Eric Masika: Alcohol, Fame and Laziness nearly ruined me

Those who love him, love him with so much passion. Those who hate him, also do so with the same gusto. If a book on ‘The most hated footballers’ were ever to be written, several chapters would be dedicated to him.

He fanned an already scorching hot rivalry between Kenya’s biggest clubs - AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia- when he made a transfer that shook the Kenyan football world. No player in recent years in Kenya has left a more sour taste at his former club.

One of the most promising defenders at his time, his football career has been laced with not one, not two but numerous controversies that have seen his ascendancy to the top slowed down. He has made rounds around the country and across the border over the last couple of years, and he is finally back to Kenya to resuscitate his career.

Kenyanstar caught up with defender Eric Masika for an exclusive, candid and no-holds-barred interview where the defender for the first time opens up on his move from Gor Mahia to AFC Leopards, family, injuries, education, alcoholism and just why he is not giving up.

Kenyanstar: Kindly tell us about your early  football days.

Eric Masika: My journey started in Langata playing with Langata United under the helm of Jacktone Ojera and Francis Aballa. That was in 2000 while I was still studying. After that I moved to Tusker Youth in 2004 under the tutelage of coach George Maina the now assistant coach of Posta Rangers. I stayed there until 2006 when I joined Kenya Poly FC now TUK. It was during a friendly match that Gor Mahia spotted me and I made the move.

KS: You were part of a highly talented squad at gor Mahia, and you made a big name for yourself there. What specifically worked for you at Gor Mahia?

EM: Yes we had a very good team while at Gor Mahia, and what worked for me at that moment was hard work and not to forget a good friend and focused coach in Zedekiah ‘Zico’ Otieno. He was a father figure and he always inspired us. He brought the best out of us.

KS: You are one of few Kenyan players who made that big and controversial switch from Gor Mahia to rivals  AFC Leopards. What prompted this move? 

EM: (Laughs and pauses). You see, until now people are still saying that it is money that led me to making that move. That is not true. I just wanted a new experience and a different atmosphere. My mother never wanted me to leave Gor Mahia. So certainly the decision was not down to money or any tribal affairs as it is falsely said. No one pushed me to join AFC Leopards.

KS: To date, Gor Mahia fans still haven't forgiven you. Do you have any regrets. Also, has this move ever affected you?

EM: Yes I know some of the fans have never forgiven me to date. I do not blame them since I left at a time when I was a darling to them. I understand when they castigate me or say nasty things, since this is a game of emotions and feelings.


KS: You made the move to AFC Leopards. How do you describe your time there?

EM: My first season at afc was really good. The management ,fans,technical bench plus the players really received me well and  positively. I had a sense of belonging and the club became my second family. It was a great time and that’s why to date I am always grateful to the AFC Leopards family.

KS: Things didn't blossom as much while at Leopards. Why?

EM: While at AFC Leopards,  fame got to my head and I got lazy too. Then I suffered a terrible knee injury that slowed me down big time. I lacked playtime and there was much inconsistency in my season. I could play at times while under injections or painkillers but this wasn't really working. That dealt my career a big blow.

KS: You recently had a stint in Uganda. You however, did not stay long. How was it playing there?

EM: I left AFC Leopards after we had differences with the coach. I got an offer from Express FC  in Uganda. I arrived in Kampala and met the patron/chairlady who introduced me to the team. Unfortunately while training in the second week in August I injured my knee which really made life difficult. The Express FC management saw that it was really expensive for them catering for me. In December, we parted ways on mutual consent. It was a great experience while I was there and I can say they are a good team and were very friendly.

KS: Alcoholism and high life have been said to be the two things that slowed down your career. How true is this?

EM: On alcoholism; Yes it came to a point in my career when I was stressed and depressed about my dip in form and the nasty words that people said about me. I would get abusive calls and messages that really affected me. I was depressed and wrongly sought consolation in alcohol. This worsened matters and it only helped in me missing training, not playing and eventually being a little too careless. It is something I regret to date. I however, learnt from my mistakes and I have to be thankful to my family and parents for being supportive. Allan Wanga, a close friend, also counseled me a lot on the need to focus. On money, I cannot say that it caused my career to slow down. Nonetheless, I am now mature, more focused and settled.

KS: Do you at times feel that you are judged harshly  and misunderstood?

