Manager Fabio Capello says England have been cursed by bad luck after captain Rio Ferdinand’s injury-enforced departure from their World Cup squad.
Ferdinand was ruled out of the whole tournament after damaging knee ligaments in England’s first training session in South Africa.
“It couldn’t have been much worse on my first day,” said Capello.
“It was an accidental injury in training, but nothing to do with the pitch. It’s the curse of the captain.”
Ferdinand, who endured an injury-hit campaign with Manchester United, was appointed England captain in February after Capello stripped John Terry of the honour in the wake of revelations about the Chelsea defender’s private life.
But the 31-year-old did not take to the field with the captain’s armband on until England’s two pre-World Cup friendlies against Mexico and Japan, and must now watch Steven Gerrard lead the side into the sport’s biggest tournament.
For Capello, the disruption of losing his captain and key defender just a week before England’s first game of the tournament was a hammer blow.
“All the players who are here with me are important. But he is one of the starting players, the captain, a leader,” said Capello.
But the Italian said England would have to quickly move on from the setback, with much of the attention now focusing on who will be picked to partner Terry at the heart of England’s back four.
“You have to take into account this might happen: sometimes it happens during a game, sometimes in training, sometimes before you get to a final,” he said.
“You have to deal with it.”
Ledley King and Matthew Upson, two of the candidates for the vacancy, both missed team training yesterday.
King was training with England medical staff in the gym as part of the programme to manage his chronic knee condition, while Upson was suffering with a high temperature.
Ferdinand sustained the injury in the closing minutes of England’s training session after an innocuous challenge from striker Emile Heskey.
“It was a tackle and then there was big pain,” explained Capello.
“He put his feet in the grass with Heskey and then he moved. The other players were upset. They stopped training.”
Capello has made experienced midfielder Frank Lampard his new vice-captain following Ferdinand’s injury, and the Chelsea star said he feared for Ferdinand after seeing the incident at close quarters.
“He’s very down,” said Lampard, who raised the prospect of Ferdinand staying with the England squad rather than returning to the UK.
“It’s a huge competition, the biggest competition. It made me feel a bit sick in the stomach so I can’t imagine how he feels.”
Lampard, 31, added: “Rio is a top professional, a top lad and a top player and you feel for someone like that because he has put in a lot of hard work. He deserves to be at the biggest competition of our career and I feel for him personally.
“I’m very close to Rio, we’ve been through our careers together, and that’s why it’s upsetting to see that happen to a close mate.”
Ferdinand’s representative Pini Zahavi said that the defender was devastated by his premature exit from the tournament.
“Rio said: ‘I think somebody cursed me.’ That is honestly how he feels,” Zahavi.
“Rio is very down. He cannot understand why this has happened to him.
“This injury is nothing to do with the ones he had before. It is completely different and it is very bad luck.
“Rio was feeling sharp and was ready for the World Cup. He has waited so long for this tournament and to try to help England win it. He had prepared himself so well.
“But he is a very strong man and he will be back. I’m sure he will be leading England in four years’ time at the next World Cup.”
Ferdinand’s replacement in the squad is uncapped Tottenham defender Michael Dawson, who arrived in South Africa yesterday.
“It’s a crazy game and things can change in a split second,” he said.
“One minute I’m trying to arrange my holiday, then I get a call asking if I was on holiday because Rio had pulled out of training.
“I said ‘no’ and then I was just waiting by the phone before getting a call saying I would be picked up in an hour. It’s been a crazy day.”
Ferdinand’s injury grabbed the headlines which may well have otherwise focused on midfielder Gareth Barry’s return to training after an ankle injury.
Barry missed England’s training camp in Austria as he continued his rehabilitation from the injury he sustained towards the end of the Premier League season playing for Manchester City.
But despite the boost of seeing Barry return to light training on Friday, Capello said he would be cautious in terms of when the 29-year-old would be back in contention to play.
“About Barry, we are happy because he’s improving every day and getting better and better with every moment,” said Capello.
“I spoke with him on Wednesday and he says he’s really happy. There’s no swelling and his confidence is rising. He is getting stronger.
“He will work harder every day and we will see what happens.
“But we will also go slowly. This is the worst period. If you go too fast, it’s really dangerous.
“I’d prefer he didn’t play against the United States [England’s first game of the World Cup on 12 June] and is fit for the other games. We have to be careful at every moment.”
Goalkeeper David James returned to training yesterday after sitting out the initial session with a minor knee complaint.
Qatar 2022: Stakeholders, Fans Tip African Teams For Glory
Reactions have started to trail the performances of African teams at the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, which started on Sunday.
The african continent has five representatives in the World biggest Football tournament, with the African Champions being Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana and Cameroon.
So far, no African country has gone beyond the quarter final stage in the tournament but only Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana had secured the quarter final ticket but crashed out at that stage.
In recent times, many countries have improved in football as no country can be described as total underdogs.
