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Ogun 2024 National Sports Festival will be best of them all – Olopade, LOC Chairman

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Bankole Taiwo, Abeokuta

The newly inaugurated Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the 2024 National Sports Festival, Mr. Bukola Olopade, has revealed that the event to be hosted by Ogun State would be the best the country has ever had.

Olopade made this known after inspecting world-class facilities at the Remo Stars Football Club in Ikenne, the NYSC Orientation Camp in Sagamu, Alake Sports Center in Abeokuta, among others.

The Chairman reiterated the desire of the Prince Dapo Abiodun-led  administration to provide state-of-the-art sporting infrastructure across the nooks and crannies of the State, saying ‘’without an iota of doubt, Ogun State will host a festival to the admiration of sporting stakeholders in Nigeria’’.

The former Commissioner for Youth and Sports in the State also lauded Governor Dapo Abiodun’s effort at bringing together the best brains and minds in Nigerian Sports, admitting that it shows the seriousness of the government of the State in ensuring a befitting sports festival.

“What surprised me today is the fact that I underestimated the value of the facilities we have in Ogun State. So, when the Governor said the State is more than ready to host this festival, he knew what he was saying. The facilities we have inspected so far have been amazing”, he said.

Olopade, while revealing that the State would organise age-grade competitions like the Tertiary Institution games, Secondary School sports and many more, added that 60 percent of the athletes would represent the State at the National Sports Festival.

Earlier in a separate interview, the designated Chairman, Venues and Facilities sub-committee, Dr. Emmanuel Igbinosa, while responding to the preparedness of the State, noted that most of the facilities inspected at the MKO International Stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta would need minor repairs, adding that the Ikenne edifice of Remo Stars Football Club was more than 100 percent ready to host four or five games.

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Super Eagles technical adviser/Chief coach: NFF in a dilemma

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By Dr. Salau Dee Elf (NUGA Publicity Liaison Officer 1993-2001)

When Finidi George walked out of his coaching job with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in May, nobody envisaged that it would take this long before another foreign Coach would be unveiled, since the NFF cunningly made Finidi resign by informing him they will hire a foreign Technical Adviser which was not part of the agreement reached with him.

But two months down the line the embattled Federation which has funding challenges to hire a first class foreign Technical Adviser is still rolling on the same spot, a few weeks to the start of the 2025 CAF Nations Cup qualifiers in August 2024.

The craze for anything foreign has not only sunk deep into the fabric of our national consciousness but eaten deep into the current NFF board. Football Stakeholders were happy when the board decided to hire Finidi George, a home based former National player and Coach for Nigeria. But Finidi was not given time as NFF did to foreign Coach Peseiro who lost all his friendly matches and drew two of the World Cup qualifiers.

The alleged paucity of funds in the NFF to engage a first class foreign Technical Adviser led us to ask the  Federation why the craze for Foreign Technical Adviser when we have other qualified Nigerian Coaches who are doing well in and outside Nigeria. Some of these Technically sound Coaches include but not limited to SeyiOlofinjana, former Super Eagles player and Head of Talent Management and recruitment for Africa Region at Chelsea Football Club, England, Daniel Amokachi who has served several times as Assistant Coach to some foreign/Home based Coaches. Emmanuel Amuneke, renowned for his technical dept as a Coach.

Coach NdubuisiEgbo, former Nigerian Goaltender who won the Albania League for his team gaining a position to compete in the European Champions League. These Coaches and others would have come handy for the NFF but the rush to engage foreign coaches blurred its bearings.

Now, it seems the federation is in a dilemma as to the way forward. A Coach is supposed to have been engaged by now to check round the players that will be suitable to prosecute the 2025 AFCON and the 2026 World Cup qualifiers starting from August 2024. The NFF is walking a tightrope now by not having a Coach on ground with the barely few weeks to these qualifiers.

The NFF having jumped at the choice of the foreign Technical Adviser can eat the humble pie and decide on the best local Coach possible. The idea of the Federation turning around to hire the outgone Coach Peseiro testifies to the alleged paucity of funds bedevilling the body and the rash decision about hiring a foreign Technical Adviser.

Whichever decision the NFF takes on the Super Eagles Coaching crew will definitely affect the team’s performance. It’s better this issue is dealt with swiftly to allow whoever will be the Coach and the team ample time to prepare for the impending qualifiers and other matches.

