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AFCON Tragedy: CAF Rejects Cancellation Of Matches

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has rejected suggestions that the Africa Cup of Nations should be cancelled or postponed in light of Monday’s deadly stadium stampede at the Stade d’Olembe which cost eight lives in the capital of Yaounde, and has insisted that the tournament can be a force for healing in Cameroon.
A further 38 people were taken to hospital with injuries, seven in a critical state, during the Round of 16 meeting between the hosts and Comoros when a barrier collapsed and supporters were trampled by fans behind them attempting to enter the stadium.
In light of the tragedy, Caf President Dr Patrice Motsepe has given some clarity on the circumstances surrounding the disaster, and outlined his belief that football can still have a positive impact in the Central African country.
“The issue was whether we should postpone [yesterday’s] matches, and it’s an important question,” he told journalists. “From my side, I cannot just consult, but also listen to the guidance of various stakeholders.
“The conclusion was that we should observe a moment of silence, and with regards to [Tuesday’s] matches, it was an issue to discuss and consider.
Motsepe added that Caf must take responsibility for the crush along with the local organising committee and the Cameroonian government.
“We have a duty to find out exactly what happened and more importantly to put in preventative measures to ensure that what happened never happens again,” he said.
“There were deficiencies, weaknesses, failures, things that should have been foreseen.
“When people lose their lives you must be angry and demand explanations and guarantees that it will never happen again.”
“However, it’s incredible how, even among those who are injured, two said to me that they can’t wait to get out of hospital and go to the stadium.
“I’ve seen the passion, the absolute passion of the people of Cameroon and their love for football; it brings people together, and the passion for football in this country is entrenched and deep-rooted.”
Motsepe explained how his own experiences of watching sport in a fractured South Africa, and South Africa’s 1995 rugby World Cup final victory, fuelled his conviction that continuing with the tournament would be the best for all parties.
“I come from a country separated on race, where blacks could not play football with whites, and we always knew the power of sport, of football,” he continued. “I was in the stadium with my wife when [Nelson] Mandela was wearing the rugby captain’s jersey, and it had been the root of deep, deep division.
“We’re all dealing with the pain we feel, but we have to deal with our obligations, and we have to be aware of the role football plays in bringing together people from all backgrounds across the continent.”
While Motsepe revealed that Caf would hold a meeting with the Cameroonian Organising Committee today to get more clarity on the circumstances surrounding the stadium disaster, he believed that a closed gate, reported as being the East Entrance of the arena, led to the loss of life.
“There was a gate that was closed that was meant to be open, and if it had been open, people would have walked through,” he continued. “For inexplicable reasons, it was closed.
“If it had been open, as it was supposed to, we wouldn’t have had the problem we have now, this loss of life.
“As part of this hearing, we want to know who closed it and who is responsible, because we mustn’t compromise in our insistence to have appropriate measures which are the best in the world.
“There may be unforeseen circumstances when a gate that is supposed to be open is closed, but we and our partners, we have a huge commitment to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Motsepe also confirmed that Sunday’s fixture which was scheduled for Olembe — between the winners of Egypt-Ivory Coast and the winners of Morocco-Malawi, would now be moved to Younde.
They also revealed that the 30 January meeting between the winners of Senegal-Cape Verde and the winners of Mali-Equatorial Guinea would be moved to Limbe from Douala.

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Okowa Lauds Athletes Ahead Olympics Trials

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President, Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Tonobok Okowa, has once again mandated all athletes looking to represent the country at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games to attend the Nigerian Trials, which hold from June 16 to 18 inside the main bowl of Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin-City.
Making his stance clear in Monday’s release by the athletics body, Okowa commended the athletes for their determination to qualify for the Olympics.
He said, “The athletes have shown commitment, determination, and desire to succeed in their careers by picking Olympic qualifications. They deserve our collective appreciation.”
He added, “The athletes would be picked in accordance with their performances at the trials because it would largely determine who goes to Paris for the Olympics.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Edo State Sports Commission, Yusuf Alli, says the state is waiting to welcome athletes for the trials.
He said, “We are the hosts of the national trials, and athletes and spectators are welcome.”
The trials are expected to throw up the best of Nigeria’s athletes based at home and abroad for the Olympic Games in Paris in July.

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Emerging Star Eyes Olympics Place For Nigeria

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Nigerian track and field star, Favour Ofili, has set her sights on the upcoming national Olympics trials after she pulled off a stunning victory in the women’s 100m at the New York Grand Prix, defeating a stellar field that included Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica last Sunday.
The 21-year-old clocked a season-best 11.18secs to take the win, America’s Morolake Akinosun was second in 11.20secs while her compatriot Aleia Hobbs ended in third place in 11.21secs.Thompson-Herah, the Tokyo Olympics 100m and 200m gold medalist, could only manage ninth place in 11.48secs as she continues to search for her best form this season.
“Just like practice, stay calm and just go, finish your transition because that’s the issue, and whatever happens will happen. I wanted to get the standard here and I give God glory for the win,” Ofili told Tidesports source after the race.
“For the trials, stay calm and just do what I know how to do, go back and do some training before I go back home for the national trials.”
The Olympic trials are scheduled to hold in Benin City, Edo State from June 16 to 18. The trials will serve as the selection of the nation’s athletes for both the Senior Africa Athletics Championships, holding between June 21 and 28 in Douala, Cameroon and the Paris 2024 Olympics, which hold from July 26 to August 11.

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Olympic Day Celebrations Hold June 29

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The Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), at the weekend, said the annual Olympic Day celebrations would be held on June 29 across the country.
The Olympic Day is a global event that commemorates the birth of the modern Olympic Movement, founded by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894.
Speaking with news men, the Secretary-General of the NOC, Babatunde Popoola, said this year’s celebration holds special significance as it precedes the highly anticipated Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
It’s where Nigerian athletes will compete and inspire the world with their achievements.
“Olympic Day is a chance for people of all ages and abilities to experience the magic of the Olympic Games in their own communities.
“It is an ideal platform to highlight the benefits of physical activity and the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect,” Popoola said.
Popoola said that NOC had received positive responses from various states and stakeholders, and preparations were well underway for the nationwide celebration.
He added that no fewer than 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory have indicated their plans to organise activities for the event.
The states are: Abia; Anambra; Bayelsa; Delta; Edo; Enugu; Ebonyi; Lagos; Kogi; Gombe; Jigawa; Kebbi; Kano; Kwara; Taraba; Imo; Ondo; Plateau; Rivers; Nasarawa and Osun
Also speaking, the Chairman of the NOC Sport For All Commission, Abdul Ibrahim, said that Olympic Day was a special day to come together, move together, and learn about the Olympic values.
“We encourage everyone to participate and experience the joy that only sport can bring,” he said.
According to him, a series of activities have been lined up in Lagos, with fitness clubs at the National Stadium Complex and the general public gearing up to take part in the global event.
“The celebration will conclude with the presentation of diplomas signed by the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach.
The President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, Engr. Habu Ahmed Gumel and other dignitaries will officially flag off the event in Abuja,” he added.

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