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Olympics: Disqualified Nigerian athletes protest in Tokyo

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There is little or nothing to celebrate for some Nigerian athletes who were at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after their dreams of performing at the World’s biggest sports games tumbled.

Nigerian athletes are protesting local authorities’ “incompetence” during preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

Some Nigerian athletes, who were disqualified from participating in the Games, were seen on the streets of Japan on Friday expressing their anger against the sports administrators in their country.

Blessing Okagbare, one of Nigeria’s brightest hope in the games, is leading the pack of those speaking out against the apparent mismanagement.

“I have said it before and I will say it again. If you do not know the sport, not passionate about it/us (the athletes), then you have no business there as an administrator,” Okagbare said while reacting to the decision of the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), an independent body created by World Athletics.

“The sport system in Nigeria is so flaw(ed) and we athletes are always at the receiving end of the damages.”

The country’s highest-ranking table tennis player Quadri Aruna is miffed at the country’s sports administrators’ treatment of athletes.

Aruna’s anger is evident in the three Instagram posts he posted on Friday. He claimed that he has been threatened to be expelled from Team Nigeria’s camp at the Olympics.

“Athletes were been short paid and nobody should complain,” Aruna said in one of the Instagram posts.

“If Honourable minister don’t (sic) come and address the athletes, these officials will spoil all the good things you have been doing.”

More Troubles for Nigeria

Ten Nigerian athletes were among 18 competitors from “high-risk” nations who have been barred from the Tokyo Olympics after failing to meet requirements for out-of-competition drug testing, World Athletics’ independent anti-doping arm said Thursday.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said the athletes concerned had failed to comply with rules introduced in 2019 requiring those from countries deemed to be at the highest risk of doping — so-called “Category A” nations — to undergo three no-notice out-of-competition tests in a 10-month period leading up to a major event.

Nigeria’s sports ministry said it “regrets the unfortunate development of 10 Nigerian track and field athletes not meeting the testing conditions of the Athletics Integrity Unit.

The sports ministry said it made “all necessary efforts…to bring the athletes to date with compliance to the WADA regulations by the Ministry.”

But Okagbare disagrees.

“They (administrators) were busy fighting over power, exercising their pride over Puma contract/ kits forgetting their major responsibility “THE ATHLETES”,” Okagbare said.

Aruna blamed the authorities for his early exit from the Olympics. Haruna crashed out in the third round after losing to Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi 2-4 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Tuesday, July 27.

“You wanted me to perform but you removed the coach that qualified me to the quarter-final in Rio games,” Haruna said in an Instagram post.

Recurring issues

The situation is not new to many Nigerian sportsmen and women who have been there for a while.

Earlier in the week, Nigerian defender Leon Balogun criticised the country’s sports authorities over the poor administration of the team.

His points of criticism of football administration in Nigeria – nonpayment of players, match bonuses, unorganised travel plans – are often identified as leading causes of underperformance by Nigerian teams in football and other sports.

Okagbare is disappointed that the same situation keeps happening over the years.

“It’s sad that this cycle keeps repeating itself and some people will come out to say I am arrogant for speaking my [sic] truth. It is my career,” Okagbare said.

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Nigeria Edge Cape Verde in Qatar World Cup Qualifier

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The Super Eagles continued their 100 per cent record against Cape Verde in their second match of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

The Nigerian team won the game 2-1 after staging a comeback.

A 75th-minute own goal by Cape Verde earned Nigeria a 2-1 win in their qualifying clash in Mindelo on Tuesday, a result that stabilized the Super Eagles’ leadership of the pool as they await a home-and-away fixture against Central African Republic next month.

Dylan dos Santos steered the home team in front after 19 minutes of an intense back-and-forth by both sides, when he slipped behind the Eagles’ rearguard and slammed a rocket of a shot past goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.

The three-time African champions refused to be brow-beaten, and launched series of attacks, with Chidera Ejuke forcing the opposing goalkeeper to an acrobatic save in the 27th minute. Two minutes later, an alert Victor Osimhen would pull Nigeria level, stabbing home from close range after the goalkeeper punched following a defensive blunder.

In the 41st minute, the lively Ejuke again rattled the Cape Verde number one, before Osimhen came close to adding another one from a corner with a minute to recess.

