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Cancer survivor Caicedo, 18, set to make Women’s World Cup debut

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At 15, Linda Caicedo, now a star forward on Colombia’s Women’s World Cup roster, received a crushing diagnosis. She had ovarian cancer.

Caicedo already had made her debut for Colombian professional team América de Cali and the Colombian senior women’s national team.

With this news, though, her soccer career seemed over.

“I remember I was going into surgery one day and I was feeling really bad,” Caicedo said, “because I thought that I was not going to be able to play top-level football again.”

The Colombian women’s team head coach, Nelson Abadía, provided words of encouragement over the phone.

“He said, ‘No, just relax,’” Caicedo recalled. “‘You’re going to come back.’”

She’s now one of the best young players in the world.

The 18-year-old Caicedo is expected to make her Women’s World Cup debut in Colombia’s opener against South Korea on Tuesday at the Sydney Football Stadium.

To those battling cancer, Caicedo has a message: “I am an example that you can get out of that and overcome this.”

Tuesday’s match also could mark the World Cup debut of 16-year-old South Korea forward Casey Phair. Born to a Korean mother and American father and raised in the U.S., Phair is not expected to start. Should she play, she would become the youngest player ever to play in a World Cup, men’s or women’s.

“We just take it day by day,” South Korea coach Collin Bell said Monday, responding to questions about Phair. “I don’t really want to hype up the young player too much before she’s even played.”

While Phair’s role is not certain, Caicedo is expected to start and play a large part in Colombia’s efforts. For Colombians, she represents the potential of women’s football both domestically and internationally.

“She’s everybody’s hope,” said Valentina Peña Orozco, sports director at W Radio Colombia. “Linda is Colombia’s promise.”

Caicedo played in Colombia’s Liga Femenina for several years before signing with Real Madrid in February. She tied for the scoring lead at the 2021 Copa Libertadores Femenina for Deportivo Cali and was named the best player in the 2022 Copa América Femenina.

Her performance at the Copa América helped secure Colombia’s spot in the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Caicedo also scored twice and recorded four assists in 10 appearances for Real Madrid last season.

Colombia’s match against South Korea could prove pivotal, as the two nations are expected to compete for a spot in the knockout rounds from Group H. Germany and Morocco also are in the group.

Abadía has coached Caicedo since she was 12 and brought her into the senior team when she was 14. He’s been Colombia’s national women’s team coach since 2017.

“ We know the players’ enormous ability, and we know that those brilliant moments that each one has — we’re going to have them,” he 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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