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LOBI STARS, RANGERS BEGIN JOURNEY TO CONTINENTAL GLORY

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BY APESIN ADEMOLA.

 

Nigerian clubs begin their campaign for continental glory this Wednesday, a day after some of their counterparts across Africa would have kicked off the 2018/19 edition of CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup.

 

In order to align with international football calendar, CAF will run its season from August to May next year. The transitional schedule therefore runs from this month and ends next May.

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Nigerian teams have failed to do well in Africa in recent years and the federation will therefore have one club in each of the two club competitions. In the CAF Champions League, Premier League winners Lobi Stars will file out on Wednesday at Stade Municipal de Loum, a city in the Littoral Province of Cameroon. Their opponents will be Union des Mouvements Sportifs de Loum (UMS de Loum, for short)

 

On the same day, Federation Cup champions Enugu Rangers will host Ethiopia’s Defence Force in the CAF Confederation Cup.

 

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Lobi Stars will be playing in Africa for the fifth time in their 37 years existence. It was not until 2000 that the Makurdi-based side first featured in a CAF competition. They were eliminated in that year’s group stage of the CAF Champions League after finishing third among Ghana’s Heart of Oaks, Al-Ahly of Egypt and ASC Jeanne d’Arc of Senegal.

 

Four years later, Lobi Stars were knocked out at the second round of CAF Confederation Cup, just as they did in 2006 and even performed worse in 2012 with a first round elimination.

 

Founded in 2011, UMS de Loum won their first Cameroon Cup three years ago by beating former CAF Champions League winners Coton Sport, three-time African Cup of Champions Clubs title holders Canon Sportif de Yaoundé and Union Doula on their way to the final where they defeated Panthère du Ndé 2–0.

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The Cameroonian side lost in the preliminary round of CAF Champions League last year and the first round of the Confederation Cup in 2016.

 

Runners-up behind Coton Sport in the Cameroon top flight concluded last July, UMS de Loum have not had a competitive match since then, while Lobi Stars featured in the Nigerian SuperCup match as recent as last Tuesday beating Federation Cup champions Rangers 1-0 at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba.

 

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In that SuperCup fixture, Lobi Stars tried out new players including Lobi handed starts to new signings Sikiru Alimi (ex-Sunshine Stars), Alex Aghahowa (formerly El-Kanemi Warriors), Chile Azu (from Go Round FC) and Samuel Mathias (El-Kanemi Warriors).

 

AS Vita Club of DR Congo await the winners of Lobi Stars/UMS de Loum pair in the first round.

 

For Rangers, they were in continental competition as recent as last year but could not go beyond the first round of the CAF Champions League. The Flying Antelopes managed to beat Algeria’s JS Saoura on away goal rule at the preliminary stage but lost 3-5 aggregate to Zamalek of Egypt in the next round.

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Relegated to the Confederation Cup thereafter, Rangers still couldn’t go far as Zambia’s ZESCO United triumphed 5-2 aggregate in the playoff round.

 

Rangers only hurrah in Africa was winning the CAF Cup Winners Cup in 1977. Ten appearances in the CAF Champions League (including in its precursor, the African Cup of Champions Clubs), four in the Confederation Cup and two in the CAF Cup have seen Rangers gone only as far as the final in 1975 in the African Cup of Champions Clubs.

 

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In the off-season, Rangers acquired new players including Michael Uchebo, who was in the Super Eagles squad to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He re-joined the club after a few years unattached.

 

Gbenga Ogunbote, a veteran Nigerian coach, lead Rangers who are fired up to win. “We don’t have any option but to win on Wednesday against Defence FC,” goalkeeper Femi Thomas agrees.

 

The Ethiopian club featured in last year’s CAF Confederation Cup but got knocked out at the preliminary round. Before then, they had travelled as far as the quarterfinals of the 1976 CAF Cup Winners’ Cup. They also got eliminated at the first round in the 1977 edition of the African Cup of Champions Clubs and CAF Confederation Cup in 2007.

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Also known as Mekelakeya, Defence Force’s last competitive match was on November 4 when they beat Debub Police 2-1 away in the first match of the 2018/19 Ethiopian Premier League season.

 

Whoever win between Rangers and their Ethiopian opposition will face either Algeria’s USM Bel Abbès or LISCR (Liberia) in the first round.

