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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Super Falcons’ Ashleigh Plumptre joins Saudi Women’s Premier League club Al-Ittihad

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Ashleigh Plumptre played in all four of Nigeria's matches at the Women's World Cup

Nigeria defender Ashleigh Plumptre has joined Saudi club Al-Ittihad on a free transfer, having left Leicester City.

Plumptre, who played all four Nigeria matches at the Women’s World Cup, is one of the Saudi Women’s Premier League’s most high-profile signings.

A former age-group international with England, she switched allegiance to Nigeria in 2022.

“[I am] excited to start this journey alongside some incredible human beings,” the 25-year-old said.

Plumptre started all but two of Leicester’s Women’s Super League (WSL) games last season as the team finished 10th.

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Kelly Lindsey, a former US international who this summer left the role of Lewes FC’s head of performance, will be Plumptre’s new manager at Al-Ittihad.

Men’s Saudi Pro League teams have spent eye-catching sums in the transfer window, with Al-Ittihad’s recent additions including Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante, and this has led to accusations the country is seeking to ‘sportswash’ its reputation.

There are concerns over human rights in Saudi Arabia, including a lack of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights as well as the country’s use of the death penalty with same-sex sexual activity illegal and potentially punishable by death.

Saudi Arabia’s first women’s football league was launched in 2020, two years after women were first allowed into stadiums in the kingdom, but campaigners say more still needs to be done.

Al-Ittihad were one of four Saudi clubs taken over by the country’s Public Investment Fund earlier this year.

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Peter Hutton, who sits on the Saudi Pro League board, said in August that “changes in the role of women in Saudi community are remarkable and moving very fast.”

Hutton added: “I look at the evidence I see. You’ve now got 50,000 school girls playing football. You’ve got 1,000 women coaches. In 2018 there were 750 registered coaches. Now there are over 5,500.

“So you see that as evidence of change, and women’s football development as part of societal change. That for me is the real attraction of this project.”

Saudi Arabia’s women’s team entered the Fifa world rankings for the first time earlier this year and the country is bidding to host the 2026 Women’s Asia Cup.

-BBC

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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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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Nigeria’s Flamingos drawn against debuting hosts in FIFA U-17 World Cup

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The Flamingos, Nigeria’s U-17 women’s football team have been drawn against hosts, Dominican Republic for the finals of the Women’s U-17 World Cup holding from 16 October to 3 November in two host cities of Santo Domingo  and Santiago de los Caballeros.

 Both Nigeria and Dominican Republic are drawn in Group A along with Ecuador and New Zealand.  In Group B are Spain, USA, Korea Republic and Colombia.

Group C has  Korea DPR, Mexico, Kenya and England while those competing in Group D are  Japan , Poland, Brazil and Zambia.

The hosts will make their debut in the competition on 16 October against Ecuador in Santiago de los Caballeros, with New Zealand and Nigeria completing Group A.

Herrera, the first Dominican woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, had a special message for her compatriots taking part in the World Cup. She said: “I am the living example that you can achieve your dreams. So, keep up the good work. I am looking forward to seeing those amazing games.”

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Reigning champions Spain, meanwhile, will kick off their campaign in Group B, in which they will face USA, Korea Republic and Colombia, runners-up last time around.

“The advice to all the players that will participate here is to be confident and go live your dream. ¡Y Buena suerte!” said Flores, who took part in this tournament two years ago in India.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Dominican Republic 2024:Flamingos land in the Dominican Republic!

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Nigeria’s U17 girls, Flamingos, have secured their ticket to the 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals to be staged in the Dominican Republic later this year, after a 2-0 defeat of their Liberian counterparts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

Victory took the aggregate tally to 6-1 in favour of Nigeria, with extraordinary poacher Harmony Chidi setting a record of 13 goals in a qualifying series that will be difficult to equal in years to come. She had 11 goals before kick-off, but netted the two goals of the evening to take Nigeria’s total of the series to a whopping 25. Central African Republic fell by a dozen goals while Burkina Faso fell 1-7 on aggregate.

Her first came after only four minutes when she sped past the Liberian defence to toe-poke the ball beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Makula Konneh from a cross by Shakirat Moshood.

A goal feast was expected, but this did not happen, as Peace Effiong had a close call in the 17th and Moshood rocked the crossbar a minute after from 20 yards. Moshood also missed from close range with 10 minutes left of the first half.

In the 56th minute, Moshood blasted beyond the goalpost when faced with Konneh, but Harmony Chidi made sure of her brace seven minutes later when she lashed the ball beyond Konneh’s reach as Nigeria seized the ball from a defensive slip-up by the visitors.

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The 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will be staged in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, 16th October – 3rd November.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

‘It shall be showers of goals’, vows Flamingos ahead of Liberia clash

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Head Coach Bankole Olowookere is confident that the Nigeria U17 girls, Flamingos, will not take their feet off the pedal when they take on their Liberian counterparts in a FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying match in Abuja on Friday.

“We are battle-ready for the match on Friday. The girls are raring to go because they want to go to the World Cup. They are already dreaming of flying to the Dominican Republic.

“There is so much excitement in camp, and they are self-assured. However, I have warned them that it is never over until it is over. There should be no display of over-confidence on the pitch. We must approach the match like the first leg was a drawn game.”

Nigeria won the first leg 4-1 in Monrovia on Sunday, with 11-goal qualifying series revelation Harmony Chidi, Shakirat Moshood, Peace Effiong and substitute Blessing Ifitezue banging in the goals for the Flamingos. The hosts got their consolation goal off a penalty awarded with five minutes left of the encounter at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.

The Flamingos will take part in the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup for the seventh time once they cross Friday’s hurdle.

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They featured at the inaugural edition in New Zealand in 2008, and subsequently at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, Azerbaijan 2012, Costa Rica 2014, Jordan 2016 and India 2022, where they won the bronze medals.  

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