Category Archives: SPORTS

Torres joins Japanese club Sagan Tosu

 

Former Spain striker Fernando Torres has announced he is joining Japanese top flight side Sagan Tosu as a free agent after leaving Atletico Madrid last month.

“We have had offers from every continent. My new team will be Sagan Tosu of Japan,” the 34-year-old Torres said at an event held at the gym he owns in Madrid on Tuesday

“I have had offers from France, Germany and even one from Spain but at no point did I ever think about going to another European team. I wanted a new challenge in a completely different place.”

According to reports, Torres also had offers to sign for Australian side Sydney FC and Major League Soccer club Chicago Fire.

Torres, who posed for a photo at the event holding a Sagan Tosu shirt alongside club chairman Minoru Takehara, will join the club on an 18-month contract with an option to extend the deal until 2020.

The move was also announced on Sagan Tosu’s official website, with the club saying he would be given the number nine shirt, which he has worn for the majority of his career.

Torres, who spent the bulk of his career with boyhood club Atletico across two spells, has also played for Liverpool, Chelsea and AC Milan and won the World Cup and two European Championships with Spain.

He said he planned to make his debut for Sagan Tosu on July 22.

Sagan Tosu have been in the top division of the J.League since 2012. They finished eighth last season but are mired in a relegation battle halfway through the current campaign.

“Asia has always treated me very well. The sensation that I can return the club to where they should be is another reason why I saw how much confidence they have in me,” Torres added.

Torres becomes the second high-profile Spaniard to head to Japan in the last few weeks after former Barcelona great Andres Iniesta agreed to join Vissel Kobe in May.

Enugu government builds physiotherapy center for Rangers

 

Enugu State Government has approved N18 million for the building of a physiotherapy and fitness centre for Rangers International FC, Enugu.

The Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development in the state, Joseph Udedi, says the centre would be sited at the Rangers’ Camp in Emene, Enugu.

According to him, the sports equipment company from overseas has started installing the machines at the centre.

“Before the end of next week, the installation will be completed and the company will train local technicians that will take care of the equipment after the installation,’’ he said.

Udedi lauded Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for the project because an injury could sideline a footballer and his trainer for life if adequate medicare was not available.

“The equipment includes ankle training machine, elbow training machine, sweat treading machine, bicycle timer equipment and body rollers.

“There is also physiotherapy first aid box, other physiotherapy medical consumables and various massaging machines,’’ he said.

 

Russia 2018 semi-finals: France dares Belgium, England confronts Croatia

 

As the semi-finals battle kicks off  in the ongoing FIFA World Cup to decide the two finalists for the July 15 showdown at the Luzhniki Stadium, the four combatants must first slug it out for the two available slots in the grand finale.

While Les Bleus of France are hoping to repeat their success in 1998, their next door neighbour, Le Diable Rouge (The Red Devils) of Belgium will play in their first semi-final in 32 years.

France Vs Belgium

The World Cup rivalry between the two European Union members dates back to the 1938 World Cup which France hosted and Les Bleus defeated Le Diable Rouge 3-1 in an opening round encounter.

 It will be 48 years when the teams would meet again, though in less significant circumstances, France defeated Belgium 4-2 after extra time, in the third place match of the Mexico 1986 World Cup.

France and Belgium are very familiar foes, having played each other a record 73 times.

Head to Head — the Belgians have the better record, having won 30 to the French’s 24 and 19 games ending in a draw.

But in competitive games, France have won 5 with Belgium winning 3 and drawing 3.

The last match between the two teams took place in 2015 with Belgium running out 4-3 winners with two Marouane Fellaini goals in an exciting friendly in Paris.

This will be France’s sixth World Cup semi-final; they were beaten in their first three in 1958, 1982 and 1986 just as they had played in the semi-final in 1998 and 2006.

But this time around, the Didier Deschamps tutored squad looks fired up to go for broke as they seek to emulate the class of France ’98 squad of which Deschamps was the World Cup winning captain.

On his part, Coach Roberto Martinez will seek to use the “Golden Generation’’ of Belgium talents under his tutelage to grab one of the final slot for the grand finale at the Luzhniki in Moscow.

Belgium’s only appearance in the semi-finals was in the 1986 World Cup where they lost 2-0 to eventual winners Argentina under the charismatic inspiration of Diego Maradona.

In terms of pedigree, France have what it takes to go all the way, while Belgium have the skills, both have beaten some of the best en route and, statistically, the Red Devils hold the upper hand.

England Vs Croatia

Head-to-head the two countries have played seven games with England recording four wins,  one draw and two losses.

For Coach Gareth Southgate and the Three Lions, the Croatia assignment is one they must tackle with all the skill at their disposal to realise their ambition of playing in the finals to bring the FIFA trophy home.

