The State Of AFC Leopards; An Interview With Ingwe CEO, Ronald Namai

A familiar pattern is happening at AFC Leopards, A good start to the league followed by a string of poor performances close to half-way the season... Only this time round, the club CEO assures that they won't be firing the playing staff and hiring new ones. It is for several reasons but ultimately an attempt to have some stability. 

We sat down with AFC Leopards CEO, Mr. Ronald Namai, for an Intrinsic look into the state of AFC Leopards .  

KS: Who is Ronald Namai?

I'm a Kenyan Citizen. I went to high school in Western Kenya, went to Egerton University. I graduated with a Bachelors  in Arts and Economics and I've spent most of my life as a sales person after that. I've sold in the oil industry, I've worked at the bank, I've done insurance sales and so I'm more inclined towards sales management. I'm now managing AFC Leopards on a day to day basis. I'm married to one wife with two children .

KS: You happen to be a Chief Executive Officer of one of the biggest clubs in Kenyan soil... How has it been running AFC Leopards?

I've been here for six months. It has been enjoyable and tough. Enjoyable and tough are two combinations that are suitable for sales people so I think I like what I have seen and I like what we have done. It has been tough in the sense that we have had to make a lot of structural decisions and we continue to make them. Enjoyable because we are seeing some progress off the pitch and I'm hoping in the next few months we also see progress on the pitch.... So it has been a good time so far.

KS: Your appointment elicited mixed reactions across the fan base and membership,  some saying that you forced your way into the job, some saying it was more of a political reward. What's the true position on your appointment?

I will leave that to the appointing authority. But you see towards the end of last year, I was asked to come and help the club. The office was about four months old and they needed to put things together at the secretariat. Most of the NEC members are professionals in their own fields so they didn't have time to come and put things together, especially considering that we were facing a deadline for club registration and licensing. So they asked me to come and help them put together the secretariat and handle the issue of club licensing to ensure that we are in a position to start 2017. It was a short term arrangement  so I was asked to come in and handle that which was supposed to take only a month then hand over the report, which I did. We handed over the report on 16th December and we had managed to get the interim license and I put in my recommendation of where we need to move as a club. So based on that, The club offered to retain me for the time being and try to implement some of those recommendations from the secretariat which I'm currently doing. I don't know how you can force yourself to be a CEO of an institution so I will leave that to whoever makes such comments. I know AFC has a lot of political undertones but in  my capacity as the CEO, I will leave that to the political side.  

KS: Speaking of timelines, your job must surely have a timeline... What is your duration in your contract at Leopards as the CEO?

I don't think I would want to discuss the details of my contract in this forum...But it is time-bound with specific deliverables which  are evaluated every six months then the NEC makes a decisions on what needs to be adjusted and what needs to be done. It is however open in such a way that if the NEC feels that we are not achieving what needs to be achieved, they are free to disengage. If I also feel that I am not getting the support I need, I am free to disengage.... So nobody has been imposed on another. I'm now not on an interim basis.

KS: Over the last ten years, Leopards have not been performing as the fans expect.....In your own opinion and as the CEO of the club, what has been ailing Leopards?

What has been ailing the club is marching the history with the fans expectations and with the resources available.  As someone put it in a separate forum and if I may paraphrase, we as a club operate on a Manchester United history, with a Huddersfield budget and with Arsenal fans' expectations. In brief we have a huge history which gives us a big name, we have a very limited budget within which to operate and our fans' expectations is beyond description. So in the last years, each administration has been coming in and trying to deliver on the fans' expectations without addressing the fundamentals of the club in terms of resources, structuring  and actually having a long-term plan, which is why we have failed every other year. 

At the beginning when we started the season, we made it very clear to our members that we want to bring down the expectations first. Don't expect that we are going to win the league; that is not our target this year. We first want to address the foundations of the club, that will give us a strong position moving forward so that we can now be in a position to be winning titles continuously.

One of the biggest issues at Leopards has been legal issues, we have had more than ten cases in court running from fraud, legality of the office and so many things. We have managed to get licensing from the Federation, we have managed to get the registrar of sports recognize the office that was elected...that has helped us in solving some of those legal issues. We've managed to put together a team to review the constitution in line with the Sports Act and those recommendations are going to be put to the AGM of the members this month. We also revised the constitution to model it along a more corporate and sustainable nature...we moved the elections from annual to three years; that helps in planning. We allowed the office to have a mechanism of replacing those members who leave through cooption and those are the stepping stones that we started with. In the next six months, we should not have any more legal issues.

In the last six months, we have also managed to re-do the membership and have a verifiable register. We just made an announcement a week ago that we have about seven hundred registered members in twenty different branches and some of them have registered individually which is allowed in the constitution. We have issued those members with their membership cards and those branches with their branch certificates. That gives stability to the office to now plan for the future.

We made a decision to start the foundation of the club and have a young squad which we can mould over the next three years to be able to deliver trophies for us. We want players who will be with us for a longer time, work together as a team, grow with us and be part of the success story of the club. If you look at such a time a year ago when we had to let go of thirteen players, this time we might let go of only one player and sign utmost four players. That gives continuity and stability to the team.

We had asked Stewart Hall to be our coach for the next two years but he asked to leave earlier than expected and we have accepted his request. We are only going to replace Hall....the rest of the technical bench will remain the same to ensure stability and continuity of the team. We also plan to have a retreat before the beginning of the next leg and just try to engage our players.

KS: As a CEO, what key administrative strengths are you bringing on the table to make sure that these goals are achieved? 

I've worked in environments like this before and I believe that has prepared me well for this role. Over the last six years, I have been able to interact with a variety of stakeholders of the club so I understand where they stand, I know which kind of people to tap into if there is something that needs to be done in the club.... that gives me a strong footing in trying to drive for the change that we want to.  We have professionals who are willing to volunteer or work at a subsidized rates for the club and my interaction with them gives me an opportunity to engage them very fast. 

