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Sports Analysis

Ballon d’Or 2023: Who will be crowned the world’s best player?



The Ballon D’or is football’s most prestigious individual award. Handed out on an annual basis, it crowns the best male and female players on the planet. This year, the ceremony for both awards will take place in Paris on 30th October.

On the next episode of Football Now we’ll be looking ahead at the contenders for the women’s award, but this week, we’re looking into the favourites for the men’s category.

It’s one of football’s greatest honours, to be nominated for this award. One man who knows exactly what that feels like is former Spain midfielder Gaizka Mendieta. He placed 8th in the rankings in 2000, while he was one of the best players in Europe at La Liga side Valencia.

“It means that what you’re doing is being recognised,” Mendieta told us.

“One of the reasons why you play football is to, of course, win trophies and leave a legacy wherever you go. In my head, I always wanted to be one of the best midfielders in the world and being on that list means what you’re doing is being recognised.”

When it comes to this year’s nominees, a list of 30 talented players are in contention.

Players from 17 different nations representing 17 different clubs are on the shortlist, including last year’s winner, Karim Benzema. He is being recognised mainly for his goalscoring record at Real Madrid in the first half in 2023. In the summer, Benzema left European football and became one of the high-profile transfers to Saudi Arabia.

Manchester City have the most players after they won the treble in England. Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Julian Alvarez all played big parts in their Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League successes. Alvarez was also part of the Argentina 2022 World Cup winning squad, which is also being factored into the voting.

Of course, the main man of that team was Lionel Messi. He is the joint favourite heading into the ceremony, with Manchester City’s Haaland. What the pair have achieved in the last 12 months have been spectacular in their own rights. The problem is, there can only be one winner.

“Sentimentalists will want Messi to win it again,” football journalist Ben Jacobs told us, “whereas Haaland winning it would signify the start of a new era.”

“Haaland scored 52 goals in his debut season for City, in only 53 games. But then Messi won the World Cup and has also been on fire for Inter Miami since his move to the MLS. In the same way Messi has won multiple Ballon d’Ors over the years, Haaland could go on to do the same if he wins this. Either way, we’ll get a story if either are successful.”

The ceremony in Paris later this month will honour more than just the Ballon d’Or winner. Also included will be the Kopa Trophy, which will recognise the world’s best young player under 21 years old. Again, it is another packed shortlist filled with talent, but one man leads the way.

Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham has truly taken the football world by storm in the last 12 months. After catching the eye of many for England at the World Cup himself, he made a big money move to Spain in the summer after three seasons of really impressive football in Germany at Borussia Dortmund.

He’s only 20 years old and has the world at his feet. For England fans like Ryan Adsett, founder of The Social Room, it’s one of the most exciting prospects their country has ever produced.

“The credit should go to Jude Bellingham himself, because taking the career step to a club like Real Madrid is a huge decision,” Ryan explained.

“There were plenty of links to English clubs like Manchester City and Liverpool, but to take the step he did and wear the iconic no.5 shirt is pretty insane.”

So Bellingham leads the way in terms of the young talent, whereas it’ll be a battle between Messi and Haaland for the main award. All the winners will be revealed at the ceremony in Paris on October 30th, and whoever lifts the trophy will be more than deserving of the accolade.

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Sports Analysis

Nigeria Football and Dalung’s Crocodile Tears




By Fred Edoreh

Ordinarily, it is justifiable for any Nigerian to feel concerned that the Super Eagles opened their first two 2026 World Cup qualifying games with draws to supposedly weaker teams, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, keeping them at two points from possible six and leaving South Africa, in the same group, possibly with a headstart of four points.

That was the subject of former Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung’s lamentation in a recent interview in Kunle Solaja’s interestingly titled “My Eyes Are In Tears…”

First, in as much as the start is truly shaky, it must be noted that there are still eight more matches to go in the qualifiers and true leaders must give hope to encourage and inspire, for as is the case with sports, the Super Eagles can turn the table along the line.