Harry Kane would have to be more clinical in front of goal in order to add to his tally of six goals and possibly emerge as the winner of the famed Golden Boot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

England emerged Champions in the 1966 edition of the World Cup which they hosted and have played in only one semi-final appearance in 14 tournaments.

Croatia in their first ever participation in World Cup got to the semi-finals and eventually came third in the France 1998 edition and also seem poised to make history in Russia.

Spain appoints Luis Enrique as new coach

                                                                    Luis Enrique

 

Spain’s football federation says former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has been appointed to take charge of the national team.

He replaces Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked on the eve of the World Cup after accepting the job at Real Madrid, with Fernando Hierro taking temporary charge for the finals in Russia.

Luis Enrique has signed a two-year contract.

“The decision has been unanimous,I like his commitment. He has let better financial opportunities pass in order to be national team coach.

“This coach fulfills all the parameters to take charge of the team. Luis Enrique is bringing his backroom staff, but this is a matter he will speak about next week.”federation president Luis Rubiales said

 

 

Linus Mba commends FIFA over VARS

 

Linus Mba, Adviser to FIFA on Referee Matters, said on Monday that the world football governing body deserved commendation for the introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VARS).

Mba said in Abuja that the VARS played key role in the high standard of match officiating at the ongoing World Cup in Russia.

He said that the era of conflicts and allegations of bias were over with the creation of the VARS.

“FIFA has sent a signal of hope and restoration of confidence to football enthusiasts with Video Assistant Referees.

 The time of fighting or assaulting referees is over because every conflict will be nipped in the bud,” Mba said.

According to him, in the past some referees used to be assaulted by unruly fans, but today it would be difficult to do it again.

Mba noted that the role of the VARS had averted such ugly occurrences after matches.

He said that the review of referees’ decisions had put to an end conflicts that could arise from alleged biased decisions.

VARS serve as third eyes in match officiating.

Pinnick to commission France, Belgium semi final tonight

                                                                                  Amaju Pinnick

 

Embattled President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, has been confirmed as the Match Commissioner for the 2018 FIFA World Cup first semi final match between France and Belgium in Saint Petersburg tonight. The match will begin at 7pm Nigeria time.

The potentially explosive clash at the 67,000-capacity Zenit Arena will be the fifth match Pinnick would commission at the finals in Russia.
He remains the only Nigerian involved at such high level of operation at the FIFA World Cup.

That match will bring together some of the best artists of the round leather game in the universe at the present, including France’s Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, and Belgium’s Romelo Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
Last Friday in Nizhny Novgorod, Pinnick was also the Match Commissioner of the quarter final clash between France and Uruguay which the Blues won.

The NFF boss and Member of the Organising Committee of FIFA Competitions took charge of the group phase matches between Iran and Portugal in Saransk on 25th June (1-1) and between Panama and Tunisia (1-2) also in Saransk on 28th June, as well as the Round of 16 encounter between Sweden and Switzerland in Saint Petersburg on 3rd July (1-0).
The newly appointed First Vice President of CAF will also commission the 2018 FIFA World Cup third place match in Saint Petersburg on Saturday.

The second semi final will take place at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow (venue of the Final match) on Wednesday, between England’s Three Lions and Luka Modric –led Croatia.
A total of 152 goals have been scored in the 60 matches played so far at this year’s World Cup, with four of the knockout round matches (Spain Vs Russia in the Round of 16); Croatia Vs Denmark in the Round of 16); Colombia Vs England in the Round of 16) and; Russia Vs Croatia in Saturday’s last quarter final match, settled only after penalty shootouts.

Hierro steps down as Spain coach

 

Spanish football federation yesterday announced the resignation of Fernando Hierro, who stood in as coach when Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the World Cup.

The former Real Madrid and Spain defender, who had little previous coaching experience lost on penalties to host nation Russia in the last 16 stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“After travelling many kilometres together, the Spanish Football Federation and Fernando Hierro have put an end to their relationship,” the federation said on Sunday.
Hierro declined to return to his previous job as the federation’s technical director and “will undertake new professional challenges”, the federation said.

Spain was tipped among the favourites until Lopetegui caused chaos by announcing he would become Real Madrid’s new coach after the World Cup. The federation, fearing a split between players from Barcelona and Real, sacked Lopetegui two days before Spain’s opening game against Portugal.

He described the sack as the saddest day of his life since the death of his mother.
Andres Iniesta, the former Barcelona great who scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final, retired from the international team after the defeat to Russia.

Kenneth Omeruo dismisses move from Chelsea

                                                                         Omeruo Keneth

 

Super Eagles World Cup defender Kenneth Omeruo has dismissed rumours he will quit Chelsea to join Belgian club KAA Gent.

