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The real Joao Felix has finally arrived in La Liga!



The Atletico Madrid loanee scored one and set up another in Saturday’s 5-0 win as Xavi’s side ran riot in Catalunya

Joao Felix scored one, proved instrumental in another, and dictated play for most of his 64 minutes on the pitch as Barcelona battered Real Betis 5-0 on Saturday. The Portugal international, making his full debut, quelled any fears about his fit in this Barca side, providing the cutting edge his team needed in a thrashing.

Felix opened the scoring in fine fashion, latching onto Oriol Romeu’s diagonal ball before evading the goalkeeper and finishing from a tight angle. His movement influenced the second, as the new signing dummied Andreas Christensen’s pass, which fell into Robert Lewandowski’s path — who buried his effort.

But Barca were never quite comfortable in the first half. The occasional wayward pass or miscalculated run left them vulnerable at the back, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen made an important stop to retain a 2-0 lead at the break.

The Blaugrana settled fully after the break, however. Ferran Torres, handed his first start of the season, grabbed the third, curling a free-kick into the bottom corner. Raphinha came off the bench to bag the fourth, finding the same spot with a lashed effort from outside the box. Joao Cancelo got in on the action shortly before full-time, shimmying around his marker before firing across the goalkeeper for his first Barca goal.

Betis offered admittedly little as the game wore on, but with Felix at the centre of it all, this Barcelona team showed how dangerous they can be.

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Women’s Football Rising: The NWFL’s Vision Under Chairman Nkechi Obi




In the heart of Nigerian sports, a revolution is brewing, one that promises to elevate women’s football to unprecedented heights. Spearheading this transformation is the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL), under the dynamic leadership of Chairman Ms. Nkechi Obi. With a compelling vision and a 5-pronged execution strategy, NWFL is set to redefine women’s football in Nigeria.

The NWFL, founded in 1990, is Nigeria’s premier women’s football league. It has played a pivotal role in developing the talents of female footballers in Nigeria. Under the stewardship of Ms. Obi, NWFL is poised to create a league that is not just competitive but also resonates with fans and garners the attention it deserves.

The league recognizes the immense potential of women’s football in Nigeria. It’s not just about the game; it’s about empowerment, gender equality, and nurturing a new generation of female athletes. NWFL aims to harness this potential and propel women’s football into the national spotlight.

In a decisive move, the newly appointed Board of the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL) has embraced FIFA’s women’s development strategy, setting in motion a series of visionary objectives aimed at revolutionising women’s football in Nigeria.

A pivotal objective of this strategy is in enhancing competition, designed to elevate the standard of play, ensuring that fans remain engaged and thrilled by the competitive spirit exhibited on the field.

NWFL is resolutely committed to grassroots growth of the women’s game and expanding the number of clubs, particularly in the States and local government areas. This drive aims to cultivate a broader talent pool that taps into local potential, giving rise to the stars of tomorrow.

Participation is key, and the NWFL seeks to open the doors wider for players and personnel to enter the women’s football ecosystem. By doing so, it aims to create a vibrant and inclusive community.

Recognizing that growth is often a collective endeavour, the NWFL is actively forging alliances and partnerships with like-minded organizations. These collaborations will be instrumental in propelling the growth of women’s football.

The league’s commitment to the sport extends beyond the players and fans. It includes engaging all stakeholders, from states football associations, clubs, players, coaches, fans, agents, corporate Nigeria, commercial partners, to policymakers, etc., to ensure that the future of women’s football is a collective and well-rounded effort.

NWFL has introduced, subject to ratification at the Annual General Assembly, a ground-breaking 3-league structure of 216 Clubscomprising16Premiership, 20 Championship, and 180 States League clubs, (up from the previous 36 clubs – Premiership: 14; Championship: 12; Nationwide (now States Leagues): 10 clubs).This tiered system is a strategic move that offers players the opportunity to nurture and refine their skills at various levels, thus fostering a robust pipeline of talent for the future.

This immediate expansion will ensure that over the season, about 820 matches will be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, every week; keeping over 7,000 players, coaches, and officials fully engaged.

The adoption of FIFA’s women’s development strategy by the NWFL signifies a bold step towards the advancement of women’s football in Nigeria. With a focus on competitiveness, grassroots growth, inclusivity, a funding model, and strategic partnerships, NWFL is poised to make a lasting impact on the sport’s landscape.

NWFL understands that success is a team effort. Collaborations and partnerships with like-minded organizations and stakeholders are essential to realising their vision. Leveraging the league’s new stakeholder engagement drive–Women Football Rising©, several initiatives have been designed, including the“He4She© Campaign”, a transformative movement that aims to unite Influential men in Nigeria to support and empower women’s football and the “Sisterhood© Campaign”, aimed at harnessing the collective power of women across professions, businesses, religious, social, and cultural groups to empower women’s football.

The “Football and the Girl Child© Campaign”, is also an initiative that seeks to engage communities in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria and the FCT, to promote the safety, security, inclusivity and personal development of the girl child through grassroots football, while “Class to Pitch©”, a collaboration with Sports Business Institute, aims to train more professionals in the women football ecosystem (coaches, referees, etc).

Stakeholder engagements across the states and clubs have already begun, with the board engaging Nasarawa, Adamawa, Kogi states and FCT Clubs in Abuja. The familiarization tour has visited Delta, Imo, Ekiti and Ondo States and the engagements will continue up to and after the Annual General Assembly.

NWFL’s goal is to deliver a women’s football league that is fiercely competitive, with fans on the edge of their seats, brimming with distinct appeal, and governed to the highest standards. Ms. Nkechi Obi’s leadership and the NWFL team’s dedication, are steering the league towards this vision and the journey under this leadership promises a brighter future for women’s football in Nigeria. With a strategic roadmap, grassroots focus, collaborations, and unveiling of the Women Football Rising©, platform, the NWFL is set to rise and shine on the global football stage. The women of Nigeria are ready to take their place in the spotlight, and NWFL is leading the way.

