Monday, December 31, 2018

Maradona Shows Support For Racism Victim Koulibaly

Diego Maradona has given his backing to Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly after the Senegalese international was subjected to racist abuse by Inter Milan supporters last week. 

Maradona (Instagram) 

Argentina great Maradona, who won the Serie A title with Napoli in 1987 and 1990, posted a picture of himself on social media holding up Koulibaly’s No.26 shirt with a message of support for the player, who was targeted with monkey chants by Inter fans during Napoli’s 1-0 defeat at the San Siro on Wednesday. 

“I played for Napoli for seven years and I also suffered from racist chants from some fans,” said Maradona, who is coach of Mexican second division outfit Dorados and adored by Napoli fans. 

 The 58-year-old, currently on holiday in Buenos Aires as the Mexican league is on a break, said he feels “even more Neapolitan today and that he wants “to be close to” Koulibaly. “I hope this incident signals a turning point to eliminate, once and for all, racism from football.”

 Maradona’s gesture of solidarity comes after thousands of Napoli fans wore Koulibaly masks in support of the 27-year-old during their side’s 3-2 win over Bologna on Saturday.

 On Friday, European football governing body UEFA said its anti-racism protocol had not been followed during the match in which Koulibaly, who was also sent off, was abused.
 Fans were asked three times over the loudspeaker to stop the abuse, but they ignored the pleas.

 According to UEFA’s protocol, the match should have been suspended then but instead the game was allowed to continue.

 The Italian league subsequently ordered Inter to play two home matches behind closed doors as punishment.

Floyd Mayweather vs Tenshin Nasukawa: Mayweather Wins By Technical Knock-Out

Mayweather Defeats Nasukawa In Exhibition Match

American boxer and boxing promoter, Floyd Mayweather came out of retirement to defeat Japanese kickboxer, Tenshim Nasukawa by technical knockout on new year’s eve.

The bout was an exhibition match but Naija News understands Mayweather pocketed as much as $9m dollars from the match which brought him out of retirement, though the official prize has not been declared.

“It was all about entertainment – we had a lot of fun.”

Floyd Mayweather beat Tenshin Nasukawa in the first round in an exhibition match worth a reported $9m.

— Mr Dependable (@mightygeorgeng) December 31, 2018

Mayweather reportedly defeated Nasukawa, three times in the first round of the three-round contest before the Japanese kickboxer’s trainer rushed in to stop the fight.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. destroys Tenshin Nasukawa in exhibition bout

— ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) December 31, 2018

The bout which held in Saitama, north of Tokyo, will have no effect on the record of either fighter and therefore allows both men to retain their unbeaten records.

Mayweather, has a perfect 50 in and zero defeats record with 27 knockouts while the Japanese kickboxer, Nasukawa who made his professional kickboxing debut at the age of 16, also has a 28-0 record with 21 wins by knockout.

Warnock Wary Of Diving Spurs Stars For Cardiff Clash

Cardiff manager Neil Warnock has warned his players “not to breathe” on some of Tottenham’s stars in a New Year’s Day clash between the sides over fears of playacting.


England captain Harry Kane was booked for diving in Spurs’ shock 3-1 home loss to Wolves on Saturday, while Dele Alli has been repeatedly accused of going down easily.

“I say to my players about the top players ‘try not to breathe on them’,” said Warnock, whose side conceded a controversial penalty in a 5-1 home defeat by Manchester United last weekend.

  “I said that before the Man United game, ‘if they get in the box don’t breathe on them at all because they’ll be down’. That’s how it is nowadays.”

Warnock also had a go at Kane during the first meeting between the teams this season at Wembley.

Kane reacted furiously to Joe Ralls’ wild challenge on Lucas Moura and Warnock accused the Tottenham striker of influencing referee Mike Dean’s decision to show a red card to the Cardiff midfielder.

“I didn’t like him confronting Rallsy but I can understand why he did it,” added Warnock. “He’s looking after his own player in that respect.”

Fulham To Take Action Over Kamara Racist Abuse

Fulham have vowed to take the “strongest possible action” after striker Aboubakar Kamara was racially abused on social media following his penalty miss against Huddersfield on Saturday.

