Spain sacks manager before Russian World Cup first match

By Sports Desk,

Spain has sacked its football team head coach, Julen Lopetegui, after he was named new Real Madrid boss, two days before the country’s opening World Cup match with Portugal.

Real Madrid announced on Tuesday that Lopetegui would succeed Zinedine Zidane at the Bernabeu on a three-year deal.

The Spanish football federation (RFEF) said it had dismissed the 51-year-old because the negotiation occurred “without any information to the RFEF”.

Spain sporting director Fernando Hierro will take charge for the World Cup.

The former Real Madrid and Bolton Wanderers defender is in his second spell as sporting director, having returned to the role in November 2017, six years after leaving the position.

The tournament starts on Thursday in Russia.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales, who was told of Lopetegui’s new role with Real five minutes before it was announced, said he had found himself in “a very difficult situation”.

“I know there’s going to be criticism whatever I do,” he added.

“I’m sure this will, in time, make us stronger. I admire Julen very much, I respect him very much. He seems a top trainer and that makes it harder to make the decision.

“You can’t do things this way, two or three days before the World Cup. We have been compelled to make this decision.”

Lopetegui became Spain manager in 2016 following Vicente del Bosque’s retirement, and remained unbeaten through his reign.

Spain won 14 of 20 games with Lopetegui in charge, drawing the remaining six.

According to reports in Spain, Rubiales was incensed when he discovered Lopetegui had agreed a deal with Madrid.

He left a Fifa Congress meeting in Moscow early in order to return to Spain’s base in Krasnodar.

It has been claimed senior players – including captain Sergio Ramos – fought for Lopetegui to remain in charge for the duration of the World Cup.

Spain begin their World Cup campaign against Portugal on Friday in a match

BoI, Ebonyi roll out N4bn agric fund for civil servants

By News Desk

The Bank of Industry (BoI) partners the Ebonyi State Government in supporting civil servants with a N4 billion funds to improve agricultural activities in the state.

A statement from the bank  in Lagos disclosed that the agro-based fund was coming on the heels of a N4 billion MSME Matching Fund activated in July 2017.

Olukayode Pitan, Managing Director of BoI, noted that the fund was to develop and promote entrepreneurship, boost agriculture and its value chain businesses in the state.

He also noted that the fund would create a solid future for both MSMEs and the State’s civil servants who were the engine room for the execution of state policies and programmes.

According to him, the fund is being offered at five per cent and 6.2 per cent for medium term (3 years to 5 years) and working capital financing respectively, with moratorium periods of three to 12 months.

Pitan commended the harmonious working relationship of the bank and the State’s Implementation Committee (SIC) in identifying viable MSMEs across the 13 local government councils of the state.

“So far, the Bank has approved a total of 34 loans valued at over N206 million to MSMEs in the state under the Matching Fund.

“In addition, the Bank has also approved and granted loans worth over N3.17 billion (N1.81 billion disbursed) from its direct funds to 22 other businesses in Ebonyi State,” he said.

Pitan said that the sectors supported included rice milling and processing, quarry and solid minerals, food processing, roofing sheet production, water bottling and packaging, mattresses and foam production and metal fabrication.

He said that BoI also impacted the economy of the state through Federal Government’s social security scheme – Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP)- targeted at traders and artisans.

According to him, the bank supports 2,525 beneficiaries to the tune of N126.22 million.

In his remarks, Gov. Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, said that Ebonyi was the pioneer of an initiative aimed at improving the lives of civil servants across the country.

He noted that proffering solution to the low and erratic earnings of civil servants ought to be addressed as a national issue, and that if civil servants were rich, the nation would be rich.

“I get so bothered about the issues of civil servants in the country, because their take home cannot match market forces and yet many states in our federation cannot pay this meager salary to civil servants,” he said.

He assured civil servants that the fund would be ready to be assessed from this month, adding that the Constitution permits civil servants to engage in agriculture.

Nadal claims 11th French Open crown

World number one Rafael Nadal won an 11th French Open title by beating Austrian Dominic Thiem in straight sets.

Nadal won 6-4 6-3 6-2 to earn his 17th Grand Slam, three behind Roger Federer’s all-time men’s record.

The Spaniard edged an intense opening set, tightening his grip in the second.

And despite having cramp in the third he increased the tempo further, beating Thiem in his first major final when the 24-year-old returned long.

“It’s a dream to win 11 times,” Nadal said.

“It was important to play the way I did. It was a tough moment when I got cramp. He is a player who pushes you to the limit.”