EM: Sometimes critics are there  to either open your eyes or make you stronger. People talk, criticize, judge but I always say that people wouldn't care to talk about you if you are nothing. What people say at times may come out harshly because they misunderstand you. The criticism however, just makes me stronger.

KS: Kindly tell us about your education journey. How much is it to a footballer’s career? Do you plan to focus on education again later in life?

EM: I would advice Kenyan footballers to really consider education and use any slight opportunities to study or get training in particular courses. The career on the pitch is quite short and quite harsh. After my football career, I would wish to be a banker or human resource manager.

KS: Critics say it is a step down for you to move to Ligi Ndogo. What necessitated this move? Are you also looking to start building again from the bottom?

EM: When I recovered from my knee injury, the transfer window was already shut. The coach of Ligi Ndogo met my at my business premise and offered me a chance to train with Ligi Ndogo until the next transfer window. I do not think it's a step down since the coach is a great tactician, the club is good in its own right and there are lots of young and talented players there. I respect the game of football, and I don't consider any club ‘small.’

KS: Have you considered retirement?

EM: Retirement has never crossed my mind I love football and I feel I still have lot to offer.

KS: What’s next for Eric Masika?

EM: I just want to be focussed on where I am playing now and also on personal business. I am a family man so I also want to dedicate more time and create more happiness there. I am looking ahead to a positive 2017. I wish to thank the critics for always pushing me and keeping Eric on his feet. To my fans, I am always thankful for their prayers, support and always believing in me.

KS: Thanks Eric! All the best ahead.

The National 'B' League match between Kimathi and UoN was characterised by missed chances and players slipping down the wet turf at the City Park Stadium.

The match that was played at a sub standard level through out saw UoN players slip on three separate occassios in the first quarter. The turf was watered just before the game and the surface proved unbearable for the university teams. The quality of play however was not as interesting.

After a change of shoes and the coming out of the afternoon sun in the second quarter the match played without anymore funny incidents. Unfortunately there was really not much going on in the second and third quarter to stir up the crowd like the slideshow in the early stages.

The game came to life in the final quarter as each team tried to push for a goal. The game was end to end. UON scored a goal but it was after the referee's whistle and hence did not stand, moments later Kimathi did the same, their goal disallowed as well. Both teams went all out attack. UON wasted shorts corners but it is  Kimathi that will knock themselves as two minutes before time they wasted two clear cut chances. The game ended 0-0 and it was the lack of finness that carried the day as the crowd booed.

The results leave UON third in the National 'B' League with 7 points while Kimathi are at sixth with 4 points.

Two valuable points were dropped by both JKUAT and Sliders, a missive hit in their endeavour to close the gap at the top.

The Ladies Premier match played at City Park Hockey Stadium started at a slow pace. The first quarter was cagey and both teams seemed to be focusing on defence. There was little action and the game was mostly played at the centre of the park.

The second quarter was no different. Both teams were tactical and the outcome was fatigue in both sets of players. In the third quarter however Sliders broke the deadlock from a short corner that was fumbled in goal, 1-0 to Sliders.

JKUAT came for the final quarter with more purpose. They pressed Sliders and finally got their reward. The match ended 1-1. A fair result that reflected their equal strengths.

A point didn't really do any team much good but it was JKUAT who were more pleased by it on the virtual that they cme from behind.

JKUAT remain second on nine points, that is two points more than Chase Amira and Sliders who have both played a game less.

Ghanaian forward Gilbert Fiamenyo will lead the forward line against Posta Rangers in the released line up by coach Stewart Hall.

AFC Leopards line up to face Posta Rangers:

Ian Otieno, Robinson Kamura, Joshua Mawira, Marcus Abwao,Samuel Ndung'u, Duncan Otieno, Bernard Mangoli, , Allan Katterega, Andrew Tololwa, Whyvonne Isuza, Gilbert Fiamenyo

Subs: Gabriel Andika, Yakubu Ramadhan,Salim Abdallah,Paul Kiongera, Marcelus Ingotsi, Juma Simeo,Harun Nyakha

 

Tusker FC line up sees Duncan Ochieng' start in goal ahead of David Okello in their away match against Muhoroni Youth.

