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Another Germany World Cup winner  dies

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Bernd Hoelzenbein

After Gerd Muller who died in 2021 and Franz Beckenbauer that passed on in January and scorer of the the 1990 winning goal, Andreas Brehme who followed in February, another German star has fallen. Germany’s 1974 World Cup-winning striker Bernd Hoelzenbein has died at the age of 78, his former club Eintracht Frankfurt said on Tuesday.

Hoelzenbein died on Monday surrounded by his family, the club added in a statement.

Part of the German squad that won the World Cup on home soil, Hoelzenbein won three German Cups with Frankfurt and also the UEFA Cup in 1980, having come through their youth setup

He scored a club record 215 goals in 532 competitive appearances for Frankfurt between 1967 and 1981.

“Bernd had a huge influence on Eintracht for almost 60 years,” club chief executive officer Axel Hellmann said in a statement.

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“He was part of the golden generation of the 1970s, the UEFA Cup win in 1980‚ and the ‘Football 2000’ era that we as a club played at the start of the 1990s, during which time he was vice-president.

“In Bernd, we are losing not only one of the club’s biggest icons, but also a loyal colleague and a dear friend.”

Bayern Munich also offered their condolences.

“Bayern, together with the rest of the German footballing world, are united in mourning the passing of Bernd Hoelzenbein,” they said on social media platform X. “He was a true great both on and off the pitch.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and all those that knew him. Rest in peace.”

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-Reuters

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.

OBITUARY

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi killed in helicopter crash

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attends a meeting with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on the Azerbaijan-Iran border, May 19, 2024. Iran's Presidency/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner long seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain near the Azerbaijan border, officials and state media said on Monday.

The charred wreckage of the helicopter which crashed on Sunday carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was found early on Monday after an overnight search in blizzard conditions.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Raisi’s death was later confirmed in a statement on social media by Vice President Mohsen Mansouri and on state television.

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

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State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

PRAYERS, SEARCHES

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

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Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

Video showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.

Several countries had expressed concern and offered assistance.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

HARDLINER, POSSIBLE SUCCESSOR TO KHAMENEI

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

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Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.

For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

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Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

-Reuters

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Ibrahim Babangida is dead

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Ibrahim Babangida, former player of Stationery Stores and younger brother to former Super Eagles’ winger, Tijani Babangida is dead. The former midfielder to the then sensational Lagos Stationery Stores coincidentally shared the same name with former Nigerian military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida.

He reportedly died in an auto-mobile accident in which his elder brother was also involved in. The older Tijani Babangida however escaped death. The older brother who was part of the gold-winning Nigerian football team at the Atlanta ‘96 Olympics is the president of the Professional Footballers’ Association of Nigeria (PFAN).

The body has since condoled with the family. In a statement credited to the General Secretary of PFAN, Emmanuel Babayaro,  the Babangida family that included Tijani, his wife, son, maid and Ibrahim, were travelling on the Kaduna-Zaria highway when the fatal accident occurred. 

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Former US football star, O. J. Simpson cremated

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.O.J. Simpson testifies during an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Scheid/Pool/File Photo

 O.J. Simpson, the onetime football star infamously tried and acquitted of double-murder charges, was cremated on Wednesday during a private gathering of friends and family in downtown Las Vegas, according to the executor of his estate.

Attorney Malcolm LaVergne, who was Simpson’s lawyer for 15 years, said he was among those who attended the morning cremation at the Palm Downtown Mortuary & Cemetery, one week after Simpson died at age 76, following a battle with cancer.

“What I can tell you is that I went there and saw him right before he was placed in” the crematorium, LaVergne told Reuters by phone. “I can tell you other people were there for Mr. Simpson,” he added, declining to disclose who they were except to describe them as relatives and friends.

He said a private “celebration of (Simpson’s) life is being contemplated” for friends and family at a later date. Simpson’s cremated remains “will be in the possession of his children to do with as they see fit, pursuant to his wishes,” LaVergne said.

LaVergne said he was just starting to sort out Simpson’s estate, which he said includes a sum of money of “less than five figures” in a Nevada bank account, household furnishings and golf clubs.

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Any outstanding legal judgments against Simpson are next to last in line among any claims that get paid from what remains of his estate after a lengthy list of higher-priority obligations under Nevada law, including the Internal Revenue Service, which ranks No. 5 after administrative costs, funeral expenses, medical bills from his last illness and any alimony and child support, LaVergne said

Simpson had lived in Las Vegas since he was paroled from prison in Nevada in 2017 after serving nine years for his conviction on charges of robbing and kidnapping two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel in 2007.

Simpson’s greatest notoriety stemmed from his acquittal in a sensational trial 12 years earlier of murder charges in the 1994 stabbing deaths of former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles.

Another jury later found him liable for their deaths in a civil lawsuit, and ordered him to pay to pay $33.5 million in damages, most of which has never been collected.

Nicknamed “The Juice,” Simpson was one of the best and most popular athletes of the late 1960s and 1970s. He won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player – a running back at the University of Southern California, and went on to a record-setting career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers.

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He later parlayed his football stardom into a career as a sportscaster, advertising pitchman and Hollywood actor in films including the “Naked Gun” series.

-Reuters

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