                       Aboubakar Kamara

The Frenchman was strongly criticised by his manager Claudio Ranieri for disobeying orders to hand over penalty duties to Aleksandar Mitrovic.
“It is unbelievable, he did not respect me, the club, the team and crowd. I spoke with him, it is not right.
I want to kill him,” said Ranieri, despite Mitrovic’s stoppage time winner in a 1-0 victory for the Premier League strugglers.
 However, Fulham have promised to support Kamara after he was abused online.
“The club will provide all necessary support to Aboubakar and will take the strongest possible action against those identified and responsible for these posts,” a club spokesman said in a statement.

Wounded City Ready To Fight Liverpool, Insists Kompany

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany admitted the Premier League champions’ pride has been wounded by a recent shock run of three defeats in four Premier League games to fall seven points behind league leaders Liverpool.


But ahead of the visit of Jurgen Klopp’s men to the Etihad on Thursday, Kompany issued a rallying cry to the City squad and fans to keep fighting to become the first side in a decade to retain the Premier League.
“We shouldn’t focus too much on points at the moment, we know if we can play to our potential we are a good team,” Kompany told City’s website.
Our pride has been hurt over the last few weeks but we have everything to play for and it depends on us.” City bounced back from consecutive defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester with a 3-1 win at Southampton to move back into second above Tottenham.
However, City have only won one of seven meetings with Liverpool during Pep Guardiola’s three seasons in charge. Kompany, though, called on his side to avenge a painful Champions League quarter-final exit to Liverpool last season.
“It’s one of those key games you live for. Every living soul that comes into the stadium on Thursday has to be ready to fight and give it to them,” added the Belgian. “And we should be able to pull everything out of the locker for that game.”

France To Transfer African Football Chief To War Crimes Tribunal

Central African Republic’s football federation chief Patrice Edouard Ngaissona attends the 40th CAF ordinary general assembly in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. FADEL SENNA / AFP
France will transfer Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, a member of Africa’s top footballing body, to the International Criminal Court in the Hague where he faces war crimes charges, a court ruled Monday.
Ngaissona, who is from the Central African Republic and sits on the board of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), has been in a jail near Paris since his arrest on December 12.

Harry Redknapp Names Club To Win This Season’s Premier League Title

Former Tottenham Hotspur manager, Harry Redknapp has named Liverpool as the favourite club to win this season’s Premier League title.

He also said that Tottenham and Manchester City are also in the race to challenge Jurgen Klopp’s side for the English topflight league title this term.

Liverpool are currently on top of the Premier League table with 54 points from 20 games, while Manchester City are second place with 47 points from the same number of games.

Tottenham are third placed with 45 points from 20 games.

“I think the Premier League title is a three horse race,” Redknapp told talkSPORT.

“Liverpool are the favourites ahead of Man City now which is a big turnaround.

“But Tottenham are in great form at the moment and they are genuine title contenders. Spurs are still in it, you can’t write them off. They are bang there, the way they are playing at the moment.

“I can’t see anybody else getting into it. I watched Arsenal yesterday and they are nowhere near in my opinion. I know they’ve had injuries, but at the back they are still very poor.

“And Chelsea are just so reliant on Eden Hazard. Without him you couldn’t really see them challenging, they’re still short of a frontman.

“So really, I think there are three runners and I think it will be very tight.

“It’s going to be a great title race this year.”

Sri Lanka Cricket Rated Most Corrupt By ICC

Sri Lanka has been rated as the most corrupt cricket nation by the world governing body, the country’s sports minister said Monday.
The International Cricket Council feels “Sri Lanka’s cricket administration is corrupt from top to bottom”, Harin Fernando said, adding that he had been shown a confidential report on the matter at a Dubai meeting.