The issue for me, however, is that if anybody should lament about our football, it should not be Dalung.

His tears is simply like the tears shed by the crocodile to mock the suffering of its prey. At best, his intention was merely to cash on the situation of the Super Eagles to launder the odious image he earned from the terrible afflictions he brought upon Nigerian football while as Sports Minister.

Things don’t just happen, there is always a cause, and the difficulties of Nigeria football today gained root from Dalung’s haughty mal-ministration of Nigeria sports.

His tenure was marked by not just serious undermining of the NFF and it’s leadership, but deliberate, calculated and orchestrated decapitation of the body and soul of our football.

It cannot be forgotten how, immediately he was appointed Minister in 2015, he exhumed the dead case of Chris Giwa’s bid for the NFF presidency to ferociously destabilize the administration – aiding it’s dragging from one Jos court to another, pleading unfounded claims of Supreme Court orders and blatantly disregarding and denying counterpart government funds for the development and management of our various national teams.

His inimical posture against the success of our national football was first displayed when he not only starved the Samson Siasia led U-23 team of funds whilst camping in Atlanta in preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Who can forget his infamous “what are there for?” or “the money spended was well spended,” as he lost all caution in his attack on the team?

It was to the extent that Mikel Obi, being captain of the team, was reported to have personally paid part of the accommodation expenses of the squad on arrival in Brazil and also provided some allowance for the players to keep their spirit together, while Dalung kept blabbing.

Despite his unreasoned harassment of the NFF, God shamed him, for at the end, the football team produced the only medal for Nigeria, a bronze, from that Olympic Games.

That team which he so mistreated should have formed the nucleus which would have matured the character of the Super Eagles into the present day, but Dalung did not care about the mental and psychological implication of his actions on the lads.

He even heightened the tempo of his attack on the NFF as the Super Eagles prepared for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

On arrival from Ndola from their first qualifying match against Zambia, which we won 2-1, we had the DSS waiting at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, to arrest officials of the NFF, ostensibly for not submitting to a purported court order to surrender the management of the domestic league to his preferred men.

He also significantly disregarded the funding needs of the team in most of the qualifying matches and at the World Cup proper, possibly so that the leadership of the NFF would be seen to have failed and to enable him invoke an atmosphere for the forced takeover of the Glass House by his Chris Giwa group.

They indeed forcefully took over the Glass House twice, with Dalung’s support and applause, until the Presidency ordered their dislodgement on both occasions.

We do not forget the disgraceful footages of Super Falcons players kneeling down before him to receive their allowances in the dressing room at the France 2019 Women World Cup as Dalung temporarily suspended the functions of the officials and substituted or combined his office as minister with that of treasurer of the women team.

At the inter-personal level, he was so full of hate for the then NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, that he went at length to work, howbeit clandestinely, against his election into the CAF Executive Committee and his appointment as CAF First Vice President.

Hand in glove with the deposed and disgraced CAF President Ahmad Ahmad, and in collaboration with Chief Okoi Obono Obla of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel, SPIP, also later disgraced and suspected to be in hiding, they concocted all manners of unfounded corruption allegations against him.

Most curious was their penchant to deliberately misrepresent the facts of NFF financial transactions before CAF and the government to feed their propaganda.

In one case, they merely latched on a document with which the NFF made a withdrawal of $565,471 to provide for five programmes, and mischievously distorted the narration to CAF and the Federal Government.

The items of the expenditure were clearly stated as including expenses for three NFF officials to the 2015 CAF Congress ($19,588), match expenses, players bonuses and allowances for Super Falcons second leg match of the 2016 Olympics qualifier against Mali ($237,161), same for the U-23 qualifying match against Zambia ($212,078), approved severance allowance for former NFF General Secretary Musa Amadu ($88,297) and NFF staff salary for February 2015 ($8,334), but they deceptively alleged that the NFF claimed to have expended the whole sum of $565,471 on the CAF Congress and frivolously instituted an investigation premised on their own falsehood.

