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Competition in volleyball’s divisions 1 and 2 to get underway Friday



Tunde Morakinyo, Chairman, League Management Committee (LMC) of the Nigeria Volleyball Federation (NVBF), on Saturday said competition in the 2019 Volleyball Divisions One and Two will begin on Friday in Ilorin.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja that the competition would hold at the University of Ilorin Sports Complex from Friday to July 13.

Morakinyo said the federation was set to give participating clubs a conducive environment for the tournament.

“The level of preparation ahead of the competition is very high, and we are having a combination of clubs in both the divisions one and two at the same time and venue.

”We have officials on ground already working on how to have a conducive environment, to monitor the preparation of the hall and to get possible accommodation for players and their officials.

“There will be relegation of clubs which at the end of the day did not perform well and there will also be promotion for the best clubs to the premier league.

”This year’s tournament will be glamorous because the federation is working hard to make the event one to remember for good,” he said.

The NBBF official urged the players and their officials to be of good conduct before, during and after the competition.

He said that the first phase of the 2019 Volleyball Premier League would commence on July 30 in Asaba.

(Edited by Remi Koleoso and Olawale Alabi)


Online competition will help Nigerian players prepare for future scrabble events, Jighere says



Wellington Jighere, the 2015 world scrabble champion, on Friday in Abuja said an online scrabble competition against Team Pakistan will prepare Nigerian players for future events.

Jighere told the News Agency of Nigeria the competition was needed in the face of a gradual return of sports activities after a halt few months ago due to COVID-19.

Nigeria is scheduled to take on their Asian rivals on Sunday in the competition tagged “Online Bilateral Scrabble Showdown’’.

“We (players) decided we need to do something to get busy and we reached out to our colleagues in Pakistan and they accepted the challenge.

“It is a one-day event with 10 games in a round-robin form. We are grouped into Team A and Team B. The same thing applies to our counterparts in Pakistan.

“Each team will comprise 10 players. So, we will have 20 players in all representing Nigeria, with one of them being female,” Jighere said.

The two-time African champion also said efforts were being made to engage other countries to participate in the competition.

South Africa has accepted the challenge and hopefully next week, we will be competing against them,” he said.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma and Olawale Alabi (NAN)

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Interview: California avocado trade group sees opportunity, competition in China market




“We are so pleased the long process has been finalized,” Ken Melban, vice president of Industry Affairs for the California Avocado Commission, told Xinhua after the state’s Hass avocado was approved for export to China.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced last week that several more U.S. agricultural products had been approved to be exported to China as part of the U.S.-China phase-one economic and trade agreement.

The list included California’s premium Hass avocado, as well as tasty blueberry, barley for malt processing and feed, alfalfa hay, Timothy hay, and almond products.

California avocado growers are elated with the news. Melban said his trade group has been working to promote productivity, new market opportunities and initiatives for their growers, as well develop the branding of Haas avocado as the premium avocado product in the global marketplace since 1978.

“We are looking forward to bringing our premium California avocados to China, probably first to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou,” he said in an exclusive interview to Xinhua on Wednesday.

Melban said the procedures, protocols and products being traded between the United States and China are first hammered out between governments before farmers and distributors can get into act.

“With all the safety protocols, inspections, and pest control measures both countries require, it can take years to be approved,” he said, revealing that the process for exporting their premium avocados began way back in 2005 under the administration of George W. Bush.

His big lament is that the remaining trade war tariffs for their products may be as high as 60 percent – a crippling sum for a new product coming into a competitive foreign market.

“We work for a great commodity and are very proud of the growers we serve,” Melban told Xinhua. “They‘ve had to weather a lot of challenges to get to this point to enable them to provide high quality, healthy premium products worldwide at a reasonable price.”

Having seen how well other quality California products have fared in China, some sources are predicting China could be a 10-billion-U.S.-dollar market for avocados. Melban is taking a more cautious, wait-and-see view.

“We think it will be an excellent market, but until you actually get in there, you can’t know,” he told Xinhua, pointing out that while the door is now open, no avocados have been shipped to China yet.

“But the more options you have the better positioned you are for the future.”

He was quick to point out that while avocados from other countries have been imported to China for years, California superior avocados would soon achieve their rightful place in that market.

“We don’t compete with Mexican or Peruvian avocados. They compete with quantity, but we compete with quality and nobody can top California’s premium Haas avocados.”

Regarding price points, he explained that while other fruits like strawberry take only 6 weeks from blossom to harvest-ready fruit, premium Haas avocados take 14 to 18 months to mature.

“The long growing cycle is a challenge, but also a strength,” he explained. It is one of the key factors that has allowed California avocado farmers to avoid the devastating, wasted harvests that potato and dairy farmers have suffered during the COVID-19 crisis when shuttered fast-food chains and restaurants didn’t buy their crops as usual.

“Our growers can watch the market and delay harvest a few months, if needed, so they can weather this crisis better than most other growers can,” Melban added.


