Connect with us

Olympics

Bang! Bang!! Bang!!! That’s What Banyana Banyana Will Get On Friday –

Published

on

Paris 2024: CAF accedes to NFF’s request for late kick-off for Falcons, Banyana match

Captain and chief motivator Rasheedat Ajibade will be among the early birds as Nigeria’s Super Falcons camp opens on Sunday for the African final qualifying fixture for this year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament against the Banyana Banyana of South Africa.

The two teams, arguably the best women’s football squads on the African continent, are at each other’s jugular for one of the two tickets from Africa for the Paris 2024 Olympics women’s football, with the first leg taking place at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

The return is scheduled for the Loftus Versfeld  arena in Pretoria five days later.

Ajibade, whose savvy, skill and sapience helped the Falcons to the Round of 16 at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Down Under, will be joined in the roost by home-based goalkeeper Linda Jiwuaku and defender Jumoke Alani (drafted in following injury to Saudi Arabia-based Ashleigh Plumptre) as early birds.

Young defender Shukurat Oladipo, veteran goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi, Japan-based Chidinma Okeke and Spain-based forward Gift Monday are expected in camp early on Monday. The rest of the squad will be in by Tuesday, though USA-based African queen Asisat Oshoala is not expected until Thursday.

Advertisement

South Africa’s delegation, including 24 players, will land in Abuja on Monday evening.

The Super Falcons are extra-motivated for this fixture, having not beaten the Banyana in regulation time for many years now, and having watched as the South Africans carted away the Women Africa Cup of Nations trophy in Morocco last year after the Banyana edged them 2-1 in a group phase match.

Nine-time African champions Nigeria still call the shots at that level though, with nine of 12 titles contested so far, and with a squad brimming with youth and experience, and the bounce of having been Africa’s best performer at the last World Cup finals – unbeaten in regulation time until their exit via penalty shootout defeat to England.

In 2018 when they won their ninth title, the Banyana were the victims after a penalty shootout at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Both legs of the fixture are of potentially explosive quality.

Advertisement

Nigeria will bank on the bravery of goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, a rearguard expected to include World Cup stars Osinachi Ohale and Michelle Alozie (and perhaps returnee Chidinma Okeke and newbie Oladipo), a midfield of no-nonsense duo of Halimatu Ayinde and Christy Ucheibe (spiced with the nifty Ajibade and the sticky Deborah Abiodun) and a fore-line of Esther Okoronkwo and Uchenna Kanu (with Gift Monday, Omorinsola Babajide and returnee Chiwendu Ihezuo also available).

 

FALCONS FOR OPERATION BANG BANYANA:

 

Goalkeepers: Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris FC); Tochukwu Oluehi (Shualat Alsharqia FC, Saudi Arabia); Linda Jiwuaku (Bayelsa Queens)

Advertisement

 

Defenders: Osinachi Ohale (Pachucha Club de Futbol, Mexico); Jumoke Alani (Edo Queens); Shukurat Oladipo (FC Robo Queens); Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash, USA); Nicole Payne (Portland Thorns FC, USA); Chidinma Okeke (Mynavi Sendai Ladies, Japan)

 

Midfielders: Deborah Abiodun (University of Pittsburgh, USA); Halimatu Ayinde (FC Rosengard, Sweden); Christy Ucheibe (SL Benfica, Portugal); Jennifer Echegini (Juventus Ladies, Italy); Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid FC, Spain); Toni Payne (Sevilla FC, Spain)

 

Advertisement

Forwards: Omorinsola Babajide (Coasta Adeje Tenerife Egatesa, Spain); Esther Okoronkwo (Changchun FC, China); Ifeoma Onumonu (SLC Utah, USA); Asisat Oshoala (Bay FC, USA); Uchenna Kanu (Racing Louisville, USA); Gift Monday (Coasta Adeje Tenerife Egatesa, Spain); Chiwendu Ihezuo (Pachucha Club de Futbol, Mexico)

 

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Olympics

Paris 2024: France extols Morocco’s aid in Anti-terrorism efforts

Published

on

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin embarked on an official visit to Morocco on Monday, where he expressed appreciation for the kingdom’s invaluable assistance in combatting terrorism within France in the build up to Paris 2024.

With less than 100 days to begin the 2024 Olympics, Darmanin’s visit to the capital Rabat holds particular significance against the backdrop of ongoing efforts to strengthen ties between France and Morocco following a period marked by tensions. Amid a noticeable deterioration in France’s relations with countries in the Sahel region, this stop by Darmanin underscores the importance of fostering closer cooperation and dialogue between the two nations.

Without the Moroccan intelligence services, France would be more affected by terrorism. We thank them greatly, particularly in anticipation of the Olympic Games,” Darmanin said in a meeting with Moroccan Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit.

During his visit, Darmanin emphasised that France and Morocco are committed to collaborating closely to ensure the safety and security of the upcoming African Cup of Nations football tournament, slated to be hosted by Morocco next year. Both nations are poised to leverage their expertise and resources to implement robust security measures, safeguarding the well-being of players, spectators, and officials alike, while France thinks a plan ‘b’ to the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Darmanin’s visit to Morocco is part of a broader trend that has seen several French ministers engaging with their counterparts in Morocco over the past three months. This concerted effort reflects a shared commitment to catalysing a significant revitalisation of the longstanding relationship between France and Morocco, by fostering enhanced dialogue and collaboration.

Advertisement

In the words of Minister Darmanin: “A profound renewal and modernisation of the French-Moroccan relationship.”

Frictions between Rabat and Paris, historically linked as former colonial partners, surfaced notably in 2021 with France’s imposition of visa restrictions on Moroccan citizens. Moreover, Morocco voiced dissatisfaction with French President Emmanuel Macron’s pursuit of closer ties with Algeria, its regional competitor.

Amid political upheavals marked by coups, France made the decision to withdraw its troops from Mali in 2022, followed by similar actions in Niger and Burkina Faso the year prior. These developments not only strained diplomatic relations but also created a vacuum, which saw a notable increase in Russian military involvement in the Sahel region.

-insidethegames

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Olympics

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

Published

on

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?

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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).

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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?

Advertisement

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!

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Olympics

Australia boxing coach withdraws from Paris Games over sexual misconduct

Published

on

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.

Advertisement

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

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Most Viewed