A host of scandals have rocked Sri Lankan cricket in recent years including a match-fixing controversy revealed in a sting operation carried out for a TV documentary.
The ICC anti-corruption unit has regularly investigated cases in the island nation.
The crisis-ridden Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) is to hold delayed elections in February, which were due last May when the term of president Thilanga Sumathipala ended.
Sumathipala has been accused of violating ICC rules by holding office despite alleged links to gambling. He denies the charges.
“Unfortunately Sri Lanka is being ranked as one of the worst or the top worst country for cricket corruption,” Fernando told reporters after returning from the meeting with ICC anti-corruption chief Alex Marshall.
“They told me that the problem was not limited to bookies, but even the local game’s links with the underworld,” he said, adding that the corruption was more to do with cricket administration than players.
Last month former Sri Lankan fast bowler Dilhara Lokuhettige was suspended for corruption during a limited over league in 2017.
Lokuhettige was the third Sri Lankan player charged for violating the anti-corruption code following cases against former captain and ex-chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya and former paceman Nuwan Zoysa.
Jayasuriya was charged for failing to cooperate with a match-fixing probe and concealing information.
Zoysa was suspended over match-fixing accusations. The minister said the ICC would grant an amnesty to Sri Lankan players who disclose details of wrongdoing in the game. He added that the government wanted to prepare anti-match fixing legislation.

Sharapova Campaign Off To Tough Start In Shenzhen

Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova had a tough start to her 2019 tennis season Monday at the Shenzhen Open, edging out Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 6-2, 7-6 (7/3).


In a battle of former Top 10 players, Sharapova’s serve faltered early in the match but she regained composure to take the first set, cheered on by the spirited crowd at the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center.
Bacsinszky put up a strong fight in the second set, claiming the first two games and forcing Sharapova to step up her game.
The Russian powered through to take the match in one hour 42 minutes. “It’s been a few months since I’ve been out of playing competitively,” Sharapova said in a post-match interview, calling Shenzhen a “warm-up tournament” for next month’s Australian Open.
“Considering the opponent and everything I had to go through today I think it was a great practice for me.”
Sharapova, who won the last of her five Slams at Roland Garros in 2014, has endured a disappointing return to the majors since the end of her drugs ban in April of 2017.
She will next face 17-year-old Chinese wild card Wang Xinyu. Meanwhile, France’s Caroline Garcia lost in straight sets to Serbia’s Ivana Jorovic 6-4, 6-2.
The tournament, which runs until Saturday, will see players battling for $750,000 in prize money.

Serena Wins Perth Season-Opener Ahead Of Grand Slam Tilt

Serena Williams of the US hits a return against Maria Sakkari of Greece during their fifth session women’s singles match on day three of the Hopman Cup tennis tournament in Perth on December 31, 2018. TONY ASHBY / AFP

Serena Williams overcame a sluggish start to win her opening match of the new season in Perth Monday, two weeks out from 2019’s first Grand Slam.
The 37-year-old was a long way off her commanding best and was visibly frustrated with her own game early in her Hopman Cup singles match, but still did enough to beat Greece’s Maria Sakkari in straight sets.
However, it was Sakkari and her team-mate Stefanos Tsitsipas who had the last laugh as Greece beat the USA 2-1 in the mixed doubles Group B tie.
In her first tournament outing since the controversial loss to Naomi Osaka in the US Open final in September, Williams struggled early and her groundstrokes were erratic in the first set.
Sakkari, ranked 41st in the world, gained an early break and served for the first set but couldn’t capitalise despite several gilt-edged opportunities.
That opened the door for Williams, the bookmakers’ favourite for the upcoming Australian Open in Melbourne, to power back and ultimately win 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in an hour and 44 minutes.
Williams had her left ankle worked on at the end of the first set but it didn’t stop her dominating the second, in which she looked more like the player who has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles.
“I was making a lot of errors and I’m like ‘it’s okay, it’s your first match, it’ll get better’,” she said.
“It’s never easy (first match), there are lot of errors that are going to be made and I think we both did pretty good.”
Williams said her taped ankles weren’t a concern so soon before 2019’s first Grand Slam, blaming a little discomfort with her shoes.
Williams won her last Grand Slam in Melbourne in 2017 but wasn’t able to defend her title due to the birth of her first child.
Bidding to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 titles, she was beaten in last year’s Wimbledon and US Open finals.
Williams said she was looking forward to facing Swiss champion Roger Federer on Tuesday when the USA plays Switzerland and the pair will be opponents for the first time in the mixed doubles.
“I have been looking forward to it, this is so cool,” she said, adding it was “like a dream come true”.
Earlier, world number 15 Tsitsipas gave Greece the initial advantage in the tie as he edged past Frances Tiafoe in three sets, 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3.
The Greek 20-year-old won the first set comfortably and secured an early break in the second.
But the 39th-ranked American broke back in the sixth game and levelled the match in the tie-break.
Another early break by Tsitsipas put him ahead in the third and a sizzling backhand winner on match point secured victory for the Greek.
The Greek duo kept their tournament alive when they won the deciding mixed doubles, 4-1, 1-4, 4-2.

