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Arsenal board paid Arsene Wenger £11m to retire early

Arsene Wenger did not want to leave the club he loves, so the Gunners were forced to pay the final year of his salary in full.

Arsenal are desperate to get back in the Champions League and hope the announcement will galvanise disaffected fans before their showdown against Atletico Madrid.

Board members and Wenger were all singing from the same hymn sheet yesterday.

Chief executive Ivan Gazidis heaped praise on Wenger for his incredible 22 years which brought three titles, seven FA Cups and that Invincibles season in 2003/2004.

Gazidis would not be drawn on the talks which led to the Frenchman’s imminent departure.

But Wenger is understood to be unhappy and frustrated at both the speed and timing of the departure.

He has always vowed to see out his contracts and had a year left to run, while the club previously stated he would stay on.

But a carefully-worded statement was released by Arsenal and Wenger hours before Gazidis met the press.

Wenger called his staff on Friday morning to inform them of the decision and the players were called into training early.

A meeting at 9.45am was the first the Gunners stars knew of the decision, just two days before the clash with West Ham which will be Wenger’s 824th Prem game. The ‘Wenger Out’ brigade had finally got their way.

Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov said: “It’s a day of great sadness.”

Wenger is likely to open talks with Paris-Saint Germain, where a director of football role might be available, and former club Monaco.

Juventus chief Max Allegri is a top target for Arsenal and they have spoken with ex-Barcelona boss Luis Enrique.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers wants the job.

 

Arsene Wenger quits as Arsenal manager after 22 years

Arsene Wenger has announced that he will stand down as Arsenal manager at the end of the season.

The 68-year-old took charge of the club in 1996 and guided them to three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, although in recent years his record came under scrutiny.

Pressure mounted on the former Nancy, Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight boss when he failed to lead Arsenal into the Champions League for the first time since 1996-97 last summer, and with the Gunners destined to again miss that competition, he has decided to call it quits.

In a statement published on the club’s official website, he 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.

“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.”

Meanwhile, majority shareholder Stan Kroenke expressed his thanks to the Frenchman for his service to the north London side.

“This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport,” he said. “One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsne 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.

“Arsene 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. 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.”

More to follow…

Amusan makes history as first Nigerian to win 100m hurdles at Commonwealth Games

Oluwatobiloba Amusan made history as the first Nigerian to win a sprint hurdles title at the Commonwealth Games.

Amusan achieved the feat on Friday at the Carrara stadium in Gold Coast, Australia.

The reigning American Collegiate 100m hurdles queen ran 12.68 seconds to win the race.

She is now Nigeria’s first gold medallist in track and field at the ongoing games.

The 20-year-old is also the third Nigerian woman to make it to the podium after Modupe Oshikoya (bronze) in 1974 and Angela Atiede (bronze) in 2002.

Danielle Williams of Jamaica came second to claim the silver medal in 12.78 seconds.

Yanique Thompson, another Jamaican, won the bronze medal in 12.97 seconds.

Amusan’s triumph is Nigeria’s eighth gold medal of the Commonwealth Games.

Yellow cards for coaches under new FIFA rules

Football’s ruling body FIFA is testing three possible new rules including yellow cards for coaches at youth tournaments, according to Deputy Secretary-General Zvonimir Boban.

Boban told Wednesday’s edition of German weekly Sport Bild that coaches and other officials are currently sent off immediately for offences which is not ideal.

“Up to now coaches were sent to the stands straight away in the case of wrongdoings.

“The yellow card informs the coach that he has to control his temper, otherwise he is in for it,” Boban said.

The other tested rule changes are allowing goalkeepers to make kick-offs to teammates positioned within the penalty

area, and to have substituted players leave the pitch anywhere.

“Players who are substituted are often slow to leave the pitch, fake problems to waste time and to disturb the rhythm of the opposition before they leave the pitch at the midfield line,” Boban said.

