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Ifeanyi Ubah’s World Cup Gift to Ndi Anambra

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By James Eze

There is something fascinating about Ifeanyi Ubah. Almost infinitely so! When he is not taking on the giants of Nigeria’s economy paradox and crashing the price of petroleum products, he is flexing his political muscles across Nigeria as the brain behind TAN or ‘A Handshake Across the Niger’ or better still, ‘Afa Igbo Efuna.’ And when he is not doing any of these, Ubah is in his own football stadium in Nnewi; living his vision as a club owner, fertilizing the dreams of young footballers across Nigeria and beyond.
I have never met Ifeanyi Ubah. But I find him intriguing. I find him fascinating. And I think we should all pay a close attention to him. For though we may not all like him but we cannot always ignore him.
I found myself paying a close attention to Ubah lately when he single-handedly sponsored over 50 Anambra youths to the World Cup in Russia. He simply wanted to give the youngsters the World Cup Experience. It has never been done before by anyone I know in Africa. Ubah took care of the youngsters while in Russia, tending to them, ensuring that nothing went wrong with them for almost two weeks. They only returned when Nigeria crashed out of the competition. Had Nigeria waltzed her way to the final being played today, Ubah and his large Anambra contingent would have been there to cheer the Super Eagles to victory. Ubah is not the richest man in Nigeria today. But he is the only one who has thought of giving people who ordinarily would not have seen a World Cup game live, the chance to see it. I think it is important.
I have never seen a World Cup game live. In other words, I have never had a World Cup experience. But I am told that nothing quite compares to it. My closest chance of being at the World Cup was when it came to Africa. But while South Africa played host to the game in 2010, I was holidaying in the US; far away from home and in a country where football is a distant echo. A friend of mine swore that he would not let the chance pass him by. He gave up something very important to him to be able to squeeze out enough money for his return ticket and expenses in South Africa. He came back with memories that would follow him to the grave. He regaled me with that experience for a long, long time and blamed me for choosing a wrong time to visit America. What he did not ask me was whether I would have been able to afford a World Cup experience all on my own if I had stayed back. So, there are many ways to make life rich. And if my friend’s stories are true, then a World Cup experience is one amazing way of spraying the life of a football lover with dazzling colours!
Please don’t get me wrong. I have heard people say that he did it because he is running for senate. That may be true. However, I have studied politics enough to know that no shrewd strategist would consider sponsoring young people to the World Cup a wise way to run for office. In the Nigerian context, the sum of money Ubah may have spent in giving these people a World Cup experience would have been enough to win him a gubernatorial election in some states. I think his decision was driven by something deeper and perhaps more ennobling than the quest for political power. I have observed Ubah for a few years now. I have not always agreed with his methods but I have never quite been indifferent to him. Ubah never leaves any observer with the comfort of indifference, anyway. Not when he never tires to try.
Not when he is not easily fazed by the height of incredible odds against him. And certainly, not when he invests every undertaking with so much zeal and passion. I remember how his support for Governor Obiano’s re-election bid upturned the political calculations in Nnewi last November. I remember hearing him chant ‘ama nwude Ojukwu n’aka’ as he heaved his massive bulk around in an effort to mobilize the electorate to vote for Obiano in Nnewi. His political vehicle for the election, ‘Afa Igbo Efuna’ struck an instant chord among Ndigbo at home and in the Diaspora and revved up the collective effort to save APGA, the only political party with firm roots in Igboland.
I also remember how he brought the political leaders of Ndigbo and the Yoruba together early this year for a historic ‘handshake’ across the Niger in Enugu. I sat in the audience and listened to Ayo Adebanjo recall the efforts of the founding fathers to give Nigeria a better union than the contraption we have at the moment. I remember hearing Adebanjo remind the audience that the experience he was sharing was not gleaned from a book but from his own direct personal involvement in the political evolution of Nigeria. I remember the leaders of the various nationalities in the Middle Belt and the South South share their agonies and fears about Nigeria under one roof. But I also remember that the ROOF was provided by Ifeanyi Ubah.
So, as the World Cup ends today, I think we should also REMEMBER that Anambra State was in Russia. And that Ifeanyi Ubah made that possible when he gave over 50 Anambra youths the World Cup EXPERIENCE!
Nnanne, imela!

