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Odemiwingie Makes 1st Round Xi

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Almost all of the expected names made it-just-into the knockout stages of this year’s African Nations Cup. The same can barely be said of the stars who were expected to light up the stage.

Instead, it is some unexpected faces who stormed to the forefront to make their mark, before heading home  Osaze Odemwingie is the only Super Eagles to receive a mention in the first round. First round best players include:

GK: Ovono Ebang (Gabon)

Gabon stunned many at this tournament. Not expected to do much but make up the numbers, they caused the first big shock of the competition by handing Cameroun a 1-0 defeat in their opening game, and then went on to draw 0-0 with Tunisia. Ovono was the foundation on which they built those solid performances.

RB: Samuel Inkoom (Ghana)

Ghana’s rookie right back only got the chance for a starting place because of a last minute injury to John Paintsil. How the Fulham man will rue that injury, as his place in the first team is now under serious threat. Inkoom defends with a maturity that belies his 20 years, and can also be counted upon to deliver inch-perfect offensive crosses.

LB: Siaka Tiene (CIV)

In an Ivorien team so far struggling to live up to their reputation, Siaka Tiene stands out as one of the best left backs in the tournament. Mali’s Adama Tamboura also comes to mind here.

CB: Danny Shittu (Nigeria)

Nigeria’s defence looked all over the place in the opening day defeat to Egypt. But the introduction of Shittu brought stability, and two clean sheets.

CB: Wael Goma (Egypt)

Only one goal allowed in three games is not a stat to sneeze at, and Goma has been key to Egypt’s near perfect defensive record.

CM: Josephy Kamwendo (Malawi)

The 23-year-old Orlando Pirates midfielder raised a few eye-brows in Malawi’s win over Algeria with his dominating performance, he didnt slow down in the next two games either. Shame has forwards couldnt quite keep up.

CM: Rainford Kalaba (Zambia)

Strength, speed, skill and strength. Kalaba will be a big miss for Zambia against Nigeria.

LM: Osaze Odemwingie (Nigeria)

Is it just coincidence that Nigeria’s fortunes changed when he returned to the side? He was actually deployed at right midfield but is equally adept on the other flank, as he showed in scorching a daisy-cutter home from there against Mozambique.

RM: Jonathan Pitroipa (Burkina Faso)

He is the reason I moved Odemwingie to the left. Moumouni Dagano was the name on everyone’s lips when Burkina Faso came into the tourney, but Pitroipa is the one who showed skill, strength, endless running and an ability to almost carry the team on his own.

FW: Mohammed Zidan (Egypt)

Very technical player who made things happen for Egypt with his touch, awareness and ability to make the right choices in front of goal.

FW: Flavio (Angola)

The former Al Ahly man’s three goals show just how much of an effect he has on the team. Mark him all you will, he will still find a way to score.

Coach: Hassan Shehata (Egypt)

Mastermind of the only perfect record in the first round. It could have been even better if Chinedu Obasi had not struck that wonderful goal to soil Essam El Hadary’s copy book.

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2021/2022 NPFL Season  Starts, Dec 17

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The 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season  is expected to  kick off on December 17th across 10 centres.
Defending champions, Akwa United, will start their title defence  at home in a Match Day 1 fixture against Kano Pillar at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo
Elsewhere,  Gombe United hosts Shooting Stars Sports Club to the Pantami stadium in Gombe in both teams’ first game of their returned season to the top flight.
The Pride of Benue, Lobi Stars, will host Rivers United at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi with the club’s Manager, Eddy Dombraye, leading his side against his state for the first time in many years.
The first oriental derby match of the new season is among the opening fixtures with Enyimba FC playing host to their arch-rivals Abia Warriors in Aba, while Enugu Rangers travel to Katsina to face the Changi boys, Katsina United.
Niger Tornadoes will welcome Plateau United at their temporary home ground in Kaduna while there will be a reunion, sort of in Akure when Sunshine Stars face their former manager, Kabiru Dogo and Fuad Ekelojuoti who are now with Wikki Tourists at the Ondo Sports Complex, Akure.
Another matchday one fixture will see Kwara United host Dakkada in Ilorin. Kwara United almost won the league title last season, before Akwa United secured the title with seven points gap, while the Olukoya boys, MFM FC, will host regional rivals, Remo Stars, at the Agege Stadium.
The Solid Miners, Nasarawa United will travel to Owerri to face Heartland in another opening day tie.

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Delta Principals Cup: Sponsor Splashes Goodies On Finalists

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The sponsor of the on-going Delta State Principals’ Cup football competition, Zenith Bank, has promised that loads of goodies will be given to the finalists of the annual event.
The competition,  now in its 5th edition, is a developmental football competition organised for all secondary schools in the state.
Zenith Bank’s Group Managing Director, Ebenezer Onyeagwu,  said that the last four teams will be rewarded with various ranges of gift items as part of the final day activities.
“We are very committed to developmental pro-grammes in various ways. For sports, we believe in our catch them young initiatives, of which the Delta Principals’ Cup is one of them.
“I congratulate all the finalists for the 2021 event and wish to show that they are all winners, all of them will go home with attractive gift items on final day next week,” Onyeagwu said.
Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, will host the final match between Osadenis Mixed Secondary School and  School of Com-merce  on November 30.
Alaka Grammar School, Ozoro and Ovwor Mixed Secondary School will clash in the Third Place match billed to be the curtain raiser before the final match involving the defending champions, School of Commerce and Osadenis Mixed School.

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US-Based Okorie Plans Maiden South-East Sports Festival

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United States-based Nigerian former athlete, Victor Okorie, is planning to stage a maiden Southeast Sports Festival in 2022 to prepare athletes in the region for the national sports festival billed to hold in Asaba, Delta State.
Okorie, who is the Performance Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), said he would meet with governors and some stakeholders in the region soon, as part of his arrangements for the event.
Before his emergence as the Southeast zonal representative on the AFN board during the elective congress held in Abuja on June 14, Okorie had sponsored a competition for track and field athletes through his pet project, the South East Sports Foundation.
The competition, which held in Enugu, saw athletes from Abia, Anambra, Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi compete for prizes in sprint events, throw and jump.
The foundation also plans to organise competitions for the physically challenged athletes in the zone in line with Okorie’s view of taking physically challenged athletes in Southeast away from the streets, as well as integrate athletes in volleyball, handball, wrestling, and other sports on the same level with their foreign-based counterparts.
Speaking with newsmen, from his base in Tennessee, USA, Wednesday, Okorie, who won a silver medal for Nigeria at COJA 2003 All Africa Games in Abuja, said that the maiden Southeast Sports Festival would give the states chance to raise formidable squad for Asaba 2022.
“Sports are one major avenue governors in the southeast states can use to empower youths in the region,” Okorie said.
“I will meet with them and other stakeholders soon, on how we will stage a successful Southeast Sports Festival, which will serve as selection ground ahead of Asaba 2022 National Sports Festival. There is the need to re-awake sports campaign in the Southeast zone. Maybe, the next host of the national sSports festival will come from the Southeast after Asaba 2022,” he added.

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