2018 AWCON: Super Falcons Will Not Under-Rate Gambia — Dennerby

Nigeria’s Super Falcons will not under-rate their Gambia counterparts when the whistle goes for kick-off in their 2018 Women Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match at the Independence Stadium in Bakau on Wednesday. Coach Thomas Dennerby has assured that the eight-time continental champions will field their full strength against the fellow West Africans, who eliminated Burkina Faso’s senior girls to reach the final round of the qualifying race. Falcons In the absence of Skipper Rita Chikwelu who will join the squad for the return leg in Lagos on Monday, the captain’s armband may go to defender Onome Ebi. The Falcons are loaded to the hilt with experienced goalkeeper Alaba Jonathan, defenders Faith Michael, Josephine Chukwunonye, Ebi and Ngozi Ebere, midfielders Ngozi Okobi, Halimat Ayinde and Francisca Ordega and forwards Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie and Anam Imo among the contingent in Banjul. The two teams will clash in the second and final leg of the qualifying series at the Agege Stadium, Lagos on Monday June 11.

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Argentina-Israel Friendly Called Off

Argentina’s upcoming friendly with Israel in Jerusalem has been cancelled, the Israeli embassy confirmed on Tuesday, citing unspecified threats against Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

The World Cup warmup match had been scheduled to take place on Saturday.

But its status had been placed in doubt earlier, following protests by Palestinian football authorities who had urged Messi not to take part.

“The Embassy of Israel regrets to communicate the suspension of the match between Israel and Argentina,” a statement said, referring to “threats and provocations” against Messi.

Local media had reported earlier Tuesday that the game was set to be scrapped, depriving Messi and his team-mates of a final warm-up game before they open their World Cup campaign in Russia.

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie told reporters in Washington on the sidelines of the Organization of American States meeting that he believed Argentina’s players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the game.

“As far as I know, the players of the national team were not willing to play the game,” Faurie said before confirmation of the game’s cancellation.

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli had last week aired misgivings about having to travel to Israel, noting he would have preferred to remain in Barcelona, where the team is holding its pre-World Cup training camp.

“From a sporting point of view, I would have preferred to play in Barcelona,” Sampaoli said.

“But that’s the way it is, we have to travel on the day before the match, play Israel in Israel and then from there go on to Russia.”

On Sunday, Palestinian football boss Jibril Rajoub urged Messi not to play in the game in Jerusalem and urged fans to burn shirts bearing his name if he did.

At a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Rajoub told journalists he had written to Argentina’s government asking that Messi not take part in the June 9 friendly.

“This match has become a political tool,” Rajoub said in Arabic.

“The Israeli government is trying to give it political significance by insisting it be held in Jerusalem.”

The Palestinian Football Federation welcomed the cancellation of the match and said that with it, sport will not be used as “a tool of political blackmail.”

It praised the Argentine players “led by the star Messi for refusing to be used as a bridge to achieve non-sporting goals.”

Palestinians are outraged at US President Donald Trump’s decision last December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of policy, and move his country’s embassy there.

The embassy opened on May 14, fanning Palestinian anger and intensifying protests on the Gaza border, with Israeli forces killing at least 61 Gazans that day.

Palestinians claim the eastern part of Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state. The Jewish state considers the entire city its own “indivisible” capital.

“Messi is a symbol of peace and love,” Rajoub said. “We ask him not to participate in laundering the crimes of the occupation.”

Messi, he added, “has tens of millions of fans in the Arab and Muslim countries… we ask everyone to burn their shirts which bear his name and posters (with his image).”

 

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Abramovich Becomes Israel’s Wealthiest Citizen

Billionaire Roman Abramovich of Russia became Israel’s wealthiest citizen on Monday, JNS.org reports

A Jew entitled to Israeli citizenship by law, Abramovich is now a permanent Israeli resident. The owner of Chelsea, he had been living in London for years, but was informed that his UK visa would not be renewed.

