Posts Tagged World Cup qualifiers

Over the Weekend: Bundesliga Goes Global, Nigeria Gets a Wing into Brazil & More


The German Bundesliga has agreed a deal with 21st Century Fox, which will see matches from the league broadcast live for five years from the 2015/16 season in Asia, North and South America as well as for two years in Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The deal – coupled with the rate the Bundesliga’s popularity is growing thanks to on-field performances of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and the German national team by extension – promises to get the Bundesliga at par with the Spanish Primera Division and English Premier League in terms of financial income and by overseas fanbase.

Bayern have started the defence of their Bundesliga and Champions League title on a high, currently leading league rivals Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen by a point while also easing past Manchester City last time out in Europe.

Dortmund on their part are second in Group D ahead of their crucial trip to group leaders Arsenal next week as club football resumes following a raft of 2014 World Cup qualifiers over the international break.

Germany secured qualification with a 3-0 win over Ireland while England and Spain can join the three time champions on Tuesday at the expense of Ukraine and France when they face Poland and Georgia respectively.

In Africa, Samuel Eto’o returned from retirement to bolster Cameroun’s attack in a final qualifying round first leg match at Tunisia on Sunday, but it was Charles-Hubert Itandje who starred for the Indomitable Lions with a number of saves as the match in Tunis ended goalless.

Earlier on Saturday, Algeria left Ouagadougou in largely good spirit following a 3-2 loss against Burkina Faso while Didier Drogba scored twice as Cote D’Ivoire got a 3-1 win at home to Senegal, a healthy enough lead to take into the second leg at Dakar in November.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles will take the healthiest lead into a return leg, after coming from behind to claim a dramatic 2-1 win at Ethiopia on Sunday thanks to a brace from Emmanuel Emenike.

The win in Addis Ababa extended Nigeria’s unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers to 27 matches and though it put them in great stead ahead of the return leg in Calabar in November, it remains to be seen if Stephen Keshi’s assemble can hold their own outside the continent.

Despite losing to Uruguay and world champions Spain at last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup, the Super Eagles showed potential in their performance against their more illustrious rivals then and will hope to start living up to their promise when they meet with 2006 world champions Italy in a friendly match at London, days after the return match against Ethiopia.

Before then, the Super Eagles will come up against Jordan on October 28 as Keshi also prepares for the African Nations Championship – competition involving players from respective indigeneous leagues – holding early next year in South Africa.

Meanwhile in the Nigeria Premier League, Kano Pillars remain on course to defend the league title as they remain top of the league with 60 points despite losing 2-1 at Gombe United on Saturday.

With two matches left in the season, Pillars now lead by just a point ahead of Enyimba on 59 points as the Aba Elephants got a lone goal win at home to ABS, while Bayelsa United and El-Kanemi Warriors follow in third and fourth place on 58 and 57 points respectively after both lost 1-0 at Kaduna United and Heartland respectively.

In Formula 1, Sebastien Vettel of Red Bull has not won the world title just yet even though his win at Suzuka is a fifth successive grand prix win on his barge to a fourth successive world title.

Closest challenger Fernando Alonso of Ferrari – who finished fourth and see the world between him and Vettel stretch to 90 points/10 points-under-a-four-race-gap – conceded this season’s title to the German who only has to finish in the top five or not be outscored by 16 points by Alonso in the Indian Grand Prix to win the title.

The Spaniard hence is only content with the consolation of amassing the most points in F1 history after surpassing Michael Schumacher’s all-time score. Alonso has now scored 1,571 points, two more points than Schumacher while Vettel is third on that list with 1,351 points.

While disappointment has largely riddled Ferrari’s season, controversy has courted the Red Bull team with Mark Webber among others claiming the team’s strategy during the race favoured Vettel who had dropped to third at the start of the race with Grosjean jumping into the lead from fourth ahead of Webber.

The race had witnessed Webber being made to make three pit stops while Vettel made two stops; with the first pit stop of Webber coming at lap 11, four laps before Vettel’s first and enough time for the latter to take and build on a lead ahead of him and Grosjean.

