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Magnificent Morocco are a match to Paris 2024 Olympics Men’s football event

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Like a giant star pull down from the skies, the Ghana Black Meteors were shot down by the rampaging Morocco U23 sides as the CAF U23 Cup of Nations – the pathway to the Paris 2024 Olympic football event.

The Ghanaian sides were dazed 5-1 as the Moroccans employed ruthless efficiency to sniff life out of the West Africans in the Matchday 2 of the CAF U23  tournament.

Morocco’s Amir Richardson opened the scoring early with a goal in the sixth minute, followed closely by Ismael Saibari in the 14th minute of the match.

Yanis Begraoui’s third goal in the 29th minute further tipped the scale in favour of Morocco before the end of the first half.

Towards the end of the first half, Ghana’s Salim Adams scored a consolatory goal in the 42nd minute, to finish the first half with a 3-1 score.

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The win rate increased for Morocco when Abde Ezzalzouli scored the fourth goal three minutes after the start of the second half.

Eager to attain their objective, the Moroccan team sealed the win with a fifth goal by Begraoui at minute 53, thus ending the game with a remarkable 5-1 score.

With the win, the Moroccans are in the semi-finals and closer to picking of a ticket to the Olympic Games next year. If they win their semi-final match, they qualify for the Olympics. But if they lose, they will have to win the third place match to pick the ticket.

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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Nigerian table tennis players to know Olympic opponents today

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Toriola Explains Why Aruna’s Absence Affected Nigeria’s Performance In Busan -

As the official draw for the table tennis competitions of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games takes place this Wednesday Nigeria’s trio of Olajide Omotayo, Offiong Edem, and Fatimo Bello will know their first-round opponents when the event kicks off on July 27 at South Paris Arena.

A total of 172 players, (86 in men’s and 86 in women’s category), will compete across five medal events (two per gender and a mixed) at the Paris Olympic Games, while Omotayo who will be making his second appearance at the games will start his campaign from the Preliminary Rounds of the Men’s Singles.

Like Omotayo, Edem who is making her fifth Olympic Games appearance as well as debutant Bello will also start their participation in the Preliminary Rounds of the Men’s Singles.

As one of the top 16 seeds, Quadri Aruna will commence his fifth Olympic Games campaign from Round of 64 which will commence on July 28.

Aruna, whose best outing at the Olympic Games was at Rio 2016 in Brazil where he defied odds to reach the quarterfinal of the Men’s Singles as the first African to attain the height.

However, Egypt’s Omar Assar equalled Aruna’s quarterfinal feat at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 when the 2023 African Games champion worked his way into the last eight of the Men’s Singles in Japan.

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Apart from Aruna and Assar who are among the top 16 seeds, other Africans like Egypt’s trio of Dina Meshref, Hana Goda, and Mohamed El-Beiali as well as Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw, Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou, Algeria’s duo of Mehdi Bouloussa and Lyna Loghraibi including history-making 21-year-old Fabio Rakotoarimanana of Madagascar will all begin their quest from the Preliminary Rounds of the Men’s and Women’s Singles on July 27.

Meanwhile, 35-year-old Chinese legend Ma Long, who is considered the undisputed king of table tennis, prepares for what could be his final Olympic hurrah in Paris.

With five Olympic gold medals, the most of any player, Ma Long’s legacy is already cemented. 

His journey to the top began in 2012 when he secured his first Olympic gold as part of China’s dominant Men’s Team. Four years later, in Rio 2016, Ma Long’s legend truly ignited. He displayed a mastery of the racket, showcasing both offensive prowess and tactical brilliance as he clinched his first Men’s Singles gold medal. This victory cemented his place as a top contender and a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. 

Tokyo 2020 wasn’t just another year for Ma Long. He defied expectations and accomplished the unthinkable – defending his Men’s Singles title. This historic feat had never been achieved before, solidifying him as an Olympic legend. Ma Long also secured a team gold, adding another chapter to his already impressive Olympic resumé. His haul of five Olympic gold medals, combined with three singles world titles and the record for the longest reign at number one in the world rankings, leaves no doubt that Ma Long is the undisputed greatest table tennis player in history. Now, in Paris, Ma Long sets his sights on potentially adding another team gold to his collection.

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Identity of who lights Olympic Cauldron is kept secret as Zidane is a suspect

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Zinadine Zidane may light the Olympic Cauldron on Friday

The identity of the person who lights the Olympic cauldron on the night of the opening ceremony is one of sport’s best-kept secrets, with less than a dozen people in the know.

Paris 2024 organising committee president Tony Estanguet on Sunday said the person who will light the cauldron on Friday was not yet aware they had been selected.

Here are the top five contenders:

MARIE-JOSE PEREC

The 56-year-old is widely considered to be France’s best Olympian of all time, with three gold medals across two Games in athletics.

