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Drogba scores big tourism win for Côte d’Ivoire

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International soccer star Didier Drogba has helped his birthplace, Côte d’Ivoire, strike gold by helping to collect MOUs for a total of $15 billion in commitments to back tourism projects in the west African country.

The breakthrough comes ahead of the UNWTO Forum for Africa, which will take place in Abidjan next week (February 20-22) and the influential Forum de l’Investissement Hotelier Africain (FIHA), which takes place in Abidjan next month (March 23 – 25). FIHA is known for its ability to link up the new investors with developers, consultants, contractors, hoteliers and political leaders.

The former Chelsea striker – and now UN world tourism ambassador – was part of a successful global push to promote the rising success and attractiveness of Côte d’Ivoire’s tourist economy. The country boasts a GDP growth rate of about 8% in 2019 and, as a destination, it’s in third place in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 2 million international visitors, behind South Africa and Zimbabwe, ahead of Uganda, Botswana, Kenya or Mauritius (according to UNWTO 2018 data).

Matthew Weihs, Managing Director, Bench Events, which organises FIHA, said: “This is an extraordinary and impressive effort by Côte d’Ivoire; and it makes this year’s Forum particularly interesting because the funding commitments are in place and the task now is to make projects happen.” Last year’s successful FIHA in Marrakech attracted 300 delegates from 28 countries.

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Under the banner, Sublime Côte d’Ivoire, Didier Drogba was a key player in a team of top Ivorian business and political leaders, as well as showbusiness figures, who took a roadshow to Dubai and Hamburg. They returned with more than 15 billion dollars of funding commitments for a variety of tourism projects, from hotels, to resorts and coastline development. All the backers have been invited to attend FIHA.

Philippe Doizelet, Managing Partner of Horwath HTL, the world’s largest and most experienced hospitality consultants, has been guiding Côte d’Ivoire’s efforts. He said: “It’s a blank page that the industry can write on in the most exciting way. Much has to be built – hotels alongside cultural centres and conference facilities, among other things. The amazing coastline offers great ‘bleisure’ (a mix of business and leisure) opportunities. Beyond Abidjan; Boulay island, Bassam and Jacqueville are currently the most promising locations.” He sees the greatest potential in ‘mixed-use’ projects, combining leisure, office and retail units with hospitality, in particular, branded 2-star & 3-star hotels and extended stay apartments.

Leading the country’s ambition to make tourism one of the main pillars of the economy, is Tourism Minister Siandou Fofana. Described by Philippe Doizelet as “visionary and deeply committed. He works hard to bring people together and attracts the best experts.”

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Bench Events, Managing Director, Matthew Weihs concluded: “FIHA and its affiliated event, the Africa Hotel Investment Forum, are central to driving investments in regional hotel and mixed-use projects. The events connect key international and regional stakeholders, private and institutional investors to the hotel developers and operators that are fuelling the growth of the hotel industry across the continent. The projects that are promoted and funded at FIHA drive investments in tourism, stimulate economic growth in regional markets, create jobs and encourage much needed infrastructure.”

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3 months after, English premier league to start by June 17

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The Premier League season is set to restart on June 17, three months after it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was widely reported on Thursday.

No matches have been played in the English top-flight since Leicester’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9, with Liverpool just two wins away from securing the title.

The BBC reported that the first two matches would be Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. Those matches are the two games in hand.

A full fixture list would then be played on the weekend of June 19-21, the reports said, with matches to be played behind closed doors.

The Premier League suspended all fixtures in March after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for COVID-19.

There are still 92 matches to play and although Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool appear certain to be crowned champions, the relegation and European qualification still need to be resolved.

– Training return –

Top-flight clubs voted unanimously on Wednesday to return to contact training and were meeting again on Thursday to discuss issues including the restart date and the rebate to broadcasters.

It is predicted that clubs face repaying up to £340 million ($419 million) to broadcasters.

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So far, just 12 people have tested positive for coronavirus after 2,752 tests across the Premier League.

Germany’s Bundesliga resumed earlier this month and La Liga in Spain hopes to return from June 11, while a crucial summit between Italian football officials and the country’s sports minister will be held later on Thursday.

Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table while Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich City are in the relegation places.

The leaders could clinch the title with victory in their first game back should second-placed Manchester City lose to Arsenal.

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho spoke this week of his desperation to get playing again after seeing football resume elsewhere.

“Honestly, since the moment the Bundesliga started, the Portuguese league and Spanish league announced a date to start, I think it is the most difficult moment for us, because we want to play,” he told Sky Sports.

Some players have voiced fears over their safety and that of their families due to the virus.

Watford captain Troy Deeney has revealed that people have told him they want his baby son to contract coronavirus after he chose not to return to training.

Deeney has been absent from training since Watford and other Premier League clubs returned to non-contact sessions last week.

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“I saw some comments in regards to my son, people saying: ‘I hope your son gets corona’,” Deeney told CNN Sport.

“That’s the hard part for me. If you respond to that, people then go: ‘Ah, we’ve got him’ and they keep doing it.”

Deeney is understood to be due to resume training next week.

AFP

 

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In Spain, five footballers test positive for COVID-19

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No fewer than five players from Spain’s top two leagues have tested positive for coronavirus, La Liga confirmed on Sunday.