Webber’s second stop, at lap 25, effectively ended his chance of winning the race and for a while looked to ensure he wouldn’t go past Grosjean, with Vettel making his second and final pit stop at lap 37 of 53.

Webber eventually only went past Grosjean in the penultimate lap, as late as it is to plaster a deep wedge driven deeper between both drivers from much earlier in the season when Vettel had disobeyed team instructions and forced Webber to let him pass on his way to winning the Malaysian Grand Prix in March.

And while he denied it, it is believed that incident led to Webber deciding he will leave the team and the sport at the end of this season and join Porsche next year in their Le Mans sportscar programme.

Finally from tennis, Novak Djokovic made it 20 consecutive match wins on Chinese courts following his 6-1 3-6 7-6 win over Juan Martin Del Potro in the final of the Shanghai Masters.

Del Potro had earlier in the semi-final inflicted only a fifth defeat of the season on Rafael Nadal, whose season record now stands at 68 wins in 73 matches while Djokovic has now won 62 matches this season.

That’s the bit from here. Came across this amusing story of a footballer whose brace in a Tajikistan league match resulted in power and water supply to his home being cut.

On this day, Nigerian footballer Ahmed Musa is born in 1992, David Beckham played his last match for England in 2009, the children’s book Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne is first published in 1926, English actor Roger Moore is born in 1927, fashion designer Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lifshitz) is born in 1939 and the first live television broadcast from space is done in 1968.

Have a pleasant week ahead wherever this post meets you.

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Over the Weekend: Januzaj on the Double, Nadal’s Number One (Anyway) and More


Football from over the weekend served up a number of eventful matches across Europe while Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal to the China Open title and Sebastien Vettel won a fourth successive race and edge closer to an inevitable fourth successive Formula 1 title.

Jack Wilshere’s first goal in three years helped Arsenal get 1-1 draw at West Brom and return to the top of the Premier League by virtue of goals scored ahead of Liverpool that eased to a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace with goals from Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard with a penalty.

Chelsea is now two points behind the early pacesetters after also getting a 3-1 win at Norwich City with goals from midfielders Oscar, Eden Hazard and a first time shot from Willian, hours before Willian’s should’ve-been club Tottenham Hotspur got hammered 3-0 at home by West Ham United and dropped to sixth as a result, three points behind the leaders.

Manchester City is fifth with 13 points, ahead of Spurs on goal difference after a 3-1 win over Everton that dropped to a point behind City in seventh place while Southapton is fourth with 14 points thanks to a 2-0 win over Swansea City.

Osaze Odemwingie got his first goal for Cardiff City but Loïc Remy’s brace for Newcastle United got the headlines and the three points for the 11th placed Toons while Manchester United is ninth after coming from behind to win 2-1 as well at Newcastle’s local rivals Sunderland.

The highlight from the Stadium of Light was Adnan Januzaj’s well taken brace, which brought to light a number of facts including the 18 year old is eligible to represent as many as six countries including Belgium and England.

We also now know he earns (just) a thousand pounds per week and not necessarily as a result but, he’s going to leave next year Pogba style unless he gets a new (much improved) contract at Old Trafford.

Paul Pogba’s £20,000 game week ended on a bit of a personal low, getting swarmed by three Milan players while in possession of the ball, resulting in Sulley Muntari’s second goal for AC Milan in the 3-2 loss at Juventus.

Muntari had put the Milan side ahead after just 20 seconds but a freekick from Andrea Pirlo and further goals from Sebastien Giovinco and Giorgio Chiellini off a Pirlo freekick put Juve 3-1 up before Muntari’s late consolation.

Juve remain third with 19 points, behind Napoli on goal difference as the Sicilians dispatched Livorno 4-0 to remain two points behind the impressing AS Roma that sustained their perfect start to the Serie A season with a 3-0 win at Inter Milan, playing the last quarter of an hour there with 10 men after Balzaretti got sent off.

Elsewhere, Hellas Verona jumped to fifth with 13 points, a point behind fourth placed Inter, with a 4-1 win at Bologna while Fiorentina and SS Lazio follow the newly promoted Hellas on the league table after both drew goalless in their match in the Italian capital.