 

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Tuesday’s fixtures…

2018/19 CAF Champions League (Preliminary round first leg)

  • Volcan Club (Comoros Islands) v African StarsFC (Namibia) (1pm)
  • Stade Centrafricaine (Central Africa Republic) v Stade Malien (Mali) (3pm),
  • ASAS Djibouti Télécom (Djibouti) v Jimma Aba Jifar (Ethiopia) (4pm)
  • ASF Bobo Dioulasso (Burkina Faso) v Coton Sport (Cameroon) (4.30 pm)
  • AS SONIDEP (Niger Republic) v ZESCO United(Zambia) (4:30pm)
  • CS Constantine (Algeria) v GAMTEL (Gambia) (5pm)
  • Al-Nasr (Libya) v Al-Hilal Juba (South Sudan) (5pm)
  • ASC Diaraf (Senegal) v US Koroki (Togo) (6pm)
  • Township Rollers (Botswana) v BantuFC (Lesotho) (6:30pm)
  • JS Saoura (Algeria) v SC Gagnoa (Côte d’Ivoire) (7pm)
  • Ittihad Tanger (Morocco) v Elect-Sport (Chad) (8pm)
  • Al-Hilal (Sudan) v JKUSC (Zanzibar) (8pm)

 

2018/19 CAF Confederation Cup (Preliminary round first leg)

  • Mtibwa Sugar (Tanzania) v Northern Dynamo FC (Seychelles) (2pm)
  • Kariobangi Sharks (Kenya) v Arta Solar 7 (Djibouti) (2pm)
  • USM Bel Abbès (Algeria) v LISCR (Liberia) (3:30pm)
  • FC San Pédro (Côte d’Ivoire) v Armed Forces FC (Gambia) (5pm)
  • Nouakchott King’s (Mauritania) v Stade d’Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) (6pm)
  • Hassania Agadir (Morocco) v AS GNN (Niger Republic) (6pm)
  • NA Hussein Dey (Algeria) v Diables Noirs (Congo Republic) (6pm)
  • Salitas FC (Burkina Faso) v WakiryaAC (Guinea) (7pm)
  • Petro de Luanda (Angola) v Orapa United (Botswana)
  • Green Eagles (Zambia) v Young Buffaloes (eSwatini)
  • Ashanti Kotoko SC (Ghana) v Eding Sport (Cameroon) (Ashanti Kotoko SC gain walkover)

 

Wednesday’s fixtures…

2018/19 CAF Champions League (Preliminary round first leg)

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  • UMS de Loum(Cameroon) v Lobi Stars (Nigeria) (3:30pm)
  • CNaPS Sport (Madagascar) v FC Platinum (Zimbabwe) (12:30pm)
  • Le Messager Ngozi (Burundi) v Ismaily (Egypt) (2pm)
  • UD Songo (Mozambique) v Nkana(Zambia) (2pm)
  • Simba (Tanzania) v Mbabane Swallows (eSwatini) (2pm)
  • APR FC (Rwanda) v Club Africain (Tunisia) (2:30pm)
  • Leones Vegetarianos (Equatorial Guinea) v Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa) (3pm)
  • 1º de Agosto (Angola) v AS Otôho(Congo Republic) (4pm)
  • Gor Mahia (Kenya) v Nyasa Big Bullets (Malawi)(5pm)
  • ASEC Mimosas (Côte d’Ivoire) v AS Mangasport (Gabon) (5pm)
  • FC Nouadhibou (Mauritania) v Al-Ahly Benghazi (Libya) (6pm)
  • Horoya (Guinea) v Barrack Young Controllers (Liberia) (6pm)
  • Orlando Pirates (South Africa) v Light Stars FC (Seychelles) (6.30pm)
  • Al-Merrikh (Sudan) v Vipers (Uganda) (both 6:30pm)

 

 

 

2018/19 CAF Confederation Cup (Preliminary round first leg)

 

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  • Enugu Rangers (Nigeria) v Defence Force SC (Ethiopia) (4pm)
  • Miracle Club (Comoros Islands) v Al-Ittihad (Libya) (1pm)
  • Free State Stars (South Africa) v Mukura Victory Sports (Rwanda) (2pm)
  • Green Buffaloes (Zambia) v Al-Merreikh Juba FC (South Sudan) (2pm)
  • New Star FC (Cameroon) v Vital’O FC (Burundi) (3pm)
  • AS CotonTchad (Chad) v Gomido FC (Togo) (3.30pm)
  • DC Motema Pembe (DR Congo) v Anges de Fatima (Central Africa Republic) (3.30pm)
  • Cercle Mbéri Sportif (Gabon) v Silver StrikersFC (Malawi) (3:30pm)
  • Génération Foot (Senegal) v Djoliba (Mali) (5:30pm)
  • Al-Ahly Shendi (Sudan) v AS Nyuki (DR Congo) (6pm)
  • Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa) v Zimamoto FC (Zanzibar) (6:30pm)
  • ASSM Elgeco Plus (Madagascar) v Deportivo Unidad (Equatorial Guinea) (6.30pm)

 

 

 

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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Manu Garba proud of Eaglets as team countenances Niger Republic

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Coach Manu Garba has asserted that he is proud of the Golden Eaglets after Thursday’s scoreless encounter with their Burkina Faso counterparts in the Group B opener of the WAFU B U17 Championship.

