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Ballon d’Or open to women for first time

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A women’s Ballon d’Or will be launched this year, marking the first occasion the prestigious award will be open to female footballers.

France Football, the magazine responsible for handing out the award, gave the first Ballon d’Or to Sir Stanley Matthews in 1956.

The award has only been open to male footballers since then, but a female equivalent will now be presented at France Football’s awards ceremony on December 3 in Paris.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Pascal Ferre, told The Associated Press: “Women’s soccer is a booming discipline that deserves the same respect as men’s soccer. It’s coming to maturity and growing bigger.

“More than 760m TV viewers watched games at the last women’s World Cup in 2015. This did not happen by chance.”

Fifteen nominees will be shortlisted by France Football on October 8, after which a panel of journalists specialising in women’s football will choose who they feel has been the outstanding female footballer of 2018.

Ferre explained: “The jury won’t be the same as the jury voting for the men. Only experts can vote.

“I’m confident we will get a jury of about 40 journalists, from countries where women’s soccer is growing.”

FIFA, which hands out its own end-of-year awards, already gives a trophy to who they consider to be the best female footballer. Lieke Martens, the Barcelona and Netherlands midfielder, won in 2017.

Ferre adds the female players he has spoken to have been positive about France Football’s decision, saying: “They are thrilled and can’t wait for it.

“They are very proud to see that the world of soccer considers that women should be treated in the same respect as men.”

The magazine is also launching an award for the best young player of the year, which will be named after Raymond Kopa – the first French Ballon d’Or winner who passed away last year.

A shortlist of 10 U21 players will be selected, before a panel of former Ballon d’Or winners decides on the victor. 

Ronaldo, Modric, Salah battle for FIFA World’s Best Player Award today

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On Monday evening, London’s Royal Festival Hall will host FIFA’s ceremony of the Men’s Player Award 2018, where Egyptian king Mohamed Salah vies with Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric.

The stars of the ceremony will be received on the green carpet at 6 PM London time, and 7 PM Cairo time, FIFA announced through its official Twitter account.

Celebrations will commence at 7:30.

Finally, the winner will be announced at 9:00 pm.

This year, Salah became first Arab ever to compete for the FIFA Men’s Player Award.

To many, his nomination comes as no surprise; the Liverpool forward emerged as the top scorer of the Premier League and has swept almost every major award, from the prestigious Golden Boot to BBC’s African Player of the Year (2017).

Salah helped lead Liverpool to the Champions League final and was shortlisted for the “Best Champions League Forward”, award along with Ronaldo and Messi.

In this year’s FIFA World Cup, Salah became a national treasure after single-handedly leading Egypt to the cup finals, for its first time since 1990.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo comes in with two consecutive “FIFA Men’s Player” awards already under his sleeve, from 2016 and 2017.

Moreover, the 33-year-old boasts an incredible season, having won 2018 Champion’s league in May before moving from Real Madrid to Juventus.

Luka Modric was crowned the Champion’s League winner and was indispensable to World Cup runner-up Croatia.

The midfielder also recently won the “UEFA Player of the Year” award ahead of Salah and Ronaldo, in addition to swooping the World Cup’s 2018 “Golden Ball” award after a stellar performance, which helped bring Croatia to its unexpected World Cup final against France.

The top ten candidates for the FIFA Men’s Player Award were chosen by a panel of esteemed FIFA players and experts. The winner will be determined through a vote by team captains, coaches, esteemed journalists and fans.

Each group of voters will account for 25 percent of the vote.

I'm ready to initiate reforms for true reconciliation - Pinnick

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President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick has disclosed that he would initiate reforms that would help to reflect true reconciliations.

He stated this on Thursday after being declared the winner of the NFF Presidential election held in Katsina State, where he polled 34 votes to beat strong contestants such as Maigari and Ogunjobi who had eight and two votes respectively.

“Like I said, no victor there’s no vanquished, football is the winner, Aminu Maigari is my big brother. I even call him my father and Taiwo Ogunjobi happens to be a big brother as well. We just need to do what we need to do,” Pinnick told journalists after his re-election.

“First we will initiate reforms for our statutes. There are something we need to capture in the statutes that will reflect true reconciliations and we have to do it right away. It’s not about me, but the executive committee and the congress that believe in us.

“But I will also want to thank the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for providing an enabling environment. I’m from a micro minority in Nigeria less than 400,000 people. I came to the far North to win an election what more do you need to know that the government provided a level playing ground.

“This election rekindles my belief in Nigeria and what this has done is compelling us to do something unique for Nigerian football.

“This is the turning point for Nigerian football. But people must be aware that we need to develop football beyond mediocrity, the narrow confines of ethnicity, non challant attitude.”

I want to win CAF Confed. Cup - Afelokhai

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Enyimba international goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai, has disclosed his desire to win the CAF Confederation Cup with the Peoples Elephant this season.

Afelokhai who has become an integral part of the team, played a key role in Emyimba's qualification from the preliminary stages to the knockout stages, where they held Rayon Sports of Rwanda in Kigali last weekend.