Police Deploy In Sudan Capital As Protesters Plan March

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives to meet with police officials at the headquarters of the “police house” in the capital Khartoum on December 30, 2018. ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

Riot police deployed in key squares of Sudan’s capital Monday as protesters planned to march on President Omar al-Bashir’s palace calling for him to “step down” following deadly anti-government protests.
Bashir has instructed police to abstain from using excessive force against the demonstrators after 19 people, including two security personnel, were killed in clashes in the initial days of demonstrations that erupted on December 19.
Angry protesters have rallied after the government raised the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (from about two to six US cents).
Protests that erupted against high prices of bread have turned into anti-government rallies in Khartoum and several other cities.
On Monday, a group bringing together professionals like doctors, teachers, professors and engineers called for a march from downtown Khartoum to the presidential palace after a similar rally it organised on December 25 in the capital.
“We are again calling for a rally on December 31 at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT),” the group calling itself as Sudanese Professionals’ Association said in a statement late Sunday.
“We will march towards the presidential palace calling for President Omar al-Bashir to step down.”
Opposition groups and prominent rebel chief Abdel Wahid al-Nur from war-torn Darfur have also urged their supporters to participate in the march.
An AFP journalist who toured downtown Khartoum early Monday saw dozens of anti-riot policemen and security agents of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) deployed to prevent any gathering of protesters.
On Sunday, Bashir met top police officers in Khartoum and instructed them to refrain from using excessive force against demonstrators after the United Nations called for an investigation into the deaths and violence during the demonstrations.
“We want to maintain security and we want the police to do that by using less force,” Bashir said.
“We admit that we have economic problems… but they can’t be solved by destructions, lootings, and thefts,” Bashir said, referring to the buildings and ruling offices torched by protesters in several cities during the demonstrations.
Sudan is facing an acute foreign exchange crisis and soaring inflation despite Washington lifting an economic embargo in October 2017.
Inflation is running at 70 percent and the Sudanese pound has plunged in value, while shortages of bread and fuel have regularly hit several cities.

Dijon Sack Coach Dall’Oglio

Struggling Ligue 1 club Dijon on Monday sacked Olivier Dall’Oglio as coach after more than six years at the club.
Dall’Oglio oversaw Dijon’s return to the top flight in 2016 and had started this season with three wins.
But 12 matches followed without a victory before the club’s fourth win of the season, against rock-bottom Guingamp on December 5. That was followed, however, by three straight losses that has seen the club plummet to 18th in the 20-strong league.
Assistant coach David Linares will take over until a new coach is named, the club said.

Ronaldo Denies Being Obsessed By Individual Trophies

Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo trains prior to the Italian Serie A football match Udi-nese Calcio vs Juventus FC at the Dacia Arena stadium in Udine on October 6, 2018.
Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted that he is “not obsessed” by individual trophies, having missed on this year’s Ballon d’Or after winning it five times.
The Juventus striker also missed out on FIFA and UEFA’s player of the year trophies as former Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric, a World Cup runner-up with Croatia, swept all before him.
“I’m not obsessed by individual prizes,” Ronaldo told Portuguese sports daily Record.
“The most important thing is to win collective trophies and help the team. The rest comes naturally.”
Ronaldo added: “I don’t think all the time of beating records. I work above all to help the club and be at my best level.
“The technical, tactical and physical level of all teams is better today,” he said. “It’s increasingly tough to win so I have to keep working hard to stay on top.”
Having missed the start of Portugal’s Nations League campaign to better adjust to life with Juve, Ronaldo said that in 2019 he “envisages being at the disposal of the national coach”.
Portugal will host the inaugural Nations League finals in June, meeting Switzerland in the semi-finals.
In the wide-ranging interview, Ronaldo also dubbed as “revolting” allegations of rape made against him dating back to 2009, something he strenuously denies. He added that he had a “calm conscience” and was “confident that everything will very soon be clarified”.