Tusker
Duncan Ochieng, Collins Shivachi, Shafik Batambuze, Marlon Tangauzi, James Situma, Martin Kizza, Cercidy Okeyo, Humphrey Mieno, George Mandela, Michael Khamati, Allan Wanga

Subs: David okello, Eugine Asike, Hashim Sempala, Anthony Ndolo, Clifford Alwanga, Abdul Hassan, Jackson Macharia

Here are the Kariobangi Sharks vs Chemelil line-ups

 

Sharks

Jeff Oyemba, Geoffrey Shiveka, Pascal Ogweno, Bolton Omwenga, Michael Bodo, Sven Yidah, Patilla Omoto, Mike Misigo, Mathew Odongo, Duke Abuya, Rodgers Omondi

Subs: Robert Mboya, Wycliffe Otieno, Stephen Odhiambo, Ibrahim Kitawi, Cavin Odongo, Masoud Juma

Chemelil

 Jairus Adira, Willis Ouma, Yusuf Juma, Ouko Smith, Omino James, Ojuang David, Echesa Hillary, Majid Victor, Mwita John, Omondi Cliff, Saphan  Oyugi

Subs: Aimo Richard, Oketch Benjamin, Odeny Faraj, Osure Moses,  Jafary Owiti  Laban Gambareko Adebayo Mustapha.

 Mathare United assistant coach Salim Ali says his side will draw energy from their draw against Chemelil when they  face Gor Mahia on Sunday.

"The draw against Chemelil Sugar was a boost for the team in terms of morale. We know Gor Mahia is a good team. They have quality players both in their starting line up and on the bench. We will certainly have a different approach for this game.

"We have a young team and every match is part of their learning process. They have looked sharp in training and we are looking forward to tomorrow's game with renewed hope," said Salim.

Salim will be in charge of the side as head coach Francis Kimanzi continues to serve his ban from the touchline.

Gor Mahia midfielder Kenneth Muguna will miss the next fixture for Gor Mahia against Mathare United.

The midfielder took to social media on Saturday morning sending this message to fans.

"Good morning friends. A slight knock I picked during our last game has ruled me out of tomorrow's clash against Mathare. I hope to be back in action next weekend. Thanks for your support. Let's turn up and cheer the boys on."

Kenyan Striker Michael Olunga scored his first goal in the Chinese Super League on Friday against league leaders Guangzhou R&F.

Olunga, who plays for Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng, scored in the 22nd minute in his side’s 3-1 win over Guangzhou. This was his first goal in four games and will be looking to score more, after netting twelve times last season for Swedish side Djurgadens IF.

Manchester United held on for a goalless draw in a frantic Manchester derby at the Etihad after midfielder Marouane Fellaini was sent off. The Belgian lost the plot in the 84th minute in a moment of madness when he was booked for bringing down Sergio Aguero, and seconds later he walks over to the Argentine and delivers a headbutt. The referee Martin Atkinson had no choice but to show him a straight red card.

City, who dominated most of the game, thought they had a late winner when Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus noded home a Sergio Aguero cross from a close range but was flagged offside. The young Brazilian, who was put on as a late substitute for his first appearance since being injured in February, took some time to realise his goal won't stand.

The draw leaves City in fourth place, still a point and a place  ahead of their local rivals as Unites extends their unbeaten run to 24 league games.

Manchester will be at a stand still when City welcomes United in the third Manchester derby of the season. Champions League qualification spots are at stake an incentive that will psyche up the players more for the encounter, as if any extra drive was necessary.

The Citizens are a point ahead of their rivals at fourth with 64 points. They will be hoping the FA Cup semi final exit at the hands of Arsenal won't affect their League form. They are however on the back of two consecutive Premeir League wins. 

Pep Guardiola is looking forward to the game and insists United are a very good team with a very good squad. "They are good, good rivals, good quality, in good form. They've had big series without defeat in the Premier League. They have a lot of quality, history. We're looking forward to the game," said the City boss.

United on the other hand remain undefeated in the League since October, remarkable as that might be, most of their results have been draws. They have however collected maximum points in the last 3 league games including a 2-0 win over leaders Chelsea. A run that see them move within a point of top four.

Jose Mourinho affirmed his main target is to qualify for the Champions League and not to finish above their city rivals. Of course United still have the Europa League route to the Champions League.

"It means nothing. If we finish fifth and they finish sixth and we are above them it means nothing," said Mourinho. "If they finish third and we finish fourth they are above us, but it means a lot," he added.

