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Ayew hails ‘beauty of football’ after AFCON qualification

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Jordan Ayew hailed the ‘beauty of football’ after captaining Ghana to Africa Cup of Nations qualification.

Needing a point from their final Group E match against Central African Republic – and aware that a defeat to the visitors could see them miss out on qualification – the Black Stars named the Crystal Palace No. 9 as captain for the winner-takes-all clash in Ashanti.

The occasion also marked Ayew’s 91st cap for his country, making him Ghana’s all-time fourth highest appearance maker.

The match did not get off to an ideal start for Ghana, with Louis Mafouta firing Central African Republic into a 25th-minute lead, but goals from Mohammed Kudus and Ernest Kuamah turned the match around and saw Chris Hughton’s team finish top of Group E.

Ayew explained afterwards: “You know in football, sometimes it does not go the way you want. You know you can go one goal down, but you still have 70 minutes to play and you have to never give up, and that was my way of thinking.

“I tried to transfer it to the boys and 1-0 down, I was still confident, because sometimes you struggle in a game but you still need to push. Even before the game, I told them if we go 1-0 down, we need to keep pushing, because if we get the next goal we’d win the game – and that’s what happened.

“That’s the beauty of football: it’s full of emotions. We are proud that we have qualified because it wasn’t easy. The most important thing was to qualify.”

On his own record-breaking night, the 31-year-old – who made his senior international debut in 2010 – said: “I don’t think about breaking more records with Ghana – I just think about still playing my football, enjoying my football and putting in performances.

“I’m surprised [to hear about 91 caps]. I didn’t even know. It is a proud moment, it’s an achievement and, you know, I’m still young and I have to keep going. I feel fit, I feel strong and I know that I still have more years to come.

“It’s a blessing I was able to start for the national team very early [in my career]. It’s a positive thing and I just want to thank all the managers that were here in the past and now.

“I really want to thank them for the confidence. I need to keep going because I have a lot of years ahead of me.”

Despite its name, the 2023 African Cup of Nations will be held in the Ivory Coast between 13th January and 11th February 2024 to avoid adverse summer conditions in the host country.

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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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