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It’ll Be Winner-takes-all In Abuja As Super Falcons Face Cameroon In Quest For First Olympic Qualification In 16 Years –

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Paris 2024: Waldrum Invites Ajibade, Oshoala, Nnadozie, 19 Others For Banyana -

Heavyweights Nigeria and Cameroon fought to a 0-0 draw in their 2024 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament third round, first leg encounter in Douala on Friday.

The decider will therefore be the clash in Abuja for the qualification for the final ticket to get to the Olympics.

In spite of Nigeria’s pedigree in women’s football, the Super Falcons last qualified for the Olympics 16 years ago at Beijing 2008.

Three consecutive Olympic Games in 2012, 2016 and 2020 have passed without the record nine-times African champions featuring.

 

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They will now have to navigate past Cameroon to face the winner of South Africa – Tanzania clash, with the former most likely their final hurdle.

 

This Friday in Douala, the nine-time champions of Africa took the pitch with their usual dash and gloss and forced consecutive throw-ins.

Yet, the game would become a ding-dong as time wore on, and in the 27th minute, midfielder Toni Payne wasted a good opportunity to put Nigeria ahead.

 

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Twelve minutes later, the Indomitable Lionesses caught sight of goal, but goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, one of the world’s safest pair of hands at the moment, had things covered.

 

In the second half, the Lionesses stepped up their game as they were urged on by the home crowd at the Stade de la Reunification Douala. Yet, it was Nigeria that had the ball in the net five minutes into the second half, only for Ugandan referee Shamirah Nabbada to rule Jennifer Echegini off-side.

 

In another match in the penultimate round of the African qualifying series, reigning continental champions South Africa trounced Tanzania’s senior girls 3-0 in Dar es Salaam, with goals from Jermaine Seoposenwe, captain Thembi Kgatlana and Hildah Magaia. The winner on aggregate of the Nigeria/Cameroon fixture will most likely have to duel with the African champions for a place in Paris.

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Both the Super Falcons and the Indomitable Lionesses clash in the second leg at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Monday evening.  

 

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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Olympics

‘Prince of Monaco’, Ikpeba reflects on Nigeria’s most memorable moment at the Olympics

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF) website has celebrated Nigeria’s Victor Ikpeba who along team mates was crowned Olympic champion in 1996. 

It was 28-years ago that the Super Eagles of Nigeria claimed gold at the 1996 Olympics with Victor Ikpeba forming a part of the star-studded Nigerian squad that had the likes of  Jay-Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi and Nwankwo Kanu.

The gold medal came two years after the Super Eagles were crowned African champions in 1994, where Ikpeba was also part of the golden generation of Super Eagles. 

The former Super Eagles striker who is affectionately called ‘Prince of Monaco’ in Nigeria sat down with CAFOnline to share his memories of the Olympics as the global showpiece edges closer over the next few months. 


Cafonline.com What memories do you have of your participation in the Olympic Games in 1996?

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Victor Ikpeba: Joy, I was so happy to participate. Pride too when I remember the teams that we beat, Mexico in the quarter-final, Brazil in the semi-final, then Argentina in the final. We Africans have shown that this is possible. It’s a tournament that I will never be able to forget.

Nigeria arrived in the United States with an incredible team. You were there with Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and Daniel Amokachi. When you get together, do you talk about the good old days?

Yes! We just become kids again. A few months ago, we were invited to Cameroon by the a gala match against the 2000 generation of the Indomitable Lions, for a remake of our African Cup of Nations final. I can tell you that it was as if we had never left each other. There is a lot of respect between us, we support each other from our different backgrounds, that gold medal has undoubtedly bonded us. I think it would be good to set up a WhatsApp group, just to check in on each other more often.

How have these Olympic Games been a plus for you?

In my career, there was a before and after Atlanta 1996. At that time I played for AS Monaco in France. The year before our victory at the Olympics, my statistics were not so great. I played 23 matches and scored 6 goals. When I returned from Atlanta, I played 44 matches and scored 22 goals. I gained confidence and more professionalism. For me, there was a before and after the Olympics.

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What do the Olympic Games represent to you?

For all athletes it is an accomplishment. It is the most followed event on the planet. This makes us even more patriotic because we want to place our country on the Olympic map.

Imagine winning them like we did in 1996, it’s even more special. People look at you differently because you are an Olympic champion

Where is your gold medal now?

I carefully hid it at home (laughs).

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When did you tell yourself that you were going to be crowned Olympic champion?