DrSalau Dee Elf writes from Lagos at [email protected]

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Super-sub Watkins sends England past Netherlands into Euro 2024 final

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Ollie Watkins struck a stunning injury-time winner as England beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Wednesday to set up a Euro 2024 final showdown with Spain in Berlin.

It was an incredible finish to an evening that began badly for England, as Xavi Simons gave the Netherlands an early lead in the semi-final in Dortmund.

However, England were soon level through a Harry Kane penalty following a contentious VAR call by German referee Felix Zwayer, and the match looked set to drift towards extra time until Watkins struck.

On for Kane, Watkins received a pass from fellow substitute Cole Palmer with his back to goal in the first minute of stoppage time, turned and fired low into the far corner to leave the Netherlands bewildered.

“I’m lost for words really. I don’t think I’ve hit a ball that sweet before, and obviously in such a special moment,” said Watkins, the Aston Villa striker.

It has rarely been a convincing campaign from Gareth Southgate’s England side, but they are through to their second consecutive European Championship final as they dream of finally winning their first major trophy since 1966.

To do that, they have to perform better than at any point so far in Germany as they face an outstanding Spain tea

Spain will also have had an extra 24 hours to prepare for the final, having defeated France 2-1 on Tuesday.

The Netherlands had been hoping to repeat their triumph at the last Euros held in Germany, in 1988, but their current side lacks anyone with the star quality of Marco van Basten or Ruud Gullit.

A victory for them would have seen the Euros conclude with the same final as the 2010 World Cup. Instead, they now go home.

England had got to this stage despite not winning any of their last four matches in 90 minutes, and having been taken to extra time by Slovakia and Switzerland.

That might have given the Dutch an edge physically after the Oranje shrugged off finishing third in their group to brush aside Romania and see off Turkey.

England welcomed back Marc Guehi in defence after suspension, while Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman opted to start Donyell Malen in attack on the ground where he plays club football for Borussia Dortmund.

The Westfalenstadion is a special place for the Dutch, as the scene of their 2-0 win over Brazil, with goals by Johan Neeskens and Johan Cruyff, that took them through to the 1974 World Cup final.

They went ahead here after just seven minutes thanks to a brilliant effort by Simons, who robbed Declan Rice 35 metres from goal and advanced before sending a rasping drive beyond Jordan Pickford.

The Dutch players ran off to celebrate with their fans behind that goal, as England found themselves trailing for the third game running.

Just like against the Swiss in the quarter-finals, however, they reacted swiftly.

Kane forced a save from Bart Verbruggen and moments later sent a volley over the bar and was caught by Denzel Dumfries on the follow-through.

It seemed totally innocuous but Zwayer was summoned across to review the images and gave a penalty.

Kane, whose missed spot-kick against France cost England dear in the 2022 World Cup, made no mistake, slotting low into the bottom-left corner.

It settled into an open and entertaining game, with Dumfries redeeming himself by clearing off the line from Phil Foden.

Dumfries crashed a header off the bar from a Simons corner, but Foden responded by curling a superb shot from range off the post.

England’s midfielders were being given too much time on the ball, and Koeman used an injury to Memphis Depay to reinforce the centre, replacing the forward with Joey Veerman.

Another change followed at the interval, with Wout Weghorst – super-sub in previous rounds – replacing Malen.

Yet the game became more cagey as the minutes went on and the fear of making a mistake grew.

Pickford denied Virgil van Dijk on 65 minutes and the Netherlands began to take control as England’s leading players started to tire.

England did have the ball in the net on 79 minutes when Bukayo Saka turned in a Kyle Walker cutback, but the latter was just offside and the flag cut short the celebrations.

Southgate then decided to remove Kane and Foden, with Watkins and Palmer entering the fray to devastating effect.

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Napoli sign Italy defender Leonardo Spinazzola from Roma

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Napoli have announced the signing of Italy defender Leonardo Spinazzola from Serie A rivals Roma.

The 31-year-old, who has 24 international caps, was part of his country’s squad which won Euro 2020.

He was named in the team of the tournament following the Azzurri’s penalty shoot-out victory over England in the final at Wembley.

Spinazzola will work under former Italy, Chelsea and Tottenham manager Antonio Conte at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

“Leonardo is proud to be one of us!,” read a message on Napoli’s X account announcing the transfer.

The left back spent the past five seasons with Roma, a period which included winning the 2022 Europa Conference League under Jose Mourinho.

He began his professional career at Juventus where he lifted the Serie A title in 2019 following a series of loan moves.

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