​Sports: LSSC predict more talents discovery at NTTF National Championship

The Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC) Sola Aiyepeku has predicted more talents discovery at the ongoing 2021 Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) National Championship taking place at the Molade Okoya-Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.

Aiyepeku is particularly excited that table tennis is returning to Lagos after the famous Nigeria Open was cancelled in 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic.

He, however, lauded Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for his continued support to sports development in the state.

“We expect that a lot of talents will come from this tournament and like you heard, there are many cadres of competitions in this championships, so we expect new talents and for us in Lagos, this is what we have been saying about creating a circuit of events in every sport and this is a national tournament and the international one will come later in the year which the Governor has already approved and in between we will be having more domestic tournaments because that is the only way we can up the competition,” he said.

Aiyepeku added: “I need to commend Mr. Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. In this tough time, very few people have to stick their necks on the line to stage an event like this and as soon as we proposed this to the Governor, his only concern was the time in between. Can we organize a fruitful tournament and he supported us all the way and the fact that he backs us gave us a lot of confidence.”

He is also optimistic that the state athletes would put up a good fight against their counterparts from other states. “If you look at the National Sports Festival that was held in Edo State, we had our players finishing in third and fourth positions and others outside the medal range. If they were playing more regularly and getting more competition experience, we think they would have finished better in the gold medal. So this tournament will help and also put money in their pockets because this is a big tournament with prize money and that way, we think Lagos State, will gain more even in other sports.”

He also commended NTTF for their commitment to raising the bar in staging a befitting tournament that has become an example to others.
 
All eyes on Ondo, Oyo in team event
32 men and 16 women teams started their campaign for the podium at the 2021 NTTF National Championships on Tuesday, May 18, and today May 19, the winners will emerge as the final holds at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium.

All eyes were on the Oyo and Ondo teams who were champions at the 20th National Sports Festival with Taiwo Mati spearheading the Ondo boys while experienced Halimat Hussein is leading the Oyo ladies.

Also, cadet players were in action on the opening day of the championship with 16 battling for places in the last 16 (knockout) stage of the singles event with Mattew Kuti being the star attraction.

A confident Mati believes his mission in Lagos was to lead Ondo to the podium as well as claim the men’s singles title.

“I have positive feelings about this tournament because I have been training and working hard. I am sure that I will perform very well and that is my target and at least to be among the top four because this will be a very tough competition. At the National Sports Festival, I lost in the first round and I was very disappointed but I tried not to let that weighed me down and I quickly made some amendment in my game with my coach and that showed at the just concluded Aso Championship in Abuja despite the fact that I lost in the final,” the captain of the junior national team said.

​Nigeria’s Mustapha ranked world’s number one cadet player

By Victor Habila

Nigeria’s teenage table tennis sensation Musa Mustapha has been ranked world’s best in the boys’ U-11 by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

With this development, Mustapha has become the second African to be rated number one in the world after Hana Goda was in 2020 named the best U-15 girls in the world.

The Abuja-based Mustapha was part of the Nigerian team that won the 2019 ITTF Junior Circuit in Ghana and the world table tennis ruling body has also been monitoring the player in the last three years after he made his senior debut at the 2018 Nigeria Open in Lagos.

In the ranking list released by ITTF, Mustapha with 128 points is number one U-11 while he is also ranked 17th in the U-13 category while his brother Mustapha was rated 18th in the same cadre.

The Al-Faizun Junior Academy student is expected to be part of the World Youth Series taking place later this year in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

National junior champion Taiwo Matti is also ranked 12th and 64th in the U-17 and U-19 world rankings respectively.

According to ITTF, the newly formed WTT Youth Series, replaces the ITTF World Junior Circuit and now complemented by the new ranking regulations, being the first step in the whole of sport pathway that will drive today’s most promising young talent towards the pinnacle of the sport.

Portugal will host the first ever WTT Youth Series event, with the inaugural WTT Youth Contender to take place in Vila Real from Tuesday 11 to Monday 17th May. It will be the first youth event to be held since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

​Ahmed Musa hopes to help Kano pillars win 2020/21 NPFL

The Nigerian Super Eagles Captain, Ahmed Musa said he is back to his former club, Kano pillars on a mission to help the club emerge victorious at the ongoing 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League, NPLF.

Musa stated this when he formally penned down a short term deal with Kano Pillars Football club at the club Secretariat in Kano.

A statement by the club’s spokesperson, Rilwanu Idris said Musa promised to do his possible best to see that Pillars Fc win the league season.

“I left pillars over ten years ago without winning the league by then but now by God’s grace I will make a special record to win it this time around.

“People don’t know why I am back to the club. I am back on a mission and it would be accomplish sooner or later.”

Musa however thanked the management, players and fans of the club for their cordial relationship since his first registration with the club in 2009 till date which prompted him to come back to the club.