KS: Six months in, What would you say are your key achievements?

For starters, We have managed to steer the club away from the corridors of justice. As we speak, we don't have an active court case unlike eight months ago where we had about six court cases. 

We have also had very many conflicts with players during the transfer windows which have ended up in courts and so on. Over the January and this June window, we have not had a case of a player going to court for wrongful dismissal and we are not going to see it in June. we have had discussions, agreed and signed documentation that in June we are only releasing one player, which is by mutual consent.

Thirdly, we have tried having a harmonious working relationship between the NEC and the technical bench. We have had a lot of push and pull between these two in the past. I have tried acting as a shield between the two. Where decisions have to be made, they have to be made objectively and within the law so that we don't have those conflicts spreading into the playing unit. 

We have also been able to go through the membership drive. As a person who has been in this club for a long time, I can confidently say that this is the first time that we have had a membership drive in a non-election year.  That's a very good foundation to go forward.

KS: What about the main challenge?

The main challenge for us is revenue. Most of these things require a financial base. If you look at our audited accounts for 2015, we carried a debt of 32 million shillings. If you look at that debt and our 2016 sponsorship deal which was 45 million, it leaves you with thirteen million yet the club runs on a budget of approximately 4.5 million per month on the lower side.  You can now see the hole that we are in as at 2016. Part of what the previous office did to ensure that they see off 2016 was to borrow money. So last year's borrowing amounted to 8.5 million and we got penalized in various court cases amounting to about 5 million. So it was a huge debt coming into 2017. One of the things we have agreed on is to stop creating more debts because it is going to catch up with us at some point. So this year, we have not borrowed any money and we have been penalized 177,000 for last year's Homeboyz match, which we have paid. We have also paid part of last year's debts.

KS: Can you take us through Vincent Oburu's case?

The issue was about communication and player management. Vincent signed with us in December 2016. We have policies with which we sign players.  We have players who we sign from our junior team where he was playing and we have players who we sign from other clubs, locally and internationally. So we signed with him a three-year contract in December. However as a new player who has never played in the league, he was convinced by other people that the deal was not as good as it should be and that he can get a better deal elsewhere, and they led him to our noisy neighbours to do another contract in January, so we were told. In the normal manner, we took his documents for registration at the Federation and he was registered as our player. On the last day of January, the other team went to the Federation to claim that they wanted to register him yet we had already done that therefore that became a dispute and since the matter was still under dispute, we were not allowed to field him. The matter was eventually resolved in March where he was allowed to play for a team of his choice, but from June as a punishment for entertaining two spouses. So he came to us and said that the club of his choice is AFC Leopards and so we did for him a contract last week which we have handed over to the federation. 

KS: Do you feel you were given a fair ruling in March?

From the bottom of my heart, we did not get a fair ruling given the facts that were laid on the table. In fact we have two rulings; we got a ruling in February clearing the player to play for us and the letter says that the other team did not provide any documentation to confirm that they had signed the player. Our disappointment with the ruling is that although they upheld that there was no documentation to prove that the boy signed for another team, they went ahead and gave him a punishment. But it is a decision that we didn't contest and we didn't want this case to keep dragging  from one place to another. It doesn't work for us nor for the player. 

KS: Having said that, Have you sued the federation?

I personally feel that it was not fair to the club but the better result for us is not engaging in disputes and court cases with the federation. Since we have an opportunity for the player to start playing for us, we would rather let that matter rest.

KS: You were quoted by the press saying that you wanted Gor Mahia  to be punished over player-tapping. what informed your decision to say this or is it just a political statement?

As I've said, there was a court ruling which exonerated AFC Leopards and clearly put blame on Gor Mahia for the activities and things that they did which led to the player not playing in the first leg, and it is in writing from the federation. I made that statement  after getting that ruling in writing from the federation so my concern was I didn't want the federation to just make a statement that we are going to make a follow up. We actually want to know and see the end of this thing if they have punished the culprits. We need to see that punishment being done so that in future, we don't have to engage in the same things. It is illegal, against football rules and regulations and if it allowed to go like that, others are going to do the same. The player and the club have suffered so we still insist to see what the punishment to the culprits is. 

KS: Oburu's case is not the first one. We also previously had Diarra and several others.  what are you doing in your capacity to make sure that this doesn't happen again?

The Diarra and Oburu cases are totally different. For local players, we have been very categorical that we are following the rules to make sure that if we are interested in a player, we engage his club and the federation to ensure that we have the proper documentation as we go to engage the player. The Diarra case was whereby the club engaged the player and the club legally but for one reason or the other,  we did not conclude on our part in good time to ensure that the player can be released to us. So during that gap, the other club upped their offer for the player and the player decided not to move. 

For foreign players, before we can announce that we have a player, we do our check to make sure that all documentation is in place before telling you that we have acquired a player. 

KS: You have had probably the best coach in the country in Stewart Hall but less than a year, he is leaving. How and why did your marriage come to an end?

I don't dispute the qualification or abilities of Stewart Hall. He is a very good guy. As I said, we brought him in on a two-year contract  and explained to him the nature of the club and what we wanted to achieve. To the best of our knowledge, he was happy with what was there and he agreed to the terms that we had negotiated. We have worked very hard to make sure that he has a conducive working environment. we even moved out training from Marist University to St. Paul's University, Limuru because of his recommendations and we've never had a major disagreement  with him. He surprised us when he asked to disengage because we didn't understand the basis. He explained to us that he has family issues that he has to deal with back at home which would not allow him to continue being our coach. He explained that he will not leave Leopards to go and coach another club, locally, regionally or internationally so he wasn't leaving because he had a better offer from another club or because of bad working conditions. So we asked him to give us some time, thought about it and we went back, sat with him and told him that we still believe that he is the right man to be around. But he still gave as no as the answer and insisted that he has to leave in June. So to be very honest, we are still surprised by the turn of events. But this is a professional job so if somebody says they want to pursue a different line in their lives, we have no reason not to allow them and since he gave us notice, we have follow the contract as it obligates. 