 “At the moment, I have not decided where I will be playing next season as I still need to speak to Chelsea, so any news right now about an agreement with any club is not true

 My agents are in talks with several clubs in the event my future lies away from Stamford Bridge.” He said.

Omeruo, who has yet to make a Premier League debut with Chelsea in his six years on the books of the London club, has expressed his desire to settle his future on a more permanent basis following several loan spells.

His impressive performances in Russia only helped to increase interests from several clubs in Europe.

 “The truth is I am looking to settle down permanently after several loan moves, but no agreement has been reached with any club at the moment,” he added.

AFCON: Amuneke urges Rohr to use creative players

Emmanuel Amuneke

 

FifaTechnical Study Group member, Emmanuel Amuneke, has urged Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr to inject more creative midfielders in the team ahead of their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Seychelles.

The Eagles failed to make it out of the group stages of the World Cup for the third time in six appearances at the FIFA World Cup and Amuneke who is in the five-man FIFA Technical Study group revealed that the team missed out due to little details.

Nigeria lost 2-0 to Croatia in their opening game but bounced back to beat Iceland to boost their chances of qualifying for the next round, that was truncated by their 2-1 loss to Argentina.

“It was a good try. We were close, yet still far off.

We have seen some lapses and must correct them and inject fresh ideas to compete well against other teams that set up their team to nullify our threats

 There were lots of positives from the tournament on the part of the Super Eagles which they must build on just like the creative aspect and the attack.” Amuneke said.

France vs Belgium: Giroud targets goal against Courtois

 

Olivier Giroud has backed France to find a way past Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal in St Petersburg.

Chelsea striker Giroud, 31, has yet to score in Russia but wants to end that run against Chelsea teammate Courtois.

“Thibaut is difficult to beat and he has been very good at this World Cup,.

He has a strong defence in front of him, but I am sure we will be able to break through that wall.

I have scored a few goals against Thibaut in training at Chelsea, and I intend to do the same again on Tuesday. “he said.

Giroud praised Belgium skipper Eden Hazard, another Chelsea colleague, and France’s Kylian Mbappe as two of the best players he has worked with.

“Eden and Kylian are both geniuses,” he said.

Kylian is more serious  he makes calls from deeper, so is more attacking than Eden.

“That said, I have a special relationship with Eden at Chelsea  we need each other on the pitch. Eden is one of the three top players that I have played alongside during my career, but Kylian might be in that band too.

Giroud predicted a tight game against Belgium, saying he felt it would be a 50-50 match.

They have a great team, but we do too, We have a big rivalry with Belgium it is a derby, so this game will have an English feel to it. It is a special match.

They are third in the FIFA rankings and they possess a very good generation of players. It will be even harder than the last few matches.

Mbappe told TF1 that France were really proud of their achievements so far We know our own qualities. We need to get back to work to do the right things in the semifinal and allow ourselves to dream.” He added.

Meanwhile, defender Benjamin Pavard rejected the idea that France would be favourites.

“Belgium are gaining momentum  they have great players, but we are sure of our qualities, and we have an exceptional squad that is very together,.

It is going to be a very complicated match. However, we are scared of nobody. Our squad is exceptional.

We know that Belgium are a top team. We have played against (Lionel) Messi and (Luis) Suarez, though, so we are afraid of nobody we will work to keep them out too.

People keep talking us up as favourites, but there are still four top teams left. Give it time we will see after the Belgium match.” he said

French coach Didier Deschamps, also speaking to TF1, warned: “Belgium have great potential in attack, they possess a generation of great quality. The Belgians are at the best European clubs, and they deserve their semifinal berth.”

Kickboxing should be included in sports festival – Nigerian coach

A kickboxing coach, Adenuga Adeniji-Adele, has expressed optimism that the sport will feature in the 19th National Sports Festival (NSF) scheduled for December in Abuja.

Adeniji-Adele said that the Kickboxing Federation of Nigeria had requested for inclusion in NSF from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports.

“We started serious training when the date of the festival was confirmed by the ministry but we realised that kickboxing was not shortlisted for the festival.

“The federation has done the needful; we are optimistic the Minister, Solomon Dalung, will consider us and absorb kickboxing as part of events for the festival,’’ he said.

The coach said that athletes had been responding to schedules at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, in preparation for the festival.

Adeniji-Adele said that inclusion of the sport in the festival would improve its standards and enable discovery of more talents for international competitions.

According to him, kickboxing should be encouraged as it has gone a long way to meaningfully engage youths.

“The sport has gained awareness in and outside the country, and many athletes have embraced it.

“The NSF is a major competition through which they can showcase their talents,’’ he added.

