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England bids farewell to 1966 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Banks



Stoke-on-Trent (UK), March 4, 2019 (Reuters/NNN) Crowds of mourning fans joined luminaries of English football for a final farewell on Monday to Gordon Banks, a steelworker’s son who became one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers.

Team mates from England’s 1966 World Cup win and members of former clubs Stoke City and Leicester came to join a cortege from the Stoke stadium to the funeral for Banks.

The former goalkeeper, who will be remembered for his miraculous save against Pele, died aged 81 in February.

“He was so humble, honest to God, he didn’t really understand what he had achieved in life and why people made such a fuss of him,” friend Terry Conroy, who starred with Banks and scored in Stoke’s 1972 League Cup win, told Reuters.

Banks was best known for the stunning one-handed save from a Pele bullet header that bounced awkwardly in front of him.

It was during England’s group stage game against Brazil at the 1970 FIFA World Cup finals in Mexico.

“With the luck of the gods, the angle at which I’d managed to lift that ball was perfect, and it ballooned in the air and over the bar,” the genial Banks said in one of the many recountings begged by fans and media.

Footage shows Banks chuckling afterwards, as England’s Bobby Moore jokingly chides him for not catching the ball.

His achievements went far further than stopping Pele.

Banks won 73 national caps, played nearly 500 times for Leicester and Stoke and won two League Cups, before a car crash blinded him in one eye.

He remained in Stoke, a former mining and pottery city, where he would watch games, attend charity events and take a weekly walk round Trentham Gardens.

“He donated his tie to a charity event I was involved in and we raised 200 pounds. Such a gentleman,” reminisced Phillip Steele, 76, next to a statue of Banks at the hilltop stadium decked in flags, scarves and flowers.

Some 2,000 fans were at the Bet365 stadium to watch proceedings on a big screen.

Others lined the route of the funeral procession, which was to stop outside the old Victoria Ground where Banks plied his trade before ending at Stoke minster for a religious service.

Goalkeepers Jack Butland, Joe Hart and Kasper Schmeichel were to be pall-bearers, while fellow World Cup winners Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst were also expected.

In a largely working-class city obsessed with football, Banks was viewed as a reminder of simpler days before the English Premier League’s mega-millions.

Everyone had their favourite save.

“Mine was a penalty kick he stopped against Geoff Hurst at Stoke’s 1972 League Cup semi-final at West Ham,” Conroy said.

“If he hadn’t saved that, we wouldn’t have been in the final and won our first trophy in more than 100 years.”

Banks used to pick out a 1963 FA Cup semi-final when Leicester scored with their only shot on goal while he single-handedly thwarted chance after chance for Liverpool.

Born in the northern city of Sheffield, Banks worked as a coal packer and apprentice bricklayer as a teenager.

This was before an inauspicious start at Chesterfield’s Reserves: he let in 122 goals in the 1954/55 season.

After military service, he got a first team contract at Chesterfield — for seven pounds ($9.24) a week.

Anecdotes from Banks’s life tell of a different era to that of today’s cosseted players.

Before kick-off at the 1966 World Cup semi-final, he ran out of the gum he used to chew to generate spit for his hands.

So, the England trainer popped out of Wembley and down the road to buy some from a news kiosk just in time to stave off Banks’s panic.(Reuters/NNN)


Babyface, Bobby Girl shine at 1st Gotv Boxing Night Mini



The West African Boxing Union (WABU) Welterweight champion, Rilwan “Baby Face” Babatunde, rose to the occasion to record a victory at the maiden GOtv Boxing Night Mini.

The fight night which brought many boxing fans to watch some boxing bouts was held at the Mobolaji Sports Complex, Yaba-Lagos, on Saturday.

BabyFace was all menace and speed, knocking out Saheed Lawal in the third of their eight-round national challenge duel.

Lawal, who was a replacement for Dennis “The Range” Mbat, who pulled out on account of an accident, gave a good account of himself in terms of defiance.

But the WABU champion’s volume punching at velocity was too much for him, as he was quickly in a daze, forcing the referee to stop the fight.