KS: How does his departure affect the ongoing development project?

The development should suffer zero consequences. This team is not being built around a coach or an individual. We are building the foundation for Leopards for the next fifty years. No coach is going to be here for the next ten or twenty years, so we want to shield the club from a change of policy because one person has left; be it the Chairman, CEO or anyone. We are still on the project, it is long term and we will sit down with the next coach and speak to him about the project.

KS: Was the project Hall's or NEC's idea?

This is a club's idea. I don't want it to be an individualized idea. So it is a collective thing that we are developing. The club should continue growing on the playing side, commercial side, social side and all areas. So it will not be molded around an individual.

KS: What informed the choice of Hall's successor? Was he recommended by Hall Himself? 

I don't know where you get the impression that he was recommended by Stewart Hall. I will only talk about Marin in the context that we are having discussions with him to be the next coach. He is not confirmed until the paperwork is done. So for now, he is leading the pack but it is not yet done. We are now in the final stages where we are finalizing on the nitty gritties, which are very crucial. So we are making arrangements for him to come, we have a discussion, share with him the project and if he buys it then he will be confirmed as the coach.

KS: You have done a good job convincing the fans that Leopards are developing a squad for the future but still the current results have put Leopards way off target..... From your season projections of a top 5 finish, was this expected?

The fans are not happy and we are also not happy. But how far are we from our target? The first target was a top five finish. We are seven points away from top four so how do you rate that. In my rating, we are not where we want to be but we are off by about two or three matches. We never started the season saying we wanted to chase the leaders, but only top five and that is our target.

Our second target is to do all we can to be in the finals of GOTV cup, with an aim of winning it. GOTV is five matches and so it is the only target of a win that we have this year.

KS: What are the timelines for the `development project' and when can the fans expect the team to compete for trophies again?

We are balancing the two. There is the project which is long term but there is the fans' expectations which you have to address, which is why we have two targets for the year; one on the project and the other on winning the GOTV to show the fans that we are at least on the right track. So you satisfy the fans with some silverware but again you do not move away from the project. 

KS: You are very early in the transfer market, unofficially you are seeking at least two strikers, two midfielders and one defender to strengthen the squad. Unofficially again you are seeking very high profile players in these positions. How does this fit into the development project?

Very early into signing, that's true... it is one of the policies we have that every time we go into signings, we should conclude fast and focus on developing the team. How do the high profiles fit into the development?  Both Kitenge and Kizito, who you might be aware we are pursuing,  fit very well into our two targets for this year... Both of them are twenty and below so they are young players, and this is their second club in their professional career . On the trophy side, these are national team players; Kizito has more than twenty caps for his country so he is the kind of player who you are not bringing into the club to try and mature him up. So the two guys are players who are going straight into the first eleven and that should help us deliver the trophy that we want to.  

KS: Is it true that Leopards is in fact struggling to raise funds for its June transfer targets including the two you mentioned?

Very false. We do not engage if we don't have the capacity to do that... and the reason why we lost players last year was because we did not match the resources offered by other teams. This time, we have matched the resources and the appetite so the personal terms that we have agreed with players, we know we have the capacity to meet it. So there will be no issue about lack of money for payment.

KS: Have you put in mind the possibility of this project not maturing? 

There is that possibility. What happens is we put measures in place to ensure that this vision remains intact beyond the CEO, NEC and others. One of the things as I have said is to de-link it from an individual and make it owned by all club stakeholders.  I will be very happy to see candidates in the next elections campaigning on improving this vision. Second is to entrench it within the legal framework of the club and we are going to put measures including the proposal of some constitutional amendments in the next AGM.  It is not going to have an easy time but we remain focused. We are not chasing away the coach, we are not having legal battles and we have now matured. I am also happy with the way our membership has understood the vision and if we keep that up, I don't think we will be comparable in this region. 

KS: The club has previously been unable to pay players salaries... Should fans expect that to happen again this year?

There will be no salary delays this year. This is because our wage bill has been managed and contained to fit into our cash flow. So I can confirm today that no player will go without salary any month. It has not happened and I don't foresee it happening because we have contained  our wage bill. For allowances, we had issues last year but this year and as I speak, we do not owe any allowances to any player for this season. We have ensured that the leakages that we had are not there anymore. So we are pleading with our membership to remain focused and show maturity, as they have done so far. We are also very pertinent about following the due process in everything that we do. Again most importantly is to live within our means. We know what we receive so we don't want to promise a player that we will give him two million signing fees if we can't.

KS: The club membership has dropped in one year from approximately 5000 members to just above 500... What do you attribute this to?

We have made a number of changes to membership to make it a bit more strict for someone to be a member. A year ago, the qualifications were very different from the current ones.... You would only need to pay five hundred shillings and you would be declared a member. Today, you need to fill in an application form, attach a copy of your ID, sign to the membership code of conduct, attach your photo and pay one thousand two hundred shillings before committing yourself to be a member for one year. I don't think the numbers have actually dropped because we started this exercise in February and by end of April, we were at seven hundred.... By the end of the year, I see us going back to around four or five thousand members. Given the stringent nature of requirements now, it informs us that people want to see an organized team and they will be members. We are looking to have a membership of ten thousand and above in the next two years. 

KS: What efforts are in place to raise the club's membership numbers? 

One was to put up a membership framework which is clearly understood. Another thing is to establish strong branches which will help reach out to more people in different areas. We now have twenty branches across the country and they have targets to grow numbers every year. If we can grow the number of branches to fifty with one branch having a hundred members, that will take us to five thousand. If each member can bring in one other member over the next two years, we'll hit our ten thousand target. 

