms on to the bleeding and battered head of the 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round, there could be no more arguments about who is the best heavyweight in the world.

It was not just that Joshua, unbeaten in all 19 professional fights, had added the WBA “super” version of the title to his own IBF belt, or even that he had stopped one of boxing’s finest old champions. What secured the winner’s acclaim, surely, by everyone but the WBC champion, Deontay Wilder (who sat ringside) was that he got up from a right cross in the sixth that would have felled an elephant. Probably unsure what city he was in, he fought on through a daze to bring the contest to the most dramatic conclusion, and will rule until someone of equal stature unseats him. There is nobody of that calibre on the horizon.

There was little in it as they came out for the 11th round. Klitschko, perhaps, had an edge, using every trick garnered over 68 fights, 29 of them as champion in an 11-year stretch, to bring anxiety to his young opponent’s work. That changed in the crack of a single uppercut to the Ukrainian’s jaw, which all but toppled him. A left hook and a grazing right put him down for a count in his own corner and Joshua went for the kill, calmly and with fixed purpose. He sent him over like a dead tree with a left hook, yet somehow Klitschko got up for more.

When Joshua moved in with rapacious instincts to let loose that volley of pain in his own corner, his trainer, Robert McCracken, was screaming himself hoarse – along with the rest of the stadium.

Joshua celebrated in the ring with a message that sounded like a recruiting call for all the lost youth he likes to represent: “If you don’t take part, you fail. Boxing is about character. There is nowhere to hide. No complications about boxing. Anyone can do this. Give it a go. You leave your ego at the door. Massive respect to Klitschko. He’s a role model in and out of the ring and I’ve got nothing but love and respect for anyone who steps in the ring. London, I love you. Can I go home now?”

The response from the 90,000 present was rapturous – as it was for Klitschko when he took the microphone to acknowledge: “The best man won. It’s really sad I didn’t make it tonight. But all respect to Anthony.”

In the 10 minutes or so Klitschko had to wait in the ring while the champion sashayed through the crowd, the Ukrainian bounced to Joshua’s music. He did not dance to his tune for all of the fight but Joshua had his measure when it mattered.

Joshua had to call up all the things he had learned – about boxing off the lines, moving in and out, waiting for gaps – but Klitschko had that hard-wired already. He had 50 fights on the young champion, and 14 years. Still, the mutual respect of the buildup carried over to the combat, and neither man took early risks.

 

 

Klitschko, always marginally fancier than his elder brother Vitali, got up on his toes and moved into hitting range in the third, looking to pressure his opponent, but Joshua kept his shape and composure.

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