The match will be played at 10pm local time.

Real Madrid played one of the best games of the season and they thrashed (2-6) Deportivo de la Coruña at Riazor. It wasn’t an easy stadium -Barcelona lost and Atlético Madrid drew- but Los Blancos made an exhibition. Again, the substitutes show Zidane that they deserve more minutes. Especially Isco, again brilliant.

Zidane might think in giving the opportunity in the big games to some of these players. Isco, Asensio or Morata are highlighting every time they have the chance. Kovacic or James Rodríguez show also a great quality when they have minutes. If Modric, Bale or Benzema are not fit, perhaps these are the solutions. Today, they play one of the best games of the season.

Messi four goals shy of another milestone at Camp Nou.

Messi is only 4 goals away from his 200th league goal at the Camp Nou.

188 appearances

196 goals

  70 assists

 

The 2017 CAF Champions League Draw was done earlier today in Cairo, Egypt.

The CAF Champions League is Africans' premier club football competition that sees top African clubs in their countries go ahead to head to be crowned champions.

The first round of group fixtures will start on the weekend of May 12. The groups are as follows:

GROUP A
Group A consists of Tunisia powerhouse Etoile du Sahel, Sudanese sides Al Hilal, and Al-Merrikh SC and Mozambique's Clube Ferroviario de Maputo.

GROUP B
Five time Champions League winners  Zamalek lead Group B. They play Zimbabwe Premier League champions CAPS United, USM Alger of Algeria, and Ahli Tripoli of Libyan.

GROUP C
African champions Mamelodi Sundowns will fight to retain their CAF Champions League title following tbeir group stage draw with AS Vita. The South African club will have a score to settle with AS Vita from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a side that was disqualified in last year’s edition to give the Brazilians a way back into the competition despite being knocked out.
The Brazilians will face AS Vita  as well as Saint George S.C. of Ethiopia and Espérance Sportive de Tunis of Tunisia in group C.

GROUP D
Egyptian giants Al Ahly who are on their way to claiming yet another Premier League title, play Wydad Athletic Club, Coton Sport and Zanaco in Group D.

The Gunners went into their Wednesday Premeir League clash against Leceister with only a win to suffice as they try to keep their Champions League hopes alive.

The match against the champions was cagey as they were happy to stay back and let Arsenal kick the ball around with no goal mouth action. It was Mahrez who got the first shot on target, a free shot resulting from a corner but the Algerian drove it right on Cech's path who punched it away.

Leceister showed little gimpses of their old self the little time they had the ball with Vardy and Mahrez hitting the side netting.

Granit Xhaka controlled the midfield as he occasionally sprayed long balls to the wings but the Leicester defence was solid. Theo Walcott got Arsenal's first shot on target when he dipped the ball past a Leicester defender and drew a superb save from Kasper Schmeichel.

Alexis Sanchez had a frustrating first half as he lost possesion on a couple of ocassion but showed what he is capable of on the brink of half time when his shot at the esge of the box hit the crossbar. Level it went at half time.

The second have started on a similar note with Leicester resolute at the back and Arsenal keeping the ball with no break through. Both teams made changes and it was the introductoon of Olivier Giroud for Arsenal that provided presence in the Leicester box. With 4 minutes to go Sanchez's deflected cross aimed at Giroud was knocked back to Nacho Monreal who drilled it towards goal and the ball took a wicked deflection on Roberth Huth for an own goal. 1-0 to the Gunners.

With 4 added minutes Arsenal tried wasting time with Sanchez trying some tricks that landed him in the referee's book with a yellow card. The vital win moved Arsenal to sixth with Leicester's relegation worries back.

In other games, Middlesbrough got one past Sunderland to take them within 6 points of safety at 27 points while Sunderland remain rooted at the bottom with 21 points.

Tottenham got a vital 1-0 away win against Crystal Palace to keep them in touching distance to the league leaders.

The 14th edition of the CAF Confederation Cup Draw held in Cairo, Egypt is out.

CAF Confederation Cup is the second African football club competition organised by Confederation of African Football, CAF after the CAF Champions league. This seasons competition has extended participants in the grouo stage from 8 clubs to 16. The winner of the Confederation Cup will face the winner of the CAF Champions League in the 2018 CAF Super Cup.