Another step we are now taking is to put together a membership value proposition which we are working together with the branches to do, which will entice people to come on board as members. That will distinguish a fan from a member. Right now that is more of sentimental value but we want to move it from sentimental to real value. 

We also want merchandise to be discounted for members because it is one area which we know branch members have a proposal they want to bring to the AGM, and it is welcomed.  We already have membership cards which we want to digitalize, which one should be able to put money in those cards going forward so that one will come and tap at the gate and enter into the stadium, without needing to purchase a ticket.

KS: The club has a kit partner, Right? How much is the club getting from this kit partner? While at it there have been issues of fake merchandise and the club seems to be silent about this matter...what steps are you taking to deal with it?

We do not have a kit partner. I don't know where you get that kind of information. We are in discussions with two kit manufacturers for purposes of securing a kit partner for 2018. For 2017, we do not have any. What we have is an arrangement where we buy. We have a supplier whom we have agreed  on terms for supplying us with specified merchandise. Going forward, we should have a decision by the end of August on one that will be brought on board as a kit supplier for 2018. 

KS: What is the club doing to increase the numbers in the stadium?

We have a very engaging arrangement with our branch network. Our branches have a target that they have given themselves in terms of ensuring that we grow match attendance and we engage with them on a weekly basis to try and see how to improve match attendance. Some of the things we are doing in the arrangement is organized transport to ensure that most people can afford and have a way of getting to the stadium. We are also developing a code of conduct for members of the club who travel mainly to ensure the safety of our fans and other people in the stadium is guaranteed. We want to have this safety discussion internally and punish those who are not abiding by it. So we are not going to compromise on the security of fans coming into the stadium. That should help us. 

KS: In the last elections, you were in Dan's coalition and part of what you promised the fans was that at the end of your term, the fans should ask you about a stadium... Two years to go now, Will AFC Leopards have a stadium in two years? 

It is true I was in Dan's team but we are not going to build that stadium. We have plans to build and develop a training ground for the club and we have a group of members who want to pursue the issue of building a stadium. We have given them the green light to put together a framework for achieving that so it is something that a section of the members want to pursue and we want to support them in whichever way possible. But for the office, we want to acquire and develop a training ground for the team.

How far have we gone with that? We have engaged one of the state corporations that has land to lease us some of the land at a reasonable rate on long term, to develop the training ground. So we have already had two meetings and the land that is being proposed is at a very strategic place and is a place where you can actually develop into a stadium. We hope that by the end of the year, we will have something tangible to put on the table so that going into next year, we move into the actual development of the facility. If that will not work, part of the revenues that will come from the new partners will be directed into acquisition of land to develop a training ground. 

KS: How much have you suffered as a club since the exit of SuperSport?

We had already engaged KPL and SuperSport to give us space on the  advertising boards to bring in partners who might not necessarily have huge financial muscles but they can pay in a certain amount of money to appear on those boards. We had already been given the go ahead to market seventeen boards in every match and we had now started engaging partners interested. So the exit of SuperSport  put a stop in those discussions and it has had a negative impact on us. The live transmission of those matches  enabled us to reach more fans than those who come into the stadium but the exit has now limited us. There are also revenues that come from broadcasting matches on SuperSport  and the revenue has now disappeared, so it eats in to our revenues. I know the KPL and FKF are working on a new frame work, which we support and want to be actively involved in negotiating. We are not going to accept another SuperSport kind of deal in broadcasting our matches, where we are restricted and given the same amount of money like the rest. As AFC Leopards, we are going to put our foot down that we must get a share commensurate to the value that we give to the league. They cannot go and negotiate a deal worth 200 million based on the value of AFC Leopards and then come and tell us that the revenue we are going to get is the same revenue as Nairobi City Stars. We are not going to accept.

KS: What is the compliance status of the club with the Sports Act?

The compliance status is 90%. Our constitution has some gaps we need to align with the Sports Act. There are about five items that were identified, we have had discussions with the registrar of sports and those five items will be up for approval by the AGM so that we are now in line with the Sports Act. We expect that by July, we should be fully aligned and registered but for now, we have an interim certificate. 

KS: What are your targets as the club goes to compete in the SportPesa Super Cup?

The target is to win. We really want that money so we want to win. But most important is to use it as an opportunity to re-invent our year, away from the pressure from fans. We want to get good results then come and build on those results in the league. 

KS: It's an election year. What role do you think AFC Leopards plays in National elections?

We want to shield the club from politics, especially this year's. Leopards has a fanbase from across the country and we do not want the club to take sides or be seen to be taking sides. We are a football club, not a political entity. As the leaders of the club, we do not want to take our members into divisions of  supporting sides. We are not going to take sides in the elections and every member is free to make his/her own decision in whatever way they want. So we are non-partisan and welcoming players from whichever political side to work with us.

KS: What is your parting shot to members and fans of AFC Leopards?

This is a very interesting and exciting time for the club, and I would encourage all those people who associate themselves with the club to come forward, engage and share their ideas with us. Our offices are at Vision Plaza on Mombasa Road, which are in third floor and is open from 8-5. We want as many diverse ideas as possible so as to move this club forward. We are on all social media platforms so let us use all these to interact with the club. Let us use this time to make the club bigger than we have ever seen and dreamt of, and it also an opportunity for us to chat a new direction for the club.

We should move away from just sitting, whining and complaining, and take up the responsibility of actively participating and shaping up the destiny of this club. As the CEO of the club, I promise that I will welcome all ideas and people, without fear of political or tribal affiliations. We want to be competing on the continental stage , so come and do your part. Come to the stadium, pay at the gate and support the club. We will win, draw, and lose matches but that does not mean the club is on the wrong footing. 