Perec, who was born in the overseas region of Guadeloupe, won the 400 metres title at the Barcelona Games in 1992 before achieving the 200-400m double four years later in Atlanta.

She bore the torch in her native Guadeloupe but Estanguet said someone who had already carried it could not be ruled out.

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OMAR SY

The star of ‘The Untouchables’, of West African origin, is one of France’s most-beloved personalities. He also stars in the Netflix show ‘Lupin’, whose first series is the third-most watched on the platform, with almost 100 million viewers.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

France’s greatest soccer player who helped Les Bleus to their first World Cup title, on home soil in 1998 and to the European title two years later, Zidane, whose parents are from Algeria, hails from the Marseille estates.

He was the favourite to bring the Olympic flame to land in Marseille after its boat trip from Greece but eventually was not involved.

THOMAS PESQUET

The Frenchman is the most experienced European astronaut with almost 400 days spent in space – and possibly as many spent on TV sets due to his huge popularity in the country.

SURVIVOR(S) FROM THE NOVEMBER 13, 2015 ATTACKS

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo says she decided to support the Olympic bid after Islamist squads killed 130 people in a night of carnage across Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, looking to lift the Parisians’ moods. It would be fitting to see one or several survivors of the attacks light the cauldron on Friday.

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-Reuters

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Nigeria’s Atlanta ‘96 football feat re-enacted as Sports Ministry plans for audio-visual documentary

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Celestine Babayaro celebrates his goal against Argentina in the final match

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

The football event of the Atlanta’96 which was a game changer will soon be documented in audio-visual format by the Nigeria ministry of sports. The men’s football tournament was won by Nigeria and the completion of the tournament has since changed.

The Nigerian side, locally tagged as ‘Dream Team surpassed all expectations to emerge winners, beating global giants, Brazil and Argentina on their way to glory.

Nigerian sports minister, JJohn Owan Enoh

It was the first time in 68 years that a non-European country won the football tournament of the Olympics. More significantly is the fact that Nigeria terminated the Europe dominance of the tournament.

Ever since, no European country has won. The epoch-making occasion will now be documented in film. According to a press statement, the Nigerian sports minister, JJohn Owan Enoh remarked: “We want to use the power of storytelling to inspire a new generation of Nigerian sportsmen and women.”

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It will be a collaboration of the sports ministry and Homelands Films.

Enoh remarked that the movie has the potential to bring to life a story deeply embedded in the hearts of Nigerians and sports lovers worldwide. 

“In the run-up to the Olympics, nothing concretely prepared Nigeria, Africa, and the global audience for what was to follow.

“They went to the Olympics under the unlikeliest of circumstances,” he said.

“Although they were called the ‘Dream Team,’ not many people betted on them to return with the gold medal considering the fact that world football superpowers who were part of the competition were indeed bookmakers’ favourites.”

“Against all odds, our Dream Team went, saw, and conquered the world. It was not just about the gold medal but also the way this victory – which remains Nigeria’s greatest glory in world football – was achieved and celebrated that mattered. I recall Nigerians of all walks of life pouring into the streets in every town, city, and even the remotest villages in wild jubilation; they danced, sang, and draped themselves with the national flag.”

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Senator Enoh highlighted the unifying power of sports and its transformative capacity, and its importance today, as President Bola Ahmed Tinubu steers the country to greater prosperity.

“Nigerians forgot their different tribes, tongues, creed, and political differences that tend to polarize them. They reveled and danced well into the dawn of the next day. This poignant moment underscored the unifying power of sports. This unity, is what we must imbibe today.”

 “We want a world-class film that tells the story of the heroics of 1996 in a manner that is enriching, compelling, and inspiring a sense of nationalism. Especially at this time, where the Olympics opening ceremony starts this week, it matters that we kick off this project now.”

The president of Homeland Films, Mrs. Mary Ephraim Egbas, expressed her excitement about the project. “By bringing this story to the big screen, we aim to honour the legacy of our athletes and ignite a renewed sense of pride and passion for Nigerian sports. The significance extends beyond entertainment. It’s poised to revolutionize the industry in Nigeria and Africa. It would have a profound impact on the sports industry.”

Also speaking at the ceremony, a member of the victorious 1996 Dream Team, Emmanuel Babayaro recalled with nostalgia how after Nigeria lost the opening group match to Brazil, the squad never gave up. “Losing just 1-0 to reigning Brazil that was unbeaten like three years before the Olympics a no big deal. We were happy that our coach, Jo Bonfrere was not. He wanted us to beat Brazil to announce our readiness to capture the football gold. We picked up ourselves and resolved to go all the way,” recalled the senior Babayaro brother who also had his junior brother Celestine Babayaro as a wing-back in the team.

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