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USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe to retire at end of 2023 season

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United States forward Megan Rapinoe announced Saturday that she will retire from professional soccer at the conclusion of the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League season.

The 11-year league veteran and U.S. women’s national team standout will play her final regular-season match at Seattle’s Lumen Field on Oct. 6 against the Washington Spirit.

Rapinoe, 38, is preparing to compete with the two-time defending champion USWNT in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which runs from July 20 to Aug. 20 in New Zealand and Australia.

Rapinoe also confirmed Saturday that this will be her final World Cup.

“I’ve been able to have such an incredible career, and this game has brought me all over the world and allowed me to meet so many amazing people,” Rapinoe said in a statement to U.S. Soccer.

“I feel incredibly grateful to have played as long as I have, to be as successful as we’ve been, and to have been a part of a generation of players who undoubtedly left the game better than they found it. To be able to play one last World Cup and one last NWSL season and go out on my own terms is incredibly special.”

Megan Rapinoe has won numerous trophies throughout her career. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images
Rapinoe joined the OL Reign during the NWSL’s inaugural season in 2013 and holds the club records for goals (48) and assists (25) in 109 matches.

She has won three NWSL Shields with the Reign and earned one Best XI and two Second XI selections. She is also the league’s all-time leader with 13 penalty kick goals.

Internationally, Rapinoe has earned 199 caps and a 2012 Olympic gold medal along with the World Cup victories in 2015 and 2019. In 2019, she was named Best FIFA Women’s Player and won the Ballon d’Or Feminin.

Rapinoe has 63 goals and 73 assists with the USWNT while compiling a record of 157-14-28.

“I want to thank my family for being by my side all these years,” Rapinoe added. “Thanks to all my teammates and coaches all the way back to my first days in Redding, on to college at the University of Portland and of course thanks to U.S. Soccer, the Seattle Reign and especially Sue [Bird], for everything.

“I will forever cherish the friendships and support over the years in this game, and I am beyond excited for one last ride with the National Team and the Reign.”

“She’s so key for this team on and off the field,” USWNT left back Crystal Dunn said. “I did tell her at the beginning of this year that I have no idea if this is your last one, but I’m going to do whatever it takes to get myself into a place where I can help this team win. And obviously send her off the way that she deserves, which is the queen that she is.”

An outspoken advocate for equal pay in women’s soccer and supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, President Joe Biden last year awarded Rapinoe the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“Pino’s always just been a huge advocate for this team. She’s been a backbone of this team. And so whether it’s going through the equal pay fight, going through standing up for marginalized communities and backgrounds, she’s someone who is going to stand up for that when it’s not always a popular opinion,” USWNT captain Alex Morgan said.

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Nigerian League

There’s a twist’ – Springbok hopeful rejects South African homecoming

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Ruan Ackermann will not be returning to South Africa after signing a contract extension with Premiership club Gloucester Rugby.

 

The powerhouse forward’s contract was expiring at the end of the current season and looked set to return to South Africa but has instead opted to remain in the West Country.

 

The Sharks and his former employers, the Lions, were two of the teams that Ackerman was reportedly in talks with, but ultimately, he decided to remain at the club he joined back in 2017.

“I miss playing in South Africa, I see the stadiums are getting more and more full,” Ackermann told Afrikaans newspaper Rapport in January.

 

But on Thursday, Gloucester and Ackermann revealed that the player had changed his mind.

 

“There is a little twist, I can’t see myself leaving yet, I want to stay on, so we are staying on,” he said in an interview confirming his extension.

 

He added: “The players, the staff, the people, the coaches, everyone has been really good to me. It’s basically like a second home, so that’s what makes things, when it comes to a decision, so tough.”

His re-signing with the Premiership side means that he will head into his eighth season at Gloucester this year, having arrived along with his father Johan, who was head coach at the time.

 

The Kingsholm favourite is consistently one of the top players in the Premiership for carries and metres made and was voted Gloucester Rugby’s Players’ Player of the Season for 2021/22.

 

His ability to play across the back-row, and even at lock, is a huge asset for the Cherry and Whites, with director of rugby, George Skivington, hailing the club’s ability to retain his services.

 

“There was lots of competition for Ruan’s signature, so it’s a huge coup for the Club,” Skivington said.

 

“Ruan has been fantastic for us and to have a player of his quality committing his future to the Club is a massive statement of trust in the direction we are heading in.

 

“Everyone at Gloucester Rugby is delighted that Ruan will be in Cherry & White next season.”

International ambitions

Ackermann is qualified to represent England through residency and his potential move back to South Africa was seen as an attempt to better his chances of cracking the Springboks squad.

 

In fact, he was reportedly on the cusp of making the Red Rose squad before injury struck and ruled him out of the World Cup and a debut in the England jersey.

 

However, he still hopes to make it on the international stage.

 

“I just want to play at the highest level, it’s a dream of mine, but the Springboks are my first choice,” he said in an interview in January.

 

“I feel like I have been here [England] long enough to prove myself, and that chance or option never came. I think they have their eyes on other players.”

 

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Nigerian League

Sunshine Stars unveil Boboye, Oboabona

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Sunshine Stars FC on Thursday in Akure unveiled former Plateau United coach Kennedy Boboye and AFCON 2013 winner Godfrey Oboabona as the team’s coach and player respectively.

The club employed the services of the former Abia Warriors and Heartland manager following the sacking of Edith Agoye, who led the team to 14th place in the ongoing Nigeria Professional Football League season.

The appointments were contained in a statement issued by Sunshine Stars media officer, Michael Akintunde.

According to the statement, other technical crew members unveiled alongside Kennedy Boboye include Kayode Julius (chief coach), Nwachukwu Ifeanyi (assistant coach) and John Gaadi (goalkeeper trainer).

Oboabona, a member of the Super Eagles that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, has made a return to the team after playing for various clubs in Europe.

The statement read, “He (Oboabona) is expected to add his wealth of experience to the team as Kennedy Boboye gets set to lead the team back to winning ways.”

Boboye, in his remarks, thanked the management of the team for giving him an opportunity to serve and lead the team again, seeking the corporations of the stakeholders and promised to give his best with the support of everyone.

“I’m glad I’m back home, Sunshine Stars remain in my heart, with God and the collective support of everyone we shall succeed and achieve the desired results,” the coach stated.

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Nigerian League

NPFL Youth league finals hold in Benin

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(NPFL) Youth League

Benin, the Edo State capital has been announced as the host city for the Championship finals of the inaugural edition of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) Youth League.

The zonal qualifiers held in five centres from February 1-3 from where teams emerged for the championship finals.

Chairman of the NPFL YOUTH league Committee, Pastor Emeka Inyama, on Tuesday, confirmed that the championship finals will take place in Benin.

He also announced that the finals will be held from February 24th to March 2nd at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin.

Teams that progressed from the zonal qualifiers are Rangers International from the South East, Rivers United from South South, Remo Stars from the southwest, katsina United from North East/west and Plateau United from North Central.

“We expect the teams to arrive Benin on the 24th, and first rounds of matches will begin on February 25th,” Pastor Inyama told NPFL Media.

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