Jesse Were's Zesco United is drawn in Group C while defending champions TP Mazembe are drawn in Group D alongside Supersport United.

The full Draw of the knockout stages are as follows:

GROUP A
FUS
Club Africain
Rivers United
Kampala CCA

GROUP B
C.S.S
Platinum Stars
MC Alger
Mbabane Swallows

GROUP C
Zesco United
Club R.D. do Libolo
Al Hilal Elobeid
Smouha

GROUP D
TP Mazembe
Supersport United
Horoya AC
CF Mounana

First matches are set to be played between 12-14th of May.

Burnley midfielder Joey Barton has been banned from football for 18 months after an FA hearing over breaches of betting rules according to Sky Sports.

 Barton accepted a misconduct charge in February and requested a personal hearing after he was accused of placing 1,260 bets on football over a span of 10 years.

An FA statement read: "Joey Barton has been suspended from football and all football activity for 18-months with immediate effect after he admitted an FA misconduct charge in relation to betting.

"It was alleged that between 26 March 2006 and 13 May 2016, he placed 1,260 bets on the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of, or occurrence in, football matches or competitions in breach of FA Rule E8.

"Following the Independent Regulatory Commission hearing, the Burnley midfielder was also fined £30,000 and warned as to his future conduct.

Barton wrote in his own statement: "The decision effectively forces me into an early retirement from playing football. To be clear from the outset here this is not match fixing and at no point in any of this is my integrity in question.

"I accept that I broke the rules governing professional footballers, but I do feel the penalty is heavier than it might be for other less controversial players. I have fought addiction to gambling and provided the FA with a medical report about my problem. I'm disappointed it wasn't taken into proper consideration."

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Those who love him, love him with so much passion. Those who hate him, also do so with the same gusto. If a book on ‘The most hated footballers’ were ever to be written, several chapters would be dedicated to him.

Matatu culture is part of living in Nairobi City and the transport means used by all. Soccer fans use their own cars, buses and matatus for traveling to away matches.

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The figure of Ksh. 600,000 released by Gor Mahia today, as the total gate collections for the Gor Mahia vs Zoo Kericho match in Kisumu are ‘stupid figures’,  Gor Mahia Organizing Secretary Judith Anyango has told Kenyanstar in a long ranging Interview.

Eric Ochieng' aka Cantona is one of most iconic soccer athletes to grace Kenya Premier League in the 1990s.

He is the Kenyan version of Portuguese super agent Jorge Paulo Agostinho Mendes. He is many things to many people, and recently added another feather to his cap by venturing into player and coaches representation. Starting off as a journalist, he grew through the ranks to become a Television producer, took the big risk and ventured into football administration, before jumping ship to start what has been a largely successful venture of talent management.

Even thou they finished fourth in the just concluded Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association Basketball championships, Rueben Muraya is one person who has caught the eyes of many. His dazzling dribbling skills and speed has made him a crowd favorite and a contender for the MVP award.

A terrific dribbler with an eye for goal. His skills and potential on the pitch have always left fans ecstatic. His dazzling runs and fantastic crosses have raised his profile in the local scene. He slowly grew through the ranks both at club and national level. He recently added to the statistics of players who have made the bold move from AFC Leopards to bitter rivals Gor Mahia where he penned a long term contract. 

Besides the magic on the pitch, critics have continually accused him of laziness and being a party animal. Is he? Kenyanstar sat with John ‘Softie’ Ndirangu and here is his story.

Kenyanstar: Thank you for your time. Tell us about your football journey so far.

John Ndirangu: I started playing competitive football at Nakuru AllStars when I was in form 2, by then the club was in playing in Nationwide League. I was with them all along, even when they got promoted in 2014 to the Kenya Premier League.  As a footballer, I have faced both difficult and easy times.

KS: Where did this nickname Softie come from?

JN: I rarely talk too much, and people say my face is soft. So, Softie.

KS: Please tell us about your time at Nakuru AllStars.

JN: It was a bit hard for me since there were the demands on the pitch and at the same time I was schooling. I had to carefully plan my time. However, sometimes it was difficult for me because I had to leave school for training and when I got back to class I was so tired and couldn't focus fully.  

KS: You made a name for yourself  while you were at Allstars. Tell us about your time playing there and your relationship with the players, coach, management etc.