The UK has attempted to push out Russian oligarchs in recent months following the poisonings of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in March. Abramovich also reportedly holds close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

More than 30 powerful Russian Jewish businesspeople have opted to obtain Israeli citizenship in recent years. Not only is Israel the Jewish homeland, it provides a safe backup residence, as well as rights afforded to Israeli-passport holders, including tax benefits, some protection against extradition and the convenience of visa-free travel across the European Union.

However, Abramovich’s representative said  his strong identification as a Jew and his warm feelings towards Israel motivated him to make aliyah. His ex-wife Dasha Zhukova is Jewish, and is the mother of two of his seven children. Abramovich is also the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, a trustee of the Moscow Jewish Museum and a backer of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Russia.

Abramovich has invested in more than a dozen Israel startups and venture funds since 2015, acquiring equity through two of his investment firms – Ervington Investments and Millhouse Capital.

Earlier this week, Tel Aviv University announced that Abramovich donated $30m  to build a new Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. In March, he donated $20 million to go to a new nuclear medical facility at Israel’s largest hospital Sheba Medical Center.

Abramovich is the 10th wealthiest person in Russia, worth an estimated $10.8bn. But he didn’t start out that way. Born in Lithuania, he was orphaned by age four  and raised by his grandparents in the Russian Arctic Circle.

Moses Sets Eagles London Camp Alight

Victor Moses joined up with the Nigeria squad on Thursday after taking some time off to celebrate a second honeymoon following his FA Cup final win with Chelsea.

The forward arrived at the team’s  camp  before the rest of the squad touched down from Nigeria ahead of their friendly game against England at Wembley on Saturday.

The 2013 Africa Cup of  Nations winner did not feature in the 1-1 against DR Congo in a friendly affair in Port Harcourt on Monday, and  Nigeria  coach Gernot Rohr and team are delighted to  have the player who was instrumental in the Super Eagles’ World Cup qualification in camp for Saturday’s match.

Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr told KweséESPN that Moses had asked for an extended break to spend time with his wife.

“After the FA Cup Final, he told me it was the first anniversary of his wedding and if I could give him two days to celebrate,” the German coach began. “I said no problem.”

Moses joins the rest of the team for their first training session in England on Thursday at The Hive, home of Barnet.

Rohr has already cut Stephen Eze, Junior Lokosa, Dele Ajiboye and Uche Agbo from his squad, while Moses Simon appears primed to miss out after picking up a hip injury.

The 64-year-old will still need to axe two more players before confirming his final list for the summer showpiece.

Nigeria begin their World Cup campaign against Croatia on June 16, before facing Iceland in Volgograd six days later.

They conclude their group-stage programme against old foe Argentina in Saint Petersburg on June 26.

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FIFA Lifts Suspension On Guatemala

FIFA on Thursday lifted a suspension imposed on Guatemala 18 months ago over its failure to comply with anti-corruption rules.

The suspension prevented Guatemalan teams from participating in international competitions such as the Gold Cup, the Central American Games and the CONCACAF Champions League.

“FIFA has today lifted the suspension that was imposed on the Guatemalan Football Association” Fedefut, it said in a statement.

Football’s governing body said it made the decision after receiving a letter from Juan Carlos Rios, the head of a FIFA-appointed “Normalization Committee” to oversee the Fedefut. The letter confirmed that the committee was operational.

 

The suspension “is lifted with immediate effect, restoring all its rights as a federation member of FIFA,” Rios told a press conference. “It is a very happy day for us.”

FIFA sanctioned Guatemala in October 2016 after it failed to authorize the normalization committee after an international corruption scandal that rocked world football.

Former Fedefut general secretary Hector Trujillo was the first person brought down in the scandal to be sentenced to jail, given eight months by a judge in New York in October for wire fraud.

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Ronaldo Absent From Real Kit Launch

Cristiano Ronaldo was a conspicuous absentee as Real Madrid launched their new shirts for next season, Skysports reports.

Moments after securing his fourth Champions League title in the last five seasons with the Spanish giants, Ronaldo appeared to cast doubt on his Real Madrid future.