On his part, the Chairman of the club, Alhaji Surajo Shaaibu Jambul expressed delight with Ahmed Musa’s decision to rejoined the club urging him to feel free and at home at all times.

Jambul urged him to use his vast experience to move the club forward and assured that the club would release him any time he get offer outside the country.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Musa was unveiled to the board and management of the club and is to wear his former jersey number seven throughout the time he will be in the club.

​AFCON 2021: Nigeria Defeats Benin to qualify

The Super Eagles of Nigeria defeated the Squirrels of Benin Republic by a lone goal on Saturday to secure their qualification for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations to be held in Cameroon next year.
The injury time goal by Paul Onuachu at the Stade Charles de Gaulle, Porto Novo, ensured that the three time African champions retained top spot in Group L.
With one match remaining in the qualifiers, Nigeria now has 11 points, followed by Benin Republic with 7 points.
Earlier in the day, a barren draw between Lesotho and Sierra Leone in the group’s other match had already cleared Nigeria’s passage to the tournament.
Nigeria’s final AFCON qualifying match will be against Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun stadium in Lagos.

CAF had recently increased the number of groups from 4 to 6, meaning the number of teams that will participate in the continental showpiece has increased from 16 to 24.
Of the teams that have qualified for the Mundial, Gambia and Comoros Islands will be making their debut in the competition with Nigeria set to make her 19th appearance at the tournament.

​Okiemute In Early Lead At Emmanuel Egbele Annual Scrabble Tournament  As Day One Ends 

Okiemute Tega raced to the top of the table at the end of Day One proceedings of the Emmanuel Egbele Annual Scrabble Tournament, (EEAST) racking up eight wins and just a defeat  in the first nine rounds of games at the two-day championship taking place in Lekki, Lagos.

Okeimute who is ranked No.10 at the tournament garnered a total of 804 cumulative points to end the day as  Day-One Champion.

Snapping at his heels is the chasing  Avwhenaga Oshevire (No.6) who has the same score but falls short with a lower 614 cumulative points.

The septet of Prince Omosefe (No. 9), youth prodigy Enoch Nwali(12),  Eta Karo (No.2),  Gbadebo Olufemi (No.42), Ibukun Faloye  (No. 23), Osikhena Ojior (No.15) and Dokun Esan (No. 13) all records 7 wins and two defeats each but are separated by cumulative points of 843, 613 ,579,569, 498,477 and 315 respectively to underline the competitiveness of the EEAST.

 
2015 WESPA Champion and tournament ranked No. 1 Wellington Jighere occupies the 10th position with 6 wins after nine rounds of  games with a 949 cumulative points.

73 players are competing across the Masters, Intermediate and Opens categories for the top prize as well as other spot winners’ positions in the maiden edition of the competition which has so far  lived up to pre-tournament ratings according to scrabble enthusiasts.

Meanwhile, the chief sponsor Emmanuel Egbele is urging all to keep upholding the Covid19 Protocols.
Hostilities resume by 9am this Saturday, the final day where seven rounds of games will be played to determine the winners.

Birthday: Kaduna SWAN Felicitates Engineer Nimrod

By Our Correspondent

The Sports Writers Association of NIgeria (SWAN) Kaduna State Chapter has felicitated with its patron, Engineer Musa Nimrod as he marks his birthday anniversary on Friday March 5, 2021.

This was expressed in a statement signed by its Secretary, Okpani Jacob Onjewu Dickson, made available to newsmen in Kaduna.

“We heartily felicitate with our patron, Engineer Musa Nimrod as he adds another fruitful year to his age today.

“We are blessed to have him as our patron and greatly appreciate the impact he has had not just on SWAN, but sports generally in Kaduna State and NIgeria,” it stated.

It further said that Nimrod, who is the Chairman of Volleyball Association Kaduna State as well as the President of NIgeria Volleyball Federation (NVBF) has remained a role model to many.

“We pray God continues to enlarge his coast and bless him abundantly with long life and prosperity, just as he had impacted several groups and individuals positively,” it added.

WTT Contender: Aruna Bows out Gallantly

The only surviving African in the men’s singles of the World Table Tennis (WTT) Contender Series, Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna bowed out gallantly in Doha, Qatar on Friday, March 5, after losing 3-1 to Chinese Taipei’s Yun-Ju Lin.

Aruna who is ranked 21 in the world was set up against world number seven in the quarterfinal after his triumph over Joao Geraldo of Portugal in the round of 16 and from the outcome of the tie against the Asian star, it was clear that the Nigerian did not concede defeat easily without giving a fight.

From the start of the encounter, Aruna did not allow his opponent to dictate the tie and he ensured he fought for every point.

Aruna’s powerful forehand most times confused his opponent but his inaccuracy in backhand became his undoing and this earned the Asian star some points in the first game which ended 8-11 in favour of Lin.