Also, Cynthia “Bobby Girl” Ogunsemilore, who won her fight by knockout at GOtv Boxing Night 19, confirmed her status as a boxer to watch out for.

She defeated Roliat “Mummy’s Pet” Akinsanya by unanimous decision in a thrilling Super Featherweight bout.

The Range boxer exhibited composure and guile beyond her age to outwit her similarly impressive opponent.

In the Lightweight category, WABU champion, Rilwan “Real One” Oladosu, stopped Ola Adebakin in the first of the scheduled eight rounds.

Waheed “Showmax” Shogbanmu got the better of Semiu “Jagaban” Olapade.

The Cruiserweight duel saw fans favourite, Kabiru “KB Godson” Towolawi, defeat Olajide Olatunji through unanimous decision.

Among dignitaries at the show were Sola Aiyepeku, Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission and Dr Rafiu Ladipo, President Nigeria Boxing Board of Control (NBB of C).

Others were Remi Aboderin,  WABU President and NBB of C scribe and Ms Jennifer Ukoh, Public Relations Manager, GOtv.

(Edited by Chidinma Agu/Peter Ejiofor)

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Euro 2020 qualifiers: Hazard brothers shine as Belgium thump Russia 4-1



Belgium secured top spot in Euro 2020 qualifying Group I and stretched their perfect record to nine wins after a sparkling 4-1 win in Russia on Saturday.

Two goals from Eden Hazard and one by his brother Thorgan inspired them to victory against home side Russia.

With one round of games remaining, Belgium have a maximum 27 points and second-placed Russia 21, both sides having booked their places at next year’s 24-nation tournament.

Although there was only pride to play for, the game got off to a pacy start and Thorgan Hazard fired the visitors ahead with a superb 19th-minute goal.

Eden Hazard made it 2-0 in the 33rd with another fine effort, volleying a low drive past Russia’s Brazilian-born goalkeeper Guilherme after striker Romelu Lukaku headed a lofted pass into his captain’s stride.

The livewire forward doubled his tally shortly before halftime from a brilliant move, with midfielder Kevin De Bruyne squaring the ball unselfishly for Hazard to stroke into an empty net from 12 metres.

Only poor finishing by Lukaku and two good saves by Guilherme denied the Belgians a bigger lead in the opening hour as Russia failed to create anything in front of a partisan home crowd.

Ruthless Belgium struck again in the 72nd minute as Lukaku made amends for his early miss, rifling a scorcher inside the near post from 16 metres with Guilherme clutching nothing but thin air.

Georgi Dzhikiya finally gave the subdued home fans something to cheer about when he swept home a close-range rebound in the 79th.

It was however scant consolation for a crushing defeat by last year’s World Cup semi-finalists.

Edited by Joseph Edeh/Sadiya Hamza

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Ginter the inspiration as Germany clinch Euro 2020 spot



Defender Matthias Ginter scored one goal and was involved in two more as Germany comfortably saw off Belarus 4-0 on Saturday.

The victory ensured that Germany clinched their place at Euro 2020, qualifying for the finals for a record 13th time in a row.

The inspired Ginter broke the deadlock in the 41st minute with a clever backheel, provided a dummy which allowed Leon Goreztka to score the second and the pass for Toni Kroos to add the third.

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer saved a penalty from Igor Stasevich in the 75th minute.

And Kroos added a fourth goal to complete his first national team brace since the 7-1 World Cup semi-final win over Brazil in 2014.

Group C leaders Germany were given a helping hand by arch-rivals the Netherlands who held Northern Ireland 0-0 away to ensure the Dutch and Germans qualified with one match to spare.

Germany have 18 points —- from six draws and one defeat — while the Dutch have 16 and Northern Ireland 14.

Belarus have four points but could still qualify as they have reached the playoffs of the Nations League which offers four more places.

As expected, Germany quickly took control although their early attacks were somewhat predictable.

They were given a fright when Stasevich’s dipping long-range shot forced Neuer into a difficult save and they went ahead shortly afterwards.