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Jude Bellingham: The unstoppable goal-getter in La Liga




Real Madrid made an early statement in the La Liga title race, resoundingly beating surprise leaders Girona, 3-0 on Saturday.

Jude Bellingham was, once again, at the heart of Madrid’s win, assisting the first and scoring the crucial third as he returned to the line-up.

Girona caused problems for Madrid early as Yangel Herrera and Viktor Tsygankov both missed clear headers within the first five minutes. Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggled going the other way, too, as Joselu and Vinicius Jr failed to assert themselves on the game, and were admittedly loose in the final third.

But not for the first time this season, Bellingham changed things. The England midfielder picked up the ball in space, and provided a trivela pass to the advancing Joselu, who couldn’t miss from close range. Los Blancos added a second soon after, as a defensive lapse from a corner allowed Aurelien Tchouameni a free header to power home his first goal for the club.

Girona worked their way back into the contest after the break, forcing an athletic stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga, before missing a duo of chances from corners. Madrid should have put the game away at the other end, but Bellingham fluffed his lines under pressure.

He made no mistake at the second time of asking, though, latching onto a rebound and finding the bottom corner to seal yet another win in his burgeoning Madrid career. The match ended in controversy, meanwhile, as Madrid captain Nacho was sent off for a horrendous challenge in stoppage-time.

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Chelsea-bound Kendry Paez lights up South American qualifiers




The opening round of South America’s World Cup qualifiers at the end of last week belonged to the veterans, with Lionel Messi and Neymar the standout performers. But, in Tuesday’s second round, there was space for youth to steal the stage.

Just 16, and bound for Chelsea when he turns 18, Kendry Paez is the latest quality product of the remarkable production line at Independiente del Valle, a little club from the outskirts of Quito that has developed the likes of Moisés Caicedo and many of the Ecuador squad. Paez has been enjoying quite a year — scoring in his first game in senior football, when he was still 15 and appearing in the World Cups at Under-17 and Under-20 levels — and now thrown into the cauldron of senior World Cup qualification.

He was a surprise choice to line up at home to Uruguay. Paez had been part of the Ecuador squad since the FIFA friendlies in June, but he had never played before and, going into this match, the consensus was that a few minutes off the bench would be the best he could hope for. Instead, coach Felix Sanchez started the teenage prodigy and come the end of a 2-1 win, was very pleased with his decision.

Paez operated on the right of a midfield trio. Left-footed but able to go either way, there was a swagger and a style about his football, a casual ease of accepting responsibility to set up the play, that was a joy to watch. He did not last the entire game — that would have been too much to expect — but by the time he left the match, with some 20 minutes to go, he had laid on the winning goal.

Against the run of play Uruguay had taken a first half lead, Maxi Araujo working hard down the left to set up an opportunity for Agustín Canobbio. But at the altitude of Quito, Ecuador were always favourites and took the points despite watching all-time top scorer Enner Valencia shoot wide from a penalty.

It was a set-piece that turned the game — a corner struck from the left by Caicedo. Just before the interval one of Caicedo’s right-footed crosses was met by a towering header from centre-back Félix Torres. And then, in the second half, Caicedo started to vary the repertoire. He worked some short corners, and from one of them he slipped Paez, his future Chelsea teammate, to the bye-line. Paez played in a low cross and there was Torres once more, this time stretching out a leg to win the game.

Ecuador’s first three points sees them move in the table to … no points. They entered the campaign carrying a three-point penalty for administrative errors in the Qatar qualifiers, and so this win merely serves to cancel out their punishment. The expanded World Cup mean that six South American teams qualify automatically for 2026, with a seventh going into a playoff, so Ecuador are entitled to dream of Paez helping them to more wins on the way to World Cup 2026, and for many years beyond.

Ecuador now finds themselves six points behind the joint leaders, Brazil and Argentina; the only teams to have won both their opening matches. They went about the second win in contrasting styles. Argentina’s 3-0 triumph away to Bolívia was highly impressive. The extreme altitude of La Paz is notoriously tough for unacclimatised opponents, and the world champions decided not to risk Messi. Without their talisman the young midfield performed with great maturity, dictating the tempo of the game and passing their way through the Bolivian defence.

Brazil, meanwhile, were much less eye-catching in their 1-0 win away to Peru. They were never in real defensive danger, but their passing had little of the fluency of Friday’s big win over Bolivia. Neymar could not produce the fine form he showed that night, and amid a succession of passing errors the game appeared to be drifting towards a goalless draw, which was a little hard on Richarlison, Brazil’s out of form centre-forward, who thought he had headed Brazil into a first half lead only to have it chalked off for offside after an agonising seven minute wait for a VAR decision. In the end, though, it was aerial power that carried the day, Marquinhos stealing the points with a clever run in front of the near post to glance home a Neymar corner.

Behind Brazil and Argentina in the early table are Colombia, who moved up to four points with a hard fought 0-0 draw away to Chile. And then, joining Uruguay on three points, are Venezuela who opened their account with a 1-0 win at home to Paraguay.

If the night belonged to Ecuador’s 16-year-old Kendry Paez, then he has to share some of the glory with Salomon Rondon, Venezuela’s 33-year-old centre-forward. The tragedy of Venezuela’s previous campaign was that they were seldom able to call up their key target man striker, who was either in China or England and was ruled out by COVID restrictions. Now, he may be a little past his best. But when Venezuela were awarded a late penalty, he did not flinch. Paez can dream of many World Cups to come but big Rondon has one chance left and he kept those hopes alive with a high-pressure goal.

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