Following Saturday’s memorable 3-1 win over Liverpool, he told BeIN Sports Spain, “It was very nice to be at Real Madrid. In the next few days, I will speak. I am going to enjoy this with my team-mates and in the next few days I’ll give an answer.” And speculation about Ronaldo’s future will no doubt intensify after he was the only first-team squad member not pictured in either the home or away shirt for next season, which went on sale on Real Madrid’s website on Tuesday.

In fact, Ronaldo is the only member of Real’s first-team squad whose photo in the new shirt does not appear when you use the shop by player function on the club’s official website.

Gareth Bale, whose own Real future appears up in the air, is pictured in the home shirt next season along with 23 other members of the squad, as well as Real boss Zinedine Zidane.

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Transfer News: Liverpool Makes First Summer Signing After Champions League Defeat

Liverpool have announced the signing of midfielder, Fabinho from Monaco for a fee of £39million plus bonuses of up to another £4million.

The move for the 24-year-old comes less than two days after Jurgen Klopp’s side were beaten by Real Madrid 3-1 in the Champions League final.

The Reds have said the Brazilian international’s move will complete on July 1, having finished a medical and signed a long-term deal with the club.

Speaking after signing for Liverpool, Fabinho told the club’s official website, “This is something that I always wanted – this is a giant of a team. The infrastructures of the club look exceptional.

“A football club of this size coming after my services, I didn’t have to think that much about coming over.

“I will try to create my own history at this football club. Hopefully, on a personal level, I’m able to win titles with this club.

“I will try to grow and learn and improve myself, and to be part of the club’s history.”

Fabinho further told RMC: “I’m really happy to join Liverpool. In the last transfer window, things were a little difficult. It was almost done, but I stayed.

“I’ve done great things with Monaco, it was great for five seasons. At Liverpool, I hope to have the same success. It’s a big club, really ambitious, which has done great things in recent seasons. They were in the Champions League final and were still among the leaders in the Premier League.

 

“I think I can grow a lot and learn a lot at this club. It’s a league I like a lot. I hope I can continue to develop at this great club.”

 

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Egyptian Lawyer Sues Ramos Over Salah

An Egyptian lawyer has launched a €1bn lawsuit against Sergio Ramos after Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah was injured in a challenge with the Real Madrid captain during Saturday’s Champions League final, Goal reports.

Salah landed heavily on his left shoulder after grappling with Ramos during the Kiev showpiece and ligament damage around the joint placed his World Cup participation in doubt.

The Premier League Golden Boot winner posted on Twitter on Sunday to say he was “confident” he would be able to represent Hector Cuper’s side at Russia 2018 , but that has done nothing to quell the apparent anger of lawyer Bassem Wahba.

In an appearance on Egyptian television channel Sada El-Balad , Wahba announced he had filed a complaint to FIFA and accused Ramos of a deliberate act and inflicting “physical and psychological harm” upon a nation and its most celebrated footballer.

 

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Thousands Rush For Tickets As Messi Set To Hit Jerusalem

Tickets for an Israel-Argentina friendly in Jerusalem next month with Barcelona star Lionel Messi expected in the line-up sold out within 20 minutes, the Israeli company handling sales said, AFP reports.

The Le’an agency said on its website that nearly 100,000 fans applied for 20,000 tickets when they went on general sale  on Sunday evening.

“No sporting event has ever caused such hysteria in Israel,” it wrote.

Prices ranged from 44 shekels (about $12) for children and soldiers to 825 shekels in the VIP area.

Another 5,000 places went to supporters of the Israeli national team in a pre-sale reserved for them and over 4,000 tickets were to be distributed to children from needy families.

The game will take place on June 9 at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem which has a capacity of 31,733 seats.

On social media networks, tickets were being resold for up to 4,500 shekels on Monday.

Argentina will play against Haiti on May 29 and then Israel just one week before their first match in the World Cup against Iceland on June 16 in Moscow.

In Group D, Messi’s men will face Croatia on June 21 and Nigeria on June 26.

Israel finished fourth in Group 7 in qualifying for the World Cup, behind Spain, Italy and Albania.

They last qualified in 1970.

In the past, Argentina have played Israel several times in friendly matches, usually before the World Cup, suffering a 1-2 defeat in 1998 but crushing the Israelis 7-2 in 1990 with Maradona at the helm.