A last minute goal by Leandra Smelda rallied South Africa to a 2-1 win over hosts Zimbabwe to be crowned this year's COSAFA Women's Cup winners on Sunday September 24 at the Bulawayo Stadium in Zimbabwe.

Thembi Kgatlana  has given South Africa in the 45th minute before lethal striker Rutendo Makore equalized for the hosts in the 73rd minute. Leandra Smeda then sent the South Africa's technical bench into jubilation with a goal in the 90th minute which all but sealed the title for Banyana Banyana.

South Africa have now won the tournament a record four times, having lifted it in 2002, 2006 and 2008. Losing finalists Zimbabwe are the only other team to have won the tournament having done that in 2011.

 

Bandari FC's miseries continued on Sunday September 24 after losing 1-0 to Chemelil Sugar in a Round of 27 match played at the Mbaraki Sports Club.

An 85th minute penalty converted by Alexis Kitenge was all AFC Leopards needed to get past a tough Vihiga United on Saturday September 24 at the Afraha Stadium and consequently book a date with Kariobangi Sharks in the finals of this year's Gotv Shield tournament.

In a match that Vihiga were the better side, Clyde Nevade had the first chance for thema in the 2nd minute just outside the box but his uncalculated shot went wide off target. Dennis Simiyu then saw his header saved by keeper Ian Otieno in the 17th minute after he had risen the highest to connect with Nevada's cross. 

The best chance for the National Super League leaders came in the 21st minute from a counter attack, Kevin Ichiami flinging a through ball to Rashid Kyambadde but once again Ian Otieno reacted the quickest to prevent his side from going down.

Vihiga keeper Barnabas Tiema then followed the footsteps of his equal opponent ten minutes with a brilliant save to deny Alexis Kitenge who had taken a shot at goal.

In the second half, Leopards coach Robert Matano decided to introduce Keziron Kizito and Marcelus Ingotsi for Vincent Oburu and Whyvonne Isuza respectively in a bid to spice up his attack.

Substitute Kizito almost made an impact in the 77th minute following Samuel Ndungús pass but saw his shot fail to find the target.

Just as the match seemed to be headed into post-match penalties, Leopards were awarded a penalty five minutes from time following defender Edwin Otieno's apparent hand ball inside the box. Burundian international Alexis Kitenge stepped up to take the resulting penalty, burying the ball to the far left corner to earn his team a hard fought 1-0 win over Vihiga.

Ingwe will now clash with fellow league competitors Kariobangi Sharks in the finals of the competition. Sharks eased past SoNy Sugar 2-0 in the first semifinal.

Leopards Starting XI: Ian Otieno,  Michael Kibwage, Dennis Shikhayi,  Abdallah Salim, Robinson Kamura, Samwel Ndungu,  Musa Mudde, Duncan  Otieno, Alexis Kitenge,  Whyvonne Isuza,  Vincent Oburu

Reserves: Mukolwe, Nyakha, Kizito, Majid, Wanami, Ingotsi, Yakubu

Vihiga Starting XI: 1.Tiema Barnabas (GK), 2. Edwin Mukoya , 3. Dennis Ombeva , 4. Liuva Mophat , 5. Ochieng Bernard , 6. Imbalabala Martin (C), 7. Christopher Masinza , 8. Kevin Muhanji , 9. Rashid Kyambade , 10. Clyde Senaji , 11.Dennis Wafula

Subs: Frank Mwenda (GK), David Kavaji , Soita Silicho , Okulo Patrick , Airo Godfrey , Dennis Lugalia, Gideon Abucheri

 

 

Masoud Juma's goals in either half secured a place for Kariobangi Sharks in the finals of this year's Gotv Shield tournament after overcoming SoNy Sugar 2-0 on Sunday September 24 at the Afraha Stadium.

Sharks were more determined from the start and had a chance in the 4th minute when Michael Bodo initiated a counter attack, but SoNy Sugar defenders stood firm on ground to snatch the ball from Ellie Asieche.

The Nairobi based club was then dealt a blow in the 27th minute,  Pattillah Omoto being forced out of the game with an injury and was substituted by Christopher Kimathi. They however took the lead just three minutes through dangerman Masoud Juma who showed keeper Kevin Omondi what he is capable of doing with the ball. 

SoNy then sort a reply in the 33rd minute but Wycliffe Otieno was swift to clear the ball out of danger.

In the second half, the sugar millers came back stronger in search of an equalizer but Masoud Juma put the match beyond reach for them with his second goal in the 80th minute. 

The 2-0 victoryautomatically secures Sharks' a place in the finals of the competition, where they will face the winner between AFC Leopards and Vihiga United in the other semifinal.

Kariobangi Sharks Starting XI: Jeff Oyemba, Michael Bodo, Geoffrey Shiveka (c), Wycliffe Otieno, Paul Kamau, Sven Yidah, Patilla Omoto ( Christopher Kimathi), Elli Asieche, Duke Abuya ( Francis Manoah), Mathew Odongo, Masoud Juma

Subs: Malcolm Oigo, Pascal Ogweno, Ibrahim Kitawi, Cavin Odongo, Ebrimma Sanneh.

SoNy Sugar Starting Xi: Kevin Omondi. Bernard Omondi. Dennis Junior, Joseph Omweri, Alfred Onyango, Nick Akoko, Benjamin Mosha, Fredrick Onyango, Mwana Yema, Amos Asembeka, Justin Monda,

Subs: Tom Muthomi, Samuel Otieno, Justin Omari, Clement Owino, Tobias Otieno, David Simiyu, Laban Gambareko.

 

Vihiga United head coach Edward Manoah has released hi starting lineup that will face AFC Leopards in the semifinals of the Gotv Shield tournament on Sunday September 24 at the Afraha Stadium.

