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Tough Times Ahead For Black Leopards

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Black Leopards will again be faced with a truncated off-season break for the second year running due to continental commitments with a CAF Confederations Cup last 16 at the end of June away in Sudan.

Leopards will face off with Sudanese club Al Merreikh five weeks from now over the last weekend of June before playing the return leg at home in Limpopo on July 13-15, and by then the domestic league will still be a month away from re-opening.

After having just stopped training after the last League match on Saturday, Lidoda Duvha players will report back for pre-season on June 18 and then put up with the long flight to Sudan a week later as they seek to continue with their miraculous run in Africa.

Though Leopards players have been allowed to go on a deserved break after securing their PSL status for another season, they will have a tight training programme to follow.

Sunday Chidzambwa, who was the architect of the team’s return to the PSL, will oversee the team’s pre-season training after being given a vote of confidence to continue as head coach in the new season.

Last season Leopards also had a short off-season break after having to play in the Nedbank Cup Final and having to cope with an extended season in the Promotion/Relegation Play-Offs that dragged until June 18, forcing to have just a two-week break.

The shortened preparation time then threw Leopards in a situation where they were merely battling to stay up all season after winning just twice in their opening 15 games of the season.

Leopards will this year be faced with a twisted situation of where after playing against the Sudanese, they will have to wait almost a month before the local season starts.

However, if they succeed in overcoming El Merreikh they will then have two Group A games to play in the group matches every two months from August to October.

Chidzambwa has conceded that such a short break for the second year running presents challenges for them, but that they have to keep on pushing.

“We have given all players a programme to follow while they are away,” says the Zimbabwean coach.

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Aiteo Cup: Diri Hails Bayelsa Finalists

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Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has lauded the feat of the state-owned football teams who reached the finals in the male and female categories of the 2021 Aiteo Cup.
Diri, while congratulating Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens for their outstanding performances, praised their indomitable spirit and resilience in surmounting the odds to qualify for the last stage of Nigeria’s oldest football competition.
Bayelsa United, who plays in the second tier Nigerian National League, on Friday defeated Premier League neighbours Rivers United 1-0 in the semi-finals, while Bayelsa Queens crushed perennial rivals Rivers Angels 5-0 to reach the women’s final.
The Governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, on Saturday, described Bayelsa United as “giant killers” for defeating Premier League sides Enugu Rangers, Lobi Stars and Rivers United on their way to the final.
“The excellent run of Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens in this year’s Aiteo Cup is very heartwarming. Both teams reaching the finals is no mean feat. I congratulate them for making the state proud and setting a record of teams from the state playing in the finals of the male and female categories of the same competition for the first time,” Diri stated.
“By their outstanding performance, Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens have shown that the sporting revolution of our Prosperity Administration, which resulted in Bayelsa placing third in the last National Sports Festival in Edo State for the first time, is on course. I therefore urge them to complete their excellent run in the competition by bringing home the trophies.

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D’Tigress To Play Mozambique In Afrobasket

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Nigeria’s senior basketball team, D’Tigress, have been drawn to face Mozambique and a yet to qualify team in Group B of the 2021 Women’s Afrobasket, which holds from September 17 to 27 in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The draw was held in Yaounde last Saturday.
D’Tigress will be hoping to retain the title they won two years ago in Senegal, where they defeated the hosts in the final. A win in Cameroon will mean they have won the last three editions of the tournament.
The Nigerians will know their final group opponent when the FIBA Zone 6 qualifiers take place from August 16 to 22.
In Group A, hosts Cameroon will face Cape Verde and Kenya, while Senegal, the most successful team in the competition’s history with 11 first-place finishes, will slug it out with Egypt and Gabon in Group C.
Mali, Ivory Coast, and a team to be decided via wild card will fight for a slot in the next round in Group D.

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Ebonyi Football Fans Celebrate Nwankwo Kanu At 45

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Football fans in Ebonyi State yesterday, celebrated the birthday of formerNigerian international and Arsenal legend, Nwankwo Kanu.
The former Super Eagles skipper turned 45 yesterday.
Tidespoets source gathered  that the 1993 FIFA U-17 world cup winner, fondly called “Papillo’’ by his fans had 86 caps for Nigeria.
The former Iwuanyanwu Nationale Football Club of Owerri’s talisman scored 13 goals for Nigeria in an enviable career that spanned from 1994 to 2010.
Kanu is a recipient of the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), an Olympic Games football gold medalist and had illustrious club careers with Ajax Amsterdam of Holland, Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion of England.
Defunct Ebonyi Angels FC of Abakaliki Defender, James Onele, said that Kanu thrilled soccer fans across the world with sublime skills and trademark passes.
“Kanu won two African Footballer of the Year awards, an AFCON silver medal, four AFCON bronze medals among other honours.
“He was the first Nigerian, alongside Finidi George to win the prestigious UEFA champions league trophy with Ajax in 1995,” said Onele.
An Arsenal FC supporter, Ejike Okoro, said the club’s fans were proud of Kanu’s achievements during his time with the English Premier League side.
“Kanu played 197 times for Arsenal, scoring 44 goals and was part of the club’s invincible team that did not lose any match in the 2003-04 EPL season.
“He was instrumental in endearing Arsenal to millions of Nigerian soccer fans, despite later dropping to lowly-rated clubs such as Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion,” Okoro said.
A banker and football enthusiast, Chief Barry Ogoh, told active footballers to emulate Papillo in investing adequately for the ‘rainy day’.
“Kanu, Augustine J.J. Okocha, among other ex-internationals are still financially stable as many ex-internationals have become bankrupt.

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