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Messi Falls Under FIFA Hammer

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Argentina will be without captain Lionel Messi  for yesterday’s World Cup qualifier in Bolivia after he was hit with a four-match FIFA suspension for abusing a linesman.
The punishment relates to Messi’s actions during the closing stages of Argentina’s win at home to Chile last week, when the Barcelona star scored the only goal from the penalty spot.
The 29-year-old was penalised for a foul and proceeded to wave his arms and shout insults at the referee’s assistant Marcelo Van Gasse, with whom he refused to shake hands at the final whistle.
Initially, the incident was not included in referee Sandro Ricci’s report but was followed up by FIFA after video footage of Messi’s insult emerged and they asked both the officials and the Argentinian Football Association for their observations.
It means Argentina will also be without their talisman for next season’s qualifiers against Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru, with him only returning for the final game of the CONMEBOL section against Ecuador.
Messi has also been fined 10,000 Swiss francs and a statement from FIFA read: “Footballer Lionel Messi has been found guilty of violating art. 57 of the FDC [FIFA Disciplinary Code] for having directed insulting words at an assistant referee.
“As a result, Lionel Messi will be suspended for four official matches and sanctioned with a fine of CHF 10,000.
“The first match for which the sanction will apply is the next fixture in the preliminary competition of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia between Bolivia and Argentina, which will be played today, 28 March (yesterday).
“The remainder of the sanction will be served over Argentina’s subsequent FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
“This decision is in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Committee’s previous rulings in similar cases.
“Both the player and the Argentinian Football Association have been informed of the decision today.”
AFA disciplinary commission president Armando Perez told TyC Sports he was confident Messi would be available to face Bolivia amid La Paz’s punishing altitude but his absence adds to a considerable selection headache for head coach Edgardo Bauza.
Defender Nicolas Otamendi, midfielders Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia and striker Gonzalo Higuain were already suspended for the match after collecting bookings versus Chile, while full-backs Gabriel Mercado and Emmanuel Mas sustained respective hamstring and knee injuries last time out.
Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala are in line to replace Messi, with Argentina occupying the third of four automatic qualifying spots in the CONMEBOL section but needing to drastically improve on their record without the Barcelona superstar during the present campaign.
La Albiceleste have won five and lost one with Messi in the side, although that return falls to one victory, four draws and two defeats across two spells when he was sidelined through injury.

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Company Seals Kebbi Beach Soccer Deal

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WACOT Rice Limited, a member of Tropical General Investments Group, has signed a four-year sponsorship deal with Kebbi Beach Soccer Association.
The Kebbi Beach Club (Kebbi Fishers), owned by the Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, is one of Africa’s foremost beach soccer clubs.
The sponsorship deal with WACOT Rice as the official Food Partner, is a boost for the growth of beach soccer and, ultimately, youth development in Nigeria, WACOT Rice stated.
Last year, WACOT Rice sponsored Kebbi Fishers to the World Winners’Cup in Antalya, Turkey, organised by Beach Soccer Worldwide, the global governing body under FIFA responsible for Beach Soccer.
Commenting on the partnership, Chairman of WACOT Rice, Farouk Gumel, said, “In our operations, we always ensure that we create avenues for the Nigerian youths to thrive. Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, through Kebbi Fishers, has grown and received accolades across the continent. They have put Kebbi on the map. We are immensely proud of them and remain committed to supporting them to grow.”
Also, Chairman, Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, Mahmud Hadejia, lauded WACOT Rice and TGI Group for their support for Kebbi Fishers and commitment to sports development in Nigeria.
Hadejia, who is also President, African Beach Soccer Union and Coordinator, Nigeria Beach Soccer League, said beach soccer in the country had received another boost with the sponsorship from WACOT Rice.

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NPFL: Mgt Gives Kwara, Wikki Two-Match Ultimatum

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The management of Nigerian Professional Football League clubs Kwara United and Wikki Tourist have handed their respective coaches a two-match ultimatum to overturn their team’s poor run in the NPFL or get sacked, The Tidesports source reports.
This comes after both teams failed to end their winless runs in their match-day four encounters amid disappointing displays.
The Harmony Boys, who are yet to record a win this season after four matches — two defeats and two draws — were thumped 3-0 by Enyimba in Aba on Sunday, just as Wikki were held to a goalless draw at home by newly promoted Doma United at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi.
The result sees both teams languishing in the relegation zone of their respective groups, with Kwara placed 19th in Group A of the NPFL log with two points from their opening four games, while Wikki are rock bottom of Group B with just a point from four games.
The General Manager of Kwara United, Bashir Badawiy, revealed that the management would not tolerate any negative result from the team as they play in the “dangerous” abridged NPFL league.
“The team has no excuse not to perform, going by the commitment of the government, the determination of the management and the sacrifice by the supporters and stakeholders,” Badawiy said.
“And that Is why we have decided to give the team a two-match ultimatum. They should rather perform or give way. We are playing in a dangerous league, the abridged league, and we cannot tolerate this kind of result.”
Kwara United will host former champions Plateau United in their next league game at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan today.
Wikki secretary, Idris Pali, on behalf of the board and the management of the club, also expressed dissatisfaction with the team’s performance since the start of the season.
He added that proper action would be taken if the team did not win their next two games.
Coach Kabiru Dogo faces a daunting task in keeping his job as his next two games are against Group B leaders Rivers United and Enugu Rangers.
“The board members and management of Wikki Tourist have found unsatisfactorily (performance of Wikki), which has led to the decline of the team’s performance. The board has however handed the technical crew a two-match ultimatum to win their next two games or proper action will be taken against you (Dogo) considering the terms of our agreement. I hope he gives us the best going forward.”

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U-17 Cup Of Nations Draws Hold Today, In Algeria

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The draw ceremony for this year’s Africa U-17 Cup of Nations will hold today at the Cercle Nationale d’Armee in Algiers, Algeria.
Five-time world champions, Nigeria, is one of the 12 countries, whose names will go into the pot for the draw, as all participating teams get to know their group phase opponents for the tournament scheduled for April 8 to 30 in Africa’s largest nation by land mass.
All the 12 participating nations are now known: Algeria, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Somalia, South Sudan, Zambia, South Africa, Cameroon and Congo.
The 12 teams will be drawn into three groups of four teams each, with the four top-placed teams qualifying to represent Africa at this year’s FIFA U-17-World Cup finals taking place in Peru later this year.
Meanwhile, the international friendly match between Nigeria and Zambia at the U-20 boys’ level will now hold at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on February 4.
Initially, both countries’ football-governing bodies had agreed on a two-match tour for January 27 and 30 respectively. But, issues of logistics and the compunction on the Young Chipolopolo to process their entry visas into Egypt for the forthcoming Africa U-20 Cup of Nations before leaving Zambia forced a postponement.
Zambia’s U-20 delegation is still in Lusaka and will now only be able to play one match against the Flying Eagles, before proceeding to Dakar for a game against Senegal on Tuesday next week.
Both Nigeria and Zambia will face a country from the other’s region in Egypt, with Nigeria drawn against Mozambique (alongside host nation Egypt and Senegal) in Group A, while Zambia will face Benin Republic (alongside Tunisia and The Gambia) in Group C. Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo make up Group B.
Seven-time African champions, Nigeria, will fly to Morocco next week for their final round of preparations.
Coach Isah Ladan Bosso’s wards have been in flaming form in recent weeks, lashing a slew of teams in friendly games.
Bosso’s wards were worthy champions of the WAFU B U-20 Championship in Niamey, Niger Republic in May 2022, winning all their five matches in the competition.

By: Tonye Orabere

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