 Five-time champions Nigeria created several scoring chances particularly late in the game at the Accra University Stadium, but failed to utilise even one that could have earned them the three points and handed them early leadership of the pool.

 However, Garba said the boys played a cohesive game in their first-ever international outing and deserve credit for their display.

 “We are proud of our team’s performance. Although we didn’t secure the win that we hoped for, our players showed great teamwork and sportsmanship. We look forward to our next match and the opportunity to continue growing and improving.

 “The boys will get better with experience and exposure.”

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 Against the Burkinabes, the Eaglets showed flair and fluency, but a heavy downpour in the final 15 minutes of the game disrupted the general flow of play, with the pitch waterlogged and effective control and passing impossible.

 The Golden Eaglets go up against their counterparts from the Niger Republic on Sunday evening (6pm Ghana time; 7pm Nigeria) with renewed hope and vigour to pick up the three points that will enhance their chances of a place in the last four.

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Paris to face major disruption ahead of Games opening ceremony, says police chief

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Paris will face major disruption ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony along the Seine on July 26, as organisers ramp up security measures to safeguard the event, the city’s police chief said on Thursday.

Organisers hope the opening ceremony, in which 160 boats carrying athletes from around the world will travel a 6 kilometre route along the Seine river towards the Eiffel tower, will deliver a jaw-dropping spectacle. Some 300,000 spectators will watch from the banks of the Seine as a global audience tunes in on TV.

But the ceremony is also a major security headache, taking place against a backdrop of wars in Ukraine and Gaza. French President Emmanuel Macron has already floated the possibility of scrapping the river ceremony and reverting to at least two back-up plans if the security risks become untenable.

Paris residents with a view of the Seine can invite friends to watch the opening of the 2024 Summer Games from their balconies, but should prepare for heavy traffic and limited movement, Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said at a press conference.

Adjacent metro stations, most river crossings and all water traffic will be halted in the week before the open-air ceremony, Nunez said, adding that some bridges will remain open “in order not to cut Paris in two halves.”

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Everyone who wants to access the immediate surroundings of the Seine in the week before the Games will need to sign up on an online platform, Nunez said. Local residents hoping to access their homes, which are among the most prestigious addresses in France, will need to do the same.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who also spoke at the event said the disruption would impact around 20,000 residents and business owners.

Asked about Macron’s comments earlier this month, Nunez said his teams were still working on the ‘Plan A’ of the river ceremony.

“As of today, we have no reason to be worried,” Nunez said.

-Reuters

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New dawn expected as Nigeria sports ministry partners with Yanga Games

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Towards creating a new dawn for Nigerian Sports,  the Federal Ministry  of Sports has signed a landmark  agreement with  top lottery  company Yanga Games to raise the revenue profile of the Ministry  and ensure a new deal for the welfare of athletes. 

Speaking during the unveiling  of the partnership between  the Ministry  and  Yanga  Games in Lagos on Friday,  Chairman/CEO of Yanga Games  Derrick  David Kentebe  said: “we are so super excited by this opportunity to work  with the Ministry  of Sports Development to change the narrative about Sports in the country. 

Continuing, he remarked: “We see opportunity for marketing our athletes  and sports generally . We shall avail ourselves  the best use  of this unique and  special partnership. We shall pursue this mandate with vigour, passion and unrivaled  commitment  to bring benefits to all the critical stakeholders.”

The agreement  according  to Kentebe  will provide  support for retired athletes, enhance grassroot  sports Development and advance the potentials of  special athletes.

He assured that ” Yanga Games has the capacity to  raise funds on behalf of the Ministry  of Sports for athletes  Development, endorsement and sponsorship deals for athletes”. 

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Minister of Sports Senator John Owan Enoh assured that the Ministry has total and absolute  confidence  in Yanga Games to deliver on the given mandate.

“Gone are the era when we depended solely  on government  to fund sports  development.  We are partnering with  Yanga Games to bring maximum  benefits  to the athletes and all critical stakeholders.

“We shall give institutional encouragement and support to the Management of  Yanga Games to succeed in this onerous task of rebuilding our sports sub sector.”

Speaking further, Kentebe  said ” We shall raise about 34 Billion in the next four years to assist athletes and improve sports in the country.

“We shall help to develop  grassroot  sports and  sustain youth involvement  through raffle draws, fund raiser and other avenues.

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