Just like the first game, the second game was full of rallies and both players matched themselves shots for shots with the Asian star having an upper hand with 9-11 win.

however, in the third game, Aruna wanted to halt the run of his opponent that even when the match was at 10-8 in favour of the Asian star, Aruna fought back to level the game at 10-10 with both players winning point by point but the Nigerian prevailed at 17-15 to put the match at 2-1.

The fourth game had all the ingredients of the others and Aruna was leading 6-4 while the inability of the `Nigerian bench to read the game cost Aruna the game to end at 9-11 in favour of Lin to complete a 3-1 win.

Despite the exit in the quarterfinal, Aruna has set a standard for African players to look beyond the quarterfinal at the WTT tournament.

The second tiers of the WTT Middle East Hub ‘WTT Star Contender kicks on March 7 to 13 with the preliminary involving the likes of Olajide Omotayo and other African stars in their quest to join Aruna in the main draw.

​Semi Ajayi: I always planned to play for Nigeria

Semi Ajayi has said that he had always wanted to play international football for Nigeria.

The London-born West Bromwich Albion defender, who was also eligible to play for England, qualified to play for the Super Eagles through his parents.

“When I was at Charlton, I had already represented Nigeria at under-20 and under-21 level. I’d always envisioned myself progressing to the first team,” the 27-year-old told BBC Sport Africa. When I got promoted with Rotherham, I was playing week in week out in the Championship.”

“That season I got a call from the Nigeria team saying that they had been monitoring my progress and they would like to offer me an invitation to the first team.

“I was buzzing, I was over the moon. Then I made my debut a couple of weeks later against Seychelles.

“It’s a surreal feeling pulling on that jersey and knowing that you are representing 200 million people. I’m blessed to be part of the 18 or 23 people selected to represent the country. It’s something I don’t take for granted.”

Ajayi, who now has 14 senior international caps, used to spend summers in Nigeria with his family before he turned professional.

“Before I started playing football full time, I used to go there every other summer with my family,” he explained.

“Now that my time off in football is different to the time my mum gets off from work, I don’t go as often. I still go back four times a year for the internationals and then sometimes in the summer.”

​Liverpool won’t force Salah to stay, says Klopp

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp sees no reason why Mohamed Salah would want to leave the Premier League champions, but says he would not keep the Egyptian forward at the club against his will.

Salah told Spanish newspaper AS in an interview this month that he admired Real Madrid and Barcelona, fuelling talk in the British media that he was looking to move on.

“I think the only reason to leave Liverpool at the moment is the weather. What other reason could be there?” Klopp said at a news conference.

“This is one of the biggest clubs in the world, we pay good money … we have a sensational stadium with outstanding supporters.

“You cannot force people to stay but that is it … We make changes and bring players in and if a player wants to go then we cannot, probably not hold him back; it’s just that I would not understand why somebody would want to go.”

Salah was left on the bench for last weekend’s 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace, but still scored two goals when he came on to help the leaders maintain their fine form.

He became Liverpool’s all-time top scorer in the Champions League earlier this month in a 1-1 draw at Denmark’s Midtjylland.

Klopp said Salah’s comments about the Spanish sides were not an indication of his desire to leave Liverpool.

“If you ask any player in the world who is not playing for Barcelona or Madrid if he can imagine playing there one day and he said: ‘No, Spanish football is not for me,’ why would he say that?

“Mo is a very important player for me obviously but this story around is not.”

Liverpool are top of the table with 31 points from 14 games, four clear of second-placed Leicester City.

They face West Bromwich Albion, who are second from bottom, on Sunday. (Reuters/NAN)

NPFL to kick off Dec 27 — Sports Minister

The Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, is set to start on December 27.

The League like all other Leagues in the world was halted due to the covid 19 pandemic. But even when other Leagues in the world came back without fans, the Nigerian League has remained in the cooler.

Youth and Sports Minister, Sunday Dare confirmed on Friday while briefing Journalists at the National Stadium, Surulere in Lagos that the NPFL will restart on December 27.

The cherry news was applauded even by Journalists at the venue as the Minister disagreed that Nigerian football was not dead but agreed that interest in Nigerian football has waned.

The Sports Minister noted that the right things in the League concerning Club licensing and financial regulations must be adhered to.

“Part of the problem of not starting the League outside the covid 19 pandemic is from them, the organisers. We’ve been waiting for them. We’re meeting with the NFF and NPFL to sort things out. What is most Important is that we must do the right things.

We must know the number of teams who are ready and have fulfilled the necessary regulations to start. We’ll start with whatever number of teams who have done the right things. December 27 is sacrosanct. The League will start on that date”, the Minister emphasised.

Nigerian teams playing at the CAF Continental assignments have fumbled with Plateau United and Kano Pillars being dumped at the first rounds. Sports analysts have attributed their early exit to the Nigerian League which has not kicked off.