“The referee can now order them to leave the pitch anywhere.” (dpa/NAN)

BREAKING: Anthony Joshua beats Parker

British-born Nigerian boxer Anthony on Saturday defeated New Zealander Joseph Parker in a world heavyweight title bout at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

It was a unanimous points win for Joshua after two judges gave the fight it to him by a margin of 118-110, with the third scoring it 119-109.

With the victory, Joshua now holds the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight titles. Only Deontay Wilder’s WBC belt is stopping the boxer, whose father is from Sagamu, Ogun State, from having the full set.

Though Parker lost his world heavyweight unification bout by unanimous decision, he is the first man to go the distance with Joshua.

“My strategy was to stick behind the jab, that’s one of the most important weapons,” Joshua said in the ring afterwards.

Parker’s best rounds were the first two and possibly the fifth, but he looked the most dangerous when he was tagged. Unfortunately for him, when he went to engage and brawl, the referee got in the way.

Parker said on his performance, “Today I got beaten by a better champion. It’s a good experience being here. Thank you all for the opportunity. No regrets. We’ll be back again. I’d love to have another go; it’s back to the drawing board.”

Joshua found his range in the third and both men were warned for leading with their heads. Immediately after Parker landed a left hook but it was Joshua’s round.

BOXING: Anthony Joshua set for big showdown against Parker

Nigerian-born British boxer Anthony Joshua will later today (Saturday) attempt to add another title to his growing list as he gets into the ring to fight Joseph Parker at Cardiff’s Principality stadium.

Joshua has his eyes on adding Parker’s WBO belt to his WBA and IBF titles in front of 78,000 fans in the Welsh capital.

Having secured a knockout victory over Takam and also dispatching Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017, Joshua is already making a name for himself in the world of boxing.

He, however, has yet another daunting task ahead of him this weekend.

Joshua’s opponent, Parker, is defending his WBO title for the third time this weekend but despite his equally impressive record, he remains a big underdog.

He claimed the vacant belt over Andy Ruiz Jr. back in Dec. 2016.

Parker’s last outing was in Sept. 2017 when he faced Hughie Fury in Manchester, UK.

He successfully defended his WBO world title against Fury, claiming a controversial majority points victory after 12 hard rounds.

In Parker, Joshua will have a toughened challenger, an undaunted underdog with skills, size, and experience, who has yet to taste defeat.

The 26-year old New Zealander is welcoming a big battle and Joshua seems excited by the idea.

It’s good news that he wants a war,” said Joshua. “In boxing, all you need is a good chin and a right hand but I’ve been working on finesse, technique, counter punching. I hope Joseph Parker falls into my booby traps because I’m going to set him up with some power shots as well. Yeah, I’ll be up for a war. I’ll hopefully be up for some blood, sweat, and cheers from my corner.

“Physically I believe in my ability,” Joshua added. “I’m focused and I understand it’s a boxing match and the people are expecting the pinnacle of boxing. Hopefully, they’ll be able to see me through to victory.”

A victory would pave the way for Joshua to face undefeated American Deontay Wilder as he bids to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion.

The highly-anticipated Joshua-Paker fight is billed for 10.30 p.m. tonight.

 

The Great Eagles of 1980 – 38 years after – Segun Odegbami

The ‘Chief Justice’ of Nigerian football, distinguished legal luminary and Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Chief Adokie Amiesimaka was the one who called me up and reminded me it was 38 years to the day on March 22 that a group of young Nigerian footballers won the African Cup of Nations for their country for the first time and created history.

He told me he was celebrating the team in his own way, and was calling up all those he could reach to extend his handshake and a token gift in appreciation and demonstration of how well the Lord has blessed him.

He was graciously extending his ‘token’ support to my school in Wasimi. Within an hour of his call he kept his promise and gave the school what I can only publicly reveal with his consent.
It was a sobering moment indeed. It unleashed memories that raced through my mind.

It is by the Grace of God that we are alive in this wilderness of daily, known and unknown dangers that lurk in every corner of our country and our lives.