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Eberechi Eze: The young playmaker with the X Factor at QPR

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Eberechi Eze

At Loftus Road, there is a new No 10 in town. Eberechi Eze has a long way to go until he is mentioned in the same breath as Rodney Marsh or Stan Bowles, but there is no doubting the Queens Park Rangers playmaker’s ability to astound. A buccaneering performer, there are shades of the audacity of Adel Taarabt and the brain of Akos Buzsaky, but Eze is carving out a reputation in his own right as one of the most exciting young talents in the country.
But Eze has not had it easy. Released by Millwall in 2016 the 20-year-old struggled as a youngster, deemed too small by Arsenal before unsuccessful spells with Fulham and Reading. After convincing Chris Ramsey, the QPR technical director, Eze has not looked back since arriving at the club two years ago. He has started all 17 league games under Steve McClaren this season and has been instrumental in their recent turnaround, with QPR now two points off the play-off pack having only picked up one win from their first six Championship matches. The trio of loan signings, Tomer Hemed, Nahki Wells and Geoff Cameron have been equally influential.

Eberechi Eze in action for QPR. He has started all 17 league games under Steve McClaren this season.

Last month Eze, who was born in Greenwich but remains eligible to represent Nigeria, earned international recognition with a call-up to England Under-20s squad and could feature against Germany on Monday. It has been an extraordinary ride for a player who only made his full league debut for QPR in March, though his first real taste of first-team football came during a six-month stint on loan at Wycombe Wanderers last year.

Eberechi Eze in action for QPR

Premier League scouts have taken a keen interest in Eze, but it was a hat-trick in a development match at Harlington, QPR’s training ground, against Hull City in August 2017 that paved the way for a move to Wycombe. Unable to attend the game, Gareth Ainsworth asked his midfielder, Marcus Bean, to report back on Eze after the manager was tipped off about him by Jack Williams, the defender who signed on loan from QPR earlier that summer. “He stood out a mile,” Bean says. “Some of the things he was doing on the football pitch I have not seen for a very long time. It reminded me of when I played with Lee Trundle. You used to just be in awe of the ability they had, some of the tricks they used to do. Ebs makes the game look easy, he goes past players at will and he scores goals as well. I went back to the manager and said: ‘Listen, we need to get him in. He’s got that X Factor.’”
Aided by the experience of forwards Craig Mackail-Smith, Nathan Tyson and Adebayo Akinfenwa – who boast almost 2,000 career games between them – it did not take long for Eze to find his feet in League Two. “His first goal in professional football [against Cambridge] was an absolute goal of the season,” says Ainsworth, the former QPR midfielder. “It was a half-volley with the outside of his right foot, bent into the top corner. And then 10 minutes later, he bends another one into the same top corner with his left foot. You know when you have got something special. But I think Ebs’s biggest strength is his awareness, he sees the picture around him before he receives the ball.

“After every Saturday game, we sat down on the Tuesday, in the afternoons, and we went through every time he touched the ball from the previous game,” Ainsworth adds. “I clipped all of his touches in the game with Wyscout. I remember in one specific clip with Ebs, I think he was goal side of his midfielder, there was a counterattack against us and at the other end of the pitch, that same midfielder ended up getting goal side of him, through towards our goal. I flagged it up to him and I said: ‘This can’t be, you have all this talent, you have to do the other side of the game as well’.
“You can say this to players until you are blue in the face, but Ebs really had that desire to improve. The difference between the better players is in the mind – they are all good tactically and physically.”
Marc Bircham, the former QPR assistant and youth team manager, compared the ease with which Eze beats his man with a teenage Raheem Sterling, while the biggest compliment the club paid him was handing him the No 10 shirt in the summer. “That shirt has had some decent names through the years but I don’t think Eberechi Eze will be doing that shirt any disrespect,” Ainsworth says. “He’s shown he’s fully ready to wear that shirt and in my opinion he will go on to bigger and better things. I’ll be more surprised if I don’t see him in the Premier League one day, than if I do. If he can keep his hunger and desire to want to learn, and his humility, I’m sure he can reach the top.”

 

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Anambra Optimistic Of Successful Outing At National Sports Festival Abuja

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By KENECHUKWU CHUKWUDI

Passion and an enabling environment have been identified as two essential factors for winning medals in sports competitions.
This was part of views of experts, as Anambra state received the torch for the upcoming National Sports Festival, in Abuja, this year.
The atmosphere was lighted up as Anambra state born Olympic medalist, Mary Onyali raced with the torch, starting from Revenue House along the Enugu-Onitsha Express way to the state Government House Awka, where Governor Willie Obiano represented by his Deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke received the light.
The Chairman of Anambra state Sports Development Commission, Mr. Tony Oli after several relay-hand-over of the torch along the route, finally handed it over to the Governor.

The torch was accompanied by a contingent from the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, Abuja, including Messers Aide Yan Osaro and Leonard Ukah, as well as Mrs. Lydia Eze and Jane Owoh.
The Olympic medalist Onyali and Mr. Oli in an interview noted that the sports festival is very important in the discovery of talents, who
will represent the country at the world stage.
They agreed that passion for the game and the enabling environment, especially grassroot empowerment are critical in sports development and expressed confidence that Anambra will do well at the game especially on popular sports were they have trained so hard and are ready for.
The torch was later handed back to the team for its onward journey to the South West and other parts of the country before the commencement of the game, in Abuja.

