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Trevor Francis: The story of Britain’s first £1m football transfer

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Former Nottingham Forest footballer Trevor Francis has died aged 69, leaving behind a legacy of being Britain’s first £1million player.

Francis died on Tuesday in his home in Marbella in Spain from a suspected heart attack, and players past and present have since paid tribute to his legacy.

The striker won 52 caps for England, played in the 1982 World Cup, had spells in Italy and also managed clubs at the highest level.

However, he is best known for something that did not happen on the pitch.

Francis told the Guardian in 2019: “I won European Cups with Nottingham Forest, I played 52 times over nine years for England, but whenever I go to a sporting occasion I’m always introduced as the first £1m footballer, as if that’s the only thing I achieved in my career. But do I feel proud of being the first £1m player? Absolutely.”

Francis had already achieved legendary status with Birmingham City throughout the 1970s by scoring 133 goals for the club in 328 appearances.

But the West Midlands side was never likely to push for titles and Francis knew he needed to step up if he was going to win trophies.

He said during the period: “I want to be part of a successful team and unless I see signs that we are going somewhere I won’t stay.”

Nottingham Forest and Coventry entered a bidding war for his services. Coventry matched the offer but Francis went with Forest who were, at the time, in a better position to challenge Liverpool for the league title.

Legendary Nottingham manager Brian Clough turned up for his press conference wearing a full tracksuit and carrying his squash racket – claiming he was late for a game. The gaffer also said that Francis’s price tag was actually £999,999 – and not the full million – to stop the figure going to the striker’s head.

It turned out Clough was bluffing about the £999,999 and that £1.15million had actually been paid. “Brian was very clever with the media,” Francis said. “He used to make headlines, and wasn’t bothered whether they were true or not.”

However, it was still a huge surpassing of the previous record – which, a month earlier, had seen David Mills swap Middlesbrough for West Brom for £516,000.

Little did we know but the floodgates had opened on the market and the transfer record was broken twice more in 1979 before the first £1.5million transfer was made in 1981. The current transfer record is the £106million Chelsea paid for Enzo Fernandez in January.

Francis’s first match was for the team’s C string side as they played out “in front of 20 people” against Notts County’s reserves in a game purposed for training.

But it didn’t stop Francis from feeling nervous.

“The following week I played for the first team and it suddenly dawned on me, at Portman Road, when the supporters sang ‘What a waste of money’ throughout the game,” he said in 2009.

“I found myself trying to justify the £1million.

“You have to be yourself and play your own game. There was a pressure lifted when I got my first goal against Bolton.”

The goals did come, however, and at important times too – with Francis throwing himself at the ball to score a header against Malmo that won Forest the 1979 European Cup.

To this day a giant picture of Francis stooping to head the ball against Malmo remains on display inside Nottingham Forest’s stadium.

Forest lost another legend on Monday with Chris Bart Williams passing away aged 49.

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2024 Olympic Qualifier: Super Falcons will beat Cameroon in Abuja — Waldrum

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Super Falcons head coach, Randy Waldrum is confident his side will get the job done against Cameroon in Abuja on Monday.

The nine-time African champions held the Indomitable Lionesses to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their 2024 Olympic Games third-round qualifying fixture in Douala on Friday.

Jennifer Echegini’s 52nd-minute strike was controversially ruled out for offside in the game.

“We don’t fear anybody,” Waldrum said after the game.

“We played the European champions (England) to penalty kicks in the World Cup and held the Olympic gold medalist (Canada) to a draw at the World Cup, we got a victory over Australia. We can play with the best teams in the world.

“I give credit to Cameroon for the job they did. But there is no fear on our part.”

Victory against Cameroon will see the Super Falcons face either African champions, South Africa or Tanzania in the final round.

South Africa defeated Tanzania 3-0 in the first leg on Friday.

 

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CAF Confederation Cup: Rivers United arrive Luanda for Academica do Lobito clash

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Rivers United have arrived in Angola for the CAF Confederation Cup matchday five clash against Academica Petroleos Clube do Lobito.