Solskjaer Vows To Change Role Mourinho Gave To Lukaku In Man Utd Team

Manchester United caretaker manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hinted that Romelu Lukaku will not play in a “target man” role as long as he is in charge.
Lukaku endured a difficult first half of the season, struggling for form and fitness.
The Belgian came on as a second-half substitute for the impressive Marcus Rashford in their 4-1 win over Bournemouth on Sunday and scored United’s final goal.
It was the first time Lukaku had featured since former boss Jose Mourinho was replaced by Solskjaer, and the new man at the helm is excited by the prospect of the former Everton man being fully fit.
“At times he’s a good target man, but if you tell him to be a target man he’ll never face the goal.
“Today [Sunday] he was side-on and he’s got the attributes of a top, top striker.
“We need to work on his fitness, but I’m delighted. Even though he was half a yard offside [for his goal], it was a good finish,” Solskjaer said, according to Goal.

Michael Owen Reveals Teams That Will Finish In Top Four, Get Relegated

Former Liverpool and Manchester United striker, Michael Owen, has picked the teams he expects to finish in the Premier League top four this season.

In an interactive session on Twitter, Owen went for Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

When asked by a user by the handle @ScottyHall3_ who the top four teams will be and the three that will be relegated, he replied: “Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Spurs.

“Huddersfield and Cardiff. Not sure about the 3rd team. I said Fulham at the start so I’ll stick with them.

The campaign is already over the halfway point, with the Reds leading by seven points, ahead of second-placed City ahead of Thursday’s titanic meeting at the Etihad Stadium.

EPL: Makelele Blasts Pogba After Man Utd’s 4-1 Over Bournemouth


Chelsea legend, Claude Makelele, has accused Paul Pogba of showing his opponents lack of respect with his goal celebrations.

Pogba, who bagged a brace in Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Bournemouth on Sunday, celebrated both goals with an elaborate dance routine.

But Makelele is not a fan of his countryman’s flamboyant showboating.

Speaking on Astro SuperSport’s Sunday Night Live show, the former Real Madrid midfielder suggested Pogba was disrespectful and revealed how he would have dealt with him in his playing days.

“One example is Thierry Henry. When he scored a goal before, everybody was like, ‘F*****g hell, many goals, he’s never happy’.

“One day I tell Thierry, ‘Why?’. He said, ‘It’s the way I celebrate my goal. I know people don’t like this, but I’m like this. I can’t change this.

“Pogba, he’s like this, he can’t change this. We accept this – it’s Pogba.

“For me, it means sometimes you don’t respect your opponent, you know?

“It’s frustrating. I’m fronting Pogba. I want to tell him, ‘Listen, do this in the dressing room, not now. It’s frustrating. You win 4-0, you’re dancing in front of me,” Makelele said.

EPL: What David Moyes told us after joining Manchester United as coach – Carrick

Former Manchester United midfielder, Michael Carrick has revealed the first thing ex-Red Devils manager, David Moyes told the team after taking over from legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.

Moyes had signed a six-year deal when Ferguson retired, but lasted less than a season in charge before he was sacked.

In his new autobiography titled: ‘Between the Lines’, Michael Carrick revealed what Moyes said to the team, which was misunderstood by both players and some members of the coaching crew.

Carrick wrote: “I got on fine with David (Moyes). Never had a bad word with him, never fell out with him. He arrived full of energy and ideas for how to improve us.

“I remember at one of his first meetings, David said to us, ‘I believe I can make you better. I know you won the league last year and I’ve obviously been watching you. I can make you run more.’

“Being fair to David, he was looking for a chink, like what needed improving and where we were weak, so that he could take us to another level.

“I just think what he said didn’t come across the right way.”