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Leicester City will drive to Premier League clash with Cardiff City

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It is understood the Foxes will travel by road after making the decision going by plane would be insensitive.

Leicester City will drive to their Premier League game at Cardiff on Saturday rather than fly.
The Foxes will travel by road after making the decision going by plane would be insensitive given the circumstances of chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s death.

The 60-year-old died on Saturday, along with four others, when his helicopter crashed after taking off from the King Power Stadium.

The club confirmed on Tuesday evening the match, at the Bluebirds’ Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday, will go ahead as scheduled, with a minute’s silence observed beforehand and black armbands worn in honour of City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
The same respects will be paid at all of the other Premier League matches.

It will be City’s first game since Saturday’s tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Khun Vichai and four others – the midweek Carabao Cup tie against Southampton was postponed with the players affected by the weekend’s events.

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Michael Jordan Enters Esports, Invests In Team Liquid’s Parent Company

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Esports is reuniting the Dream Team.
Team Liquid’s parent company, aXiomatic, announced Thursday it raised $26 million in a Series C funding round. Two new investors join the ownership group: NBA legend and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan and David Rubenstein’s family office, Declaration Capital.
The rest of the fund is made up of capital from existing investors, as well as aXiomatic’s four co-executive chairmen—Golden State Warriors’ co-owner Peter Guber, Oaktree Capital Management cofounder Bruce Karsh, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
David Rubenstein is the cofounder and executive co-chairman of private equity firm Carlyle Group. Rubenstein, whose has a net worth of $2.8 billion, is investing into aXiomatic through his family office, Declaration Capital.

Jordan is considered by many the greatest NBA player of all time, winning six championships in his career. With brand deals with Nike, Hanes and Gatorade and his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets—a franchise worth $1.05 billion—Michael Jordan has a net worth of $1.7 billion. This is Jordan’s first investment into the esports industry, and he joins his 1992 Olympic teammate Magic Johnson as a co-owner in aXiomatic.
“Probably no other franchise has the championship pedigree as we do with now Michael and with Magic,” says Ted Leonsis, whose own Washington Capitals earned its first Stanley Cup victory earlier this year. He notes he received a championship ring for both the Capitals’ victory, as well as Team Liquid’s Dota 2 championship at The International 2017, which netted the team $11 million in prize money.

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Okolie confirms he will spar Fury

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Lawrence Okolie will fly out to America to spar with Tyson Fury ahead of his WBC title fight with Deontay Wilder – and could join the heavyweight division in the future.
Fury is basing himself at Big Bear Lake in California as he prepares to challenge WBC champion Wilder in Los Angeles on December 1, and Okolie has been called in as a sparring partner to replicate the American’s fighting style.
The unbeaten cruiserweight also sparred Anthony Joshua ahead of last month’s world title win over Alexander Povetkin, and is relishing the challenge of sharing the ring with the 6’9″ tall Fury.

“I think it’s getting confirmed today or before the end of the week,” Okolie said . “I’ll probably go out next week, help out for a few weeks.

“I’ve sparred with another heavyweight champion in Anthony Joshua, I’ve sparred with Dillian Whyte, so I’ve been in there with top heavyweights.

“It’s just going to be interesting to be in there with someone so much bigger than myself. He’s got a long reach, good boxing IQ, so it’s going to be a great opportunity to learn some stuff, and just work.”
In 10 fights, Okolie has already claimed the British and Commonwealth titles in his weight class, and admits he would welcome the chance to test himself against the sport’s biggest fighters.

“It’s an ambition of mine to move up to heavyweight, but I still feel like I have a lot of fundamentals that need to be ironed out at cruiserweight,” he said.
“I’m able to get away with a lot of stuff as a cruiserweight that I won’t be able to get away with as a heavyweight, so we’re just going to work on it.”

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Abramovich not considering Chelsea sale

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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is not considering selling the club, despite reports suggesting otherwise, according to  sources.
Czech Republic’s richest person, Petr Kellner, is reportedly interested in investing in the Premier League club.
However, club  sources understand no talks have taken place between Chelsea’s owner and any potential investors.

It was  reported in June and then again in September that Abramovich had no interest in selling Chelsea following speculation that he was willing to do so.
Abramovich encountered a series of visa problems in May and missed Chelsea’s FA Cup final victory over Manchester United at the end of last season.
The 52-year-old bought Chelsea for £140m in 2003.
The club has won the Champions League, the Europa League, five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups and two Community Shields since Abramovich took over.

