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Neymar credits Ronaldo as catalyst for Saudi League transformation

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Neymar has credited Cristiano Ronaldo for kickstarting the remarkable transformation of the Saudi Pro League, while the Brazilian forward said he was extremely motivated to deliver success for Al Hilal.

Neymar, 31, completed a blockbuster move from Paris Saint-Germain to Hilal earlier this week, shattering the Saudi Pro League (SPL) transfer record to become the latest high-profile player to move to the kingdom during an unprecedented summer transfer window.

The Brazil captain follows the likes of Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema, World Cup winner N’Golo Kante, Manchester City treble-winner Riyad Mahrez, and former Liverpool quartet Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Fabinho in moving to the Saudi Pro League this summer.

Neymar joins a Hilal side who have made several stunning deals of their own. The Riyadh giants, the most successful club in Saudi football, have broken the league transfer record three times this window, first by recruiting Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves from Wolves and again with the signing of Brazilian winger Malcom from Zenit St Petersburg, before Neymar completed the hat-trick.

Former Chelsea and Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly and midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, previously of Lazio, will also be Neymar’s teammates.

It was Ronaldo, though, who seemingly paved the way when he joined Al Nassr in December last year, while the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in the league’s four biggest clubs has allowed this transformative summer to take place.

“I believe Cristiano Ronaldo started all of this and everybody called him ‘crazy’, and this and that. Today you see the league grow more and more,” Neymar said in his first interview since joining Hilal, adding that he’s excited to take on the Portuguese superstar and the rest of the big players in the league.

“It is exciting, meeting top quality players on the other teams thrills you, and motivates you to play even better,” he said. “And it is a given when you face Ronaldo, Benzema, Firmino, that the excitement is even greater. So I am happy to join this league, facing them will be wonderful, it will be fantastic.”

Neymar, who signed a two-year contract with Hilal, undoubtedly adds even greater star power to the SPL, arriving with one of the most glittering records in world football which comprises 22 major club trophies for Santos, Barcelona, and PSG including seven league titles, the Uefa Champions League, and Copa Libertadores.

He is therefore the ideal fit for Hilal – the most successful club in Asian football with 66 trophies, including 18 league titles and four Asian Champions League titles, but Neymar insisted the focus is on the present and future.

“The league will be very competitive, especially after the signings made in the summer transfer window,” he said. “I believe competitiveness is important. That’s why I am joining this league. I am driven by challenges. I am there to help the league grow.”

Neymar is accustomed to playing alongside some of the most talented players in the world; at Hilal it will be no different, and he revealed the squad was a key factor in his decision to join the club.

“I think it is very important to have quality in the squad,” he said. “Obviously it helps in some decisions you take throughout your career. It was certainly for me. I am very excited to write a new story chasing all the objectives with the club and my teammates – winning more and more titles and fulfilling the club’s ambition. I am very excited in that regard.”

Neymar has not played a competitive match since March having been sidelined with a long-term ankle injury which required surgery. He did, however, participate in part of PSG’s pre-season as the Brazilian aims to regain fitness and he hopes both he and Hilal will continue to improve as the season progresses.

“It is a step-by-step process, training session after training session, game after game. We will grow more and more,” he said. “It is difficult to come and say ‘we are going to win’ before starting our work. That’s what I believe. To start work immediately, our objective is to win championships, win titles and surely reach the highest summit. It’s the fans aspiration, so that’s what we are aiming for.”

As for playing in front of Hilal fans, who help make the club one of the best-supported sides in Asia, Neymar said: “I believe when it comes to football, we have similar passion to that of Al Hilal fans. They can expect all the effort from me on the pitch. I will give my best for the club. Our goal is winning titles.”

Neymar not only becomes the latest Brazilian to join the SPL this summer, but continues an impressive tradition of Brazilian players to represent Hilal, following in the footsteps of of 1970 World Cup winner Rivellino. Since then, more than 30 Brazilian players have played for the Riyadh club.

“Of course a lot of Brazil will be watching the league,” Neymar said. “Obviously I will be there and I expect all Brazilians and everybody following league to support Al Hilal! The message I have for them is I will do my best to make them enjoy football, our goal is winning all titles.”

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National Anti-Doping Bill 2024: Sports Minister applauds Tinubu’s foresightedness

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The Honourable Minister of Sports Development Senator John Owan Enoh salutes President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for placing premium on the National Anti-Doping Bill , thereby giving the Nation a reputation.

