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Table-Tennis: Nigeria Sweeps Stakes In Togo

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Nigeria emerged winners of the male and female single at the just-concluded 11th International Blaise Sogo Table Tennis Championships in the Republic of Benin between December 19 and  20.
Kazeem Makanjuola and Rashidat Ogundele, won the male and female singles titles respectively.
Makanjuola told newsmen in Lagos yesterday on arrival that participating in the Maiden Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) Presidents Cup contributed to his success at the championships.
“I was still in top form after participating in the NTTF President’s Cup just before we left for the championships in the Republic of Benin.
“The zeal at the President’s Cup was what I carried on with and believe me my opponents too fought so hard to win.
“My performance can be attributed to hard work and the constant competitions I engaged in within the year,” he said.
Rashidat Ogundele said that championship was highly competitive.
“The championships was tough and keenly contested by all the players; top players from various African countries took part in the competition.
“The championships have changed from what it used to be and we now have many young players across the continent taking part in the tournament,” she said.
The championships are an annual tournament for African players.
At the 2013 edition which held from December 20 to  21,, Nigeria reportedly clinched four gold and a silver medal and this year it won two gold, two silver and one bronze medals.
Meanwhile, NTTF, the Technical Director,of NTTF Anderson Bankole has lauded the country’s representatives at the tournament, stressing that their triumph was a sign of greater things to come in 2015.
“It is good to know that the young ones are waking up and doing so well.
“We still have a lot to do; we will ensure that we address their weakness, we will not leave anything out in ensuring that our players do well in international competitions,” he said.
The technical director hoped that the players would strive to maintain the country’s top position in the continent.
“We will strive not just to be Number One in Africa but in the World.
“With God on our side, and commitment of the players, we will achieve it,” he said.
Nosiru Bello, the Head Coach of NTTF, also expressed satisfaction with the performance of the players.
He said that they played well and listened to instructions.
“They put in their best; I must say I am satisfied with their performance.
“We still have a lot to do on the players and I know they will keep getting better,” he said.

A Flying Eagle (11) in action during the qualifiers for the 2015 African Youth Championship (AYC)

A Flying Eagle (11) in action during the qualifiers for the 2015 African Youth Championship (AYC)

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… As Coach Expresses Optimism To Qualify For 2026 W’Cup

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Newly appointed Super Eagles coach Finidi George has set his sights firmly on securing qualification for the 2026 World Cup, demanding unwavering commitment from his top players as the team aims to get their faltering qualifying campaign back on track.
Unveiled to the media in Abuja on Monday, Finidi, who succeeded the outgoing Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro, wasted no time in laying out his immediate priorities, two crucial 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin early next month.
“Nigeria comes first, that’s what I expect from every player I invite. You have to be playing in your club, and you must have the commitment,” Finidi told reporters on Monday.
Recognising the importance of a strong start, the former Ajax winger emphasised the significance of the upcoming clash against South Africa.
“The first targets are to qualify for the World Cup and AFCON (Africa Cup of Nations), and a win over South Africa will set the tone.”
Nigeria currently finds itself in third place in their qualifying group, with just two points from as many games, while South Africa sits second with three points.
Finidi, who has signed a year’s contract with an option for an additional year, acknowledged the immense pressure that comes with leading the national team of a country with over 200 million people.
However, he exuded confidence in his ability to withstand the scrutiny, stating, “I have a tough skin.”
While his salary remains undisclosed, the 53-year-old coach expressed a willingness to prioritise performance over immediate financial rewards.
“The salary is good enough for me, it’s not as much as that of (Jose) Peseiro.
“Money is good, but if you add value to what you do, the money will come. Then they can come and ask ‘Coach, how much do you want?” Finidi said.

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I’m Not Under Pressure, I’ve Tough Skin – Finidi

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New Super Eagles Coach, Finidi George, has underlined that the word pressure is not in his dictionary and appealed for support from key stakeholders including the media.
Speaking after his unveiling yesterday in Abuja, the former Enyimba of Aba coach said; “In life you cannot be afraid. As you see me here, I am a quiet person but I’m not afraid of anything. The worst you can get in football is not getting the result, the best you can get is winning all the time, and I will try my best to make sure that the team functions properly and we start winning games.”
On whether is under pressure to justify his appointment, the coach stressed; “Pressure, I don’t think I have it. I have that tough skin and I want to plead you guys, the media we need your support.
“What is in the contract is boldly written, what the NFF wants and Nigeria in general, but for me personally my first target is to make sure we are in line to qualify for the World Cup. AFCON qualifiers definitely will be coming up soon, but the major step for me is these two games that we have.
“If we can win against South Africa and Benin, we will set the tone.”
During the unveiling ceremony, the NFF confirmed that ex-Super Eagles striker; Daniel Amokachi and Abiden Baruwa will be the assistant coach and goalkeeper coach respectively.
The first assignment for Finidi, who won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995, is to qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

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Amusan Becomes World’s Fastest Woman, Sets New Track Record

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Nigerian sprint icon Tobi Amusan has become the world’s fastest woman in the women’s 100m hurdles after running a world-leading 12.40 seconds.
In a thrilling race, the world record holder secured the victory, leaving behind Danielle Williams, the world champion, who clocked her best time of the season at 12.46 seconds. Following closely was American Christina Clemons, claiming the third spot with a time of 12.54 seconds.
This triumph means the Nigerian athlete has now claimed the top spot globally, surpassing American Tonea Marshall’s previous record of 12.42 seconds set in late April.
Tobi Amusan’s impressive win arrives just two months before the Paris 2024 Olympics, setting the stage for an exciting competition ahead.
John Enoh, the minister of sports development, on his X handle congratulated Amusan over the feat.
Take your flowers Tobi Amusan, you stormed to an emphatic win in the women’s 100m hurdles at the Jamaica Athletics Invitational, clocking a time of 12.40s (0.9), a World Lead time!
You defeated World Champion Danielle Williams, who came 2nd in 12.46s, while Christina Clemons.
“Take your flowers Tobi Amusan, you stormed to an emphatic win in the women’s 100m hurdles at the Jamaica Athletics Invitational, clocking a time of 12.40s (0.9), a World Lead time! You defeated World Champion Danielle Williams, who came 2nd in 12.46s, while Christina Clemons was 3rd in 12.54s,” he wrote.
“Tobi, you keep making our country proud. Paris Olympics is around the corner, your performance gives us hope just like others, that Nigeria is set to break a jinx. Keep soaring, we are proud of you.”

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