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Liverpool Wins Club World Cup

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Roberto Firmino was again the hero for Liverpool as the forward’s extra-time goal allowed Jurgen Klopp’s side to beat Flamengo 1-0 in the Club World Cup final in Doha on Saturday and lift the trophy for the first time.

Firmino was picked out by Sadio Mane and waited for goalkeeper Diego Alves to commit before slotting low into the net in the 99th minute of an absorbing contest at the Khalifa International Stadium.It was the moment that finally punctured the hopes of the Brazilian side and their vibrant support, after Liverpool had been denied a penalty by VAR at the end of normal time.The Qatari referee initially gave a spot-kick for a foul on Mane by Rafinha on the way into the box, but changed his mind following a lengthy review, forcing the contest into an extra 30 minutes.Still, the European champions had enough to come out on top, with Firmino repeating his semi-final heroics, when he scored an injury-time goal to secure victory against Monterrey of Mexico.The win allows Liverpool to complete a fabulous year with a third piece of silverware to go with the Champions League and UEFA Supercup.Having earned the title of world champions, if Klopp’s team can see out their huge lead at the top of the Premier League this season, they will have a case to be remembered as the finest side in the illustrious history of the club.Flamengo had been hoping to repeat their win over Liverpool in the old Intercontinental Cup back in 1981 and thereby become the first non-European winners of the Club World Cup since fellow Brazilians Corinthians beat Chelsea in 2012.They fell short, but they certainly gave the Premier League leaders a game in what was their last outing of a long season.

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– Van Dijk back, Firmino hits post –

Klopp had welcomed back Virgil van Dijk after the inspirational Dutchman sat out Wednesday’s semi-final due to illness.That allowed skipper Jordan Henderson to return to his usual midfield berth, while Firmino, Mane and Trent Alexander-Arnold were all recalled after starting on the bench against the Mexicans.Firmino, Naby Keita and Alexander-Arnold all came close for Liverpool in the first six minutes as they came flying out of the traps.Fielding the same team that started their semi-final win over Al Hilal, the Brazilian and South American champions gradually settled into the game, spurred on by their raucous travelling support.Bruno Henrique, the star of their semi-final victory, had their best opportunity in the first half, coming inside from the left to meet a long ball forward by goalkeeper Alves before seeing his shot deflected past.The Rio giants, with veteran Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus on the touchline, matched the European champions for much of the first half but were lucky not to fall behind at the beginning of the second period.Less than two minutes after the restart, Firmino controlled Henderson’s ball forward and sent a shot off the inside of the post before seeing it rebound away.However, Liverpool also needed goalkeeper Alisson to come to the rescue with a fine stop from a Gabriel Barbosa strike, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then went off injured as extra time began to loom.Then Alves stretched high to his left to tip a net-bound Henderson shot from 25 yards over the bar before, with the match in injury time, the English side thought they had a penalty for Rafinha’s tackle on Mane.However, referee Abdulrahman Al Jassim dramatically cancelled the decision after coming across to review the footage on a pitchside monitor.Liverpool finally found a way through nine minutes into the first half of extra time though, with Mane finding Firmino after being pushed wide of goal by Rafinha.Firmino made no mistake, and Flamengo were unable to respond.AFP

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Yobo gets Super Eagles job as assistant coach

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The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has appointed former Super Eagles captain and defender, Joseph Yobo as assistant coach of the team.

Yobo will now replace Imama Amapakabo in the technical crew of the senior men’s national team.

The ex-Super Eagles Skipper  played for the Nigeria U-20 team, the Flying Eagles – during the FIFA World Youth Championship (now known as FIFA U20 World Cup) in 1999.

The attack-minded defender won his first cap for the senior team in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match away to Zambia in Chingola in April 2001 and played in three FIFA World Cup finals in 2002, 2010 and 2014.

He also played in six Africa Cup of Nations finals – 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2013, capping it with leading the Super Eagles to their third continental title in South Africa in 2013.

Yobo played a total of 100 matches for Nigeria at the senior level.

He is a thoroughbred and dedicated professional who played his club football in five countries, including sterling appearances for Olympique Marseille in the French top flight, Fenerbahce in Turkey and Everton FC in the English Premiership.

The 39-year-old scored several crucial goals for the Super Eagles in important qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations.

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He was also among the scorers when the Eagles thrashed South Africa’s Bafana Bafana 4-0 in a group phase match in Tunisia 16 years ago.

Born Joseph Michael Yobo on September 6, 1980, the flamboyant stopper also played club football in Belgium with Standard Liege, Tenerife in Spain and Norwich City in England, having started out with Michellin-Harcourt in Rivers State in 1996.

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Nyesom Wike: “Real Madrid Academy Port Harcourt is a legacy for Rivers State”

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Governor Wike

During the opening day of the 83rd AIPS Congress at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest in Hungary, the Governor of Rivers State, Nigeria,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike took the stage to share his vision for a project he holds dear – the Real Madrid Academy based in his capital, Port Harcourt.

Wike, who is described by many in Nigeria as the “Sports Loving Governor” began his presentation by reflecting on the genesis of his relationship with AIPS. “My relationship with AIPS started in 2017 when the president of AIPS Africa Mitchell Obi led a delegation to pay a coutesy call to me in Port Harcourt where I was pronounced and subsequently honoured in 2018 with the Power of Sports award in recognition of our humble contribution to the development of sports in Rivers State. Since then we have continued to relate with the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), as well as the AIPS, to advance our mutual interest. AIPS is an organisation I hold in high regard, for its commitment, for the promotion and development of sports across the world.”

At the 81st AIPS Congress in Brussels two years ago in May, where Governor Wike was decorated with the AIPS Africa Power of Sports award, he gave a hint about his plan to build a Real Madrid Football Academy. Later, in the same month, AIPS President Gianni Merlo was invited to Nigeria to witness the laying of the project’s foundation on May 28, 2018 by the President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Ahmad Ahmad.

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Governor Wike announced to this latest Congress in Budapest that the Academy has now been completed and commissioned in September 2019 and has already admitted its first set of students from a local youth team that won a national football championship. The facility can accommodate 500 boarding students, he added.

“It is true that the future of any country or society is revealed in the character and quality of its youths, but what the youths eventually become in life is also founded on the quality of education and skills they acquire to the age of responsitbility.

“Sports and education are both important and can co-exist as a medium to drive the development, character and prosperity of our youths; this was the motivation for the establishment of the Real Madrid Academy, Port Harcourt.

“Football, among other sports, presents itself as one of the best possible ways to raising generations of young people with character and determination to achieve outstanding results and prosperity,” Governor Wike stated.

He added: “The Real Madrid Academy is expected to foster youth development by nurturing and producing talented football players for the state as well as inculcating critical skills and life values that will benefit our youths beyond the football sphere. The academy is a legacy for Rivers State.”

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While the Academy is focused on nurturing Rivers State-born talents majorly, Governor Wike made it clear that 30 percent of the academy’s admission slots will be reserved for the rest of Nigeria and Africa. In this way, the academy is also making an impact on the continent. WIke also assured that the academy will continue even after his tenure as governor has come to an end.

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s statement on passing of Kobe Bryant

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement Sunday regarding the passing of Kobe Bryant:

“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning.  He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary:  five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals.

But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.  He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.

“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world.”

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