The transmission of the Anti-doping Bill 2024 to the National Assembly and the accelerated passage of same remains a landmark achievement of this administration. It is a show of the courageous and bold leadership of the president, a final and appropriate response to the perennial issues of doping that have characterized Nigeria’s relationship with the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA).

Senator John Owan Enoh the sports minister always made it clear that this administration was greeted with WADA issuing a notice to ban Nigeria from International Competitions which degenerated to the point that the agency took Nigeria to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). Amidst other non-compliant issues, the main challenge was Nigeria’s inability to domesticate the National Anti-doping Law and setting up a National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO) as part of its obligation having signed the international convention in 1999.

“ for years,the country has grappled with meeting up to the expectations of the World Anti-Doping Organization ,despite being a foundational signatory for 25 years.
Nigeria has been in the eye of the storm due to its inability to domesticate the Anti-Doping Law with the backing of parliament.
I must thank our sports loving president for his foresight immediately the issues were brought before him .His foresight and actions have put the country on the right path in sports.
I also appreciate the National Assembly for the passage of the bill ,consideration and approval of the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters during plenary.
The county will no longer have doubts of its participation in global sporting events, eligibility to host sports competitions amongst other perennial issues” the Sports Minister said.

This welcome development comes weeks before the country’s participation at the Paris Olympics 2024.

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Bafana Bafana Must Fall, Sports Minister Charges Super Eagles

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Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh, on Monday, rallied support of critical stakeholders and Nigerians for Finidi George,

With the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in full swing, the Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh has called on the Super Eagles to shift their focus from their recent African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and concentrate on the crucial task of securing a spot in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The Super Eagles are set to face Bafana Bafana of South Africa on Friday at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, and Senator Enoh stated that Nigeria must approach the tie as a make-or-break one, as victory will put the team back on track for qualification.

“The FIFA World Cup is the biggest showpiece in football,” Senator Enoh emphasized. “We cannot afford to miss out on the World Cup again. The disappointment of missing the last tournament, especially after the disappointing home match against the Black Stars, must drive us to ensure we qualify this time.”

Senator Enoh urged all stakeholders, including players, coaches, and support staff, to be fully committed to the qualification campaign. “All hands must be on deck to ensure the team qualifies for the World Cup,” he stressed. “I urge the players to get the job done in the first half of the game by scoring early goals, so they are not under pressure in the second half.”

“The upcoming match against South Africa is critical,” Senator Enoh said. “The players need to put the AFCON glory behind them and concentrate fully on this task. Early goals will be key to taking control of the game and ensuring a less pressured second half.”

Senator Enoh concluded by expressing confidence in the Super Eagles’ ability to rise to the occasion and secure a much-needed victory. “We have the talent, the passion, and the support of millions of Nigerians. Let’s channel that into a winning performance and take a significant step towards World Cup qualification.”

The match will kick off at 8 p.m. local time on Friday, June 7, at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo. Nigeria currently has two points from two games and sits third in their group of six teams.

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South Africa coach names Super Eagles winger as danger man ahead of WCQ

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South Africa coach, Hugo Broos, has named Super Eagles and Atalanta winger, Ademola Olajade Lookman as the danger man for Nigeria ahead of both teams’ clash this evening, Soccernet.ng reports.

Both sides met in the semi-final of the AFCON 2023 tournament in Ivory Coast, with the Super Eagles emerging victorious after 120 minutes of intense football. Stanley Nwabali was the hero, denying Bafana Bafana twice from twelve yards.

Lookman is a leading candidate for the CAF Player of the Year Award, after a stellar season with Atalanta, getting to the Copa Italia final, and scoring a hat-trick against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the UEFA Europa League final.

Broos, speaking in his presser ahead of their game against Nigeria, highlighted the Atalanta man as the threat for his side but admitted their focus as a team won’t be on the former Leicester City forward.

“Obviously, the (Nigeria) danger man is Ademola Lookman, but we are not focusing on that. We are focusing on our game, we have the ability and we have proven that at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Côte d’Ivoire,” the Belgian said in quotes revealed by Score Nigeria.

Lookman is primed to step up for the Super Eagles of Nigeria against South Africa tonight, alongside Victor Boniface, after the Nigerian attackers enjoyed success with their European club sides this season.

Samuel Chukwueze is a doubt for Finidi George ahead of tonight’s game. The A.C. Milan right winger did not take part in the final training session of the Super Eagles.

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