Africa Cup of Nations organisers have blamed the Algeria team for farcical scenes at a training ground in Luanda on Friday when competition rivals Mali were refused access to training facilities.
Algeria turned up at the Escoqueirus Stadium in Luanda and gained immediate entry on Friday afternoon, but waiting reporters were astonished when, a quarter of an hour later, the Mali team bus rounded a corner and parked outside the stadium.
Mali players, including Real Madrid midfielder and national team captain Mahamadou Diarra and 2007 African Footballer of the Year Frederic Kanoute, were made to wait in the coach for over half an hour, before being told they could enter the ground.
But the situation took a bizarre turn when the stadium’s security officers refused to let them in as Algeria continued preparing for their final first-round match against Angola on Monday in blissful ignorance inside.
Utter confusion then reigned, as Diarra and some of his fellow team-mates attempted to gain access by clambering through an open window.
Over by the securely locked main gate Kanoute and Mali’s Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi attempted to talk their way in, but to no avail.
After over an hour, and as dusk fell, a furious Keshi led his charges back to the team bus to return to their hotel having missed a vital chance to prepare for their last group match against Malawi in Cabinda on Monday.
Keshi, who won the Africa Cup of Nations as a player in the 1990s, told Tidesports source. “I’m fed up. How could this happen, to get the boys in a bus and travel to a ground and be told you can’t train? I don’t know whose fault it is…”
Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita was also furious at the shambles, saying defiantly: “They can do what they like, but we’re still going to qualify (for the quarter-finals).”
Diarra was so annoyed he refused to make any comment as he joined his team-mates for the hour-long journey back to the hotel to get ready for the flight to Cabinda yesterday.
Later, the local Africa Cup of Nations organising committee (LOC) said that Algeria had been at fault, and not them.
LOC media officer Virgilio Santos explained: “This mix-up had nothing to do with us. What happened was this: Mali were supposed to travel to Cabinda Friday but delayed their trip until yesterday.
“Algeria were supposed to train at the stadium until 1700, but when they saw the Mali team turn up they decided to make life difficult for Mali and they didn’t leave the pitch until 1815, which made Mali angry.”
Mali, on one point in Group A after a draw with the hosts and a 1-0 loss to Algeria, face a game against Malawi that they must win if they are to have any hope of making it into the last eight.
They are making their sixth appearance in the competition, with their highest placing coming in 1972 when they finished runners-up.
This is not the first time a competing team at the 2010 Nations Cup has fallen foul of a training ground blunder.
Malawi coach Kinnah Phiri was left fuming when his side were unable to train for two days before Thursday’s game against hosts Angola, which they lost 2-0.
“Three times we went onto a pitch but we found that there were others there,” he said. “They were asked to leave but they refused. We have not trained for two days.”
He said he had written a letter of protest to the competition’s organisers.
Mikel Donates Cash, Wheelchairs To Para – Soccer Teams
Former Super Eagles captain, John Obi Mikel has made a two million cash donation and five wheelchairs to two para-soccer teams in Lagos.
Mikel, who recently finished a talent hunt with his Back2Base project, extended his goodwill to the para-soccer teams who were wowed by the gesture of the Chelsea legend. The arrival of Mikel and his team led by Fadekemi Ahmed, CEO and Founder of Avianna & Harvey Entertainments at Ojo Street in the Obalende area of Lagos State, was greeted with wild jubilation as the fans jostled to catch a glimpse of one of Africa’s most-accomplished football stars.
After enjoying the thrilling encounter between the Oyingbo para-soccer team and their Lagos Island counterparts, Mikel rewarded each of the teams with N1m cash donation while he also gave three wheelchairs to the winning team and two to the losing side.
“This is a token to appreciate the unique talents they have and their resilience to be the best at what they do despite being physically challenged,” Mikel said.”I thoroughly enjoyed the game between the two teams and I am happy I can reciprocate by making the players smile also with the donations made.”
The two teams expressed profound gratitude to Mikel even as they described him as a shining example that should be emulated by others.
Basketball: Mixed Reactions Over Reversal Of International Ban
Following the decision by the Federal Government to reverse the two-year international ban placed on basketball, stakeholders have hailed the development while expressing concern over the inability to address the main issues affecting the sports in the country.
In a statement released last week and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Ismaila Abubakar, the decision to reverse the ban was based on the appeal from concerned stakeholders, former Nigerian international basketball players and well-meaning Nigerians.
Abubakar stated that the decision was also based on the fruitful meeting between FIBA and Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare which he said produced common understanding in certain general areas with a commitment from the world basketball ruling body to explore and collaborate on enhancing relationships.
In addition, the apology letter from the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) board singed by Musa Kida to the President and Minister over the embarrassment with a pledge to set up a team to reconcile all contending parties in the basketball family within and outside the country necessitated the reversal.
Gbadegesin Olatona, who is the coordinator of the Youth Alive Basketball Community League, believed the decision by the government is necessary to save the future of the athletes.