In Spain’s capital city, Atletico Madrid maintained their perfect start to La Liga with a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo, a match in which Atletico’s Diego Costa – celebrating his 25th birthday today – missed a first half penalty before scoring a brace either side of half time to make it 10 goals in eight matches this season for him and 24 points from 8 league matches for Atletico.

Barcelona however lead La Liga with a slightly better goal difference as Neymar starred in absence of the injured Lionel Messi in a 4-1 win over Real Valladolid.

Barça’s archrival Real Madrid returned to third place with 19 points by a last gasp Cristiano Ronaldo goal in a 3-2 win at Levante while Villarreal returned to two points behind Real having won 3-0 against Granada on Friday.

In France, Monaco maintained its unbeaten return to Ligue 1 with a 2-1 win over St. Etienne, enough to keep the principality side top of the league with 21 points ahead of PSG on goal difference with the Parisians playing an hour of Le Classique with 10 men yet winning 2-1 at fourth placed Olympique Marseille.

The result of the weekend however came from Stade de la Mosson where 2012 league champions Montpellier handed Olympique Lyon a 5-1 thrashing, sending Lyon down to 14th while Montpellier rose to eighth with the win, which ended a run of five successive draws.

A draw meanwhile would’ve kept Borussia Dortmund top of the Bundesliga but Jürgen Klopp’s side fell to a 2-0 loss at Borussia Monchengladbach, allowing Bayern Munich to take top spot for the first time this season after playing out a 1-1 draw at third placed Bayer Leverkusen; the last team to defeat Bayern in the league… 33 games ago.

In Korea, German driver Sebastien Vettel made it four successive grand prix wins by taking the Korean GP ahead of soon to be Ferrari driver Kimi Raïkkönen and Romain Grosjean, with Vettel’s closest rival in the title race Fernando Alonso finishing sixth behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in fifth and Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg in fourth.

But all attention in the far east is on Vettel, who could wrap his fourth successive championship win up in next weekend’s grand prix in Japan, given he wins there and Alonso – who is 77 points/three races and two points behind – doesn’t finish above eighth place. After all that went down in the Korean GP, it’s quite possible.

Finally, while Vettel’s drive to the championship has become an inevxorable happening, Novak Djokovic could still regain top spot on the tennis world rankings after relinquishing that spot to Rafael Nadal despite beating the Spaniard 6-3 6-4 to win the China Open in Beijing on Sunday.

Next up for both men, 40 points apart on the rankings, is the Shanghai Masters this week ahead of the season ending ATP World Tour Finals in London where the top eight players on the men’s rankings compete from two groups of four players each for the title.

Already guaranteed a place in the singles event holding at the O2 Arena from November 4 to 11 are defending champion Djokovic, Nadal, Andy Murray and David Ferrer. I’m guessing (and hoping) Djokovic will finish the year as world number oneif he wins there and Nadal doesn’t make the final.

Till then, there are going to be World Cup qualifiers across the world ahead of Brazil 2014. Nigeria will visit Ethiopia for the first leg of their final round playoff on October 13.

In the Nigeria Premier League, Kano Pillars (third with 57 points after 35 matches) will ‘host’ league leaders Enyimba (with 59 points) in Lokoja during the week as the local league winds to a dramatic close with four clubs in the thick of the title race, including Bayelsa United and El-Kanemi that both only regained promotion to the top division this season.

That’s the bit from here. On this day in 2006, Gareth Bale became the youngest goalscorer for the Welsh national team in a Euro 2008 qualifying match they lost 5-1 to Slovakia.

Also on this day, Nigeria joined the United Nations in 1960, former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva was born in 1976, former Milan goalkeeper Dida was born in 1973 as was Bayer Leverkusen manager Sami Hyypiä, and Tottenham striker Jermaine Defoe was born in 1982.

Many happy returns to them and many others, including Bukky, celebrating. Have a pleasant week ahead wherever this post meets you.