JN: First, I would like to thank Robert Muthomi. He took me as his son, he took care of me,he used to advise me and  managed me well. I also thank everyone who coached me. During my time there, I learnt something from all coaches and this made me grow to who I am today. My teammates were also supportive, as football is a team sport and you support each other. 

KS: You would later join Bandari. However, you never stayed there for long...

JN: I would not wish to discuss about my time at Bandari. It was very difficult for me.

KS: What exactly affected you?

JN: Lack of play time.

KS: Well, you at one point joined Kariobangi Sharks. What necessitated the move?  

JN: After Bandari I went back to Nakuru Allstars to get my form back. However, at the end of the season the team got relegated and so we agreed with Robert Muthomi, the CEO,  that since I had already made my name and was still young, it wasn't proper to play in the lower tier. Therefore I joined Kariobangi Sharks. We agreed with President Nick Mwendwa that if the team won't get promoted to the top league he releases me and that's what happened when I joined AFC Leopards.

KS: Leopards - You joined the club, lots of expectations, but left. Kindly tell us about your time at Leopards.

JN: I enjoyed my time at Leopards and would like to thank the management and coaches. They believed in me and I wish them all the the best. In December, I was asked by Leopards to look for a suitable club where I would go on loan and I felt it was not good for me. Therefore I  asked them to just release me instead. As a team last season we were unlucky not to do well and meet the expectations but I personally think that I played my part and was very surprised when they suggested a loan move for me in the transfer window. 

KS: You have some serious football skills. Very good running, very good dribbles. What's the tactical secret for you?

JN: Apart from talent in me I do watch skillful players like Neymar, Ronaldinho and Cristiano and try apply what I see on the pitch. Besides, I also work very hard.  

KS: Harambee Stars: You have grown from U-23 to the senior team. Tell us about your time and experience so far at Stars

JN: Each and every coach has his style of coaching and the kind of players he wants. I think during Bob Williamson's time I was called several times to the national team. He liked my dribbling skills and speed and he would tell me to just do that in the pitch, since that is what made him like me and give me a call up.  

KS: We haven't seen you at the national team in recent days. Why?

JN: As I have said each and every coach has his style of coaching and kind of players he wants. However, while at AFC Leopards I earned a call up.  

KS: You made what many call a 'daring move' by switching from Leopards to Gor. Do you feel it was a daring move or just any other normal transfer?

JN: I believe if you have talent and you work hard everything is possible. Talent can never be hidden. Kama unajua unajua. For me I see it as a normal move. My time will come and I'll shine.

KS: Gor Mahia - How is life there. What are your targets/goals?

JN: I am enjoying life at Gor. They do things professionally and think that's what differentiates Gor with other clubs. My target is to play as many games and help the team lift the title and in future I go to Europe. 

KS: You have been accused of the following: Missing training at times intentionally, partying a little too much and alcoholism. Your response?

JN: In life you must have friends and enemies and for you to make in life you must have enemies. All these stories came up when I was at Leopards. When Ivan Minnaert left a Luhya coach took over and he only wanted Luhya players. Therefore, Ian otieno and  I decided to stay at home because no matter how hard we worked in training, we weren't being considered.  On the issue of alcohol, I even cannot tell how it tastes. Yes, I used to go to clubs and watch football while drinking Delmonte juice.  

KS: Any closing words? 

JN: I just want to thank God for the gift of life and talent. I also want to tell my fans that they should  not lose hope in me. I know they believe in me and I won't fail them. 

KS: Thanks for your time Softie!

 

READ: John 'Softie' Ndirangu: Major Transfer Or Forced Out? 

Following the news that Serena Williams was two months pregnant when she won the Grand Slam, Rev. Fred Nile MP, has called for the world champion to be stripped of the title, claiming “foetal personhood” means she was unfairly advantaged.

“She was playing doubles in a singles tournament!” Nile screamed at the ‘Day of the Unborn Child’ protest.

“I believe that ‘life at conception’ should be the law, and that clearly means two people won the Grand Slam,” said Nile, who is both an avid fan of professional tennis and aggressively campaigning to legislate how people use their uterus.

“That’s clearly against the rules!”

However, feminists argue Nile’s view that pregnancy is a sporting advantage shows ignorance to the realities facing those who are pregnant.