Mischievously, on the very day CAF was to decide a new President, following Ahmad Ahmad’s suspension for corruption and misappropriation of funds, they surreptitiously sent a pretentious enquiry to the body, claiming that Pinnick who was most favoured to take over, was under investigation, just to thwart his chances of elevation. This led FIFA to designate Fatma Samoura as General Delegate to govern CAF for the period.

Laughably, when the Attorney General’s office in Nigeria called for the file of the investigation, they dodged from forwarding it.

These and a litany of more concoctions and orchestrations were as vicious as Dalung’s ministerial tenure was against the progress of Nigeria football and growth of its officials. Sadly for him, whom God has blessed, no man can curse, and Pinnick kept growing in relevance in world football.

Most ridiculous about Dalung’s tears for the Super Eagles is that his tenure was essentially defined by his campaign to de-affiliate Nigeria football from FIFA, following his failure to install his stooges to take over the NFF. It took series of protests by the world football governing body against his high handedness and finally a declaration by the Office of the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, to tame him.

Truly, if not crocodile tears, how can someone who maliciously solicited and advocated the withdrawal of Nigeria’s membership from FIFA now be shedding tears over the Super Eagles shaky start in the qualifiers to a World Cup organised by the same FIFA? “Ko le werk.”

It is just like a kidnapper mourning with the family of the kidnap victim, and that can only derive from disingenuous duplicity and pathological self deception.

It was for these cantankerous misdemeanors that President Buhari un-boarded him from the ministerial seat in his second tenure, accounting for the possible bitterness and depression he seems now to be suffering from, and the real tears in his eyes.

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Sports Analysis

Time For A Summit On Super Eagles





Something is fundamentally wrong with our football. For a country ranked 153rd by FIFA to secure a draw against the “almighty” Super Eagles in Uyo in a World Cup qualifier speaks volumes of how bad things have gone with our football.

Yes, there are no minnows in football anymore but it appears sour that the present crop of football administrators are hiding under this excuse to destroy what is left of the joy and bond of Nigeria and Nigerians.

Lesotho with less than three foreign players in their squad cannot come to Uyo and our Super Eagles, loaded with players from the EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A among other leagues struggle to hold them to a draw thus sharing the points at stake. And anyone in his sane mind would expect us to either clap for our football administrators or fold our hands, as usual, to nod like a helpless lizard.

We can no longer keep quiet and watch the sport some of us invested our careers, time, energy and youthful life to build with glorious and visible results being destroyed all under the guise of “modern administration”, whatever that means. What manner of football administration is this?

I would have outrightly entitled this piece DISBAND SUPER EAGLES NOW! But on second thought I felt the title would only present to stakeholders the weight of the problem bedevilling the team without giving a piece of background information surrounding the problems and the solutions required.

For those fronting the ALL EYES ON JUDICIARY campaign as well as the ALL EYES ON INEC, I think it’s high time they shifted the campaign and narrative to ALL EYES ON SUPER EAGLES or better still, ALL EYES ON NIGERIA FOOTBALL. Maybe the campaign is even belated. It is necessary to avoid a second dose of World Cup miss…and painfully back-to-back this time.

This was the same way we started during the qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. We were cajoled by the so-called masters of football administration running our football to believe that all was well even as we knew the team was headed for doom.

We pretended all along until Black Stars of Ghana came to Abuja and walked away with “our” World Cup ticket, making over 200 million people look very unserious, ordinary and lacking focus. The pains of that drama were too much for the fans to bear as some of them lost their minds and consequently unleashed their anger on the stadium, vandalizing it.

Of course, we are bad historians. We may have even forgotten the bitter pill the Super Eagles, their manager or coach and the NFF gave Nigerians to swallow by not qualifying for Qatar 2022.