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UEFA likely to fast-track competitions in one venue, Getafe president says



UEFA plans to complete this season’s Champions League and Europa League competitions by playing all rounds from the quarter-finals onwards in one host city, according to Getafe president Angel Torres.

Both competitions were put on hold at the last-16 stage in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This led to the Champions League final in Istanbul and the Europa League showpiece in Gdansk also being postponed.

UEFA’s idea is to play the Champions League and Europa League, starting from the quarter-finals, across one match in one venue, although nothing has been confirmed yet,” Torres said on Friday.

“It will come to a decision on June 17 (when the executive committee meets).”

From the group stages onwards, each round of both competitions until the final are held across two matches, one being played at the home of each team.

UEFA has already said it was working out a solution to the fixtures hold-up.

“A working group has been set up with the participation of representatives from the leagues and clubs to examine calendar solutions and format options that would allow for the completion of the current season.

“A variety of options are being looked at and no decisions have been made at this stage.”

Getafe’s last 16 first leg match away to Inter Milan was postponed after fierce criticism led by Torres at the game going ahead in Italy.

Italy at that time was the European epicentre of the pandemic.

Sevilla’s first leg match at home to AS Roma was also postponed, although the six other first leg games did take place.

The second legs of four Champions League last 16 ties still need to be played.

Atletico Madrid, Paris St-Germain (PSG), Atalanta and RB Leipzig have already booked their places in the last eight.

Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)

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Kenyan athletes to endure more anti-doping tests on return to competition




Kenyan athletes should brace for more anti-doping tests as the government plans to lift the ban on movements, which had been imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has sounded a warning that they have fallen behind schedule in conducting anti-doping tests globally, and they will be picking up pace once normalcy resumes.

From a webinar with some athletes, WADA conceded the COVID-19 pandemic may have led to reduced confidence in the anti-doping process.

However, it was monitoring closely where levels of testing have been reduced altogether due to COVID-19.

“WADA is monitoring closely where levels of testing have been reduced altogether and is in close communication with ADOs to work together to find the best ways to be effective during this period,” WADA said in the document.

Kenya, which is polled in category A of countries with athletes likely to cheat, must endure each person to three out-of-competition tests prior to the Olympics and the World Championships. Other countries are Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, Ukraine, Bahrain and Belarus.

Waithaka Kioni, Chief de Mission of Kenya team to Tokyo Games acknowledged that prior to postponement of the Olympics, the country was lagging behind in the testing program.

“We were worried about the late disbursement of funds by the government to run tests on samples taken from athletes. But the postponement of the Olympics has given us ample time to do it and we will attain our goal,” said Kioni.

However, WADA has insisted it has other weapons in its armory to catch cheats as it acknowledged that testing had ground to a near complete halt owing to the global health crisis.

Kenya has set aside 7.5 million shillings (about 71,000 U.S. dollars) for the testing of its Olympic Games team.

WADA has advised anti-doping organizations in countries where lockdown conditions will not be lifted soon to “test only in the most appropriate scenarios.”

“When the sporting landscape returns to certain normality, these ‘gaps’ in testing will be addressed. We will launch additional targeted testing especially given that intelligence-gathering and investigations continue,” WADA said.


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Zamfara Gov. earmarks N60m annually for Islamic quiz competition



Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara has announced an annual provision of N60 million as prizes to be won by participants of an Islamic quiz competition in the state.

The announcement is contained in a statement issued by Zailani Bappa, Special Adviser to the governor on Public Enlightenment, Media and Communications in Gusau on Thursday.

According to the statement, the quiz competition is to be organised by the state radio station.

The governor was quoted as making the announcement when he presented prizes to those won the annual Ramadan quiz competition at the premises of Zamfara Radio Station.

Matawalle of expressed happiness over the performance of the winners, who took part in the quiz conducted via telephone in a live programme transmission.

He directed that the annual competition should now hold monthly.

The governor pledged to release N5 million monthly for the programme, which would be competed for by the phone callers under his personal supervision.

Matawalle gave a standing order that the programme should hold unfailingly every month.

He said that if he happened to be out of the state, the competition should be supervised by either his deputy or the secretary to the state government.

The governor, who chaired one of the sessions at the radio station last week, gave out cash and material prizes, including cars, tricycles, sewing machines and cash between N150,000 and N300,000.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the programmes, which started about eight years ago, was first organised jointly by the state’s branches of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Radio Television and Theatre Arts Workers Union (RATTAWU) and the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).

Participation is by phone calls where callers within the station’s area of coverage would call, pick a number which is attached to a question and attempt to answer the question in order to win different prizes.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Fiji holds online “Chinese Bridge” competition




The Confucius Institute at the University of the South Pacific (CI-USP) in Fiji has held the “Chinese Bridge” competition online which was attended by eight candidates.

Yang Hui, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at the USP told Xinhua on Thursday that this year’s “Chinese Bridge” competition could not be conducted on stage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizing committee decided to select among the candidates by online Q&A session and video submission.

“We have to hold this year’s competition online just because of COVID-19. And we are very glad that we have had a very successful competition that was attended by eight wonderful candidates,” she said.