Past six Grand Slam titles have been shared between Nadal and Federer with the next generation of players finding it hard to break the veterans’ stranglehold on the game.

Nadal is the only second player in history to win the same Grand Slam on 11 occasions after Margaret Court, who won 11 Australian Open titles between 1960 and 1973.

However, it was not all smooth for Nadal, who missed four match points on his own serve before clinching victory when Thiem went long on the fifth.

Nadal dropped his racquet at the baseline in celebration before turning to his box and raising both hands skywards.

He had been the favourite to win the second Slam of the year, after warming up with three clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

The Majorcan has an air of invincibility at Roland Garros, losing only twice in 87 matches since making his debut in 2005, and again he delivered on his favourite stage.

He had breezed through his opening four matches without dropping a set – extending his own personal best to 37 consecutive sets here – though falling short of Bjorn Borg’s all-time record of 41 by losing the opener of his quarter-final against Diego Schwartzman.

That was about as disheartening as it got for the world number one.

Against seventh seed Thiem he was at his destructive best, using his athleticism and mental resilience to wear the Austrian down with his relentless shot-making.

Thiem, playing in his first Grand Slam final, simply had few answers to Nadal’s brilliance.

Reggae Legend, Ras Kimono dies @60

The Nigerian reggae legend, Ras Kimono, has been reported to had passed away at an hospital in Lagos, a day after he slumped and was rushed to the hospital.

Sources from the hospital, Lagoon Hospital, disclosed that the 60 years old man died after he had been stabilized and that his family were contacted so as to be aware of Kimono passing away.

Serena Williams pulls out of French Open

By Sports Desk

World tennis female star, Serena Williams, has called off her Grand Slam comeback, pulling out of the French Open because of a chest injury before she was supposed to play Maria Sharapova.

Williams announced her withdrawal at a news conference at Roland Garros on Monday, ahead her and Sharapova scheduled to play a fourth-round match Monday.

The 36-year-old 23-time grand slam champion, playing in her first slam since the 2017 Australian Open after maternity leave, told a news conference in Paris she had a pectoral muscle injury.

“Unfortunately I’m having some issues with my pec muscle. Right now I can’t actually serve so it’s kind of hard to play,” she said.

Williams also revealed that she will have an MRI scan on Tuesday and was non-committal on her Wimbledon prospects.

“It’s very difficult,” Williams added. “I love playing Maria. I’ve made every sacrifice I could. I made a commitment to myself and my team that if I wasn’t at least 60% I wouldn’t play. I’ve never felt this in my life. It’s so painful.

“I’m beyond disappointed. I gave up so much from time with my daughter & time with my family all for this moment. So it’s really difficult to be in this situation.”

Williams revealed she played in the women’s doubles with sister Venus on Sunday to test the injury” “I thought [doubles] was a perfect opportunity to see how I was going. I tried a lot of different tapings and support. It didn’t get a lot better.”

Sharapova will now play either Garbiñe Muguruza or Lesia Tsurenko in the quarter-finals.

Sharapova make winning starts at French Open

By Sports Desk

Tennis player, Maria Sharapova bounced back with a winning start in Paris after losing six games in a row and then won the next six.

The Russian appeared to be cruising at 6-1 3-1 ahead but Holland’s Richel Hogenkamp suddenly had her on the ropes, taking the second set and racing 3-0 ahead in the decider.

But Sharapova rediscovered her game in the nick of time to reel off half-a-dozen games for a 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory.

It was an ultimately sweet moment for the two-time Paris champion.

This time last year Sharapova had recently returned from a 15-month doping ban, but had not built her ranking high enough to qualify and was not offered a wild card.

But 12 months later Sharapova is back in the world’s top 30, seeded 28 at Roland Garros and a potential challenger for a third title.

“I think if there is any way to turn that match around, it’s that way,” she said. “It’s great to be in this draw and great to be back on a court that I have had great success at.”

Sharapova could face a heavyweight showdown with Serena Williams in the last 16 should the pair both get that far.

 

Serena defeats Pliskova after comeback kick off game

By SportDesk,

Serena Williams, has scaled the first hurdle at the French Open, beating 26 year old Czech player, Kristýna Plíšková returning to Grand Slam tennis since her child birth last September.

Plíšková has won one singles and three doubles titles on the WTA Tour, as well as nine singles and eight doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit.

Serena, the 23 Grand Slam winner secured victory in two sets, 7-6 6-4.

There was a little rust to shake off on her return but all the same Serena was too strong, and too good, for her world 70-ranked opponent to set up a meeting with Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the next round.

“Two years is a really long time but I have trained hard on clay and feel good,” she said courtside afterwards.