Needless to say they forgot or don’t care to know that football is a major factor binding the country and ensuring that its population is happy. When the world says, Nigerians are happy people, they are referring to football, nothing more. Not getting it right with football is tantamount to inviting doom to the country which is already overheated by happenings from economy to politics.

To think that the Golden Eaglets are not participating in the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup is to understand the depth of the malady going on in Nigerian football in the last 10 years. This was a team that won the World Cup back to back in 2013 and 2015 respectively in UAE and Chile, producing players like Kelechi Iheanacho in 2013 and Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze in 2015. Nigeria has won the Uder-17 World Cup more than any other country in the world. Not even qualifying for the same tournament for some time now is unacceptable.

If Golden Eaglets were in the present tournament, who knows, we may have had the opportunity to discover another top-quality player coming out from the team to hit stardom on the global stage.

Back to the Super Eagles. It is an understatement to say this isn’t the Super Eagles we used to know and the team didn’t degenerate to this point in one day. This continuous crash of the team like the naira falling to the dollar didn’t start today. We have seen this all along but choose to either turn a blind eye or pretend that all was well. When last did you guess Nigeria’s starting Eleven.

The dismal performance of the Super Eagles is a complete reflection of the state of things in our country in all sectors. From politics to judiciary to education to security to economy and sports, just name it. Everything is taking a nosedive if not outright collapse.

But sports and football in particular would hurt most given their social value to the Nigerian people or the average Nigeria. Take away sports from the life of a Nigerian and you would have removed a life-support from him. He would be empty.

Therefore, those running our football aground are tactically and technically killing Nigerians, perhaps deliberately too. Take a look at the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) and the latest TV Broadcast Right saga. The talk over the contractual figure which many describe as scandalous and the process of awarding the right are indications that our football is sick.

The hiring of a foreign coach for the Super Eagles and the shoddy process plus the non-transparent contractual deal which are not disclosed to the public are part of the bacteria causing serious ailment in our football. How can it be said that 23 players invited for the Super Eagles and six standby players are all foreign-based? Is that not tactically destroying our domestic league? Yet you expect such a League to attract sponsors? Which sane corporate organization will put its money on a league that would never produce a player or two to feature prominently in the national team?

In all honesty, only a corporate organization with a suspicious board or management would agree to put its money into such a league. More so, the league sponsors must know that they take part in shines too when players of the league feature prominently in the national team and get to ply their trade abroad for top European clubs.

Still on coaching, isn’t it shameful that those running football even before now deliberately retire, exclude or ignore the quality coaches we have to employ and recycle failures? Yes, we have all-round failures handling our various national teams and between both genders of the teams.

It is ridiculous if not sheer stupidity to hand over a World Cup-bound U-20 team to a coach who took the same team to a woeful World Cup tournament 16 years earlier. And what was the result? Same shambolic performance. Will you blame such a coach or those who hired him to obviously carry out an undertaker exercise on the team?

Using coaches’ appointments to settle cronies, loyalists, associates, friends and even family members is not in any way or form different from putting a knife on the neck of our football and slaughtering it like a chicken. Worse still is the fact that the so-called coaches don’t know what a cone is.

How else can we describe decline if not to say that it took Nigeria 55 months for Super Eagles to secure a win in an international friendly? How else can you describe madness if not to say that the Flying Eagles who ruled Africa in the past have continued to struggle to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and when they do, they crash out in the group stage?

How else do we describe dwindling fortunes if not to say that Nigerian clubs go into continental competitions just to make up the numbers? When last did a Nigerian club reach the quarter final of a club continental competition? The South Africans that came to Nigeria for football tutorials are now ruling the continent . Yet a group of persons beat their hands on their chests to claim to be best football administrators?

Indeed, we need a Summit on the Super Eagles where major stakeholders would gather and brainstorm on how to get out of the woods. Is our football in the woods? Sure it is…and if it is not rescued now it may just be the end of anything exciting about it.