The qualifying competition for the 19th “Chinese Bridge” Fiji division, hosted by the Chinese embassy and co-organized by the CI-USP, concluded in the Fijian capital Suva on Thursday, with Sharon Levula winning the first prize. She will represent the Fiji division to participate in the 19th “Chinese Bridge” competition in China.

Yashna Nand won the second prize and gained the opportunity to go to China to observe the 19th “Chinese Bridge” competition. Dean of Faculty of Arts, Law and Education USP Dr. Akanisi Kedrayate issued the certificates and prizes to the champion and the second prize winner.

Yang believed that the “Chinese Bridge” can be seen as “a bridge of culture and friendship” that will help the young Chinese learners around the world know the Chinese culture and strengthen the friendship between the Chinese and the peoples across the world.

“The undertaking of the ‘Chinese Bridge’ not only provides Chinese language learners in Fiji with a platform to demonstrate their own Chinese learning achievements, but also builds a bridge for in-depth cultural exchange between the young generation of China and Fiji,” she said.


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Chinese language competition held in BiH online amid pandemic




The 19th “Chinese Bridge” language competition was held online in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on Sunday via WeChat, a social messaging app, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winner of this year’s competition is Mian Palikuca, a student from the Department of Sinology of University of East Sarajevo.

Chinese is a language of great literary wealth and it offers many opportunities for career advancement,” Palikuca told Xinhua.

Two students of the Confucius Institute in Banja Luka, the second-largest city in BiH, won the second and third place.

Doroteja Klacar, who teaches Chinese at the University of East Sarajevo, said that many people have been looking forward to the annual contest.

As a judge at the competition, she was particularly impressed that despite the pandemic, students were well-prepared and teachers did their best to coach contestants.

“People who love Chinese will continue to work hard for the teaching of Chinese no matter what difficulties they face,” Klacar said.

As of Sunday, BiH health authorities recorded 2,290 COVID-19 cases, with 133 deaths.


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Iranian soccer clubs ask foreign players to return to Iran for competitions




Iran super league soccer clubs have asked their foreign players to return to the country as soon as possible as the authorities have hinted for the resumption of the competitions after over two months of hiatus over COVID-19 outbreak, Tehran Times daily reported on Sunday.

The country officially suspended the matches on March 11, and many foreigners from the Iranian teams traveled to their home countries.

But the situation in the country is getting better and the government has taken some steps to restart sports events around the country.

On Saturday, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that “the soccer leagues will restart after the holy month of Ramadan but the competitions must be played behind closed doors.”

Rouhani said that the competition will resume under the terms of a strict health protocol.

Iranian Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi also said earlier that “we can finish the current season in six weeks. The teams will have three weeks to prepare for the competition.”

“The season would resume under the terms of a strict health protocol. The matches will be held behind closed doors but we will see a real football onto the field. Players must also avoid goal celebrations,” said Harirchi.

However, due to the travel restrictions imposed on international flights by the governments, foreigners playing in the Iranian clubs may face difficulties in returning to the country.


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General news

Ebonyi commissioner sponsors essay competition to ease lockdown boredom



Mr Oluchukwu Ezeali, the Ebonyi Commissioner for Project Monitoring and Evaluation, has sponsored an essay competition for facebook users in order to ease the COVID-19 lockdown boredom.
Ezeali, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja, said that the competition was held on the facebook page of a journalist, Paul Okah.
He said that the competition, which started on April 27, with the caption “2020 P. Noble Writing Competition”, had 18 participants, who wrote stories on the topic “My COVID-19 lockdown experience.”
The commissioner said that after thorough assessment, three participants emerged winners of the competition and were rewarded with cash prizes.
He listed the three winners to include Miss Ezeali Blessing, Miss Oluchukwu Josy and Mr Chijioke Ekumaoko, who emerged first, second and third place winners, respectively.
“They were awarded cash prizes of N10,000, N7,000 and N5,000 for their respective positions. The prizes are just to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The main objectives of the competition were for participants to develop literary skills, kill boredom, educate and enlighten readers and possibly earn little prizes, regardless of the trueness or otherwise of their stories,” he said.
The commissioner further said that the competition was one of the ways of complementing the efforts of Gov. David Umahi by providing an opportunity for the participants to snap out of COVID-19-induced boredom.
Ezeali said that the beneficiaries should see the opportunity as a sign of better things to come, especially under Umahi’s leadership.
According to him, the governor had been doing everything possible to ensure that the people of the state were comfortable, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
He urged them to improve their writing skills by effecting the corrections on some of the errors identified by the judges in the course of editing their stories.
“To all the participants, I say you braced it to show your literary skills and you should be celebrated, regardless of whatever error that led to your missing out on the top three, even as I look forward to more participation in subsequent editions,” he said.
Aside the top three, the commissioner said that other participants were also awarded consolation prizes of N1,000 airtime each for their efforts.

Edited By: Gregg Mmaduakolam and (NAN)‘Wale Sadeeq

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