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Okowa Sure of Delta Victory at National Sports Festival

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By Jude Opara, Abuja

Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa on Tuesday boasted that his state will host and win the 21st National Sports Festival (NSF) slated to take place in Asaba, the state capital.

Okowa who spoke during the official lighting of the games light at the Presidential Villa said he was sure that Delta State will win the fiesta even as he urged the other states to also try to raise their performance so as to give the host state a befitting challenge.

The governor assured that the state is fully ready to host Nigerian youths from Al the 36 states and Abuja.

“We in Delta are ready for the festival. We have put in place the necessary facilities to ensure that the athletes compete very favourably”.

Also in his remarks, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo assured on the readiness of the federal government to continue to invest in sports development.

Osinbajo said he was optimistic that given the necessary incentive, Nigerian athletes will lxcel in international championships like the Olympics, Commonwealth games and the All Africa Games.

The VP who promised to be in Asaba for the fiesta said he has no doubt in him kind that Delta State will organize a championship which will meet international standards.

Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare in his address said the Main Organizing Committee (MOC) has put in place the necessary arrangements for a successful championship.

Dare added that the superlative performance of the Nigerian contingent to the last Commonwealth games in Birmingham is a testament that Nigeria can always hold her own in the committee on nations.

The Sports Festival torch which will you’re the 36 states and Abuja will arrive Asaba on November 28 for the opening ceremony of the championship.

SPORTS

Sports Ministry to Ensure Early Release of Funds for 2024 Olympics – Enoh 

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The Minister of Sports Development, Sen. John Enoh, has said that the ministry would ensure the timely release of funds to prepare Nigerian athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The games will take place from July 26  to Aug. 11 in Paris .

The minister gave the assurance on Thursday in Abuja in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Diana-Mary Nsan.

Enoh stressed the importance of securing funding in a timely manner to facilitate comprehensive preparations for the Olympic Games.

He added that the ministry will actively pursue partnerships with private individuals and the corporate sector to bolster financial support and ensure that athletes are set up for success.

Drawing from the successful model implemented during the African Games in Ghana, where all athletes were insured, the minister pledge to build on that success.

“Plans are underway to provide insurance coverage for Team Nigeria athletes to mitigate risks associated with injuries and unforeseen circumstances, reflecting a proactive approach to athlete welfare,” he said.

Enoh also announced plans to implement salaries for grade A athletes, noting that the initiative aims to provide ongoing support and motivation to athletes as they prepare for the Games, enabling them to focus on their training and performance without financial constraints.

The minister expressed confidence in Nigeria’s athletes and their potential to achieve success at the Paris Olympic Games.

Reports says that the Paris 2024 will feature the debut of breaking (also known as breakdancing) as an Olympic event.

The Games will be the first to feature identical number of athletes between men and women. (NAN

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SPORTS

PSG can Recover to Win Tie Against FC Barcelona – Enrique

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Paris St Germain Manager, Luis Enrique, said he is still confident his team can overcome a 2-3 home loss to FC Barcelona in their Champions League quarter-final.

Enrique hopes PSG can shine against the Spanish side next week to progress.

Still looking for a first Champions League crown, PSG gave up a 2-1 lead late in the second half on Wednesday against an FC Barcelona side who made the most of the chances they had.

The result meant FC Barcelona earned a narrow advantage for the return leg in Spain.

“It is clear that all defeats hurt and annoy, but I believe we played a good game against a very strong team,” Luis Enrique told a press conference.

“We are only going to change the things that didn’t work, we always have to appreciate what a match of this magnitude means.

“We’re going to Barcelona with a lot of desire. It’s a positive point of view to think that we can win there. It’s going to be a final for us. I’m confident in my team.”

Luis Enrique refused to comment on Kylian Mbappe’s performance, as the France captain was shackled by Barcelona’s defence and had little impact on the game.

The Spanish manager, who won the treble with Barcelona in 2015, said his side deserved to win and that Barca were not necessarily favourites even with a win in hand and the home field advantage.

“We are going to go to Barcelona to fight a war,” he said.

“I never see the opposition as favourites, whoever they are. In top-level competition, that’s how I see it. And I will continue to believe that we will go to Barcelona to win the game.

“I repeat. We could have won this game. (Football) is about small details and let’s hope that the small details go our way in the second leg.” (Reuters/NAN)

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SPORTS

Kane Returns to Haunt Arsenal as Bayern Munich Earn 2-2 Draw

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Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane returned to north London to score his customary goal against Arsenal, as the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie ended 2-2 on Tuesday.

The former Tottenham Hotspur player, so often Arsenal’s nemesis in north London derbies, stroked home a penalty in the 32nd minute as the Bundesliga side hit back to lead 2-1.

Premier League leaders Arsenal, playing in their first Champions League quarter-final for 14 years, had gone in front early on with a clinical Bukayo Saka strike.

But Bayern, whose reign as German champions is as good as over as they trail Bayer Leverkusen by 16 points, showed they remain a European force to be reckoned with.

Arsenal were stunned as their former striker Serge Gnabry levelled six minutes later and Kane rolled home his 39th goal of an incredible first season for Bayern.

This was after Leroy Sane was brought down by William Saliba in the box.

Mikel Arteta’s side ensured they will head to Bavaria next Wednesday full of hope as substitute Leandro Trossard equalised in the 76th minute to leave the tie hanging in the balance.

The return of Kane, who scored a record 14 goals for Tottenham in the north London derby, to one of his favourite haunts was the big pre-match talking point.

And he duly silenced the Arsenal jeers.

“It wasn’t an easy game,” Kane said. “Arsenal are a really good team.

“They’re top of the Premier League right now so we had to dig deep at times but it’s a good result and hopefully we can make the difference at home.”

Predictably, Kane was booed every time he touched the ball although the England captain was hardly involved in the early exchanges as Arsenal seized the initiative.

Six-time champions Bayern, seeking salvation in Europe after a poor domestic season, were handicapped by having no fans inside the Emirates Stadium as punishment for their supporters throwing fireworks in the previous round.

They went behind in the 12th minute when Ben White played the ball inside to Saka who picked his spot and curled a low left-footed shot beyond Manuel Neuer.

White should have made it 2-0 soon afterwards but shot straight at Neuer and then Arsenal’s defence, so impregnable in the Premier League of late, suddenly went missing.

They carelessly lost possession in the 18th minute and Bayern punished them as Leon Goretzka fed a perfect pass to Gnabry who clipped a finish past the on-rushing David Raya.

Sane was then allowed to run and run from deep before being toppled by Saliba and referee Glenn Nyberg had the simplest decision to point to the penalty spot.

The 60,000 crowd suddenly went quiet as memories of heavy European defeats by Bayern, notably a 10-2 aggregate defeat in the last 16 in 2017, flooded back.

It would have gotten worse but for a goal-saving tackle by White on Sane.

Bayern, with another former Spurs player Eric Dier impressive in defence, looked comfortable after the break.

Arteta sent on Trossard and Gabriel Jesus just past the midway point of the second half. They combined in the 76th minute as Jesus fed Trossard to slot a low shot inside the post.

A frantic ending saw Bayern substitute Kingsley Coman strike the post from close range while the game ended with Arsenal screaming for a penalty.

This was after Saka went down in the area claiming he was fouled by Neuer.

“We’ve got a draw so the situation is clear, the winner moves on,” Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel said.

“We need the same devotion, passion and quality as we had tonight – and we’ll get through.”

Security was stepped up ahead of the game after Islamic State threatened drone attacks on Europe’s top club tournament.(Reuters/NAN)

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