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Premier League

Axe falls again on previously banned Imamu Maliki, referee of Bendel Insurance versus Remo Stars match

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Imamu Maliki Umar of Kano  who refereed the Bendel Insurance versus  Remo Stars on Sunday has been sidelined alongside the assistant referee Sunday Azi from Plateau State.

Both are among the 14 referees that are being sanctioned in the current Nigeria Premier League.

Last year, the NFF banned the same referee for two years, but surprisingly has made a return before the expiration of the ban.

On July 8, 2022, in a match between Niger Tornadoes FC Vs. Lobi Stars FC  the NFF  Committee ruled that Imam Malik Umar was  banned from all football related activities for two  years.

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On Sunday in Benin, back-in-action  Imamu Maliki  belatedly ruled a foul throw that preceded the goal by Remo Stars after his assistant referee Sunday Azi from Plateau State raised his flag after almost five passes of the ball that eventually resulted into the controversially disallowed goal.

Both officials are among the 14 referees that have now been benched.

Their poor performances ruled the media space and apparently prompted the Referee Development Unit of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to act.

In aftermath, the axe has fallen on 14 referees. Incidentally, matches involving Niger Tornadoes had the most recurring controversial refereeing.

In seven matches in which referees were sanctioned,  three involved Niger Tornadoes.

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In their Matchday 2 home match with Rivers United, Referee Bawa Buhari of Gombe has been sanctioned. So also are referee Chukuka Jahlove of Anambra State and Assistant Referee Akinwale Tomiwa of Oyo State, both officials in Niger Tornadoes home game against Bayelsa United on Matchday 4.

Their Matchday 5 duel with Sporting Lagos also had controversial officiating leading to the sanctioning of Assistant Referee II, Zechariah Nde of Delta State.

Also under the hammer are Referee Saeed Abdulaziz of Katsina State and Assistant Referee Jimmy Aimugbonrie of Edo State who handled the Gombe United versus Plateau United Matchday 5 match.

Perhaps the most controversial officiating decision was in the Kwara United home game with Sporting Lagos when a penalty kick was awarded even when the ‘offending’ player had his hands at his back while the ball hit him just above his torso.

The officials sanctioned are Referee Brown Ebenezer of Abia State and Assistant Referee Atuwho Morrison of Delta State.

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In the Matchday 6 of the Sunshine Stars versus Abia Warriors, all unnamed four match officials are sanctioned.

The memo conveying the sanctioning was sent to the Chief Operating Officer of the Nigeria Premier League by the Referee Development Unit of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)

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.

Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Premier League

Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Premier League

Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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