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During the Week: Murray Bundled Out of New York, Eagles in Make or Mar and More


The thing about expectations sometimes… a lot of times actually, is that it is the unexpectant who truly relish the good that comes their way or otherwise tend to best manage a disappointment. And the week was full of both sides, from unexpected joy to the not so expected disappointments.

Ahead of the US Open, much talk was made about the possibility of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer meeting for the first time in the final grand slam of the at the quarterfinal stage. People also looked forward to how well defending champion Andy Murray would do at Flushing Meadows.

Following routine opening round wins, Roger Federer was first to go as the Swiss former world number one was beaten in straight sets by Tommy Robredo in only the fourth round, only for Robredo to get thrashed out in straight sets by a ruthless Nadal in the quarterfinals.

Federer’s defeat, which will likely see him drop even lower than his current low of seventh on the world rankings by Monday morning, drove home the point that the Swiss master is well past his dominating best days.

Andy Murray’s quarterfinal loss to the long upcoming Swiss ninth seed Stanslas Wawrinka, in brutal straight sets, set up a not so likely US Open semifinal clash with world number one Novak Djokovic who dropped a set against Mikhail Youzhny but was largely untroubled in a four set win over the Russian veteran.

The expectation would be for Djokovic to win and set up a potentially intriguing final against Nadal who faces eighth seed Richard Gasquet in the other semifinal. But from results in earlier rounds, the men’s draw has taught us all to be unexpectant and simply enjoy the sublime tennis on display.

In the women’s draw however, it’s all gone to plan as top seeds Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka powered through the rounds to set up the much expected final match which will be played much later today.

Azarenka went past Flavia Pennetta of Italy in her semifinal while world number one Serena lost only three games as she crushed China’s Li Na 6-0 6-3 before however being knocked out of the doubles event with her sister Venus.

Not much change would reflect on the women’s world ranking with Serena set to maintain top spot ahead of Azarenka. The men’s rankings however should witness a host of changes below Djokovic and Nadal, more so if both lose their semifinal matches.

Nadal’s country Spain meanwhile remain on course to qualify for the football World Cup next year in Brazil, with Vicente Del Bosque’s side now on 14 points from six matches and edging closer to sealing passage to the mundial following a 2-0 win at Finland in one of many qualifiers played last night.

France went three points behind the Spaniards in Group I after being held to a goalless draw at Georgia, leaving Les Bleus needing a big win at Belarus next week to replace Spain atop the group albeit having played a game more.

In Group F, a Cristiano Ronaldo hattrick helped Portugal come from behind to beat Northern Ireland 4-2 and remain top of with 17 points, two points ahead of Russia that beat Luxembourg 4-1 in Moscow.

Danny Welbeck scored twice and Rickie Lambert put in yet another commendable display as England eased to a 4-0 win over Moldova to go top of Group H with 15 points, ahead of Montenegro – that have played a game more – on difference, while Ukraine demolished San Marino 9-0 to stay in third place with 14 points.

Poland’s hopes of qualifying from the group remain faint as a Robert Lewandowski strike earned a 1-1 draw at home to Montengro and keep them in fourth place on 10 points, though an expected win at San Marino next week would boost their hopes, more so with England facing Ukraine in Kyiv in the group’s other match next week.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands needed a stoppage time Robin van Persie penalty to salvage a 2-2 draw from their trip to Estonia though a win from their final three matches would seal qualification to the World Cup. As would for Germany from Group C after beating neighbours Austria 3-0 in a match Miroslav Klose became the German national team’s joint all time leading goalscorer with 68 goals.

Italy edged closer to qualification with a hardfought 1-0 win at home to Bulgaria in Group B, goals from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas late on handed Belgium a 2-0 win at Scotland to leave the Red Devils a win from qualification from Group A while elsewhere in the group, Aaron Ramsey’s penalty was mere consolation as Wales, with €100m Gareth Bale left on the bench, fell 2-1 at Macedonia.

Bale was left out by Welsh boss Chris Coleman no thanks to ‘severely lacking match fitness’, largely brought about by his move to Real Madrid where he was unveiled on Monday. The unveiling would however get overshadowed by turn of events in the transfer market as clubs rushed to finalise deadline day deals.