 

 

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FIFA remembers late Rashidi Yekini

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World football governing body FIFA and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Tuesday took to Twitter to pay post-humous respect to late former Super Eagles striker Rashidi Yekini.
Yekini, who would have clocked 55 on Tuesday, was until his death Nigeria’s senior national football team highest goal scorer with 37 goals — a record yet unmatched.
Yekini scored Nigeria’s first-ever FIFA World Cup goal at the 1994 tournament in the U.S. and followed it up with a remarkable celebration.
And, FIFA, in a tweet via its official Twitter World Cup handle (@FIFAWorldCup), acknowledged that historic celebration, saying it would live on in World Cup folklore.

“Rashidi Yekini, scorer of @NGSuperEagles’ first goal at the #WorldCup, would have been 55 today. The celebration from Nigeria’s record goal-scorer will live on in World Cup folklore,” FIFA tweeted.
On its part, the NFF referred to the late Yekini as “Yeking of goals”, stating that power, pace and precision were the hallmarks of the late striker’s game.
“Posthumous birthday shout-out to our legend, ‘Yeking of goals’, late Rashidi Yekini. Power, pace and precision best describe Yekini on the pitch.
“The big man would have been 55 today. He remains the all-time top scorer of the @NGSuperEagles with 37 goals. Rest on legend!” the NFF tweeted, with two wine bottle emojis via @thenff.
The late Yekini was born in Kaduna on Oct. 23, 1963 and died in Ibadan, Oyo State on May 4, 2012.
A former African Footballer of the Year, Yekini’s professional career spanned over two decades.
He was the highest goal scorer at the 1994 African Cup of Nations in Tunisia, which Nigeria won.
The striker who played for clubs such as the then IICC Shooting Stars and defunct Abiola Babes FC went on to represent Nigeria at the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups.

 

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Paralympian Kare Adenegan is leader of the track

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PARALYMPIAN KARE ADENEGAN is set to end the year a winner once again.
Record-breaking Adenegan has been nominated for the prestigious BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award with the winner to be announced at the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards on Sunday (October 21).

Kare Adenugan

SENSATIONAL

It has been a sensational year in humble Adenegan’s career. She became T34 100m WPA European champion, winning her first gold medal in senior competition, and took silver in the T34 800m.
She also took the T34 100m world record at the London Anniversary Games – her time of 16.80 seconds meant she became the first female T34 athlete to go under 17 seconds over 100m.
In that Diamond League meet, she beat long-time rival Hannah Cockroft for the first time in a championship race. She revealed to the Voice of Sport that she took her- self by surprise when she set the world record on June 22.
The 17-year-old said after her special performance: “I don’t know where it came from but my coach has been pushing me so hard.
“I knew I was capable of something big – but I didn’t see that coming at all.”
The legendary Cockcroft was among a host of athletes eager to heap praise on the gifted sprint race teenager. Adenegan admitted that receiving plaudits from ‘Hurricane Hannah’ humbled her.
“It means a lot to get her praise,” she said.
She added: “It means a lot to do it alongside Hannah. “She is a huge inspiration to me so it is a special day. I was once watching her now I am racing against here. Amazing.”

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AFCON: Ighalo shoots Nigeria top of Group E

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A brace by Odion Ighalo and another goal by Ahmed Musa gave Nigeria’s Super Eagles a 3-2 victory over hosts Libya in Sfax, Tunisia, to move top of Group E of 2019 AFCON Qualifiers.
The Super Eagles led the game 2-0 in the first half, with Ighalo and Musa scoring three minutes apart. Libya’s Mohamed Zubya reduced the deficit in the 35th minute.
And in the second half Ahmad Benali levelled for Libya after the team piled a lot of pressure on the Nigerians.
But Ighalo in the 81st minute gave Eagles the full three points, to keep them ahead of South Africa in the group.
The Super Eagles now have nine points, overtaking South Africa who played a goalless draw away at Seychelles earlier today.
Libya are third in the group with four points and Seychelles have had just a point.
The teams in the group will next meet on 16 November, with Nigeria travelling to South Africa, while Seychelles will host Libya.
Then next year March, Nigeria will host Seychelles, while Libya will host South Africa for the final matches of the group.

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Super Eagles whip Libya, Ighalo gets hat trick

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A hat trick from Odion Ighalo and one goal from Samuel Kalu gave Nigeria’s Super Eagles a 4-0 win over Libya in a 2019 AFCON Qualifier in Uyo.
The victory moved the Eagles into second place in Group E, behind leaders South Africa.
The Eagles now have six points from three matches, one point behind South Africa who earlier in the day mauled visiting Seychelles in Johannesburg 6-0.

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