The match kicks of at 14:30

Starting XI: 1.Tiema Barnabas (GK), 2. Edwin Mukoya , 3. Dennis Ombeva , 4. Liuva Mophat , 5. Ochieng Bernard , 6. Imbalabala Martin (C), 7. Christopher Masinza , 8. Kevin Muhanji , 9. Rashid Kyambade , 10. Clyde Senaji , 11.Dennis Wafula

Subs: Frank Mwenda (GK), David Kavaji , Soita Silicho , Okulo Patrick , Airo Godfrey , Dennis Lugalia, Gideon Abucheri

 

Ian Otieno has been handed a starting berth in goal as AFC Leopards head coach Robert Matano unleashed a strong starting lineup that will take on Vihiga United in the semifinals of the Gotv Shield tournament on Saturday September 24 at the Afraha Stadium from 14:30.

Otieno will be covered in defense by Michael Kibwage, Dennis Shikhayi,  Abdallah Salim and Robinson Kamura. Samuel Ndungu and Musa Mudde will pull strings in midfield while the attacking trio of Alexis Kitenge,  Whyvonne Isuza and Vincent Oburulead the team upfront in search of goals that would earn them a ticket in the finals of the competition.

Starting XI: Ian Otieno,  Michael Kibwage, Dennis Shikhayi,  Abdallah Salim, Robinson Kamura, Samwel Ndungu,  Musa Mudde, Duncan  Otieno, Alexis Kitenge,  Whyvonne Isuza,  Vincent Oburu

Reserves: Mukolwe, Nyakha, Kizito, Majid, Wanami, Ingotsi, Yakubu

 

It wasn’t the race that anybody anticipated, but Eliud Kipchoge came away from the 2017 Berlin Marathon on Sunday with the win in 2:03:32 and some unanticipated late-race competition from a newcomer to the distance. 

Although the prerace hype focused on a battle between the “big three” of Kipchoge, Wilson Kipsang, and Kenenisa Bekele, by 30K the competition came down to just Kipchoge and Guye Adola, a 26-year-old Ethiopian running his first marathon. Bekele lost the lead pack just past the halfway point (he eventually dropped out) and Kipsang suddenly stopped at 30K without showing any signs of distress. 

Adola came with a personal best of 59:06 for the half marathon and now is the owner of the fastest marathon debut ever, finishing second in 2:03:46, besting Dennis Kimetto's 2:04:16 previous debut record he set in 2012.

Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia was third in 2:06:09.

Although the goal was to beat Kimetto's world record time of 2:02:57, the leaders fell off that pace after 30K. They passed the halfway point in 1:01:29, putting them within reach, though it was not to be in the end. The weather conditions were not ideal and likely made such lofty objectives difficult, with rain, 97 percent humidity, and a starting temperature of 58 degrees.

Kipchoge, 32, is from Kenya and the 2016 Olympic marathon champion. He became a fan favorite following the Nike Breaking2 experiment, where he ran a 2:00:25 on a racetrack in Monza, Italy. Though it remains the fastest time ever for 26.2 miles, it didn’t count as an official record because of the tactics used, such as the team of rotating pacesetters who aided his attempt to break two hours.

With his race on Sunday, Kipchoge now owns three of the fastest marathons in history, not including his Breaking attempt.

In the women's race, Kenya's Gladys Cherono claimed the win in a time of 2:20:21. Ethiopia's Ruti Aga finished second in 2:20:41 with Kenya's Valary Ayabei claiming third in 2:20:53.

 

On Saturday September 24, The CAF Executive Committee under the chairmanship of CAF President Ahmad held a special meeting in Accra, Ghana where they deliberated on several issues regarding African football.

A last minute goal by Leandra Smelda rallied South Africa to a 2-1 win over hosts Zimbabwe to be crowned this year's COSAFA Women's Cup winners on Sunday September 24 at the Bulawayo Stadium in Zimbabwe.

Thembi Kgatlana  has given South Africa in the 45th minute before lethal striker Rutendo Makore equalized for the hosts in the 73rd minute. Leandra Smeda then sent the South Africa's technical bench into jubilation with a goal in the 90th minute which all but sealed the title for Banyana Banyana.

South Africa have now won the tournament a record four times, having lifted it in 2002, 2006 and 2008. Losing finalists Zimbabwe are the only other team to have won the tournament having done that in 2011.

 

On Saturday September 24, The CAF Executive Committee under the chairmanship of CAF President Ahmad held a special meeting in Accra, Ghana where they deliberated on several issues regarding African football.

The German Bundesliga continues this weekend with nine matches on the cards from Friday September 22 to Sunday September 24.

Below are all weekend fixtures (All times are in EAT)

FRIDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER

Bayern Munich 21:30 VfL Wolfsburg

SATURDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER

Mainz 05 16:30 Hertha BSC

RB Leipzig 16:30 Eintracht Frankfurt

Werder Bremen 16:30 SC Freiburg

1899 Hoffenheim 16:30 FC Schalke 04

VfB Stuttgart 16:30 FC Augsburg

Borussia Dortmund 19:30 Borussia Mönchengladbach

SUNDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER

Hannover 96 16:30 FC Köln

Bayer 04 Leverkusen 19:00 Hamburger SV

 

Round six of the Spanish LaLiga takes place this weekend, with ten fixtures expected to be played between Saturday September 23 and Monday September 25.

Below are all weekend LaLiga fixtures (All times are in EAT)

 

SATURDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER

Atlético Madrid 14:00 Sevilla

Alavés 17:15 Real Madrid

Malaga 19:30 Athletic Bilbao

Girona 21:45 Barcelona

SUNDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER

Espanyol 13:00 Deportivo La Coruña

Getafe 17:15 Villarreal

Eibar 19:30 Celta Vigo

Las Palmas 19:30 Leganés

Real Sociedad 21:45 Valencia

MONDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER

Real Betis 22:00 Levante

 

The Barclays Premier League continues this weekend with a total of ten matches programmed to be played between Saturday September 23 and Monday September 25.

