It was yet another fun-filled and exciting week in sports as FIFA ramps up its push for a biennial World Cup.
The move, which has triggered debates in the football world, was not the only talking point in a busy sports circle. FIFA, the global football body, is also leading calls to fix the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the off-season.
But CAF says the competition will hold as planned. Several teams, including the Super Eagles, have also named their squad for the tournament.
First Eleven captures this and other major sports stories that made headlines this week.
Nigeria Unveil AFCON Squad
With the AFCON less than two weeks away, Nigeria on Saturday named a 28-man squad for the competition billed for Cameroon.
Interim coach Austine Eguavoen released the list which included captain Ahmed Musa, and Napoli’s Victor Osimhen.
Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and Watford hitman, Dennis Emmanuel, also made the cut as the three-time African champions begin their quest for a fourth continental crown.
In Search For Rohr’s Successor
Another story that triggered conversations was the revelation from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) that it consulted some top coaches in the search for a new Super Eagles manager.
The President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, had told journalists in a media parley that former Arsenal long-time coach, Arsene Wenger, and Portuguese gaffer, Jose Mourinho, were contacted for counsel.
“These are some of the best coaches in the world. And there is nothing wrong with it because he [Wenger] is equally concerned just the way we are,” a few weeks before the commencement of the AFCON.
FG Fixes Date For National Sports Festival
Away from the AFCON, the Federal Government has fixed November 2 to 15, 2022 for the National Sports Festival.
The competition is billed to hold in the country’s oil-rich Delta State, according to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare.
“Interestingly, Delta State came first at the recently concluded Edo 2020,” he said.
“Now, we are happy that they have the opportunity not just to host, but to validate their first position.”
NPFL Enters Second Week
The restart of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) equally made the news.
Ten matches were played in the opening weekend of the season, leading to some shocking results. Akwa United began their title defence on a good note, just as MFM FC lost to new boys, Remo Stars.
Action returns again this weekend in the elite league as teams seek to consolidate on their first-week gains.
Kano Pillars, NSCDC Crowned Champions
Earlier in the week, Kano Pillars and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) won the men and female categories of the 2021 National Volleyball Premier League respectively.
Their victories followed 10 days of action at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.
Kano Pillars (male) beat Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) 3-0 (32-30, 25-20, 22-25,), as the NSCDC defeated Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) 16-2, 25-19, 23-25,22-25).
Nigeria Gets AFCON Boost
While talks about the AFCON is still making frontpages, Nigeria received a boost ahead of the January competition when hitman, Victor Osimhen, indicated he will be available for selection.
The former Lille star had been ruled out for three months following a head collision. After the incident in a Serie A game, Osimhen had surgery and was expected to miss the party in the Central African country.
But in a recent social media post, the Napoli forward said he is ready to play for the 1994 African champions, raising hopes among fans in Nigeria. Reports, however, suggest that his club might not allow him feature in the competition over COVID-19 fears.
An Optimistic CAF
Napoli’s comment about Osimhen is not the first opposition to the tournament. Several European clubs had raised concerns about the competition due to the pandemic.
As calls to push the competition to the summer gains traction, CAF insists there is no going back. During his visit to Cameroon, CAF President Patrice Motsepe said it will hold despite the challenges of COVID-19. He noted that fans would, however, need negative COVID-19 results to enter the stadiums much to the delight of the Cameroonian authorities.
Promises of a Biennial World Cup
And as preparations for the continental showpiece enter the final stages, FIFA is also preaching the gospel of a biennial World Cup already backed by CAF.
Gianni Infantino in a meeting on Monday said the proposal will improve the financial fortunes of the game to the tune of $4.4 billion despite opposition from Europe and South America.
A report commissioned by UEFA recently estimated a shortfall of between 2.5 and three billion euros ($2.8 to 3.4 billion) over four years for European federations if FIFA’s plan goes through, however.
Before FIFA’s recent remarks, English Premier League clubs earlier confirmed that there won’t be a COVID-19 break.
The decision came on the heels of a surge in infections leading to the postponement of games in the English topflight.
“The health and wellbeing of all concerned remain our priority and the League will continue to monitor and reflect public health guidance, always proceeding with caution,” the Premier League said in a statement.
It was not all gloomy for sports in recent days. Brazilian legend, Pele, was discharged from the hospital on Thursday after two weeks of chemotherapy for a colon tumor.
The 81-year-old is stable and will continue treatment for the disease, the Albert Einstein Hospital said in a statement three months after the Brazilian spent a month in hospital.
Pele’s latest health challenge is expected to decrease the aging star’s public appearances.
Al Ahly Continues Dominance
In Africa, Egyptian giants, Al Ahly, have continued their dominance of club competitions on the continent after they won the CAF Super Cup.
Pitso Mosimane’s men defeated Raja Casablanca of Morocco 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 in a thrilling encounter in Qatar.
Wednesday’s victory seals Al Ahly’s position as a dominant force in Africa. They now have 23 titles — 10 in the CAF Champions League, eight in the Super Cup, four in the Cup Winners Cup, and one in the Confederation Cup.