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2010 W/Cup: Is It Time For African Glory?

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With Pele’s prediction that an African team would win the FIFA World Cup™ by the end of the last century having proved wide off the mark, Africans are desperate for the continent’ first finals to witness a meaningful achievement. Many see a semi-final place for one of the African contenders at South Africa 2010 as an absolute must, especially with the backing of a football-mad people that are sure to support their home side first and any other African nation second.

Considering that Cameroon at Italy 1990 and Senegal at Korea/Japan 2002 are the only African sides to reach the quarter-finals of the world’s showpiece football event and that no FIFA World Cup has ever had more than one African side in the knockout rounds, it seems a tall order. And while there is no doubt that the continent has continued to produce some of the world’s best players, the inconsistency of its national teams has left many scratching their heads.

However, typical of Africa, optimism somehow triumphs in the face of any odds, and many legendary figures, past and present, have gone on the record predicting success. For current players, the idea of lifting the spirits of the continent’s people to the level of ecstasy is the ultimate. “My team-mates and I want to make history and want to change the way the world sees African football. I hope that we’ll be the team that is going to go to the Final and win the competition,” said injury-worry Didier Drogba, who may miss the tournament with a broken arm, but who captains what many consider to be the most talent-laden side on the continent.

Ghana legend Abedi Pele has also been in bullish form, hinting that there is a good chance for ultimate glory in the Final on 11 July. He is, however, also careful to insist that, at such a difficult event, in which the draw was not particularly kind to the African hopefuls, performance may matter more ultimately than advancement.

 “It’s going to be a very tough tournament for the African teams,” Pele, who has two sons – Andre and Rahim Ayew – on the current Ghana team, admitted.”They have tough groups and it’s not going to be easy for them to get out. There is a theory that says this is the best time for an African team to win the tournament – maybe that is true. We will have to wait and see, but whatever happens, I think our teams will do us proud.”

Pele no doubt has in his mind the success of his home country at the end of last year in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, when they broke through to become the first African winner of the competition. Many of those impressive youngsters have worked their way into the Black Stars side and shown at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year in Angola.

Another team on the up are South Africa, who have not lost in 12 matches, and are hitting peak form at just the right time under veteran boss Carlos Alberto Parreira. And the hosts of the FIFA World Cup typically get a huge boost from their home crowd, which will surely be the case for Bafana Bafana. South African great Lucas Radebe sees potential for the hosts to reach the semi-finals, but he also stressed that how far the African teams advance is not the ultimate measure of success.

“This World Cup is not only about football, it’s about Africa reinventing itself,” said the former Leeds defender. “Of course we want success on the field, but at the same time, we would like to see this event a success off the field. We want the world to trust Africa, we want everyone to know that we are capable of organising these events. After July 12, everyone should be proud of being an African.”

For the first time, Africa has six teams at the finals, and two of the continent’s sleeping giants will be there desperate to make an impact. This will be Cameroon’s sixth FIFA World Cup, but the Samuel Eto’o-led side have failed to make a significant impact since 1990. Nigeria are playing in their fourth finals, but they have also disappointed since reaching the second round at both USA 1994 and France 1998. However, some shaky friendly results and an injury to central midfield lynchpin John Obi Mikel has hurt the Super Eagles, while the Lions of Cameroon have also been inconsistent in their warm-up matches.

Algeria are considered the biggest outsiders of the bunch, but the Desert Foxes proved themselves wily and cool customers in qualifying and at the last CAF Africa Cup of Nations, where they finished fourth. For all of the African teams, the difficulty of the groups are such that none can be considered favourites to advance, but the potential would seem to be there for almost all of them to find form and embark on a creditable run.

“We are in a different and better position than previous tournaments, and I think we are better prepared,” Kalusha Bwalya said recently. “We have the confidence and experience, and I believe our teams now believe they can achieve success at this level.”

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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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