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La Liga to end Monday games from next season, Spanish football federation says

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Barcelona (Spain), March 1, 2019 (Reuters/NNN) La Liga’s Monday night games, which have provoked long-running mass protests from supporters, will be discontinued from next season, Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales announced on Friday.

“There will be no more football on Mondays. As of next season, football will be on Saturdays and Sundays. Business is important, but fans are more important,” Rubiales said in a post on his personal Twitter account.

Spanish top-flight games have been played on Mondays since 2010 and while the league’s organising body says the matches have large television audiences, they have led to a fall in attendances.

Alaves supporters staged a high-profile demonstration against Monday games last month at their match at home to Levante, keeping the stadium empty until five minutes after kick off.

A small group meanwhile held a mock funeral inside the ground marking “the death of modern football”.

Rubiales said the federation was also in discussions about ending games on Fridays, although he did not confirm whether they would also be discontinued.

“We’ll see what happens with games on Fridays. Perhaps we can come to an agreement that is good for everyone,” he added.

Spain’s biggest clubs such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are not required to play on Mondays or Fridays due to being involved in European competitions.

The rule has led to some clubs playing a disproportionate number of times on Mondays, such as Athletic Bilbao, who have played eight out of 25 fixtures this campaign on Mondays.(Reuters/NNN)
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Kida commends D’Tigress for defeating Mali in semifinals

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The President, Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), Musa Kida, has commended the senior women’s national team for beating Mali in the semifinals of the FIBA Africa Pre-Olympic qualifying game on Sunday.

Kida said on Wednesday that the qualification of Rivers Hoopers and Raptors of Lagos was the right result for hard work of the federation, players and coaches.

According to him, with the men already qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games, no stone will be left unturned to see that Nigeria’s chances of a podium finish is brightened with the presence of D’Tigress.

Kida lauded the players for their dedication in the face of stiff opposition in Maputo which he described as gruelling.

“It was very gruelling for them after all these qualifiers that never used to happen before.

“Nigeria has made proof of basketball in the world.

“I have no doubt about it and as such, 2020 is going to be a good year to show that Nigeria’s basketball has come of age.

“Nigeria and Mozambique will join 14 other countries from America, Asia-Oceania and Europeto fight for the 10 available slots to the Olympics.

“As already announced by the Federation of International Basketball Associations, Belgium, China, France and Serbia have been picked to host the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) from Feb. 6 to 9 2020.

“Official draw ceremony will take place on the 30th of November at the FIBA headquarters,” Kids said in a statement.

Edited by Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Tambuwal charges Sokoto Utd. FC to strive harder in winning

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Gov. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state on Wednesday charged the New Branded Sokoto United Football Club to always strive harder in winning laurels for the state.

Tambuwal, who spoke while inaugurating the new club restated his administration’s commitment toward providing an enabling environment for the sports men and women in the state to display their talents.

“As we all witness today Sokoto state has branded, formidable football team that is capable of competing with other clubs in the national football league.

“As such I implore on the club that is to start the Nigerian football league season to work hard to ensure victory in the league matches,” he said.

The Governor commended sports managers in the state for their efforts aimed at taking the game of football and other sporting activities to a greater level.

Nigeria News Agency reports that Sokoto United Football Club will start the Nigerian football league season with Niger Tornadoes Football Club of Minna on Nov. 22.

Edited by Donald Ugwu (NAN)

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Ethiopia stuns Ivory Coast, Madagascar bag record win

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Ethiopia caused the first real shock of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers when they came from behind to stun the Ivory Coast with a 2-1 victory in their Group K clash in Bahir Dar on Tuesday.

Serge Aurier gave the Ivorians an early lead when he knocked in a rebound after Max Gradel’s free kick had been parried into his path by home goalkeeper Abel Mamo.

Yet Ethiopia were level on 16 minutes as Surafel Dagnachew’s free kick was deflected in off the wall, before Shemeles Bekele shrugged off two defenders, and a shout for handball, to score the winner midway through the opening period.

Madagascar continued their fine recent form in the other game in the pool with a thumping 6-2 victory over Niger in Niamey.