Serge Gnabry wriggled past his marker and fired a low ball across the face of goal which was flicked in by Ginter for his first Germany goal on his 29th appearance.

Germany increased their lead four minutes after halftime when Kroos sent a low corner to the edge of the area, Ginter dummied and Goretzka fired home.

Six minutes later, Ginter’s pass found Kroos on the edge of the area and he swept the ball home with a trademark first-time shot.

Belarus were awarded a penalty when Robin Koch tripped Pavel Nekhaychik but Neuer dived to his right to save Stasevich’s spot-kick.

Kroos rubbed it in when he collected the ball in the area, spun past his mark, evaded another and fired a low shot past Aleksandr Gutor to complete the rout.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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Kwara Utd beat Ekiti Utd 2-0 in pre-season friendly



Kwara United on Saturday produced convincing performance to brush aside visiting Ekiti United 2-0 in friendly encounter at the Kwara Stadium Complex, Ilorin.

The homers started the encounter impressively with the duo of Oliver David and Fabiyi John making superb runs.

They eventually scored the opening goal in the third minute through Joshua Agboola who was assisted by Sunday Owoyemi.

Ekiti United tried to restore parity almost immediately when Savior Francis delivered a glorious pass for Afeez Yusuf, but Kwara United goalie Abdullateef Yusuf produced a brilliant safe.

Dede Mogarah had the chance to increase the tally for Kwara United in the 30th minute when he found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Wale Makanjuola, but his shot was parried away.

The first half, however, ended with with Kwara United leading with a lone goal.

On resumption, Kwara United changed their pattern to more attacking one and their game impressed the fans at the stands.

Kwara United netted their second goal in the 68th minute through Abdulsallam Abdussallam who benefitted from a good pass by Issah Magaji.

Ekiti United would have pulled one back in the 75th minute when they were awarded a free kick, but Bello Babatunde missed the chance.

The Abdullahi Biffo’s men ended the match winning 2-0 in what was a good win ahead of the coming Nigeria National League (NNL) season.

Meanwhile, Kwara United will play another friendly match against Crown FC on Sunday at the Kwara Stadium Complex.

Edited by Donald Ugwu

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Squash: 12 year-old wins two categories, defeats number one seeded player



Mistura Durosinlorun, a 12 year old defeated the number one seeded player Favour Utukpe in the U-16 category at the final of the 2019 edition of the Ex-Squash Pros Diaspora,.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the 3rd edition of the Ex-Squash Pros Diaspora served off at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere from Nov. 14 to Nov.16.

Durosinlorun told NAN that defeating the number seeded player would further boost her confidence during tournaments.

“I’m so excited I won; last month, when we met at a tournament, Favour won, then I made up my mind to keep pushing.

“I know I need to sustain this so I need to train harder to remain consistent, and I intend to give it all it takes,” she said.

NAN reports that 14-year Utukpe lost 3-1 to Durosinlorun.

Temitope Olusoji, a player who came to watch the finals, attributed Utukpe’s loss to her new found love for social media.

“Since she got her phone, she began to cut down on the number of hours she trains for.

“That phone distracted her, if she probably didn’t have the phone she would have won,” she said.

In her defense, Utukpe told NAN that, she feels miserable losing to Durosinlorun at the finals.

“Words cannot describe how I feel right now; it’s even more painful because I don’t know where these assumptions are coming from.

“My mum bought the phone for me and she only gave it to me recently, so it’s not true.

“If I had won, they won’t be saying all these, I will just train hard for a comeback, this is a temporary setback, the better player won today,” she said.

In the finals of the U-13 category for boys, Dominion Utukpe of Lagos State defeated Daniel Nzei of Akwa- Ibom 3-1.

For U-13 girls Mistura Durosinlorun of Kwara State defeated Jennifer Madukaozor, of Abia 3-1.

For U-16 category for boys Wisdom Nzei of Akwa Ibom defeated Joseph Eniafoghe of Head Waters Academy 3-2.

In the first edition of the above 45 category, in the women’s category Osarumwense Ogbemi, defeated Sadia Akande 2-0 .