Chukwueze Attracts Premiership Interest

Samuel Chukwueze
Nigerian international Samuel Chukwueze is attracting interests from the English Premier League.
According to the Leicester Mercury, both Arsenal and Leicester City are keen on landing the Villarreal attacker in the January transfer window. Atletico Madrid has also expressed interest in the winger.
Chukwueze has scored four goals in 13 matches across all competitions for the Spanish club this season, after breaking into the first team following an impressive string of performances in the Segunda division.
The 19-year-old won the 2015 Under-17 World Cup with Nigeria, earning a move to the Spanish LaLiga club from Nigeria’s Diamond Academy in the aftermath.
Chukwueze made his debut for the Super Eagles in a friendly match against Uganda last month.
Both Arsenal and Leicester have Nigerian internationals on their books with Alex Iwobi plying his trade for the Gunners. The Foxes boast Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi in their ranks.
Earlier this month, rumors linking Chukwueze with a move to Atletico Madrid was dismissed by newly appointed coach of the Yellow Submarines, ‎Luis Garcia.
Chukwueze who is rated as the most sought after teen footballer in Europe is reported to be on the priority list of the Spanish giants if they succeed in moving on their forward Vitolo in the January transfer window.
The news sources from Spanish media reported a fee in the region of €40m has been proposed by the Rojiblancos with Chukwueze yet to agree fresh terms at Villarreal.
Responding to the rumors, Garcia who once decribed the 19-year old Nigerian as  a jewel ruled out the possibility of Chukwueze leaving the club for a fee in the region of what was reported last week.
His response will no doubt calm the nerves of fans of the club who were already weighing up the prospect of the forward who has five goals in all competitions leaving the team at a time when he appears to have cement his spot in the first team.

NFF Confirms Keshi Stadium for Seychelles, Egypt Matches

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is believed to have settled for the  Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State to host the international friendly between the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs of Egypt and the dead-rubber last 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifying Group B match  against Seychelles.
A top official in the Glass House in Abuja confirmed to THISDAY in a telephone interview last night that the deal to host the two matches in Asaba is almost a done deal because the Delta State Government has agreed to take 70 per cent of the cost to prosecute the matches.
“We have reached the final phase of discussion and all seem to be done deal as the Asaba stadium will stage the matches all things been equal,” the top official who did not want to be named confirmed yesterday evening.
The final group stage match against Seychelles is inconsequential as the Super Eagles had already qualified and topped the AFCON 2019 group. Another decent football source revealed that the main reason why Delta State negotiated to stage both matches was primarily because of the attraction of having the six-time African champions Egypt in Asaba.
The international match against Egypt will attract top players like Mohammed Salah of Liverpool FC, Mohammed El-Shenawy and Ahmed Hegazi.
The Governor Ifeanyi Okowa administration is said to be passionate about sports tourism and a visit of the top English Premiership star will be a big boost to Asaba and neighboring towns within the state.
“When Asaba hosted the African Athletic Championships, cynics lampooned the governor for the huge amount spent to stage the five-day event that was engulfed by many flaws but the presence of top athletes in the continent at the event boosted tourism not only in Asaba but Delta State as a whole,” the top official explained.
But should NFF go ahead with its plans for the matches, it will be against the thoughts of the team’s Head Coach, Gernot Rohr, who has over times complained about the state of the pitch and location of the dressing room during last month’s ‘Round Table Session’ with senior sports journalists in Lagos.
“Asaba fans are very friendly and passionate about the team but the pitch was very difficult for us to play just as the location of the dressing room when the team bus makes final stop is another problem,” the Franco-German coach pointed out at the forum.
Since the refurbishment of the stadium, it has played host to 2018 Aiteo Cup final as well as the international friendly against Cranes of Uganda.
The official game against Seychelles will hold March 21 before the Pharaohs storm Asaba five days later for the game primarily aimed at keeping Super Eagles in shape for the 2019 AFCON scheduled to hold in June. CAF is to name the host country for the continental showpiece on June 9. Both South Africa and Egypt are in the running to host.