The win is the biggest ever on the road in Nations Cup qualifiers for Madagascar and puts them top of the group with a full haul of six points from their two games.

Madagascar was 4-1 up at halftime thanks to a brace by Lalaina Nomenjanahary, and goals from Anicet (penalty) and Andria.

Paulin Voavy and Jerome Mombris added two more in the second period.

Niger had taken an early lead through Amadou Wonkoye before being stung by six unanswered goals. Yusif Moussa grabbed a late consolation for them.

A brace from striker Khama Billiat sealed a precious 2-1 away victory for Zimbabwe in Zambia.

Patson Daka had equalised for the Zambians in the opening period, but Billiat profited from a defensive lapse to net the winner 10 minutes from fulltime.

Noussair Mazraoui scored a first ever goal for Morocco as they eased to a 3-0 victory in Burundi, with Youssef En-Nesyri and Achraf Hakimi netting the others.

The other match in Group E saw Mauritania claim a 2-0 home win over Central African Republic as Moctar El Hacen and Diallo Guidileye scored.

Wahbi Khazri scored the only goal as Tunisia moved to the top of Group J with a full haul of six points following victory over Equatorial Guinea in Malabo.

In the other game in the pool, Libya rallied from a goal down to defeat Tanzania 2-1 in neutral Monastir.

Mbwana Samata put Tanzania ahead with a penalty in the first half, before the home side were also awarded a spot-kick that Sand Masaud converted. Anis Saltou netted the winner on 81 minutes.

Edited by Emmanuel Okara/Tajudeen Atitebi (NAN)

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Nadal sparks Spanish comeback, Canada into last eight

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Shortly before midnight on Tuesday in Madrid’s La Caja Magica, Rafa Nadal punched the air as chants of “Rafa, Rafa” echoed around the arena and the Davis Cup Finals burst into life.

After generally disappointing attendances so far at the glitzy new version of the 119-year-old competition, a sell-out crowd in the cavernous 12,500-seat stadium roared the world number one to a 6-3 7-6(7) win over Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

While the reaction to Nadal’s victory sounded like Spain had won the old trophy for a sixth time it actually just levelled the Group B tie at 1-1.

The victory would come shortly before 2 a.m. when veteran duo Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers beat Khachanov and Andrey Rublev 6-4 7-6 to clinch a 2-1 win.

With Russia having beaten defending champions Croatia 3-0 on Monday there was some anxiety on the Spain bench when Rublev surged back to beat Wimbledon semi-finalist Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6 6-3 7-6(0) and put them ahead.

That left the 33-year-old Nadal with no margin for error against dangerous world number 17 Khachanov.

But if ever there is a man for a crisis it is Nadal.

He had won his last 24 Davis Cup singles rubbers since losing on his debut in 2004 and was not about to stop now — not on home soil with his country depending on him.

Khachanov stretched him to breaking point at times, especially in the second set, but the 19-times Grand Slam champion fought off a set point before claiming victory.

Afterwards he said the new format, with ties consisting of three rubbers rather than the traditional five, made things dangerous for the fancied nations.

“The format makes things very difficult because every mistake puts you in a position that you don’t want to be,” Nadal told reporters, anxiously peering at the television to keep track of his compatriots playing doubles.

“The atmosphere has been amazing. The only negative thing in my opinion is we are just starting the last match at 1 a.m. That makes big trouble for us, for the players and the people who come to the stadium because tomorrow is a work day.”

Spain can reach the quarter-finals on Wednesday by beating Croatia, who axed Captain Zeljko Krajan two days before their opening tie and will be without injured talisman Marin Cilic.

Canada’s tennis resurgence continued as they became the first nation through to the last eight after beating the United States for the first time in 16 attempts.

Vasek Pospisil, ranked 150th in the world, edged youngster Reilly Opelka 7-6(5) 7-6(7) before Denis Shapovalov beat Taylor Fritz.

The Canadians’ second 2-1 win, having beaten Italy on Monday, sealed top spot in Group F.

“Right now, Canada is really in the best place it’s been in tennis history,” Pospisil said.