During our semi-final against Brazil. It may seem like it does not make sense  because on paper, we were not the favorites. It was that golden generation with the likes of  Bebeto, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo. In addition, we had lost against them a few days earlier in a group match. But, God was Nigerian that day (laughs). We trailed 3-1 then equalized 3-3 to win in 4-3 in extra-time.

We are qualified for the final stage. And as they say, a final is not played, it is won.

In your opinion, what are the key requirements to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games?

You have to work constantly and have faith in your talent. For those who play in a team sport, such as football, have confidence in your teammates. It is important to be one when participating in this type of tournament.

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How was the return to Nigeria?

I didn’t have the chance to experience that. With Wilson Oruma we had to quickly join our respective clubs. So we took the same flight as the French Olympic team. I think the French had a lot of medals. We didn’t sleep on the plane because the party was so good. (laughs). 

During the tournament we had news from the country. After our victory against Brazil, Nigeria was abuzz. The country did not sleep, everyone was outside. Young people, old people, men, women, all religions –  everyone was happy. 

It was so beautiful. Here I am talking to you about what was happening in Nigeria, but I cannot forget the support from the continent. We received messages from our brothers from Ghana, Cameroon, Benin, Egypt, all the African people were behind us and also the African diaspora present in the United States who massively supported us.

The three teams qualified for Paris 2024 are Morocco, Egypt and Mali. Guinea might be able to qualify via the play-off. In your opinion, what do you make of Africa’s chances?

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Yes, yes and yes ! We no longer have any complexes. But, the boys must believe strongly in it and never give up. It is Cameroon and us, it is time to have a third nation. One thing is certain: they will be supported. 

There are many Moroccans and Malians in France, it is an asset that they can use. I am sad about only one thing: the absence of Nigeria.

My daughter lives in Lyon. Now that I’m a grandfather, I want to watch some matches with my grandchildren. This competition in France will be fantastic, I am firmly convinced of it.

Any advice for the African countries involved in this tournament?

Play together ! The quality is there and above all, have fun!

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Australia boxing coach withdraws from Paris Games over sexual misconduct

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Boxing Australia’s national head coach Jamie Pittman has withdrawn from the Paris Olympics after being sanctioned for incidents of sexual misconduct toward female athletes while on overseas camps.

The former Olympian was suspended for six months from his role by Australia’s National Sports Tribunal (NST) following complaints brought by athletes and a team physiotherapist while on two team camps between July and October last year.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) confirmed on Wednesday that Pittman would not travel to Paris for the July 26-August 11 Games.

Pittman, who boxed for Australia at the 2004 Athens Olympics before going professional, had also voluntarily stood down from the AOC’s Indigenous Advisory Committee, it added in a statement.

The NST said in its written determination dated March 22 that Pittman, 42, had admitted to 11 different instances of misconduct, including making a series of lewd comments and sexually suggestive gestures around athletes.

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He had also taken a photograph of a female athlete as she was bending over with her back to him while on an international flight and shown the picture to another athlete.

It said his conduct had been described as “disgusting”, “shocking” and “offensive”.

The NST said Pittman had accepted the findings of prohibited conduct and apologised for causing distress, and withdrawn his interest in attending the Paris Games.

The tribunal added he had been ordered to provide written apologies to two athletes and the team physiotherapist and attend counselling as directed by the governing Combat Institute of Australia.

Reuters

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Athletics Federation of Nigeria gives update on Paris 2024 preparations

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Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) is 80 years today

With the clock ticking down to the start of the Paris 2024 Olympics, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) has come out with a rebuttal of speculations that it is not yet set for the global show piece.

This Sunday, it is 96 days to the Olympic Games. In a release signed by  Rita Mosindi, its Secretary General, the AFN revealed that home based athletes are currently camped and preparing for the two-day World Relays in the Bahamas which is scheduled for 4th and 5th of May.

Towards this, the  American embassy in Abuja has scheduled a date to interview the athletes and officials.

It stated further that the sports ministry understood the importance of attending the world relays, going by the position occupied by Nigeria amongst the 32 Nations that have qualified for the relays in the Bahamas hence the funding by the ministry.

Furthermore,regarding the debt owed by the previous administration, the Minister of Sports Development  has directed that all outstanding debts be submitted to his office for attention.

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A prime focus of the federation is getting the athletes tested for the first compulsory three out of competition tests, which must be conducted before the 3rd of May.

“As a federation, we thank the NOC president  Habu Gumel for giving the needed assistance to the AFN for the processing of American visa.

“Our athletes are focused, posting personal best and season best, ensuring Nigeria our country qualifies for the five relays. There is absolutely no cause for alarm as our athletes are very ready and in high spirits”, remarked Rita Mosindi.

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