And most prominent of all was Arsenal spending almost three times its previous transfer record to secure the signing of German midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for £42.4m, shocking fans and rivals to silence over the club breaking from their norm and, along with the arrival of Mathieu Flamini days ago and Emiliano Viviano hours before Ozil, making the Gunners title contenders all of a sudden.

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester United eventually completed the signing of Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5m, after their chase of Ander Herrera ended in debacle while their loan move for Real Madrid’s Fabio Coentrao thought to have been finalised turned out otherwise.

Other significant transfers saw Kaka return to AC Milan on a free transfer from Real Madrid, Romelo Lukaku join Everton on loan from Chelsea, as did Gareth Barry from Manchester City while Merseyside neighbours Liverpool completed the signing of Mamadou Sakho from PSG.

The Reds are now considered as possible title contenders as well having started the campaign on a high with three wins from three, all without star player Luis Suarez who has three matches of his 10 match ban for biting left to serve.

Being on the sidelines for his club has however changed little about Suarez who grabbed all the attention for good and bad, scoring both goals in Uruguay’s 2-1 win at Peru in one of four World Cup qualifying matches played in South America, earning a penalty with a dive apparently before getting an opposition defender sent off minutes after.

The win made Suarez the all time leading scorer for Uruguay and brought his country within two points of fourth placed Ecuador that lost by a lone goal at Colombia. Ecuador remain on 21 points after 13 games, five points behind leaders Argentina and second placed Colombia while Chile rose to third on 24 points from 14 matches following a 3-0 win over Venezuela.

In Africa, Ghana reached the final round of World Cup qualification with a 2-1 win at home to second placed Zambia in a Group D match, joining Egypt, Algeria and Cote D’Ivoire that have all made it through with a game to spare.

Six more places in the final round will be filled this weekend from matches across the continent later today, including Malawi’s trip to face Nigeria in a Group F encounter and South Africa needing a win and another result to go their way to reach the final round.

Malawi, with seven points, need an outright win to qualify while the Super Eagles, with nine points, only need to avoid defeat to edge closer to Brazil 2014. A similar scenario to Group F is found in Group B where the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia, leading with 11 points, welcome Cape Verde with nine points to Tunis in the final group match there.

More drama however will come from Groups A and E where three countries each in both groups have solid chances of qualifying. In Group E, leaders Congo with 10 points travel to face bottom side Niger Republic while Gabon, with seven points in third place, must defeat second placed Burkina Faso that has nine points and then hope Congo lose at Niger to pick the sole qualifying ticket there.

And in Group A, Ethiopia will be out to seal qualification once and for all with a win at bottom of the table Central African Republic, having earlier sealed qualification with a 2-1 win over South Africa only to be found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in an earlier match against Botswana, thus handing the latter three points and three goals at the Ethiopians expense. Now Botswana and South Africa will both play for a win at Durban and hope Ethiopia lose at CAR.

Rounding off, on this day just last year Canada officially cut diplomatic ties with Iran by closing its embassy in Tehran and ordering the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Ottawa, over support for Syria, nuclear plans and alleged rights abuses.

You’d have thought Assad got the hint back then but oh no, we’re on the brink of watching Syria get bombarded by the United States while Russia keenly observes the whole mess.

Here’s to a peaceful weekend to us all wherever we are. Hope Nigeria reaches the final World Cup qualifying round. Cheers!

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During the Week: Against a Winter Cup, End of a Kop, KPB Now Racism Cop & More


2022 is quite a while ahead in time but being a year of the football World Cup, there’s little harm talking about it now, more so since it would be the first World Cup held in the Middle East. The talk about it at the moment comes from the Premier League in England and the problem… it being staged in winter time rather than its usual summer schedule.

According to a Premier League spokesman, “We are opposed to a winter World Cup for obvious practical reasons that would impact on all European domestic football”, which is contrary to what a FIFA vice-president, Briton Jim Boyce as well as Premier League chairman Sir Dave Richards said in support of Qatar staging the mundial in winter.