Players in Spain’s top-flight and Segunda division were allowed to carry out individual work at training grounds last week.

The move was the beginning of a staggered training programme, with the aim to restart competitive games in the middle of June.

La Liga insist identifying infected players through positive tests are part of that plan.

The five players, who have not been officially named, will now be quarantined at home and tested again “in the next few days”.

They will be allowed to rejoin their club’s training programme only after obtaining two consecutive negative test results.

A La Liga statement read: “Among La Liga Santander and La Liga SmartBank (Segunda) clubs, five positive cases were detected in players, all of them asymptomatic and in the final phase of the disease.”

“One of the objectives of these medical tests, according to the La Liga’s protocol for returning to training, according to recommendations of the CSD (Supreme Sports Council) and the Ministry of Health, was precisely to detect the denominated or asymptomatic, that is, those people who are infected and that, without presenting symptoms, they can infect other people,” the statement added.

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“In this way, we guarantee everyone’s safety when returning to work according to the occupational risk regulations.”

La Liga’s training plan includes players initially carrying out work individually before then expanding into small groups and finally taking part in larger team sessions.

Barcelona’s players were back for their first session on Friday while Real Madrid’s will return on Monday.

The medical protocol for training is strict and includes players arriving already changed and at specific times to avoid contact with others. They wear masks and gloves, and have their temperatures taken before entering the premises. At the end of training, they take away a bag of fresh kit for the next day and shower at home.

The league have not officially announced the timing for the resumption of competitive matches although Leganes coach Javier Aguirre said last week the proposed date is June 20.

That could correspond with the Spanish government’s de-escalation programme, which includes outside events being allowed to go ahead in their fourth and final phase, as long as they are attended by fewer than 400 people.

Football matches are expected to be staged behind closed doors for several months.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has said “it is not an option” to cancel the top flight given he estimates the economic fallout would cost clubs around a billion euros ($1.08 billion).

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But the third and fourth tiers in Spain will not complete their seasons, as confirmed by the Spanish football federation (RFEF) on Wednesday. Instead, promotions will be decided through play-offs and there will be no relegations.

 

Source: AFP

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8 years after death, FIFA, NFF, football greats celebrate Yekini

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Football governing body, FIFA, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and football greats have paid glowing tributes to late Super Eagles striker, Rashidi Yekini, eight years after his demise.

It would be recalled that Rashidi Yekini passed away on May 4, 2012 in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital at the age of 48.

“Today we remember one of the World’s most feared strikers of his time, Rashidi Yekini who passed on to glory on this day in 2012. May his soul continue to Rest In Peace,” the NFF wrote on its official Twitter handle.

Football Idol, Rashidi Yekini

Also, FIFA posted on its World Cup Twitter handle, Yekini’s celebration after netting Nigeria’s first goal in the competition in 1994, describing it as one of the most iconic goal jubilations in the tournament’s history.

“Rasheed Yekini produced one of the most iconic celebrations in #WorldCup history after scoring the @NGSuperEagles’ first-ever goal in the competition,” the football body tweeted.

“Africa sadly lost of its greatest-ever players #OnThisDay in 2012, but his legend will live on eternally.”

His former teammates, Mutiu Adepoju and a former Super Eagles captain and coach, Sunday Oliseh, reminisced their days playing together for the national team.

“8 years ago today,” Oliseh tweeted, “we lost Nigeria’s greatest striker of all time in Rashidi Yekini. May his blessed soul rest in peace.”

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In a related development, Adepoju popularly addressed as the “Headmaster” in his playing days, recalled how Yekini rescued the team in difficult times.

According to a series of tweets on his official Twitter handle, he described playing alongside the former Vitoria Setubal goal poacher as an honour, adding that Yekini gave his all for the country.

“Whenever we seem down and defeated, you always conjure your magic wand and get us out of trouble with your goals,” he wrote. “It was never a dull moment with you in camp as everyone’s ribs would be cracked at your jokes.

“You were never a contentious person and you saw everyone as your brother not minding their backgrounds. I will never forget you, Nigerians will never forget you. Always in our hearts. Rest in peace king Rasheed Yekini. You were created to score goals and your class remains unmatched!”

Also commending, an ex-Ghanaian defender, Anthony Baffoe, the former Abiola Babes star was one of the continent’s most dreaded strikers.

Baffoe tweeted: “One of Africa’s most terrific strikers Rashidi Yekini -today marks his 8th year of leaving us. Continue resting in peace Rashidi.”

The late Yekini was born in Kaduna and began his football career in the Nigerian league where he featured for teams like Abiola Babes, Julius Berger, and Gateway.

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His stint abroad saw him lining up for Africa Sports National of Ivory Coast from where he teamed up with Vitória de Setúbal in Portugal and emerged as Primeira Liga’s top scorer in the 1993–94 campaign.

He struck 21 times during that season and went ahead to play for Sporting Gijon, Olympiakos, and FC Zurich.

Yekini made his senior debut for Nigeria in 1984 and went on to net 37 goals in 58 matches – the highest so far in the country’s history – until his retirement after the 1998 World Cup.

At the Senegal 1992 and Tunisia 1994 AFCONs, he scored four and five goals respectively, to emerge as the top scorer. Yekini was a member of the Super Eagles side that played in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups and also featured in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

 

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