“I’m happy to have won a match here and I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

ManUtd ex-boss, Ferguson, undergoes emergency surgery

By SportDesk,

The Manchester United former Manager, Alex Ferguson, has undergone emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage at Salford Royal Hospital where he was rushed to for the knives.

The Manchester legend boss, 76, was reportedly taken to Salford Royal Hospital, with a police escort, after he was initially taken to Macclesfield district hospital.

United in a statement, said the procedure “had gone very well but he needs a period of intensive care to optimise his recovery”.

Ferguson, retired as Manchester United manager in May 2013 after winning 38 trophies during 26 years in charge.

He was at Old Trafford last Sunday when he presented Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger with a commemorative trophy.

Ferguson’s family have requested privacy as he recovers in Salford Royal Hospital.

The most successful manager in the history of the British game, Ferguson’s trophy haul at Old Trafford included 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League crowns, five FA Cups and four League Cups.

Ferguson’s son, Darren Ferguson, was forced to miss Doncaster’s final game of the season against Wigan as news emerged of the severe family issue.

A statement from the Yorkshire club read: “Rovers manager Darren Ferguson will not be at Saturday’s game due to family reasons. Gavin Strachan will oversee the final game of the Sky Bet League One season in the manager’s absence.

“Darren asks for privacy, and will provide an update through the club during the week.”

 

Four die, 8 injure during suicide bomb attack in Bama

By News Desk 

The Chairman of the Council, Baba-Shehu Gulumba, confirmed the killing of  four persons in an early morning attack suicide attack on Sunday.

No fewer than four persons were killed and eight others injured in the attack on Sunday at a mosque in Bama Local Government Area of Borno.

The attack occurred barely four weeks after thousands of displaced persons were resettled in the community.

He disclosed that two teenage suicide bombers, a male and female, entered a mosque at Bama-Dina quarters and detonated Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) strapped to their bodies.

Gulumba  explained that the incident occurred at about 5: 00 am, when Muslims were observing early morning prayers.

He disclosed that three persons died on the spot while one other died later at the Specialist Hospital, Maiduguri, adding that the wounded persons were also referred to the hospital for treatment.

The chairman noted that the state government, in collaboration with the military, police and other security agencies had deployed personnel and constructed trenches to fortify security in the town.

He said: “We restricted movement from 6 : 30 pm in the town and called on people to abide by the restriction order”.

Gulumba stressed the readiness of the government to continue with the resettlement exercise, noting that the attack would not affect its implementation.

Wenger to step down as Arsenal manager

By SportDesk,

Arsenal has confirmed that manager Arsene Wenger would be leaving his role as the team manager at the end of current season.

Wenger, 68, announced that he would leave a year before his existing contract was due to expire having led the club to three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups during a 22-year reign.

In a statement released Arsenal’s website Wenger said, “After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season. I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years.”

“I managed the club with full commitment and integrity,” the statement continued. “I want to thank the staff, the players, the Directors and the fans who make this club so special.

“I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high. To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club. My love and support for ever.”

Wenger was appointed as Arsenal manager in 1996 and has won three Premier League titles and a record seven FA Cups during his time in charge of the club. A European trophy has always eluded him but Arsenal are in the semi-finals of the Europa League, where they face Atletico Madrid.

The Frenchman joined Arsenal after a spell with Grampus Eight in Japan and set about revolutionising Arsenal, and English football, with new coaching and preparatory approaches, allied with a highly successful scouting and recruitment strategy, which propelled Arsenal to the double in 1997-98.

Two more league titles followed, including one unbeaten in 2003-04, but a lean decade following the move to Emirates Stadium left fans frustrated. Three FA Cups in four years between 2014 and 2017 helped to stave off some criticism but underperformance in the Premier League saw his authority come into question.

Arsenal’s Chief executive, Ivan Gazidis spoke last season about poor performances being a “catalyst for change” and Arsenal began their succession planning by bringing in head of recruitment Sven Mislintat and head of football relations Raul Sanllehi earlier this year.

But the club have not yet announced a decision on a successor for Wenger, with a statement on the official Arsenal website saying:

“Arsène will lead the team to the end of the season and we will make an appointment as soon as possible. The club will not be making any further comment on the selection process until an appointment is made.”

In response to Wenger’s decision to stand down, owner Stan Kroenke said: “This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport. One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsène has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.
“Arsène has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude. “

“Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record,” Kroenke added. “He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.

“We have high ambitions to build on Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.

“We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game.”

Wenger himself said on Thursday that former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira “has the potential” to succeed him as manager.