Below are all weekend matches (All times are in EAT)

SATURDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER

         West Ham United 14:30 Tottenham Hotspur

                       Burnley 17:00 Huddersfield Town

                       Everton 17:00 AFC Bournemouth

           Manchester City 17:00 Crystal Palace

              Southampton 17:00 Manchester United

                   Stoke City 17:00 Chelsea

              Swansea City 17:00 Watford

              Leicester City 19:30 Liverpool

SUNDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER

Brighton & Hove Albion 18:00 Newcastle United

MONDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER

                      Arsenal 22:00 West Bromwich Albion

 

Chelsea are loaning Diego Costa to Atlético Madrid for the rest of the season and the Spanish club have committed to buy him for €65 million (£57.1m) at the end of that arrangement.

The deal for Costa to leave was finally struck after it was agreed that Chelsea would not subsidise his wages, even though he cannot play for Atlético until January because of their transfer ban, or pay him any loyalty bonus.

The terms of the agreement mean that Costa is no longer Chelsea’s concern and can now travel to Madrid to complete his medical and agree personal terms  – and is expected to be presented to the supporters before the home game against Sevilla on Saturday.

 After that, of course, Atlético face Chelsea at their new Wanda Metropolitano stadium in the Champions League and it will be fascinating to see whether Costa is in the stands for that eagerly-anticipated encounter.

Given Costa has gone AWOL for 11 weeks, spending the entire summer in Brazil, and has refused to return to Chelsea this season, then the notion of a loyalty payment would seem remarkable although contractually it related to a percentage of any transfer fee agreed being due to him under his contract.

Chelsea have repeatedly fined Costa during his absence, insisting that he is an employee in breach of contract. The Professional Footballers’ Association blocks players being fined more than two weeks' wages but that is only in the case of them making themselves available to play. Costa has not done that and given he earns £150,000-a-week then he may well be £1.5m out of pocket.

To do this Chelsea have adhered to a four-point plan – that Costa, despite his desire to go, needed to return to England, train, get fit and get himself in contention – despite, also, manager Antonio Conte having texted the 28-year-old to tell him he was not part of his plans.

Chelsea were always prepared to sell Costa but the message from owner Roman Abramovich was clear: he would not be allowed to force his way out on the cheap. It almost became a point of principle at the club. Atlético, whose coach Diego Simeone has driven the deal, had initially offered as little as £26m for Chelsea’s top-scorer last season in the belief that the Stamford Bridge hierarchy would simply want rid of him. There was a fear at Chelsea that Atlético may make a similarly low offer in January.

Costa is not allowed to play until then because of the transfer ban on Atlético which may, actually, have helped him to secure his move given the club were close to signing Alexandre Lacazette before he agreed a deal to join Arsenal. Costa has been determined to return to his former club, three years after left in July 2014 when his £32m release clause was triggered, since summer 2016. Indeed he told Conte on the preseason tour of the United States 14 months ago, soon after the Italian was appointed, that he wanted  to go back to Madrid. But, at that time, Atlético bought the French striker Kevin Gameiro instead.

Costa has always been a firm favourite of Simeone who wanted him back at the club and even demanded it as part of his recent contract negotiations. The Spanish international will be allowed to train with Atlético but he cannot be registered to play for them until the ban is lifted on January 1 2018

 

Trailing 3-0in the 70th minute, South Africa offered perfect response to Zambia by equalizing and overcoming them on post-match penalties to reach the finals of the continuing COSAFA Women's Cup.

Barbara Banda had given Zambia the lead in the 21st minute before Chanda's 45th minute goal doubled their lead heading into halftime. Chileshe had the chance to make it 3-0 six minutes after the restart from the spot but saw her effort go wide off target. Zulu however made it three for Zambia in the 75th minute to double their hopes of storming into the finals.

The turn over started two minutes later when Leandra Smelda scored two quick goals, one from the penalty spot before Rafiloe Jane's 84th minute strike restored parity for Banyana Banyana.

With the scores tied at 3-3 after the final whistle, the two teams went into a penalty shootout where South Africa won 5-3 to book their spot into the finals of the competition.

They will now face the winner of the second semifinal clash between Kenya and hosts Zimbabwe.

 

East African guest nation Kenya proved the big winners on the day as they thumped Mauritius 11-0 in their Group B clash at the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship at the Luveve Stadium in Bulawayo on Saturday.

The result leaves Kenya top of the pool on goal-difference from Swaziland, who were held to a 2-2 draw by Mozambique, with those two sides to meet in their final match on Monday

Neddy Okoth was the hero again for the guests as she netted four goals to go with her hat-trick in Kenya’s 5-2 opener against Mozambique on Thursday, and now leads the scoring charts in the tournament with seven goals. Lucy Mukhwana and Jereko Adam were also on the scoresheet for the Kenyans as they grabbed a brace each.

Mozambique battled back for a point as Betinha struck late in their 2-2 draw with Swaziland, who had led twice via Celiwe Nkambule and Nqobile Dlamini. Lucia had also earlier netted for Mozambique, who have kept their hopes alive of finishing as one of the best placed runners-up.

Botswana also kept themselves in contention for a semifinal spot with a 3-0 victory over Lesotho.

All of their goals came in the opening 26 minutes through Boitumelo Gammu and Bonang Otlhagile (two) as the Lady Zebras picked up a first ever victory in the COSAFA Women’s Championship.

Sunday will see the conclusion of two pools as hosts Zimbabwe look to secure top spot in Group A when they take on Malawi (14h00 local; 12h00 GMT), who have been Jekyll and Hyde in this tournament both winning and losing by 6-3 scorelines in their last two games.

Malawi have it all to play for as a win could take them top of the pool if Zambia don’t win their final match against Madagascar at the same time. Zimbabwe and Zambia both have four points, while Malawi have three and the Malagasy zero.