What the Premier League’s spokesman seemingly failed to reason is the likelihood that staging the 2022 World Cup in June; even with the possibility of airconditioned stadia, would pose a great health risk to everyone directly involved with the tournament, with regards especially to sporting participants and teeming spectators, due to temperatures potentially peaking at 50 degrees celcius.

The above quote shows that the Premier League is only concerned about how its business will be affected by a winter World Cup; which would certainly see the Premier League going on a winter break to allow for players to participate at the World Cup.

Along with the fact that the Premier League is the only high profile European league that doesn’t go on a winter break; hence the commercially lucrative period of four humanly gruesome matches in a week/eight days for most EPL clubs, whatever “obvious practical reasons that would impact on all European domestic football” he is on about are total hogwash without need of being known.

For long already, it has been clamoured for the Premier League to take a cue from its counterpart leagues and introduce the winter break, to prevent player burn-outs as the curtain closes on a season and (however slightly impactful) helping its club representatives as well as the national team fair much better at respective competitions.

One man whose name is among those likely to be mentioned when listing some of the league’s and nation’s best striking talents is Michael Owen, who, on Tuesday, released a statement to, with “an immense amount of pride”, announce his retirement at the close of this season after 17 years of professional football.

Now an injury ravaged 33 year old on the sidelines at pseudo-rugby club Stoke City, Owen will be remembered for his goals for England (especially against Argentina and Germany) and mostly as a Liverpool player, without doubt the best period of a career that saw him play for Real Madrid, Newcastle United as well as Manchester United.

It was at Liverpool he was a feared striker and scored a majority of his club goals in a glorious partnership with Robbie Fowler (and Steve McManaman behind them), helping the Reds to a treble in 2001 as well as being awarded the Ballon d’Or (European Footballer of the Year) that year; long before it was merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year award… a time when players who deserved the awards won the awards.

And while Owen’s career after leaving Liverpool took a dive, he still managed a fair four seasons at St. James’, won a league title and two domestic Cups with Manchester United, scored a late winner in a Manchester derby voted the best Premier League match in history and for now is the English national team’s fourth leading all time scorer with 40 goals from 89 appearances, nine goals behind the all time leader Sir Bobby Charlton.

The end of his career certainly isn’t glitterry as should be; what being injury prone can do, but his prowess in front of goal in his prime and at most times in his decline, along with what he achieved individually and with different teams, ranks him arguably among England’s top five strikers ever, which is quite a position among/ahead of names such as Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand and Ian Wright among others.

Not one to regret how his career will end, Owen tweeted last night “Don’t really do regrets but if I did, I regret not playing against San Marino in my career! Seems to do wonders for your goals tally!”.

England last night thrashed lowly San Marino 8-0 in one of several World Cup qualifiers played in Europe, with Belgium winning 2-0 at Macedonia, Wales coming from behind to beat Scotland 2-1 in a fiery derby at Glasgow, Portugal needing a late goal to earn a 3-3 draw at Israel and Spain being held to a shock 1-1 draw at home by Finland ahead of their crunch match with France next week.

In Africa, Nigeria will face Kenya on Saturday looking to consolidate on top spot in their qualifying group although a match-up already took place on Thursday after tweeters from both nations engaged in a tweetfight that trended worldwide after the Kenyans expressed displeasure at the poor hosting of their national team in Nigeria ahead of Saturday’s match.

While the tweet war was highly amusing, it should not cover the sad reality in African football that sees visiting teams usually being maltreated in order to hand the home team a psychological advantage ahead of a match, a habit that needs to stop.

Another ‘habit’ that needs stopping is racism and AC Milan’s Ghanaian midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng voiced his opinion on it, urging that racist players should not be allowed to play football again while racist spectators be banned from stadia for life.

The midfielder, who spoke during a United Nations event to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said “If there’s a fan who has done something wrong and he can never come to the stadium again, that is
something that can hurt you because you’re a fan and you love the sport. Or a football player who does something wrong, who is racist, and can never play for the club again or can never play in the country again. These are the things that hurt and I think this is the right way to go. [It needs to be] very strict, very hard and make it very clear.”