We may need to revisit the Golden Era of sports in Nigeria particularly in the area of football. The Era of Late Air Commdr. Emeka Omeruah when sports thrived and football excelled.

There’s no gainsaying that maladministration is the bane of sports development in Nigeria. Sadly, the hawks and vultures have taken over hence, a summit could be the only solution to return them to the sky and allow patriotic, genuine and experience administrators to revive the sector.

The sooner this is done, the better for the country.

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Sports Analysis

The Need for Sports Diplomacy under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu




By Sadiq A. Abdullahi

As Senator John Owan Enoh, the 36th sports minister, under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, begins his four years tenure in the newly created Federal Ministry of Sports Development, he would need to use sports diplomacy to resolve regional conflict and attract foreign investment as entrenched in the National Sports Industry Policy.

On July 28, 2023, the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) under the leadership of Director-General (Prof) Eghosa Osaghae, hosted the 1976 Olympians and the champions of 1980 African Cup of Nations in an event that was sponsored by Dr. Allen Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace tagged “The NIIA’s “Sports Diplomacy Wall of Fame.” One of NIIA’s objectives is to “provide and maintain means of information upon international questions and promote the study and investigation of international questions by means of conferences, lectures, and discussions, and by the preparation and publication of books, records, as may be necessary to develop a body of knowledge on world affairs.”

Sports diplomacy (SD) is an emerging concept in foreign policy and in international relations. SD transcends tribal, ethnic, language, religion, pollical, economic, class and elitism. SD is often used as the instrument of choice by nations to promote cooperation, peaceful co-existence, diplomatic dialogue, and even to promote the virtues of democracy.

In 1976, the Federal Government of Nigeria joined 27 African countries boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympics Games in support of the 1976 Soweto, South Africa massacre where many lives were lost. Sixty-two Olympians from Nigeria were denied the opportunity to compete among the best in thwe world at the Montreal Olympics in Canada. General Olusegun Obasanjo was the Head of the State then, and he ordered that the Olympians be returned home immediately after they had spent about 10 days at the Games Village. But the story was not the same for the Green Eagles, the champions of the 1980 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). Both events were poles apart but had lasting significant diplomatic effect.

In the 1952, Nigeria presented its first team at the Helsinki Olympics in Finland. From that moment on informal sports diplomacy has been part of Nigeria’s indirect foreign policy engagement, making it a prominent phenomenon that could no longer be ignored in the socio-political and economic life of the nation. The domination of the sporting world by the then USSR (now Russia and several other smaller countries) and her allies coupled with their unique organizational structure of sports, influenced the Federal Government of Nigeria to directly involve herself in the control, regulation, organization, and promotion of sports, which now needs to be extended to ECOWAS as the region contemplates using military invasion of one of its member states.

A renewed hope for sports stakeholders requires that a plan for effective sport for unity and peace programs should by initiated by Senator Enoh to address conflicts in the region and build peace using sport at the socio-political and individual levers Sports has become an instrument for building relations with countries and for gaining soft power with the aim of promoting the country’s national agenda among the comity of nations. Countries utilize international sport to promote peace, advance their economic interests and build political power and influence. As a domestic policy tool, sports can be used to enhance social order, combat some forms of social exclusion, and prevent crime by promoting projects that target deprived areas.

A new frontier in sports diplomacy offers new possibilities for renewed hope for ECOWAS and for Nigeria in particular if the political and business of sports can harnessed for youth and sustainable development. The Sports Diplomacy curriculum has the pedagogy to provide a new national orientation, a new vision of international relations, regional, continental, and global understanding. The curriculum will reflect the vision of a democratic, pluralistic, and diverse society. Regional and global challenges such as poverty, globalization, population growth, environmental degradation, human rights, and national and global terrorism could be reduced, and many youths are redirected to rethink sports in education and nations resolving conflicts using sports and diplomacy.

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