Adokie came up with an idea for us to establish a Foundation to cater to the needs and challenges of the less privileged amongst us and amongst the generations of the footballers after. The foundation will provide ‘fishing’ skills rather than fish itself for those in need. Of course, I am game.

So, do not be surprised if in the next few weeks, or months, we launch out on such a project to make a difference applying the gifts and opportunities that God has blessed us with to bless others.
Permit me to recall the members of that 1980 team in my own humble celebration.

(1.)  Best Ogedegbe. Late and resting with the Lord. Brave, and almost ‘arrogant’ in the uncommon level of his confidence in goal. He was almost as good a field player as he was a goalkeeper.
(2.)  Emmanuel Okala. ‘Man Mountain’. Tall, agile, and imposing. His best training was ensuring that the Eagles’ best strikers never scored him in training. He is alive but, like all of us, facing the consequences of the stresses and strains we put on our bodies as players.
(3.) David Adiele. Alive. Now lives in Houston, Texas. Enigmatic. Streetwise. Still doing his ‘thing’, hustling in the US and doing very well.
(4.) Johnny Orlando. Alive. Shuttling between Ghana, where he came from, and the USA where he settled in after the Nation’s Cup. No one can explain how he got into the Nigerian national team and played as well as he did.
(5.)  Sylvanus Okpala – Alive.  ‘Quick Silver’. One of the younger players in the team – strong headed, versatile, all-round player, very hard, very confident on the ball, and a great shot. He rose through the ranks from the junior national team where he was captain. One of the early Nigerian professional players to Europe. Played in Portugal.
(6.)  Okey Isima – Passed on.  Another early export to the professional ranks in Portugal. He was that good. Don’t quite understand how and why he was converted from his attacking midfield role to a left full back even though he was right footed.
(7.)  Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal – too young to have passed on even before the dust of 1980 had settled. He was so good he was the first African player to go to the African Cup of Nations five times; Nigeria’s first official football Ambassador; First Nigerian athlete to be awarded two national honours; One of the best all-round midfield players to don the national colours of Nigeria.
(8.)  Alloysius Atuegbu – Passed on. ‘Block Buster.’ Endless running and tireless worker in the centre of the midfield, with the additional gifts of a great shot and short passing skills.
(9.)  Henry Nwosu – Alive and surviving in the turbulent and uncertain world of Nigerian coaching. The youngest in the team at the time, with such prodigious skills he could have played for any team in the world. ‘The youngest Millionaire’. Played professional football briefly in Africa during the twilight years of his career. Midfield general in the true sense.
(10.) Ifeanyi Onyedika – Alive. One of the younger players. A great centre-forward with silky skills and sharp reflexes in the crowded box of opposing goals. A quick thinker.  I still do not understand why he did not last for a lot longer in the national team.
(11.) Adokie Amiesimaka – Alive. ‘Chief Justice.’ The fleet-footed master of the dribble. Right footed player that mastered playing from the left wing, a system that is now sweeping global football. Graceful and elegant on the ball. Added intellectual depth to his football, always thinking, always creating as he dances and meanders through defenses with such consummate ease. Great crosser of the ball.
(12.) Tunde Bamidele – Passed on. A cool and calculative player in the heart of Nigeria’s defense. His effectiveness was made less apparent because he shared the same space with the great ‘Chairman’ Chukwu. He was the hard-tackling destroyer and hatchet man whilst Chukwu cleared the mess of his tackles.
(13.) Kadiri Ikhana – Alive. A very versatile, effective hardworking player. Not one ounce of flamboyance in his game. Did the dirty work of keeping dangerous players quiet.  ‘Kawawa’, very wise, with a sharp mind. He became one of the most respected and most successful coaches in domestic football in Nigeria.
(14.) Godwin Odiye – Alive. Living a quiet life in the US with an unfortunate ‘scar’ on a great footballing career that was truncated with his move to the US at a young age. Hard, stylish, very fast and dependable defender. He is doing well developing young football talents… for America.
(15.) Shefiu Mohammed – Alive. He is struggling to survive in the hard and harsh environment of Taraba State in Nigeria, away from the glare of stardom and celebrity. Great running and tackling defensive midfield player. A pest to opposing attackers. Not finding life after football easy at all.
(16) Martin Eyo – Passed on. An academic and football player. At any other time but when he appeared on the football scene he would have been better known. Against the array of regular first team attackers in the national team, he became a fringe player. But he was effective whenever he was called upon to add some pep. Fast, strong, good with both feet and had a unique dribbling style.
(17) Frank Nwachi – Alive – Did not play any match during the Championship. One of the players with a degree in the national team. Left for the US shortly after the Nations Cup, and has shuttled between the two countries ever since.
(18.) Charles Bassey – Alive and doing well in Calabar where he was discovered in the great Rovers team of the late 1970s and to where he returned and has remained ever since. Very good player with one of the best shots at goal in the team, but remained on the fringes because of the sea of other exceptional talent.