In the over 45 men, Daniel Enaholo defeated Yusuf Durosinlorun 2-0, father of Mistura, and the Tournament Director.

Edited by Maureen Atuonwu

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Nigerians’ hospitality crucial to Ugandans’ golfing success, 2019 Nigeria Ladies Open winner says



Uganda’s Irene Nakalembe, winner of the 2019 Nigeria Ladies Golf Open Championship, on Saturday in Abuja explained the reasons behind her success and that of Ugandan ladies in golf in Nigeria.

Nakalembe who won the event on Friday in Abuja said the encouragement and support she and her compatriots were getting from their Nigerian counterparts were very crucial.

The handicap 4 amateur golfer recorded 236 gross score over three days at the event organised by the Ladies Golf Association of Nigeria (LGAN) from Wednesday to Friday.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that Nakalembe’s success came about 12 months after compatriot Evah Magala celebrated victory at the Nigeria Ladies Open in Uyo.

“We have always felt at home in Nigeria. In fact our people back home call us Nigerians, because we always come and participate in different events here in Nigeria.

“Now we know how to eat pepper, we can eat `suya’ (roasted cow meat) and `amala’ (made from dried yam flour),’’ Nakalembe said.

She added that the Nigerian hospitality and familiarity with the environment have gone on to help their golfing, saying “we have also come to understand the terrain of golf clubs in Nigeria”.

Nakalembe grossed 76 on the opening day, 80 on the second day and another 80 on the third day, to lead the competition from the beginning to the end.

Four of the other seven Ugandans who participated in the competition finished among the top 10 winners, with Magala the defending champion finishing in third place with a 254 gross score.

They were among over 100 golfers who competed for the prestigious 2019 Nigeria Ladies Open trophy, and were drawn from clubs in Lagos, Otukpo, Port Harcourt, Benin, Asaba, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana.

NAN reports that among the winners at the competition was Rachael Danjuma of the IBB International Golf and Country Club, who emerged the Best Gross Runner-Up with a 248 score.

Danjuma, who is now the newly-elected Zonal Vice President (North) of LGAN, recorded 82 on the opening day, another 82 on the second day and 84 on the final day.

Magala, who is also the Lady Captain of Uganda Golf Club in Kampala, failed to defend the trophy she won in 2018 at Uyo after she returned a gross of 254 to emerge the third best in gross.

Policewoman Amina Wilfred of the IBB International Golf and Country Club won the Best Nett prize with a score of 228.

Helen Alechenu of Otukpo Golf Club in Benue won the Best Nett Runner-up prize on a count back.

In the race for the auxiliary prizes, Danjuma shot 220 metres on hole one to be adjudged the player with the longest drive.

Magala won the Nearest to the Pin on Hole I6 with 1.9 metres.

Eunice Ogah of Port Harcourt Golf Club emerged the winner of the Lady Super Veterans category, while Folashade Olateju of IBB International Golf and Country Club won the Lady Veterans prize.

NAN reports that the tournament held at the IBB International Golf and Country Club in Abuja helped to mark the end of the tenure of the Ekanem Ekwueme-led LGAN Executive Committee.

In a statement released on Saturday in Abuja by Kayode Adeniyi, the Director of Media and Publicity for the Open, Ekwueme commended the Open’s Local Organising Committee (LOC).

Ekwueme, who is now the immediate-past LGAN President, said the LOC led by Julie Okah-Donli, the Director-General of NAPTIP, put up a good show.

“I say ‘thank you’ for the support, ‘thank you’ for the friendship, ‘thank you’ for the loyalty, and ‘thank you’ for making my last day in office a memorable one.’’

Ekwueme noted that the situation have improved for lady golfers and LGAN in the past two years.

“Our members have travelled far and wide playing the game both within and outside the continent.

“Our trip to Achimota Golf Club in Accra, Ghana last year for the All African Challenge Trophy with over 50 ladies was a remarkable achievement and such a thing should be encouraged by the new Executive Committee.

“I congratulate all the ladies for taking part in this Open, and I urge the new Executive Committee to keep the flag flying,’’ she said.


(Edited by Olawale Alabi)

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