The June 9 game will start after dark so that observant Jews can reach the stadium or watch it on TV without violating their Sabbath, which runs from dusk on Friday to sunset Saturday.

During the weekly day of rest the Jewish faith forbids travelling by motorised transport and the use of electricity.

Meanwhile,  Messi is so desperate to win the World Cup with Argentina that he would trade success with Barcelona to triumph in Russia this summer, Soccernet reports.

Messi, 30, has been on the losing side in four finals with Argentina, including the World Cup final in 2014 against Germany in Brazil.

Titles with Barca have not been so hard to come by – Messi has won 32 trophies since making his first-team debut, including a domestic double this season.

However, he says he would be willing to forgo another title with the Catalan club if it meant he could finally get his hands on the World Cup trophy.

“Winning the World Cup is a huge personal challenge for me, for the group [of players Argentina have] and for the country, who have the same dreams as us,” he told El Trece. “It’s a nice responsibility to represent a whole country at a World Cup.

“I would swap a title with Barcelona for one with the national team. While I want to win things again with my club, I want to win something with the national team.

“I know it would be special for what it means, to be (world) champions with Argentina would be different to everything, it would be something unique.”

Since an extra-time defeat to Germany four years in the World Cup final, Argentina have lost two Copa America finals, too, both times on penalties against Chile.

The Albiceleste struggled to hit the heights which carried them to three successive finals in qualifying for this summer’s World Cup, though, needing a Messi hat trick to beat Ecuador as they booked their place in Russia in their final match.

Their poor performance in qualifying, coupled with a 6-1 defeat to Spain in March, mean they are not among the outright favourites going into the finals.

“We have a really complicated draw,” Messi added. “Iceland showed they can compete with anyone at the (Euro 2016), Croatia have a great midfield and it’s always tough for us against Nigeria.

“I have a lot of faith in this group, though. We’re working well, we have players with ability and experience, but we have to take things slowly. We don’t want to send the message ‘We’re going to win the World Cup because we’re the best…’ because the reality is we aren’t.

“There are various favourites at the moment. Brazil are one. Spain, Germany… they’re some of the best teams right now.”

Messi, who joined Barca as a 13-year-old, would have already won a World Cup if he defected to Spain as a teenager.

“A friend of mine told me that I’d now be a world champion already if I’d played for Spain, but it wouldn’t have been the same,” he said.

“Being a champion with Argentina would be something unique. I was 16 years old and, half in jest and half serious, the coach of the Under-17s put it to me (playing for Spain).

“It happened in Finland and Cesc (Fabregas)  was my teammate at the time. That’s where it all stems from, but at no time did the thought or any doubts cross my mind.”

Saraki, Tambuwal, Other nPDP Leaders Meet, Divided On Defection, New Party

The former Chairman of the now defunct New Peoples Democratic Party bloc within the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, on Saturday, unveiled a list of prominent aggrieved members of the APC, who attended a meeting of the nPDP, where the group considered three options that they might take soon.

Baraje, in a statement he signed in Abuja on Saturday, revealed that he met with prominent members of the nPDP after the meeting he held with the leadership of the APC in Abuja last week.

He said, “Nigerians may recall that members of the former New PDP Bloc within the All Progressives Congress addressed a letter dated April 27, 2018 to the Chairman of the APC where we informed the party of our grievances and expectations from both the party and government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Following this development, the party invited us and we honoured its invitation to a meeting. We met with the leadership of the party last week during which we resolved to report the outcome of our meeting to our members and stakeholders before arriving at any decision or proceeding with the next phase of discussions or actions with the APC and government.

“I am glad to inform you, therefore, that we have briefed our members at a meeting convened in Abuja on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, where we reviewed the state of the nation and our party, APC, and constituted committees on various issues, especially on how to rescue Nigeria from economic, social, political and especially security challenges.”

Baraje listed the names of those in the defunct nPDP and others top APC chieftains, especially members of the National Assembly, who attended the Abuja meeting.

He added, “The meeting was well attended by members of the nPDP, including serving and former governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, and other aggrieved APC stakeholders.