(19) Moses Effiong – Alive and kicking in Calabar. Third Goalkeeper in the team. Very quiet on and off the field. He was such a gentleman the football fraternity hardly ever remembers him. He stood little chance with Best and Okala in the same team with him, but a great goalkeeper nevertheless.
(20) Felix Owolabi – Alive. ‘Owoblow’. What does one say about this great player who plays like a one-man army? It does not matter where he played on the field, he covered more ground than most others, attacking, defending, marking, shooting, and was felt everywhere on the field. He was like a tornado, unstoppable.
(21) Christian Chukwu –  Alive. ‘Chairman’. The great Chairman was true legend. Majestic and dominating in the defense. A true libero and leader on the field. His actions spoke more than words. Very calculative, immaculate passing skills over long distances, a great shot from incredible distances and a man who led by physical example. He was a born captain, respected and loved by all.  He coached and managed different national teams at different times. Slowed down now by arthritis – the ailment of retired footballers.
(22) Segun Odegbami –‘Mathematical’. He was just one of the boys in a great squad that made history. He played his part.
Please put us all– the living and the dead – in your thoughts and prayers.

‘I was sexually abused, battered’ – Table tennis icon, Funke Oshonaike reveals

Nigerian tennis legend Funke Oshonaike has sensationally revealed her travails  growing up saying she was sexually abused and beaten by a man 10 years older than her while studying at the University of Lagos.

She also disclosed that she was heartbroken when she caught her boyfriend in bed with another girl, a day before making the trip to Sydney for the 2000 Olympics and won an African championship despite carrying a pregnancy.

The veteran of six Olympics, who made the revelations on her Facebook page, also stated how she escaped being stabbed by a mob after beating archrival and crowd favourite Biola Odumosu in a championship in Lagos, as well as having her heartthrob killed while on vacation in Lagos, with just three months to their wedding.

She said after getting a lot of discouraging messages from people, she decided to blow the lid open on her struggles, insisting that as a “superwoman”, she never gave up despite not being rewarded by the table tennis authorities after bringing honour to the country.

“I’ve been spending my money to represent Nigeria lately and I can’t remember the last time I was paid any allowance or the last time I was rewarded for winning for my country. I’m very hurt about a lot of things that’s happening in sports in Nigeria but because of the love I have for my country, I’m still trying my best to keep on keeping on. That’s my decision,” she stated.

“I got pregnant during my career and I was confused about what to do but I kept it and I was still playing professionally till I was seven months pregnant, which is like a taboo in Nigeria! I even played the African championship and won it, though nobody knew I was pregnant! That was my decision.

“I gave birth to my first child in 2003 and I played at the All Africa Games the same year and won four gold medals for Nigeria. My child was barely six months old. That was my decision.

“I started representing Nigeria at the age of 14. I give God almighty the glory for this talent and all that I’ve achieved today. These are some of the downs in my life that made me a strong woman: I was physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally abused by a man that was 10 years older than me. This man beat me for more than three years and I remember always going to UNILAG with a battered face, but I still never gave up on table tennis , men or living. That was my decision.