Canada could face Australia in the last eight after Nick Kyrgios returned from a two-month lay-off to put his team on their way to a 3-0 win over Colombia in Group D.

Australia face Belgium in a group decider on Wednesday.

Top seeds and last year’s runners-up France had a close shave as they beat Japan 2-1 — Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert winning the decisive doubles 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 against Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama.

There were no French fans there to watch it, however.

The Les Bleus supporters club has boycotted the event in protest at radical changes that have largely replaced the 10-month long home and away knockout format with an 18-nation season-ender in a single city played over seven hectic days.

“Actually, it was pretty special because it was the first time I hear myself singing La Marseillaise,” Herbert joked.

Argentina beat Chile 3-0 in Group C while in Group E Kazakhstan edged the Netherlands 2-1.

The six group winners and two best-placed runners-up progress to the quarter-finals.

Edited by Emmanuel Okara/Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)

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Rohr’s contract extension lies with NFF-Dare

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The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare says the issue of contract extension for Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr lies with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

The minister gave the clarification on Wednesday in Abuja at a brief meeting with Rohr before dashing for the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the presidential villa.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the media have been awashed with news of a log jam on the extension of the coach’s contract.

Rohr’s current contract expires in June 2020 which will fall to the middle of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

Dare, however, stressed that the ministry would continue to give the coach all the necessary support as the NFF finalises its meeting on the contract talks.

“The issue of contract (with Rohr) will be best handled by the NFF, I understand the need to work the fine lines.

“I understand there is a contractual arrangement with the NFF, I will allow the NFF to work through its process, ” the minister said.

Dare charged the coach not to be distracted but intensify efforts to take Nigerian football to the pinnacle.

“Are we happy about where our football is at the moment, not exactly but we know there’s an ongoing process that we make this country a better football nation. That process is on and you are part of the process”,he added.

He  tasked the coach on working with stakeholders to develop the Nigeria Professional League (NPL) in line with international best practice.

” More importantly your knowledge and support for the domestic league will be very important because you can share your experience with our local coaches, ” the minister said.

Earlier, Rohr congratulated the minister on his appointment and efforts to reposition Nigerian sports.

He pledged to work more closely with the minister going forward as the Super Eagles strive to pick the AFCON 2021 ticket.

High point of the event was the presentation of an autographed Super Eagles jersey by the coach to the minister.

Nigeria currently top group L of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers with six maximum points ahead of Benin Republic, Sierra Leone and Lesotho.

Edited by Joseph Edeh/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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AAU boss commends Gov. Abiodun on sports development

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The President of the African Association of Ultrarunners (AAU), Solomon Ogba, has commended the Gov. Dapo Abiodun of Ogun for his giant strides toward sports development.

Ogba, a former President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), gave the commendation in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos on Wednesday.

He applauded the governor for accepting to host the first African Ultra Race Championship in Ogun State.

“The Ogun State Government has been so supportive and has given us all the cooperation to ensure a successful hosting of the African Championship on Dec. 7, 2019.

“The governor showed us great understanding of his knowledge about sports development. This has spurred us on to strongly believe in his ability.

“The Value Jet 50km Remo Ultra Race would in a very short time become one of the best in the world, especially as Ogun state is hosting the very first edition in Africa,’’ he said.

Ogba said the success of the first edition of the JAC Motors Abeokuta 10km Road Race was a great indicator that the Dec. 7 Value Jet 50km Remo Ultra Race would be a huge success.

Ogba is also currently a Board member of the AFN.

The President of the International Association of Ultrarunners, Nadeem Khan, who witnessed the Abeokuta 10km Road Race, also commended the state government for its commitment toward sports development.

Khan, who inspected the Remo Ultra Race route in Sagamu, described it as one of the best he had seen in the world in recent times.

“I am optimistic that come Dec. 7 the 50km Ultra Race in Ogun state will record monumental achievements.

“The achievements will send great messages out to the world about the viability of the state in sports development,” he said.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that over 10,000 runners from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Ghana, Tanzania, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria will compete in the First Value Jet 50km Remo Ultra Race African Championship.

Edited by Adeleye Ajayi

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