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Beach Soccer: FIFA Highlights Nigeria’s Captain, Olawale

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For a man who prefers the 11-a-side version to the five-man game, Isiaka Olawale has achieved quite a lot in beach soccer. On Thursday, the 33-year-old will captain Nigeria at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017.

In an interview with FIFA.com, the Nigerian looks forward to the tournament. “Qualifying for the finals was not easy,” Olawale said.

“We have not made it for the last two tournaments and being beaten in the semi-finals by Senegal in the Seychelles and missing out on qualifying for the finals in Portugal was very painful. In 2013, we were also beaten by Senegal in the last four. So we were very determined.
“For the qualifying tournament this time around, we recalled some of the older players. As captain of the team, I spoke to the players and told them this is a great opportunity. The African championships were in our country, so we had a lot of advantages.”
As hosts, the Super Sand Eagles were seeded into Group A, where they faced Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt and Ghana. “This was not an easy group,” Olawale said. “Côte d’Ivoire and Egypt are regularly in the semi-finals and Ghana is not a bad team either. But we wanted to avoid facing Senegal again, so we thought that we had to win our group.”
Although they lost their second group match on penalties to rivals Cote d’Ivoire, they benefited from the West African’s defeat against Egypt in their final game, thus giving Nigeria top place and a semi-final match-up against Morocco.

A comfortable 6-1 win saw them through to the final, but more importantly, it also gave them a place at the world finals in the Bahamas. Although they lost the championship match to Senegal, they had achieved their main goal.
In the Bahamas, Nigeria will be playing in Group B will be challenging Iran, Italy and Mexico for a place in the knockout stages.
“All the teams we will be facing are very, very good teams,” Olawale said. “However, and I say that with the utmost of respect to our opponents, we don’t have to overestimate anybody.
“We will take each match as it comes. But we will try our very best. We have to be at our best if we want to make it through to the next round. We have faced some of the teams before and we know that any team that has qualified for the World Cup deserves to be there.”
Bahamas 2017 will be the fourth time that Olawale competes in the showpiece event of beach soccer, having been in the Nigerian team at the 2007 finals in Brazil, the 2009 edition in the United Arab Emirates and the last time the Super Sand Eagles made it through in 2011, when Italy hosted the tournament.
Like many other beach soccer players, Olawale started out in the traditional game, but unlike many others, he still competes at the highest level, turning out for El Kanemi Warriors in the Nigerian top flight.
“When I was playing for WA Tlemcen in Algeria, we would often train on the beach and I realised I was good at it,” he said.

“When I returned to Nigeria in 2006, I was asked to join the national beach soccer team and it was an opportunity I was not going to miss, even though my heart is with 11-a-side game.”
Super Eagles aspirations

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But it was not only on the beach that he had an opportunity to represent his country, as he was also capped by the Super Eagles.

“When Berti Vogts was coach, he called me up and I played a few games for Nigeria,” Olawale said.

“I have not given up playing for them again, but I have to be realistic. There are many good Nigerian midfielders and it will not be easy for me to get into the side.”

He joined Warriors last year, but was restricted from playing for the club after his previous team Giwa FC ran into financial difficulties. “I did not want to risk anything, so I have only started playing a few weeks ago.”
Asked which form of the Beautiful Game he prefers, he hesitates, but only for a few seconds. “The game played on grass,” he said. “That drew me to the sport and that is what I prefer. But I am grateful for everything that I have been able to achieve through beach soccer.
“Playing beach soccer is very different from playing the other game. Beach soccer is so much more physical. You need to be a strong individual player to play beach soccer. In an 11-a-side game, if one of your team-mates is not doing well, he can still be carried along by the rest of the team.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals

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African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.

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Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.

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-CAF

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International Football

Nigeria’s Nnadozie, Malawi striker, Chawinga scoop top awards in France

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Malawi striker Tabitha Chawinga and Chiamaka Nnadozie of Nigeria have been named the best player and best goalkeeper respectively in the French women’s league.