“Serena Williams was in control of her own body during the Grand Slam tournament, and as such has the right to her title, and the right, always, to bodily autonomy”, said Immy Grantson, an outspoken activist campaigning for progress on women’s issues.

“Williams, like all people, has the right to choose what she does with her body: whether that be powerful backhands, and/or be pregnant”, said Grantson.

This comes at a crucial time in New South Wales legislation. Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi’s End12 Campaign hopes to make it legal for world class athletes to choose whether or not they are pregnant.

When asked for comment by The Garter Press, Venus Williams, who lost to Serena Williams under the now contentious circumstances, said she was “excited to be an aunt”.

Former Inter Milan midfielder McDonald Mariga has come out to praise the Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino for the key role he has paid in developing the career of his brother Victor Wanyama.  

The Kenyan International skipper has been a vital part of the Spurs midfield, prove of just how much Pochettino trusts Wanyama. Big Vic first played under the Argentine gaffer at Southampton and were later reunited at Tottenham last summer.

“He (Wanyama) said Pochettino is the coach who has made him. He’s the one who, when Victor came to Southampton, he taught him what to do and how to play, all the things. He’s the one who taught him everything and made even more qualities for Victor. He gave him exposure and confidence. If you don’t have confidence from the coach, you cannot perform well. He’s helped him a lot,” Mariga told ESPN.

Pochettino’s favorite 3-4-2-1 formation has suited Wanyama perfectly as he provides cover to the wing backs when they move forward to attack, something that has put Wanyama in favor with both the manager and the Spurs supporters.

The midfielder will be expected to take his spot back in the starting XI for the FA Cup semi-final meeting with Chelsea at Wembley this Saturday evening after a minor injury.

As the title race stiffens and Spurs still on track for the cup glory, Wanyama may just be the rock Tottenham needs to win the first trophy in over years.

Everton are considering a pre-season friendly in Tanzania as part of their expected new sponsorship deal with SportPesa.

Drogba had been without a club since leaving MLS outfit Montreal Impact in November, after rejecting a move to Brazilian giants Corinthians in February.

However, the 39-year-old Ivorian striker has finally found a home in Phoenix, where he will also be part of their "MLS expansion franchise ownership group."

Phoenix are in their fourth season in the USL, 12th in the Western Conference with one win after three games.

"I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC," said Drogba.

"After seeing firsthand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch.

"I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS."

Drogba - a two-time African Footballer of the Year – scored 23 goals in 41 competitive appearances for the Impact, having won four Premier League titles and the Champions League among other trophies with Chelsea.

"We want our club and our city to be synonymous with international excellence, and Didier Drogba is a testament to Phoenix Rising FC's commitment to that mission,” said Phoenix Rising club governor Berke Bakay.

"Soccer is an international language understood by sports fans all over the world, and we want to help inspire fluency among new fans everywhere we play throughout North America."

Wilfried Zaha has rejected Gareth Southgate’s suggestion that he had imposed a timescale to be selected again by England, effectively holding the national team to ransom, and has defended his right to instead represent the country of his birth, Ivory Coast.

Bale and Ronaldo both played as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 yesterday. Goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro strengthened their grip on the La Liga title.

However, despite the victory, all is not well at the Santiago Bernabeu. Spanish outlet Diario Gol claimed yesterday that Ronaldo was fuming with Zinedine Zidane for substituting him late on.

The former Manchester United star provided the assist for Benzema's goal but was replaced by Isco in the 79th minute. It was said that Ronaldo believed Bale should have been substituted instead after an abject display.

But Diario Gol claim Bale was also angry after the game. The former Tottenham star's stock is rising in Spain after helping Madrid win the Champions League twice in the past three years. And the Wales international reportedly believes Ronaldo is preventing him from becoming the club's main man.

Bale has to play on the left wing due to Ronaldo's desire to play further up the field. He feels that Zidane is making a mistake by deploying him in that position as he prefers to play on the right, where he can cut inside.

Club chief Florentino Perez is now monitoring the situation as Madrid's two biggest stars aim to do outdo the other. 

"Victor suffered a big injury on his back and we’ll see now what happens. We’re sad for both players and now we have to wait," was Pochetino's response on Victor Wanyama's injury.

A friendly match between Ivory Coast and Senegal was abandoned after 88 minutes after crowd trouble spilled onto the pitch with dozens of fans invading the field of play and confronting players.

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