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Lobi Player Turned Back From Eagles Camp

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Lobi Stars player Bassey Ezekiel has been turned back from the Super Eagles camp after reporting two days late.

Ezekiel was among 22 domestic league players called up by Stephen Keshi for the first phase of training camp, but the player failed to meet the camp reporting deadline.

After confirming from Lobi Stars that Ezekiel, a first time invitee, had been released in good time, national team officials wielded the big stick.

“We are trying to build a very disciplined squad for the Nations Cup and we are a bit surprised that a home based player who is making a first appearance will decide to report late when even his mates who have stayed over a year with us still respect arrival dates.

“We can’t condone that and we hope when next he gets an opportunity he will know that time is of the essence,” Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said.

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Special Edition

Sports: So Far, So Much Expectation

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To whom much is given, much is expected according to an old and enduring maxim that aptly situates the place of sports in Rivers state. Since creation, Rivers has played frontline roles in sports and its development in the country, contributing infrastructure, economic resources and talents to the storied successes achieved at various levels of national and international sports arenas by Nigeria.
Indeed, successive administrations in the state have strove to leave indelible footprints in the sands of time. Whether it is in the area of sports infrastructural development, promotion, local, national and international competition hosting, talent discovery and weaning, the state’s scorecard is impressive. Currently, the state boasts a handful of sports outfits like the Rivers United Football Club, Rivers Angels Football Club, Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club, Real Madrid Football Academy, Port Harcourt and a host of sports associations under the state Sports Council, among others that it sponsors.
Through these outfits, the government has succeeded in, not only engaging young persons and empowering them, but providing a platform for them to explore and express their talents. That is why at this time that the administration of Sir Siminalayi Fubara is clocking 365 days in office, not a few Rivers youth, men and women are looking up to the government with great expectations, especially, in the sports sector. This is perhaps so because sports is a veritable tool to providing the opportunity to easily steer the youth toward the path of positive living and productivity.
Interestingly, Governor Fubara’s administration, with barely one year in office, has shown that it possesses the tact, commitment and will to make sports promotion and development one of its focal points in the state. Early indications are that Fubara’s aura bodes well for the sports sector. Within the period under review, the state has recorded some successes that if built on, could lead to huge and immeasurable glory.
It is on record that that through the government’s motivation, Rivers United’s youth team was able to emerge winners at the Nigeria Professional Football League’s maiden U-17 NPFL Youth League in the country, while the Rivers State female Handball team won the national female Handball League in Nigeria.
It is self evident that since the inception of this present administration on the 29th of May, 2023, sporting activities and promotion at both State, national and grassroots levels have significantly improved and took set to return the state to its pride of place again, as  State athletes are now promptly attending most of the national tournaments and competitions which has equally brought laurels pride to the state.
The State’s Basketball team Rivers Hoopers also won the National Basketball League which qualified them to represent Nigeria at the Sahara Conference Basketball Africa League ( BAL), in Dakar, Senegal. Hoopers further qualified for play offs  in Kigali,  Rwanda, becoming the first Nigeria basketball team to achieve that feat.
The Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club also conquered all to qualify for the final round of the Basketball Africa League, BAL, currently going on in Kigali, Rwanda, where the KingsMen have qualified to compete in the semi final of the League. Rivers Angels only at the weekend finished runners up in the first edition of Nigeria Women Premier League, NWPL Super Six playoff, losing the title narrowly to Edo Queens after a close and exciting competition.
Apart from football and basketball, the state’s sports associations have become active on the national scene, attending and hosting competitions. The State attended the national 5 A-side Hockey Championship at Ibadan, where the Men and women won gold and bronze medals respectively.
Apart from that, the State’s athletes won gold medals at the South South and South East Beach Volleyball Championship held in Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State.
Again, Rivers State athletes shone at the recent Felicia & Akanbi Memorial National Table Tennis Championship, where she won gold in men’s singles and double, with gold also in the women’s double and bronze medals in singles.
The State further hosted the Strata Base National Karate Championship, at the Alfred Diete Spiff Sports Complex , Moscow Road, in Port Harcourt, which was attended by over 26 States and 38 Karate Clubs in Nigeria. As hosts, the state proved her mettle on the mat and through unparalleled hospitality gestures
A couple of weeks ago, the state also played host to the third edition of Naphtali Open Chess Tournament.  This high profile tournament saw  Rivers born  Koko Obubele winning the best player in male category, while another Rivers indigene, Queen Dan-Jumbo, emerged the best player in the female category.
In spite of the successes recorded in the short life of the administration so far, most Rivers people believe that the Governor possesses the midas touch to take the state to the highest point it can be, considering his vision, style of leadership and the human capital available to all the strata of government in the state.
For former youth international and sports journalist, Prince Worlu, the Fubara administration has done very well since coming to power, but there is still huge expectation from the government. “The government needs to really look into the set up and management of most of the sports outfits in the state with a view to enhancing best practices that will engender efficiency and good results. Also, the Real Madrid Academy should not be allowed be rundown as it is expected to be producing players for the nation’s U-17 teams,” he said. “In addition, there is need to look into playgrounds and football fields in the state, which has be en adversely affected by development programmes of past administrations, this I think will rekindle the sports boom at the grassroots, which used to be the hallmark of communities and townships in the state”. He called for a deliberate policy to give locals and Rivers indigenes who have what it takes to be part of any of the government owned teams rather than focusing on getting players from abroad, who clearly have no edge over local ones. “if we must engage foreigners, it must be those with exceptional qualities that can justify what is expended on them”.
Another respondent, the Head coach of Erema FC, Port Harcourt, Prince Abidi agreed that the government has done well in sports development but should take a holistic approach to ensure that other sports are given due attention, also. “The over concentration on football is affecting other sports. I am confident that if other sports are treated the way football gets attention, we’ll have more to celebrate”.
Also speaking, a grassroots football coach, Joseph Ebu, popularly called Coach Zeco urged the Governor and his lieutenants to work towards bringing back the glory days when the state was known for, not only football, but swimming, weightlifting, wrestling, boxing and tennis. He said that more youths at the grassroots would be carried along if diverse sports were made to be attractive.
For the Secretary of the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria, YSFON, Rivers state chapter, Whyte Bencyger, youth games is the way to go for the state to fully retake its pride of place in Nigeria and beyond.
“ The foundation of any sporting success is the grassroots, unfortunately, today one hardly sees grassroots activities in Rivers State.  I think it is high time government develops a deliberate policy for youths sports, especially, competitions like the Schools Sports, so that the grassroots would once again be the bedrock of sports development and talent production”.
Anthony Bargbe, a sports enthusiast, on his part noted that the Governor may not have been a household name in sports circles but he has shown that he understands the importance and place of sports in the polity, especially, using it as tool for socio-economic leverages.
He however, called on the private sector to partner Fubara’s administration to ensure that the state’s potential in sports is maximized, as according to him, “government cannot do it alone, all hands must be on deck”.
It is worthy, however to note the administration has already taken steps towards making the state a sports hub by placing sports promotion and development on the front burner with the conviction that it would make the state a tourists and investors’ destination of choice. The Governor through his Commissioner for Sports, Barrister Christopher Green has set the ball in motion by already concluding preparations for the First Rivers State International Marathon race scheduled to hold on Sunday, June 2, 2024. The race is set to be an annual event in the state’s calendar.
Also, arrangement is in top gear for the state to host All Secondary Schools Sports in August with the Public Service Games coming on its heels.