Chawinga wasted no time in making an impact upon her arrival in France after joining Paris Saint-Germain from Inter Milan in less than one year.

 The Malawi captain joined PSG in the summer of 2023 and has quickly showcased her talent, resulting in the top award on Monday night.

She played 25 matches, scoring 18 goals and providing 10 assists while donning the iconic red and blue jersey.

As a semifinalist in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, PSG’s number 22 became the first Malawian to score a goal in a European competition.

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Meanwhile, Nnadozie has had an exceptional season with Paris FC which had led to dethrone Christiane Endlerthe – long standing best goalkeeper in the French women’s top-flight.

The Nigerian goalkeeper boasts 10 clean sheets in 28 appearances in the French league.

For the first time in her career, Nnadozie has been recognized in this category, ending the dominance of Endler, who was named the best goalkeeper in the French league from 2019 to 2023.

Chawinga and Nnadozie’s achievements highlight the growing influence of African players abroad as their performances will pave the way for future generations of footballers from the continent to shine on the global stage.

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What a twist of fate! Before now, Morocco and Algeria were  allies

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When FIFA Suspended Morocco for Supporting Algeria’s Independence

Despite Morocco’s historical solidarity with Algeria, the regime continues to politicize sporting events in search of opportunities to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity.

Algeria continues to push with its obsessive tendency to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity despite the country’s long-standing solidarity with its National Liberation Front (FLN) in international sporting events.

Last week, the Algerian regime confiscated the jerseys of a Moroccan club RS Berkane ahead of a CAF Confederation match in Algeria due to the fact that they featured a full map of Morocco.

The decision drew outrage from Moroccans and international observers who decried Algeria’s politicizing of sporting events and its constant search for opportunities to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity.

On Saturday, Algerian journalist and political analyst, Oualid Kebir, took to social media exposing the regime’s disregard for Morocco’s historical support for the Algerian FLN in international sporting events.

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Kebir highlighted Morocco’s “heroic” and “strong supportive stances” during Algerian’s challenging times during French occupation. “Morocco’s historical and heroic stance at that time is added to the honorable and strong supportive stances at that time towards Algeria,” the post read. 

Kebir’s statement referred to Morocco’s Royal Football Federation (FRMF) organizing a match in 1958 against the FLN team despite the fact that the team was not recognized by FIFA. The team consisted then of French Muslim (Algerian) players who had been suspended by the French Football Federation.

FIFA’s justification at the time for punishing Morocco was due to the licensing of the FRMF clubs to play against the FLN team. 

“Today, the military regime disguises ingratitude and compels Algerian clubs and sports teams to refuse to play and confront their Moroccan counterparts who display the map of Morocco on their jerseys!” Kebir wrote, decrying Algeria’s ungratefulness to Morocco’s historical support.

“This is the reward for standing with us during difficult times?!” he stressed.

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Attached to the post was the official document from FIFA outlining its decision to revoke the affiliation of the FRMF due to Morocco’s authorization of its clubs to play matches against the Algerian national team, despite FIFA’s objections. 

Algeria’s blatant attacks on Morocco’s sovereignty have especially peaked over the past days with the country staunchly attempting to politicize yet another sporting event.

One such event occurred during the Arab Championship this week, where the Algerian U-17 national handball team withdrew in protest of Morocco’s jersey featuring a full map of Morocco that includes its southern provinces. 

After the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced RS Berkane to be the winner of the Sunday match, Algeria relentlessly appealed the decision, losing the appeal in the process.

However, the regime announced that they would take their case to a higher court, alleging that the jerseys include a political symbol.

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In January 2023, Algeria orchestrated a similar attack on Morocco through the African Nations Championship (CHAN). During the tournament, the Algerian regime denied the Moroccan team the right to participate and defend their title, while using the tournament’s opening ceremony as a political platform to express support for the Polisario Front. 

-Morocco World News

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