An Amazing Year for Lesser Sports

2018 REVIEW…2018 REVIEW…2018 REVIEW…
Two standout events of 2018 were the World Cup in Russia and the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. The Super Eagles that represented Nigeria at the global football showpiece was the youngest of all the 32 teams. As the result of the experimentation of Franco-German tactician, Gernot Rohr, in his first two years in charge, nobody expected any miracle from happening at the Mundial. In this first part of the review of sports in Nigeria in 2018, DURO IKHAZUAGBE takes a look at the so-called lesser sports given little attention yet produce the best results when it matter most.
In barely hour from now, the year 2018 would have become history. The journey of 365 days would have come to a full stop. As a FIFA World Cup year, Super Eagles performance at the Mundial in Russia appears to be the benchmark for gauging the success or otherwise of the sports sector in the country. The reason is because: Nigerians eat, drink and do everything that concerns the Beautiful Game with utmost passion. Whether such a decision is fair to the women’s game where the Super Falcons have bestrode the African Women’s Nations Cup like birthright with little accolade and attention from all that matter in the country’s sports, is a matter for another day
‘Lesser sports’ like Table Tennis, Basketball, Wrestling and Badminton who exceeded what football brought to Nigeria in the year under review, have continued to remain in the background despite Aruna Quadri and colleagues winning silver in the team event of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia and Aruna in particular also went as far as the quarter final stage at the ITTF World Championship. In basketball, D’Tigress won the AfroBasket as well as bagged ticket to the 2019 World Cup. Their male counterparts, D’Tigers as defending champions went all the way to the final of the Men’s AfroBasket but lost and still qualified for the World Cup. Odunayo Adekuoroye won gold in freestyle wrestling at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast 2018. It was an addition to the gold she claimed at the 2014 Games in India as well as the World Championship bronze medal of 2016.
2018 was also a very good year for badminton, a hitherto lesser sport totally ignored and left to rot like most other racket games. But Francis Orbih who took over the mantle of leadership at the BFN, has turned around the fortunes of the sport. It has continued its steady climb to the top in the continent. Through personal efforts like what Daniel Igali is doing for wrestling, Orbih has shown to the rest of Africa that Nigerian badminton players are podium stuff. From one competition to the other around Africa, Dorcas Adesokan and Aanu Opeyori have become the most feared  players in Team Nigeria. Yet, this is the same sport players have been begging for funds from the Federal Ministry of Sports to attend events before Orbih took charge.
The story of Nigeria’s maiden outing at the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, North Korea reads like a fairytale. Team Nigeria’s Bobsled and Skeleton team, The ‘Ice Blazers’ made up of the quartet of Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeiga, Simi Adeagbo and Ngozi Onwumere created a new identify for Nigeria. Of course as novices in the sport who had less than few weeks preparation with no known coach of the sport as guide, they finished 19th out of the 20 teams in the event. They were celebrated for breaking new grounds in sports for Nigeria. For Adigun in particular, transiting from being a hurdler to Bobsled was simply an adventure.
If Super Eagles could not go beyond the Group Stage at Russia 2018, celebrating those who were considered infinitesimal in reckoning but turned out the ‘head corner stone’ is definitely not out of place.
Nigeria’s Special Sports athletes, like always have remained the bedrock of the country’s sports. In 2018 like in the previous years, they turned their disability to ability. The Para weightlifters took away the gloom that enveloped the country’s contingent when after several days of competition, there was no gold medal recorded yet for Nigeria at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Roland Ezuruike and Paul Kehinde won gold and silver in the men’s event while women’s heavyweight champions Ndidi Nwosu and Esther Onyema harvested gold in that category. Lucy Ejike narrowly lost the gold of that same class to settle for a precious silver. The medals they won contributed immensely in helping Team Nigeria to a decent finish on the final medals’ table of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Four years ago Team Nigeria dominated the track and field events at Glasgow 2014 Games with Blessing Ighoteguonor Okagbare the star athlete winning the sprint double in the 100 and 200m. She left the long jump gold for her fellow Delta athlete, Ese Brume to smile away with. But this year, with an inconsistent season caused by recurring injuries, Okagbare was in Gold Coast for just the 4x100m relay event so as not to aggravate the healing process she was going through. But Oluwatobiloba Amusan ensured that Team Nigeria had a track and field gold to celebrate. She gave signal of what to expect at the Games when she dusted reigning World Champion Sally Pearson in the semi final of the World Indoor Championships. She shocked Jamaica’s 2015 World Championship winner, Danielle Williams to win the 100m hurdles gold in her season’s best time of 12.68sec. It was just three seconds short of the Games record of 12.65.
After years in the doldrums, Handball found a new energy in Sam Ocheho. He disbanded the senior national team and introduced  the Prudent Energy Handball League. To ensure steady inflow of talents to the senior cadre, he introduced the Under-12 and Under-15 championship. In his words: “From what we have seen in the national team we need to start using younger players, we need to go back and start using fresh legs.
“This game is very physical and if we need to regain the top stop in Africa, we must go back to the youths.”
He did the self-reassessment of the Nigerian situation after the not to convincing performance at the continental championship in Gabon. Today, handball is creeping back into the consciousness of Nigerians.