Gabriel Nwanetanya With Reports From Tonye Orabere & Kiadum Edookor

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Sports

Rivers International Marathon To Celebrate Fubara’s One Year

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Former Nigeria international goalkeeper, Peterside Idah says next month’s Rivers International Marathon will be used to celebrate the one year anniversary of His Excellency,  Siminalayi Fubara as the Executive Governor of Rivers State.           Idah, who is the race’s head of media and communications said the event could not have been better timed and organizers have keyed it into the one year celebration of Governor  Fubara’s tenure.       “We want to use this race to celebrate the one year anniversary of our Governor, Fubara who is the main reason Rivers State has been officially termed as the sports hub of the nation by John Enoh, the Minister of Sports Development,” Ida said. Continuing, Idah revealed that the Rivers International Marathon has received massive backing from Governor Fubara as well as corporate Nigeria.        “Governor Fubara is the biggest supporter of the race and we are determined to organise a race befitting the status of Rivers state as the new destination of sort for sports in Nigeria,” Idah stated, adding two financial institutions have thrown their weight behind the race.    “Globus and Zenith bank are backing us as partners and this shows that corporate Nigeria is appreciating the giant strides we have taken in terms of sports development and the many benefits that come with organizing a road race.

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Sports

BAL : Rivers Hoopers Arrive Rwanda, Attend Playoff

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Nigeria’s representatives at the 2024 Basketball Africa League (BAL), Rivers Hoopers on Sunday landed in Kigali, Rwanda ahead of the competition which dunks off on May 24th .
The Tidesports source hinted: “The KingsMen have arrived in Kigali, Rwanda for the Playoffs. Dakar was good, Kigali be great.”
The KingsMen will face AS Douanes of Senegal in one of the four seeding games in the playoffs in Kigali on May 24th.
The two teams played against each other twice in the Sahara Conference that ended last week in Dakar, Senegal with each winning one game apiece.
The winner between Hoopers and AS Douanes (Game 40) will play against the winner between Petro de Luanda (Angola) and US Monastir of Tunisia (Game 39) in the semi-final, while the loser of the tie will square up against the loser of Game 39 in the quarter final.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s hip-hop star, Adekunle Kosoko aka Adekunle Gold and AG Baby, are among the list of top celebrities who will perform at the 2024 African Basketball League playoffs in Kigali.
The finals usually attract top celebrities from both the sports and music community And this time around, BAL 4 playoffs will feature performances by local and international acts, including the likes of Nigeria’s Adekunle Gold and Rwanda’s very own The Ben, Chris Eazy, Ish Kevin, Kevin Kade, Ariel Wayz, Kivumbi King, Bwiza, Ishami Talent, Inganzi Ngari cultural troupe and Kenny Sol.
The selected artists will perform during the halftime shows of the finals. Globally with special performances to spice up the halftime show atmosphere.

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