The coach said that none participation of the athletes in the 2012 NSF tagged `EKO 2012’ slowed the pace of their development and that of the sport.

The National Sports Festival is aimed at discovering talents that can be groomed for international championships.

FIFA picks officials for next phase of Russia 2018

                                                Pierluigi Collina

FIFA’s Referees Committee on Wednesday selected 17 referees, 37 assistant referees and 10 Video Assistant Referees (VARs) for the final phase of its 2018 World Cup, holding in Russia.

Pierluigi Collina, the Committee’s head, told reporters in Moscow that this was because the number of referees at the 32-day competition has to be reduced at this point in time.

“The number of referees has been reduced in view of the number of matches left and the teams that have qualified for the next round.

“We have only eight matches left and only eight teams left also.

“These are in the quarter-finals (four matches), the semi-finals (two matches), third-place or losers’ final (one match) and final (one match).

“Only eight matches are involved in this number of matches also.

“So, there is, therefore, a need for a reduction in the number,’’ the former Italian referee said.

The 17 referees picked for the next phase include Alireza Faghani (Iran) and Nawaf Shukralla (Bahrain) from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Others are Malang Diedhiou (Senegal) and Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) from the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

From the Confederation of Central American and Caribbean Football (CONCACAF) are Mark Geiger (U.S.), Jair Marrufo (U.S.) and Cesar Arturo Ramos (Mexico).

Also retained for the competition are Andres Cunha (Uruguay), Nestor Pitana (Argentina) and Sandro Ricci (Brazil) from the Confederation of South American Football (CONMEBOL).

From the Oceanic Football Confederation (OFC) is Matthew Conger (New Zealand).

The rest are from the European Football Association (UEFA), namely Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey), Bjorn Kuipers (The Netherlands), Antonio Mateu (Spain), Milorad Mazic (Serbia), Gianluca Rocchi (Italy) and Damir Skomina (Slovenia).

Ten VARs were also picked to continue on in the competition.

The 36 referees and 63 assistant referees were selected in March for the competition, with 13 VARs.

They were picked from the 53 groups of three referees placed under FIFA’s radar for the competition since September 2014.

 

FIFA rebukes Maradona over ‘robbery’ comment

FIFA has strongly rebuked Argentina great Diego Maradona’s comments that England’s win over Colombia was a robbery and that referee Mark Geiger was not up to the task.

“Following comments made by Diego Armando Maradona…FIFA strongly rebukes the criticism of the performance of the match officials which it considers to have been positive in a tough and highly emotional match,” said the global soccer body in a statement.

FIFA said it was “doing everything within its power to ensure principles of fair play, integrity and respect are at the forefront of this World Cup and how the organisation is now run.”

In that context, FIFA said it was “extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game.”

England won the round of 16 match on penalties following 120 minutes marred by squabbling, protests to the referee, play-acting and feigning injury.

FIFA said it was “extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game.”

Maradona said England’s win was a “monumental robbery” and that Geiger “shouldn’t be given a match of this magnitude.”

He added: “Geiger, an American, what a coincidence.”

 

It’s not true – Real Madrid denies Mbappe mega bid

                                  Kylian Mbappe

European champions Real Madrid have denied reports of a world-record 272 million Euros (316 million dollars) deal with Paris Saint-Germain to sign forward Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe has been one of the standout performers for France at the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

He joined PSG in 2017, on an initial loan deal that will become permanent this summer in a transfer that will see him become the second most expensive player in history.

However, Madrid has been closely linked with the 19-year-old attacker.

It has been claimed in France that he is on his way to the Spanish capital this summer to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, who is reportedly set to join Juventus after his shock revelation that he wants to leave.

The Spanish club, however, insisted that no such deal was in place, describing the reports as false.

“Given the information published in the last few hours referring to an alleged agreement between Real Madrid and PSG for player Kylian Mbappe, Real Madrid says they are flatly false,” a statement on the club’s website read.

“Real Madrid has not made any offers to PSG or the player and regrets the dissemination of this type of information that is not contrasted with the parties.”

Madrid has been closely monitoring Mbappe since his days at Monaco and the principality club’s vice-president had said they made an offer worth 180 million Euros only to be knocked back as he opted to return to Boyhood Club PSG.

Mbappe scored 21 times in 44 games for the French club in his first season and had played a key role for the national team at the World Cup, having netted three times in four games.

The statement comes just a day after the Champions League holders made an announcement to clarify that talk of another world record deal with PSG had been struck.

This was after it was reported that they were set to sign Neymar this summer for 310 million Euros (360 million dollars).

Just like Mbappe, the Brazilian is continually being linked to the Santiago Bernabeu outfit since arriving at the Parc des Princes team.