Alejandro Moreno, Julien Laurens and Steve Nicol look at the upcoming UEFA Champions League matchup between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, discussing who they think has the advantage.
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Professional football as a competitive sport has had its unfair share of tragedies over the years. It is both entertaining and dangerous especially on the field of play. The Nigerian sporting family witnessed one of the most horrific football tragedies on the 23rd of December 2008, when nine female amateur footballers and two coaches were burnt beyond recognition in an auto crash on their way from Jos, Plateau state.
The tears of sorrow had hardly dried up, when 15 members of an amateur side, F.C Jimeta from Adamawa state, Nigeria, died in another auto crash on the 26th of January 2009. Twelve of the dead were players, while the remaining three were trainers.
The tragedy that took place on the 26th of January 2009 had hardly subsided when another devastating incident occurred on the 21st of February 2009. In a single swoop, 13 Football supporters of Nigeria Premier League side Ocean Boys F.C of Yenegoa were killed by persons suspected to be cultist, on their way to attending a premier league match involving their team and Bayelsa United at the Ughelli Township Stadium in Delta State, Nigeria.
Nigerian footballers have also had their fair share of tragedies on and off the field of play. Below is a list of some of the players who have braved all odds to bring joy to football loving Nigerians but later succumbed to the cold hand of death.
Nigeria enterprising midfielder Samuel Tochukwuma Okwaraji slumped and died on August 12, 1989 during a World Cup qualifying match between Nigeria and Angola. He died of a heart related ailment.
Amir Angwe died on the field of play while starring for Julius Berger F.C on October 29th 1995. It was later discovered that he died of a heart attack.
The younger brother to Nigerian former international- George Finidi was slain by the bullet of rival supporters during an F.A Cup match involving his club- Rangers F.C and Stationary Stores of Lagos in 1995.
He was a member of the Flying Eagles team that participated in the 1989 U-20 World Championship held in Saudi Arabia. He died of a head injury sustained in the playing field while featuring for Bendel Insurance F.C in a league match in 1997.
This Plateau united player died on August 12, 2006 after he slumped and was confirmed dead 13 minutes into the second half of his team tie with city rival JUTH of Jos at Nassarawa stadium, Keffi.
He was the first choice goalkeeper of Warri Wolves F.C of Warri Delta State. Slumped and died on May 26th 2009 during training as a result of injury sustained when he was attacked by thugs of Rangers international of Enugu.
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In Nigeria, the game of football is followed with a lot of passion considering the fact that the country remains the biggest exporter of footballers in major leagues of the world. The game is not however devoid of players who get famous for the wrong reasons. Below are the top five Nigerian players who though talented, were always at the receiving end of the media. Some are no longer active, while others are still actively involved in both club and country.
Etim Esin was born in Oron in Akwa Ibom State, Southern Nigeria in the year 1960. He emerged as one of the most talented stars in the local scene when he helped Nigeria qualify for the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship in Chile. His urge potential however suffered serious dent due to lack of discipline and arrogance. In the height of his escapade, Etim Esin was shot by armed robbers in 1987 prior to the Junior World Cup. The nail in his coffin came while he was playing for AK Ghent of Belgium in the early 1990’s, as he was convicted of raping a Belgian girl and subsequently deported back to Nigeria by Belgian Immigration authorities.
Tarila Okorowanta was a creative midfielder who became a local folk hero while playing for Shooting Stars football clubs of Ibadan in the 1980’s. His career was however engulfed in controversy due to lack of discipline and frequent breaking of camp rules. Tarila Okorowanta made the wrong headlines when he defected to Italy while Shooting Stars of Ibadan were returning back from an African Champions Cup match in Tunisia. That rash action led to the eventual fall of his wonderful but short career.
Gbolahan Salami is a striker with the Shooting Stars football club of Ibadan. A bulky and exceptionally gifted player, Gbolahan gained fame when he starred for Nigeria at the U-20 World Cup held in Egypt in 2009. The rising profile of the bully striker however suffered some knocks last year when he was slammed with a two match-ban for verbally assaulting his former coach at Sunshine football club- Gbenga Ogunbote. To compound his woes, he got a one year ban recently when Shooting stars were forced to a 1-1 draw by visiting Crown F.C of Ogbomosho in a Premier League fixture played on Sunday 30th January 2011. He allegedly attempted to attack the match referee- Michael Oshei for awarding a late penalty against his club-side.
Junior Osagie is a former Enyimba and Super Eagles of Nigeria invitee who was fond of breaking camp rules. The highly talented striker could not fulfill his goal of play professional football abroad due partly to his erratic conduct and the negative influence surrounding his career.
Akpan Bassey is the only goalkeeper in the Nigeria Premier League to be given a one year ban since the inception of the league. He was a member of the Ladan Bosso-led U-20 team that participated at the 2007 FIFA World Cup held in Canada. Though lacking in height, he remains one of the best goalkeeper in the Nigeria Premier League till date. His superlative performance has even earned him invitations to the Super Eagles of Nigeria on several occasions. The Heartland F.C of Owerri shot-stopper had earlier been handed down a $650 fine and a one match ban on the 20th of January 2011 for shoving a referee during a Premier league match against Sunshine F.C of Akure.
One sad trend that can be observed from each of these players, is that they are all gifted and talented, but failure to abide by the rules of the game adversely affected their career. It is a lesson which other aspiring footballers must learn from.
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Alexander Hleb is, of course, well-known amongst UK football followers because of his time at Arsenal, during which time Sky pundit Andy Gray described him as one of the Premier league’s ‘most skillful players’. Born in Minsk in Belarus in 1981, Hleb, whose brother is also an international footballer, initially made his name in the Bundesliga with FC Stuttgart, whom he joined from his first club, FC Bate Borisov, at the age of nineteen, with whom he had just won the Belarus national league. Arsenal were signing a player who had already made 172 first team appearances for Stuttgart, scoring 19 goals in total.