Consequently, some upsets have already been recorded at the ongoing World Cup, where you see Saudi Arabia beat number one Football nation Argentina, while Japan beat another Football giants Germany.
In the continent, football enthusiasts have tipped any of the African teams to go beyond quarter finals and probably win the World Cup.
Former Super Eagles Captain, Sunday Oliseh, has earlier expressed confidence in Senegal and Ghana, saying that they will make Africa proud in the tournament.
According to him, their commitment, pattern of play and the quality of players have convinced him that they will go far.
“ I have confidence in Senegal and Ghana, they are committed and play good football, so I tip them to go beyond quarter finals and perhaps win the trophy,” Oliseh said.
Former African Footballer of the Year, Samuel E’to, has also said that his country Cameroon, will lift the World Cup.
According to him, his country has the potentials to win the tournament following the quality of players in their team.
“ We are going to this World Cup with the intention to win the trophy, because we have good players and determined to win all our games”, E’to said.
Former defunct Sharks FC player, Ibe Orlu, said despite the fact Senegal lost 2-0 in their opening game against Netherlands he is still optimistic that they will surprise the World.
“I believe that African teams at the ongoing World cup will perform better than they did in the previous editions. For me, Senegal and Morocco will be exceptional in their second games,” he said.
In his reaction, Manager of a popular viewing Centre, at Hospital Road, Old Port Harcourt township, Ibiba Harry, said looking at North African teams’ performance in Qatar 2022, he believed that they will give good account of themselves in the competition.
“ The North African teams will surprise people in this World cup.
“I watched Senegal and Morocco teams and saw them going beyond quater finals of the competition,” Harry said.
A strong football fanatic, Prince Emmanuel, also said that African teams will dominate as the tournament progresses.
He said in spite of the fact that the Super Eagles did not qualify for the World Cup, he has so much confidence in the five countries that are representing the continent.
“Even though my country (Nigeria) did not qualify for the competition, I will support the other Africa teams in the tournament,” Emmanuel said.
Head coach Shining Stars Football Club in Oyigbo Local Government Area, Rivers State, Gift John, said he did not expect any good performance from the african teams.
“I do not really see any African team putting up an impressive performance at the World Cup.
“We can see that most African players are representing various countries in Europe instead of their countries in Africa, take the likes of Bakayoko Saka, Tammy Abraham and many others. These players are expected to make impact in their countries, so I do not really see any African team going beyond the knock out stage “, John said.
A sports enthusiast, Ekene Nwachukwu, disagreed with Gift John. He said, African teams will do well in the 2022 edition of World Cup, holding in Qatar.
He noted that from the recent friendly matches played between African teams and European teams, it is apparent that they will perform impressively in the tournament.
“I believe that the African teams will reach the finals or even become the World Champions, because they have quality players that will win the world Cup,”Nwachukwu said.
By: Tonye Orabere with reports from Kiadum Edooko & Ogolo Alali
Kanu, Amokachi Preach Grassroots Sports Dev
Refrigeration and Air-condition Dealers Association (RADA), at the weekend, defeated Adams International Market 6-5 on penalty shoot out to win the maiden Ndigboamaka All Markets Football Championship held at the Legacy Pitch, National Stadium, Lagos.
The championship, which was organised to unify traders in Lagos State and also unearth talents from the grassroots, ended 1-1 in regular time and had to be settled via a penalty shoot.
Speaking at the end of the final game, grand patron and sponsor of the championship, Obiora Okonkwo, commended the players and coaches for making the event a success.
Okonkwo said that the now yearly Igboamaka Championship will, from 2023, be organised as a football league to lift its standard.
“The 2022 Igboamaka Championship was successful and we give thanks to God for a successful tourney.
“In the game of football, everybody is a winner. The final of the championship was so competitive that the ex Super Eagles stars, who graced the occasion, Kanu Nwankwo and Daniel Amokachi have discovered talents that they would help to expose their skills in their football career. “
“We thank the Lagos State government for their support and assure that the Igboamaka Football Championship will continue to progress. More teams will participate in the championship next year,” he said.
UNICEF Advocates Sport Opportunities For Kids
Nigeria, at the weekend, joined the rest of the world to celebrate Children’s Day with the United Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), urging governments, at all levels, and parents to create an enabling environment for children to participate in sports and other activities.
Speaking after a five-a-side football championship held at AstroTurf 2000, Ikoyi, Lagos, to mark the day, Nigeria’s UNICEF representative, Christian Monduate, said the theme of this year’s World Children’s Day, which is inclusiveness of children in every activity, was projected to enlighten people that the country’s children should be given equal opportunities with their counterparts round the world to aspire for quality education and engage in sports to become better citizens in the future.
“UNICEF is celebrating World Children’s Day with the vision of giving hope to every Nigerian child.
“Our goal is to ensure every child is given equal opportunity to get to any level they can attain. Making children express themselves by taking part in this football activity is another platform to educate government at all levels and parents to allow children play and hone their skills.
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