In Group C, South Africa will hope to seal top spot when they take on Botswana at the Luveve Stadium (16h30 local; 14h30 GMT), but will also be wary of their opponents.   Namibia will be waiting for any slip-ups as they take on Lesotho at the same time, who are now out of contention for a place in the semifinals.

South Africa have a full haul of six points from their two games, while Namibia and Botswana have three and Lesotho none.

Only the top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals, along with the best-placed runner-up.

 

 SATURDAY’S RESULTS

All at Luveve Stadium

Kenya 11 (Adam 9’, 85’, Okoth 25?, 32?, 45?, 51’, Mukhwana 34?, 49’, Salano 54’, Nixon 79’, Rassoie 90og) Mauritius 0

Lesotho 0 Botswana 3 (Gammu 3’, Otlhagile 22?, 26’)

Mozambique 2 (Lucia 74’, Betinha 90’) Swaziland 2 (Nkambule 49’, Nq. Dlamini 75’)

SUNDAY’S FIXTURES

All at Barbourfields Stadium

Zambia vs Madagascar (14h00 local; 12h00 GMT) – Barbourfields Stadium

Zimbabwe vs Malawi (14h00 local; 12h00 GMT) – Luveve Stadium

Namibia vs Lesotho (16h30 local; 14h30 GMT) – Barbourfields Stadium

South Africa vs Botswana (16h30 local; 14h30 GMT) – Luveve Stadium

 

 GROUP A                    P          W        D         L          GF       GA       GD       PTS

Zimbabwe                 2          1          1          0          5          1          +4        4

Zambia                      2          1          1          0          7          4          +3        4

Malawi                      2          1          0          1          9          9          0          3

Madagascar              2          0          0          2          3          10        -7         0

GROUP B                    P          W        D         L          GF       GA       GD       PTS

Kenya                        2          2          0          0          16        2          +14      6

Swaziland                   2          1          1          0          5          2          +3        4

Mozambique               2          0          1          1          4          7          -3         1

Mauritius                    2          0          0          2          0          14        -14       0

GROUP C                    P          W        D         L          GF       GA       GD       PTS

South Africa                2          2          0          0          6          1          +5        6

Namibia                      2          1          0          1          5          3          +2        3

Botswana                    2          1          0          1          3          4          -1         3

Lesotho                       2          0          0          2          0          6          -6         0

 

 TOURNAMENT STATS

Matches Played: 12

Goals scored: 63

Biggest victory: Kenya 11 Mauritius 0 (Group B, September 16)

Most goals in a game: 11 – Kenya 11 Mauritius 0 (Group B, September 16)

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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.

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Mutuyimana started professional football with Rwandese side Kiyovu Sport before joining Police Kibungo in 2011.The 26-year old then moved to Kenyan side Sofapaka in June 2014 where he played for three seasons. He later moved to Rayon SC, where he was the reserve goalkeeper until his demise.

Mutuyimana has also featured for the Rwanda national team, his most notable appearance being in a 5-1 loss to Tunisia in an International Friendly back in May 2012.

“As Rayon Sports officials, we want convey our message of condolences to all the club fans and family following the death of goalkeeper Evariste Mutuyimana this Tuesday morning.” his club posted on social media.

 

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.

Work has been completed on the first proposed venue for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar - the Khalifa International Stadium. More than five years before the tournament kicks off, Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) has confirmed extensive renovations on the 40,000-seater venue are now finished.

The renovations include the installation of revolutionary cooling technology promised during Qatar's successful bid, which will keep the pitch at an optimum 26 degrees and the stands somewhere between 24 and 28 degrees.

SC secretary general H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi said: "The completion of our first stadium more than five years before the Qatar World Cup begins is an important milestone that reflects our determination to deliver a tournament the entire Arab world is proud to be a part of.

"As we promised in our bid, our innovative stadiums offer an unrivalled experience to fans and players alike. I'm proud we can show these off to the world and welcome fans with the hospitality this World Cup will be remembered for."

The stadium, originally constructed in 1976, will first host the 2017 Emir Cup final on Friday and will also be the venue for the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Qatar Football Association (QFA) president Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani added: "Khalifa International Stadium is close to Qatari hearts and has seen some of Qatar's biggest sporting occasions over the years since it was first launched in 1976.

"It is therefore a fitting venue for the biggest match of Qatar's football calendar, the 2017 Emir Cup final between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd, and we look forward to welcoming fans into the magnificent remodelled stadium on Friday evening."

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."

Africa champions Cameroon were thumped 4-0 in Tuesday's international friendly against Colombia only five days before their Confederations Cup opener.

The Indomitable Lions beat Egypt to win the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon earlier this year, but despite downing Morocco at the weekend, they were thoroughly outclassed by Jose Pekerman's side at Getafe's Coliseum Alfonso Perez Stadium

James Rodriguez opened the scoring with a fine effort from a narrow angle after 16 minutes when he beat Andre Onana with a thunderous effort, before Yerry Mina doubled the South Americans' lead 15 minutes later with a header. Mina added a second in the 52nd minute when he converted a fine delivery from Giovanni Moreno, but not before Spartak Trnava's Ndip Tambe had been sent off after tangling with Wilmar Barrios.

Substitute Jose Izquierdo completed the rout five minutes before time when he broke his international duck with a powerful strike.

The result adds to a troubled Confederations Cup build-up for Cameroon, who have lost first-choice left-back Ambroise Oyongo ahead of the tournament after he ruptured his patellar tendon against Morocco.

Similarly, FIFA has acknowledged the internal problems within the country's football administration, with some within the nation convinced that Tombi A Roko Sidiki's current regime has no authority to run the football federation.

Cameroon are competing in their first Confederations Cup since 2003, and have been drawn alongside Germany, Chile and Australia.

 

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