However, he told Cafonline that winning the continental trophy would be a welcome development for him.

"My dream is to win at least a continental cup with Enyimba; I’ll do my best to be part of history and win the Confederation Cup,” the 28-year-old Afelokhai said in an interview with ahead of this weekend’s decisive second leg quarter-final tie to be played at the newly renovated Enyimba International Stadium in Aba.

“We had a good match in Kigali against Rayon Sport and the result was okay; but we must overcome Rayon Sports in Aba so that we can qualify for the semi-finals.”

Pinnick dusts Maigari, Ogunjobi to be re-elected as NFF President

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Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick has been re-elected for a second term after winning today's (Thursday) election held in Katsina State.

Pinnick defeated oppositions such as Aminu Maigari and Taiwo Ogunjobi to reclaim the seat for the second time after first assuming the post in 2014.

He remains the first President to retain the NFF seat since the history of the position.

South Africa to host Nigeria at FNB Stadium

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Bafana Bafana will return to their happy hunting ground at FNB Stadium when they host Seychelles and Nigeria in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.

Coach Stuart Baxter’s troops last played at FNB stadium almost a year ago when they beat Burkina Faso 3-1 in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers‚ with goals from Percy Tau‚ Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi.

Bafana will play Seychelles in a back-to-back home and away matches – the first scheduled for Saturday‚ October 13 at FNB in Johannesburg (kickoff 3pm).

Three days later SA will be away against Seychelles at the Stade Linite in Victoria on Tuesday, October 16 (kickoff 4.30pm Seychelles time‚ 6.30pm SA time).

Following the Seychelles games Bafana host the clash against Nigeria at 2010 World Cup Final venue FNB on Saturday‚ November 17 in their penultimate 2019 Afcon qualifier (kickoff 3pm).

They play away against Libya‚ who have been staging home matches at neutral venues‚ on March 22 or 23.

Bafana have four points after an away win against Nigeria and this month’s 0-0 home draw against Libya in Durban.

Libya lead Group E with four points‚ on goal difference from SA. Nigeria are in third place with three points after getting their campaign back on track with a 3-0 away win over Seychelles this month.

Seychelles are yet to collect points‚ and are bottom of the table.

The 2019 Afcon will be played in June and July in Cameroon.

Real Madrid more of a team without Ronaldo - Bale

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Gareth Bale says Real Madrid work together more as a collective unit without former talisman Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese forward moved to Juventus in the close season.

The Welsh winger is thriving in the absence of Ronaldo and Madrid have three wins from four La Liga matches.

Bale is Madrid’s key weapon as the Champions League starts again this week, with Real facing Roma on Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“It’s maybe a bit more relaxed (without Ronaldo),” Bale told the Daily Mail. “I suppose there is more of a team, more working as one unit rather than one player.”

Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer Ronaldo was crucial to the club’s three consecutive Champions League wins under former coach Zinedine Zidane, although it was Bale who scored twice against Liverpool in the 3-1 triumph in May’s Kiev final.

Bale came on from the bench and said he was annoyed about not starting the match, with that rage fuelling him to score a brilliant overhead kick.

“(I was) angry. Quite angry, to be honest. Obviously, I felt I deserved to start the game,” said Bale.

“I’d been scoring goals. So yeah, I suppose it was hard to put the anger aside.”

With Ronaldo out of the way he is essential to new manager Julen Lopetegui’s Madrid, with the defending champions ready to start their bid for a fourth consecutive trophy on Wednesday in Group G.

Hazard can be Premier League top-scorer - Sarri

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Eden Hazard can score 40 goals this season and win the Premier League Golden Boot, according to Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri after the Belgium forward scored a hat-trick to maintain the club’s perfect start to the season.

Sarri believes Hazard can become the best player in Europe and outstrip even arch poachers Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah following his three goals in a 4-1 victory against Cardiff on Saturday.

“We have spoken and I told him he can score 40 goals,” said the former Napoli manager. “He has to improve some things, but he can do it.”

Hazard himself has hailed Olivier Giroud as the world’s best target man after the World Cup-winning striker laid on two goals for him.

Giroud is yet to find the net for Chelsea this season but already has three assists in five Premier League games while Hazard has found the net five times.

And the 27-year-old paid tribute to the Frenchman for creating his first two goals at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

“Olivier’s a target man, maybe the best in the world, I think so,” said Hazard.

“When he gets the ball he can hold the ball and we can go in deep with him, so for us it’s a pleasure to play with him.”

Despite Chelsea’s fluency in attack, Sarri is aware the Stamford Bridge team must improve their defending.

The Italian boss wants to turn Chelsea into the best team in England but says Liverpool and defending champions Manchester City will be the league’s pacesetters.

“Eight players joined us this summer,” he said. “So I think it’s normal that in this period we have some defensive problems. We can cope with the problems with the quality in the offensive phase, but not in the defensive phase.

“So I have to organise better the defensive phase and the players have to understand that. I think my opinion in this moment, two teams, Liverpool and Manchester City, are better than us.

“We have to improve step by step. My target is to become the best team in England in one year, 18 months. That’s the target.”
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