By the time Hleb joined Arsenal in 2005 he had already been voted Belarusian player of the year three times – he has added two more awards since then – and he became respected at Arsenal because of his versatility, energy and ability to fit into the team’s smooth passing style of play. In his first season in North London, Hleb started 40 league games and scored 3 goals – figures that he repeated the following season.
It was during season 2007/08 that rumours started to link Hleb with a move to Barcelona; stories that gathered momentum after a particularly impressive performance against AC Milan in the Champions’ League. The ‘will he, won’t he’ saga kept the press occupied until July when the player signed for Barca in a deal reported to be worth about £11.8 million. During his time at Arsenal, Hleb made a total of 130 appearances, scoring 11 goals.
Alexander Hleb hardly made the most promising start to his career with his new club – picking up a series of injuries during pre-season which disrupted his progress considerably. Towards the end of the year, however, he was beginning to become a regular in the squad and to show signs of being able to integrate with the nimble, quick passing midfielders already at the club.
Internationally, Hleb made his debut appearance as a substitute in a defeat against Wales in 2001. His full debut followed, along with his first international goal, against Hungary the following April and he has been a regular in the team since then – captaining the side since August, 2007.
It is easy to see why Barcelona signed Alexander Hleb; he fits into their mould of being skillful, adaptable and pacy – with the ability to chip in with the occasional goal and, overall, an acute positional sense and an awareness of the runs of forward players. He should make a valuable addition to the squad – and his wife certainly should make an impact on the local media; in August, 2008 Alexander married Anastasia, a Topless singer. To be precise, Anastasia Kosenkova was a member of the Belarusian girl band, Topless.
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When it comes to football, it is usually a good thing to stand out as a club – except when you’re one of the Bristol football clubs and stand out for performing so badly. Indeed, Bristol Rovers and Bristol City football clubs have become something of a joke among those who follow and watch the goings on of football closely. Considering that Bristol is the largest European city that doesn’t have a football team in the national top division, it is pretty apparent that fans of the Bristol football clubs would sincerely like for the tide to turn. But will it? If history is any guide, football clubs experience slumps and comebacks all the time – could Bristol’s rally be right around the corner?
21st Century: Bad Luck For Bristol Rovers?
Although Bristol Rovers FC has been experiencing trouble for quite some time, things really took a turn for the worst with the dawning of the new millennium. At that time, Bristol were relegated into the Third Division. Despite a desperate attempt to find a manager who could snap them out of their slump, the club continued to suffer from a decidedly lackluster performance. Die hard fans of Bristol Rovers, of course, continue to hold out hope that the tide will turn and that their favourite football club will come soaring back into prominence – but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen soon.
Die-Hard Fans Keep The Faith
Despite their difficulties, Bristol’s football clubs still enjoy a very passionate fan base. As such, Bristol hotels do book up regularly whenever a major match is on. Despite the problems that the Rovers seem to face, there is no question that a fun time is had by all at their games. Similarly, Bristol City FC regularly has games where the city packs out for the day. In some ways, it seems that people are rooting on both teams in the hopes that they will suddenly snap out of their rut and bring Bristol to prominence in the world of football.
A Brighter Future?
The old saying says «What goes up must come down,» but is the reverse also true? If so, then Bristol’s football clubs might see a resurgence at some point. By staying at Bristol hotels, you can get in on the action and might even be present to see a turning point for one of these teams. Choose a team and make a point of booking a hotel Bristol so that you can enjoy the game live in person. You’ll see for yourself that with their passionate fans, Bristol’s football teams have plenty of people cheering them on and hoping for a brighter future.
Football is a universal sport, and Nigeria remains the biggest exporter of talented footballers Worldwide. A bulk of these foreign legions however ends up playing for their adopted countries in place of their country of birth or origin.
The list is endless, as countless numbers of Nigerian born footballers are daily seeking greener pastures or opportunities to showcase their potential in the color of their adopted countries. Nigeria ultimately becomes the biggest loser, as it is denied of quality players through this football drain.
Muri Ogunbiyi is an attacking midfielder who once played for the famous Enyimba football club of Aba. He presently plays for the squirrels of Benin Republic.
Carlton Cole was born of a Nigerian father and a Sierra Leone mother, but presently plays for England senior National football team. He is a top striker with English Premiership club- West Ham United.
Onyewu is a regular central defender in the United States of America senior National soccer team, with Nigerian root.
Gabby as he is fondly called turned down several invitations to play for Nigeria, and opted instead to honor a call up to play for England. He has a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father. He is a key member of Aston Villa F.C in the English Premier League.
Toto Tamuz is a son of former Nigerian international footballer Clement Temile. He presently stars for the Israeli National footballer team. His mother is an Israeli. Like his father, Toto Tamuz plays in the attacking positing for the Israeli national senior team.
Dennis is an experienced defender with the German U-19 national team. He has a Nigerian Father and presently plays for Hamburg SV in the German Bundesliga.
Rubin Rafael Okotie
Rubin is an Austrian U-21 international striker with Nigerian father and Austrian mother. His father hails from Delta State in Southern Nigeria.
The former Togolese national team captain was born to Nigerian parents in Lome, but currently playing for the Togolese National football team and Manchester City of England.
Paul Mc Grath
Paul Mc Grath is an Irish international who holds the distinct record of being the first Nigerian-born footballer to play for an adopted country, born to a Nigerian father and an Irish Mother.
Emmanuel Olisadebe was in sensational form during the FIFA 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Korea-Japan. He is a Nigerian footballer who switched allegiance to his adopted country-Poland.