Extreme? Maybe yes, most likely no. And him, who has suffered racist abuse himself to the point of walking off the field in January during a friendly match, suggesting such punishments indicates the severity of the abuse players receive at stadia. Now, Samuel Eto’o going all emotional on us during a La Liga match while he was at Barcelona doesn’t seem a tad an overreaction now.

Boateng meanwhile is to become a member of FIFA’s anti-discrimination taskforce, which would be headed by Jeffrey Webb, a FIFA vice president, while the identity of other members as well as full details of sanctions to be imposed on racists in the sport would be made known soon, the latter expected to be revealed at a FIFA congress in May.

Wrapping up with matters on the field, Nigeria’s Flying Eagles got their Africa Youth Championship campaign in Algeria back on track with a lone goal win over Gabon in a Group B match on Wednesday, with Mali booking a semi-final spot and a berth at the World Youth Championship with a 2-1 win over DR Congo.

The Flying Eagles, the tournanent’s defending champions, must now defeat the Congolese in their final group match on Saturday to book a semi-final ticket and make the WYC as well. And with the senior national team up against Kenya, there will be no league matches this weekend.

Instead, those matches were played during the week with Rangers going top of the Nigeria Professional Football League with six points from two matches thanks to a 2-1 win at newly promoted Nembe City. Reigning champions Kano Pillars is second on goal difference thanks to a 1-0 win at home to Bayelsa United.

Sunshine Stars is one of three other unbeaten sides in the league and lie in third place on four points following a 1-1 draw at Kwara United that has now drawn its opening two matches along with El-Kanemi Warriors that was held to a goalless draw by Wikki Tourists.

Other results from the league in midweek saw Heartland draw 1-1 at Warri Wolves, Enyimba and Dolphins win by a lone goal at home to Nasarawa United and 3SC respectively while Lobi Stars beat Akwa United 2-1 in Makurdi and Kaduna United claimed a 2-0 win over visiting Sharks.

And on the heel of those round of matches, the league received a financial boost of N550m from its title sponsor, which also paid N100m in compensation to Total Promotions; the outfit that initially got the rights to be title sponsor of the league.

All that settled, I’m looking forward to Nigeria’s senior and cadet teams posting good wins over Kenya and DR Congo respectively and make the weekend more worthwhile.

Do have a good one as well.

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of Arsenal, World Cup Qualifiers and What Have You…


Arsenal now must prove not a few cynics wrong when the international break is over after Robin van Persie; scorer of eight goals in his last 11 matches for the Gunners, got an ankle injury in the Netherlands friendly match against the Italians.

RvP injured vs Italy '09

Robin van Persie in agony for the Netherlands

For those who appreciate good football, this comes as quite a blow to all (in that category) and Arsenal faithfuls especially seeing as he has also come in with eight assists as well.

It leaves me wondering if manager Arsene Wenger would buy a forward in the January transfer window with RvP out for at least eight weeks and the following names came to mind…Mauro Zarate (SS Lazio), Luis Fabiano (FC Sevilla), Lisandro Lopez (Olympique Lyon), Vedad Ibisevic (TSG Hoffenheim) and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan).

Unfortunately, all the above players will not crucially be eligible for Arsenal in the Champions League competition having themselves been involved in it or the new Europa League…all but Ibisevic, a Bosnian international whom I hope to see at the World Cup (at Portugal’s expense) and in Arsenal in January…wishful thinking, I know!

Speaking of the World Cup, Portugal must really be dreading the trip to face the Bosnians on Wednesday especially as the home team on Wednesday will be full of confidence after twice hitting the Portuguese post in the lone goal loss of the first leg.

I’ll be rooting for the Bosnians in the second leg although reality has a strong way of setting in; with a goalless draw probably thrown in by the “god of soccer”…if ever there was such thing. My reality…I would love to see a 3-1 win for Bosnia over Portugal.

France did one heck of a good job with the win at the Irish and I don’t see Raymond Domenech contriving to get himself more “fans” by throwing away the home leg. As for Russia, they have a bit of work to do while I hope Greece makes it instead of Ukraine.

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