“Those who attended the meeting included President of the Senate, Sen. Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara; Governor of Sokoto State, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal; Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso; Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Admiral Murtala Nyako (retd.); Sen. Mohammad Aliero, Senator Danjuma Goje, Sen. John Enoh, Senator Andy Uba, Sen. Ibrahim Gobir, Sen. Rufai Ibrahim and Sen. Ibrahim Danbaba.

“Others are Sen. Suleman Nazif, Sen. Isa Misau, Sen. Muhammed Shitu, Sen. Shehu Sani, Sen. Dino Melaye, Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi, Sen. Shaaba Lafiagi, Sen. Bala Ibn Na’Allah, Sen. David Umaru, Sen. Barnabas Gemade; Chairman, former nPDP, Alh. Abubakar K. Baraje; Mr. Aminu Shagari, Mr. Kabiru Marafa, Mr. Isa Ashiru, Mr. Muh’d Soba, Mr. Mark Gbillah, Mr. Sani Rano, Mr. Garba Durbunde, Mr. Aliyu Madaki, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, Mr. Rufai Chachangi, Mr. Razak Atunwa, Mr. Emmanuel Udende, Mr. Hassan Saleh, Mr. Nasiru Sule, Mr. Orker Jev, Mr. Aliyu Pategi, Mr. Isah Halilu, Mr. Rabiu Kaugama, Mr. Abdussamad Dasuki, Mr. Ismaila Gadaka, Mr. Lado Suleja, Mr. Dickson Tarkighir, Mr. Babatunde Kolawole, Dr. Bode Ayorinde, Mr. Danjuma Shida, Mr. Danburam Nuhu, Mr. Sunday Adepoju, Mr. Sani Zorro, Mr. Ahmed Bichi, Mr. Garba Mohammed and a host of others.”

It also learnt that eight serving members of the House of Representatives from Oyo State had also joined the group, but their names were not given.

A member of the National Assembly, who is one of those listed by Baraje as having attended the meeting, but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue, confirmed the meeting to SUNDAY PUNCH.

The source said, “We met like our chairman said in the statement.

“After he briefed us about the discussions he held on our behalf with the leadership of the APC, the floor was thrown open for discussions and suggestions. We all agreed that we were not being fairly treated within the APC.

“Opinions were however divided on how best to proceed. There were those who felt we should pull out and join a party yet to be determined.

“There was the second group which felt it was better to remain within and fight it out through further discussions and negotiations.

“The third group consisted of those who felt we should pull out, adopt a new platform and ensure we have a written agreement so as to avoid a repeat of what we are seeing (experiencing) in the APC.

“At the end, it was agreed that we set up a committee to look at the most viable option. However, the committee has yet to be formed and we are leaving our doors open for further discussions with the APC for now.”

Saraki’s Special Adviser on Media, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he was not aware of the meeting.

“I don’t know anything about that meeting. We learnt that Baraje issued a statement in which he made the claim. Ask him to speak more on his claims,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party has said, without prejudice to what is happening within the All Progressives Congress, it is still forging ahead with plans to woo members of the defunct new PDP bloc in the ruling party.

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, told SUNDAY PUNCH in a telephone interview on Saturday that the task of rescuing Nigeria was too critical to be abandoned.

The PDP spokesman noted that the PDP was still in talks with “all Nigerians of goodwill, genuine democrats and those who love the country and want to rescue her from the situation in which we have found ourselves as a country today.”

In response to a specific question as to whether the PDP was still holding talks with its former stalwarts in the APC and how far the talks had progressed, he said, “Talks are proceeding very well. The committee we set up is making progress.

“We are talking to everybody, not just members of the nPDP. We are talking to people in the APC; we are talking to all genuine democrats who have seen through the deceit the ruling party represents.

“This is not about parties; it has gone beyond parties. We are talking about our dear nation which we all know can be better with proper management of our resources. We are talking and very soon, the results will be glaring for all Nigerians to see.”

Ologbondiyan maintained that consultations had reached a very “advanced stage” and that more Nigerians across party lines had come to appreciate the enormity of the task at hand.

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