“I am happy that the ban has been reversed especially considering the career of most of the players both within and outside Nigeria,” he said.” This is good for them to see the need for them to aim to represent Nigeria in international competitions.
“However, the issues that prompted the ban are yet to be addressed especially in terms of the structure of the sport.”
grow the sport at home and this is why there are still struggles in football.
“ But I believe we should have taken a cue from this and allowed the sport to go beyond any individual with proper structure in place for the sport to stand on its own,” he added.
Similarly, Abimbola Faniran, who is the founder of the Akofa Foundation , supported Olatona while calling for the abnormality in the NBBF Constitution to be addressed.
He offered: “I am happy with the reversal but it is yet Uhuru for the sport as the contending issues that caused the ban is still not yet addressed.
“Particularly the abnormality in the NBBF Constitution which stated that the President and Vice President can be chosen by a few people.
“So these issues must not be swept under the carpet while all stakeholders in the sport must be assembled to forger way forward for the sport,” Faniran noted.
Ex-Footballers’ Plot Against NFF Gets Boost
Ex-Nigeria internationals and Players’ Union which has been clamouring for change in the administration of football in the country appears close to realising its goal as the signs of victory look evident, even before the elective congress of the Nigeria Football Federation billed for September, 2022.
It is aware that to attain the desired change in the administration of football in the country, the constitution of the board of the Nigeria Football Federation has to change.
To change the way the board is at present constituted, former players and other stakeholders went to court to halt the elective congress of the NFF, insisting that the NFF statute must be amended to allow for more and equitable representation of all stakeholders.
They eventually secured an interlocutory injunction from a High Court in Bayelsa State which stopped any further step towards holding the congress until the case before it was decided.
The move by the concerned stakeholders which resulted in a court injunction was almost turning into an irony as it provided an alibi for the NFF board. “They(board members) wanted to hide under the injunction, delay the congress and ultimately delay the election which is expected to usher in a new board,” a source revealed, adding that the board members held a zoom meeting and perfected their plan to stay put till February 2023.
“They wanted to go to Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast in January next year. That is why they were indifferent to the court injunction that stopped the congress.”
Even more uncomfortable for the board was what one observer termed as “the insurgency” within the NFF structure which saw 28 state FA Chairmen, traditionally deemed to be lackeys to the board, revolt by passing a vote of no confidence in the NFF leadership.
“That was an additional headache to the NFF,” our source said under anonymity. More astonishing was the fact that the state FA chairmen signed the resolution by appending not only their signatures but had their passport pictures affixed to their names and signatures. This jolted the NFF leadership but they kept their plans under wraps as they had their plan to stay longer than their tenure.
The dissident FA Chairmen were having a field day as they insisted that a change was inevitable for Nigerian football to move forward.
Reading the mood of the NFF board members, the players’ association applied a master stroke when it petitioned the presidency, intimating the President of the discrete disposition of the NFF towards the September election.
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development reacted to the petition with a directive to the NFF to ensure that they don’t flout their own statutes and advised that the September election is held as scheduled.
“Their plan to hang on was bursted by President Buhari’s directive that they hold elections,” our source said, adding that “the court order under which they were hiding under will be vacated soon. I wonder where they will run to now.”
Apart from ensuring that the election is held, the President also directed that the NFF Statutes must be amended to accommodate other real football stakeholders who was either under represented or were not represented at all on the board.
We gathered that with President Buhari’s directive, the NFF has now been thrown off balance while the stakeholders will now have a say in football matters and be part of what happens next.
“For instance, they have reached an agreement that certain conditions must be respected before the elective congress. In legal terms it is called consent judgment,” our source said, even as he would not reveal the conditions although we gathered that it is about constitution of the board.
Given the new twist in the election saga, a member of the ex-footballers union, Harrison Jallah has confirmed that the process to vacate the court injunction was underway.
He said, “We are working on getting that order suspended or discontinued with completely, pending when the congress is held and the amendments we asked for are done. When we achieve that, then we can proceed to the elections. That is the position for now.”
Jallah continued, “There is a compromise now that we go and get the case out of the court which we are preparing to do now. We are looking at the whole of next week and I believe by the end of next week we will be through with that procedure.”
He further informed us what their petition to the presidency contained. “We informed that under the present statutes every member has equal status in the assembly but a particular member twerked the statute to suit his interest. For instance, there are 44 members in the congress and when you have 37 FA Chairmen, in every election they will have a majority. As I speak to you, they are 11 on the board out of 15 members. The other 4 are taken by the clubs that represent the leagues.”
Government’s subtle moves, we gathered were deliberate in order not to be seen as interfering in the internal affairs of the football governing. This, Jallah concurred. “All the government has done is simply telling football stakeholders, ‘no, we don’t want this under representation in the assembly to continue and the football family to go and resolve your differences. But in all you do, the September date for the election remains sacrosanct.”
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