“I went to see my boyfriend of 10 years and I saw him sleeping in bed with his girlfriend! I was heartbroken! The next day I had to travel to Australia, (for) Sydney 2000. I cried all the way from Nigeria to Australia but I never gave up on men and my training. That was my decision.

“I was duped of all my property and my bank account was in his name(olodoFunke). I left everything without looking back and I started my life all over again. It was very hard for me, but that was my decision.

“I fell in love again with my best friend here in Germany. Three months to our wedding, he went to Nigeria on holidays and he was shot by armed robbers! I went through hell here in Germany without him. I mourned him for two years, stopped going to Nigeria because of him but still never gave up on table tennis and living. That was my decision.”

Oshonaike, Team Nigeria’s flag bearer at the 2016 Olympics, added, “I was always booed every time I played a competition back then in Nigeria because I was very shy! I asked why and I was told that I was proud, arrogant, blunt and that I don’t mix with people. I’m talking about Funke at the age of 13 till 19.

 

“I cried a lot, went through a lot, and there was even a time the crowd was going to stab me in Lagos because I defeated their darling Biola Odumosu, my archrival back then at Rowe Park. My number one fan, my dad, consoled me and still never gave up on table tennis in Nigeria. (It was) My decision.

“I was born in the 70s and I know one thing for sure that people born in the 70s don’t give up on things easily. So, to some of you discouraging me, you’re just encouraging me indirectly because I’ve gone through a lot in my life that has made me stronger than you. Live your life and allow others do the same. I am not giving up on my dreams…TOKYO 2020, HERE I COME.”

Serena Williams reveals she ‘almost died’ after birth of daughter

Serena Williams, tennis champion, says she “almost died after giving birth” to her daughter, Olympia.

In an op-ed penned for CNN, Williams said although her pregnancy was as smooth as she could possibly hope for, things went south “just 24 hours after giving birth”.

Williams said she considers herself “fortunate” to have around her a good team of doctors who rose to the occasion.

She wrote in part: “While I had a pretty easy pregnancy, my daughter was born by emergency C-section after her heart rate dropped dramatically during contractions. The surgery went smoothly. Before I knew it, Olympia was in my arms. It was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever experienced in my life. But what followed just 24 hours after giving birth were six days of uncertainty.

“It began with a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot. Because of my medical history with this problem, I live in fear of this situation. So, when I fell short of breath, I didn’t wait a second to alert the nurses.

“This sparked a slew of health complications that I am lucky to have survived. First my C-section wound popped open due to the intense coughing I endured as a result of the embolism. I returned to surgery, where the doctors found a large hematoma, a swelling of clotted blood, in my abdomen. And then I returned to the operating room for a procedure that prevents clots from traveling to my lungs. When I finally made it home to my family, I had to spend the first six weeks of motherhood in bed.

“I am so grateful I had access to such an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. They knew exactly how to handle this complicated turn of events. If it weren’t for their professional care, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Williams, a UNICEF ambassador, is now championing better healthcare for expectant women to avoid dying from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.

Udoji, Kano Pillars defender, dies in road crash

Chinedu Udoji, Kano Pillars defender, has died in a road accident which occurred on Sunday night.

Udoji, who played against Enyimba FC, his former club, on Sunday, had an accident on his way home after the Nigeria Professional Football League game in Kano.

Confirming the incident to TheCable, Idris Malikawa, Kano Pillars’ spokesman, said “it is indeed a sad day for Nigerian football”.

“Udoji took his shower after the game and told me he was going to see his former teammates at the hotel,” Malikawa told TheCable.

“He had already seen his former team and it was on his way back to the Kano Pillars camp that he had the accident.

“We all are still in shock over his death. Can you imagine that he won the best man of the match in yesterday’s game?

“It is a sad day for me, the entire Kano Pillars team, fans, Nigeria Professional Football League and Nigerian football in general.”

The deceased joined Pillars last season after spending seven years with Enyimba.

There were reports that he had another offer from Enyimba but he opted to remain with the Kano side.