EPL: Man City Wins to Reduce Liverpool’s Lead at the Top

  • Free scoring Man Utd earn third straight win under Solskjaer
Manchester City survived a brief scare to beat Southampton and reduce league leaders Liverpool’s advantage to seven points.
Southampton responded to David Silva’s early opener when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg took the ball off Oleksandr Zinchenko and fired it into the top corner.
City had luck on their side when Raheem Sterling’s shot deflected off James Ward-Prowse to make it 2-1.
Sergio Aguero’s back-post header completed the scoring before half-time.
Southampton goalscorer Hojbjerg – who had only just returned from suspension – was shown a straight red card for a lunging tackle on Fernandinho with just over five minutes to go.
City had a number of decent chances as Silva, Aguero and Riyad Mahrez all went close in the first half and Aguero smacked the crossbar after the break.
Southampton threatened too and Charlie Austin was twice denied by City keeper Ederson in the first half before Hojbjerg’s equaliser.
But the Saints were ultimately undone by Pep Guardiola’s free-flowing side, who move up to second place in the table.
Liverpool went 10 points clear of City at the top of the table with a devastating 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal on Saturday, meaning the defending champions needed victory to keep pace in the title race.
City appeared to feel the pressure on Boxing Day when they squandered an early lead and allowed Leicester to win 2-1 at the King Power Stadium.
But they stood up to the challenge at St Mary’s – peppering Southampton’s goal from the off and responding to the equaliser with two quick goals on the stroke of half-time.
City’s opening goal was straight from Guardiola’s textbook: Bernardo Silva’s neat build-up down the right and cut-back into the centre was comfortably put away by an unmarked David Silva.
Sterling’s shot was then deflected by Ward-Prowse and flapped into the net by Alex McCarthy to make it 2-1 before Aguero headed in Zinchenko’s cross at the back post with ease.
It means City can cut Liverpool’s lead to four points when the two teams meet at the Etihad Stadium on 3 January.
Elsewhere, Manchester’s United’s transformed attack once again combined devastatingly to give caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his third successive win with an impressive victory over Bournemouth.
A first half of cavalier attacking football saw United score three times, with Paul Pogba netting his second double in successive games and Marcus Rashford grabbing the other.
They are now only three points behind fifth-placed Arsenal, having trailed by eight following the morale-sapping 3-1 defeat at Liverpool earlier this month.
Pogba poked in his first after Rashford had mesmerised both Nathan Ake and Diego Rico on the right, before the French World Cup winner headed in from Ander Herrera’s precise delivery.
It was 3-0 when Anthony Martial, back in the XI after recovering from a bug, provided a wonderful cross for Rashford to slide his shot past Asmir Begovic.
Bournemouth, who had looked dangerous on set-pieces, pulled a goal back in first-half stoppage time when Ake headed in following good work by David Brooks.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku scored United’s fourth from Pogba’s pass two minutes after coming on, before defender Eric Bailly was shown a straight red card for scything down Cherries midfielder Ryan Fraser.
United have now found the net 12 times in the three matches since Solskjaer took over. This victory means the the 45-year-old has emulated Sir Matt Busby and Jose Mourinho by winning his first three league games in charge.
Solskjaer will be looking to make it a fourth at Newcastle on Wednesday, while Bournemouth remain 12th in the table.
Also yesterday, Chelsea increased the gap between themselves and fifth-placed Arsenal to five points as N’Golo Kante’s second-half strike earned them victory at Crystal Palace.
Kante scored the only goal of the game in the 51st minute when he broke forward from midfield to convert David Luiz’s through ball.
There were few clear-cut chances as the Blues dominated possession and Palace sat back hoping to catch the opposition on the counter-attack – a tactic which failed to work as Roy Hodgson’s Eagles took 85 minutes to register their first effort. That is now two successive games without a goal.
Chelsea’s Willian came close to scoring with a free-kick that struck the post, and Ross Barkley also hit the woodwork with a hooked effort.
Fourth-placed Blues now have 43 points, one behind City and two behind Spurs. Palace remain in 14th with 19 points.