The former Nigeria Premier Football League champions arrived in Luanda in the early hours of Saturday.

The Pride of Rivers departed the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos on Friday night.

Rivers United will lock horns with Academica Petroleos Clube do Lobito at the Estádio 11 de Novembre on Sunday.

Stanley Eguma’s side defeated the same opponent 3-0 on matchday one at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.

Academica Petroleos Lobito are yet to record a point in four matches.

Rivers United are third on the Group C table with six points.

 

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Kenya bids farewell to marathon sensation Kiptum

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Top athletes and dignitaries joined hundreds of mourners at the funeral on Friday of Kenya’s world marathon record-holder Kelvin Kiptum in the nation’s athletics heartland where he was born, trained and died.

Kiptum, a 24-year-old father of two, was killed in a late-night car crash on February 11, just months after shattering the marathon record in Chicago.

Kiptum’s wife, Asenath Rotich, was overcome with emotion as she read a tearful tribute to the marathon prodigy.

“It’s unbelievable that today I have learnt to stay with our beloved kids without you coming home again,” she said, revealing that the couple had planned to hold a wedding ceremony in April.

“I will still make my vows of love even in your rest.”

Although Kiptum only competed in three marathons, he won all of the races, posting three of the seven fastest times in history for the event.

Coe said his death was “a cause of intense sadness” and eulogised the young athlete for scaling “the highest peaks of achievement” during his short life.

“Rest assured your achievements are treasured, indelible and secure in the annals of our history and never ever forgotten,” the athletics chief said.

‘Worked against odds’

Kiptum ran the Chicago race in October in two hours and 35 seconds, slicing 34 seconds off the previous fastest time set by his Kenyan rival, the marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge.

His sudden death has left Kenya, and the wider athletics community, reeling.

Ruto said the East African nation had seen “the future of athletics” in Kiptum.

“He had more reasons not to succeed than to succeed but he worked against the odds,” he said, describing his death as “a very heavy moment”.

Mourners started arriving at the funeral venue at dawn, some wearing black T-shirts with a picture of Kiptum emblazoned across the front.

They viewed the body, laid out in a half-open casket on a red carpet, as a choir sang hymns.

Four giant screens were mounted to stream the event for the many villagers gathered outside the venue.

Dozens of athletes including 1,500m record-holder Faith Kipyegon and two-time Olympic 800m champion David Rudisha knelt in prayer near Kiptum’s casket before showering it with pink and white rose petals.

Neighbours described the star athlete as a “very generous man”.

“In his short life as an athlete, he’s helped in funding (the) education of some of the children at (his alma mater) the Chepsamo primary school,” neighbour Jackson Komen told AFP.

“He was so down-to-earth that when he had broken the world record he would still join his friends at the Chepkorio centre to play pool,” Komen added.

Candlelight vigil

Hundreds of people had turned out Thursday as Kiptum’s coffin was taken from the Rift Valley town of Eldoret to his home village of Chepkorio.

Hundreds of mourners also joined a solemn candlelight vigil in the nation’s capital Nairobi on Thursday, paying an emotional tribute to the rising star who had been the overwhelming favourite for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

After the funeral ceremony, Kiptum will be laid to rest in Naiberi, near Eldoret, where the government has built a new home for the family of the national hero.

Police said Kiptum was driving near Eldoret at around 11:00 pm on February 11 when his car careered off the road into a ditch and hit a tree.

Kenya’s chief government pathologist, Johansen Oduor, said on Wednesday an autopsy found Kiptum had suffered severe head injuries.

Toxicology tests were still under way, he added.

Kiptum’s Rwandan coach Gervais Hakizimana, 36, also died in the crash.

Hakizimana, who had trained Kiptum since 2019, was laid to rest in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Wednesday.

Known for maintaining a gruelling training schedule that sometimes topped 300 kilometres (190 miles) a week, Kiptum had recently announced he was hoping to smash the mythic two-hour mark at the Rotterdam Marathon in April.

 

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