Kelechi Iheanacho and six other UK-based players were absent when the Super Eagles played the Blue Sharks in Mindelo.

The players were forced out from the tie after the UK government insisted individuals who travel to “red zones” — which Cape Verde falls into — must quarantine for 10 days upon return.

Aside from the seven UK-based players, Serie A defender, Ola Aina, also did not travel with the squad to Mindelo, and returned to Italy instead.

In the second half, Ahmed Musa latched onto a centre by Osimhen as the Eagles pushed forward, but his tame shot was easily collected. Substitute Onyekuru was also guilty of putting too low a purchase on his shot in the 73rd minute as Nigeria streamed to the opposition area.

Two minutes later, in a spectacular backpass to his goalkeeper, Kenny Santos scored an own goal as the ball floated above the goaltender and landed in the net. The goal put Nigeria in front and eventually gave the Super Eagles the three points on the night.

Victory took the Eagles to maximum six points from two matches, three points ahead of second –placed Liberia, ahead of the Day 3 and 4 games scheduled for October.

 

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WC Qualifier: Nigeria to face Cape Verde without UK-based Stars

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The Super Eagles will tackle the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde this afternoon in Match Day 2 of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier without the services of UK-based players.

The Super Eagles contingent landed on the island of Mindelo yesterday morning, after a four-hour flight from Lagos aboard a special Air Peace jet.

There were 21 players on board, following the departure of UK-based players, who returned to their base as a result of UK authorities COVID-19 protocols and guidelines that must be observed by anyone returning to Britain after visiting a country with COVID-19 red label, of which Cape Verde is one.

Today’s encounter, scheduled for the 5,000 –capacity Estádio Municipal Adérito Sena, affords a number of ambitious fresh legs not deployed in Friday’s 2-0 win over Liberia in Lagos to stake claims for permanent shirts in the Nigerian squad.

The absence of Olaoluwa Aina, William Ekong, and Leon Balogun probably means that Italy –based Tyronne Ebuehi, Chidozie Awaziem of FC Boavista in Portugal, and Spain–based Kenneth Omeruo will start against the Blue Sharks this evening.

The departures of two-goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi also open the door for perhaps Terem Moffi and Henry Onyekuru. But it is in the midfield that Coach Gernot Rohr would have to enlist entirely unaccustomed partners and charge them to deliver.

Oghenekaro Etebo, Wilfred Ndidi, and Joseph Ayodele-Aribo have all returned to the UK.

Coach Rohr may opt to deploy the versatile Abdullahi Shehu to the midfield as he has done a couple of times, most recently in Sierra Leone against the Leone Stars in a 2021 AFCON qualifier. Russia–based Chidera Ejuke, Italy–based former junior international Kingsley Michael, and new face Innocent Bonke from Sweden are available.

Captain Ahmed Musa will earn his 100th cap for Nigeria, 11 years after he won his first against Madagascar in Calabar if he takes any part in today’s encounter.

Three points will consolidate Nigeria’s leadership of Group C, confirmed after the victory over Liberia that followed the draw between Cape Verde and the Central African Republic in Douala. A win will guarantee Nigeria a minimum of three points ahead of any other team in the pool, even if Liberia’s Lone Star is victorious against Central African Republic in Monrovia.

A win will also brighten the path of the three–time African champions to the knockout final round, given that home-and-away fixture against the Central African Republic is what is on the plate in October.

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Conte breaks silence, says pre-deal with Arsenal not true

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Antonio Conte’s agent, Federico Pastorello has revealed that the coach has not agreed to a pre-deal with Arsenal FC.

There have been speculations that Conte is in line to replace Mikel Arteta at the Emirates after the later failed to win a single game this season in the Premier League.

The Gunners have also not recorded any goal in their defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Although Conte is out of work since leaving Inter Milan, he is not close to returning to the dugout.

Transfer specialist, Fabrizio Romano, tweeted: “There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre-agreement with any club and he’s free.

“Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.

There’s absolutely NO pre agreement between Antonio Conte and Arsenal. Conte has no verbal/pre agreement with any club and he’s free.

Federico Pastorello – agent close to Conte since years – confirms to @Freddie_Paxton: “Rumours about Arsenal pre-deal are not true”.

— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 5, 2021

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