Serena Williams Returns To Action

Former world number one Serena Williams is back to competitive tennis after a five-month break as a result of child birth as she teamed up with sister Venus for the US team in the Fed Cup.

Although the Americans had already won the tie against the Netherlands, the pair lost the dead doubles rubber 6-2 6-3 in what seemed to lok like a last minute changes.

The scoreline was never a reason  as demonstrated by the standing ovation and loud cheers that welcomed back the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion.

And among those in the sell-out crowd in Asheville, North Carolina was baby Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

“It’s great. It’s her first match so I’m glad she got to see it,” Serena said in an on-court interview.

Bumps, boobs and bouncing back – an athlete’s path through pregnancy

Serena, playing her first competitive match since winning the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant, had been scheduled to partner Lauren Davis for the match against Lesley Kerkhove and Demi Schuurs.

But with the US having already booked their spot in April’s semi-finals, captain Kathy Rinaldi made the popular decision to pair up the Williams sisters, who have won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

Serena Williams and her daughter watch the Fed Cup action

Serena had watched some of the earlier action with her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr

Serena, 36, had already postponed her return this year, missing the Australian Open in January to give her more time to recover from the birth.

She had revealed she was bedridden for six weeks and had to have surgery after her daughter was delivered by emergency caesarean section.

She said last week that she had not yet decided whether she will compete at this year’s remaining three Grand Slams.

Farmers To Get Herdsmen Insurance Cover, FG’s Loan

 

The National Insurance Commission has began the pilot implementation of Index-based Agricultural Insurance products in 10 northern states that will assist farmers in accessing the federal government loans.

This was stated by the Commissioner for Insurance Alhaji Mohammed during a workshop in Abuja.

He said that in collaborations with the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, underwriters were currently exploring innovative insurance products for livestock to help stop the herdsmen and farmers’ clashes.

Kari said, “Last year, Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, working with PULA advisors as its technical advisers and in collaboration with NAICOM, initiated the inception of an ‘Area Yield Index Insurance’ starting from the wet season.

“The initiative is driven on the ‘Anchor Borrowers Programme’ of the Central Bank of Nigeria’ financing window of over $1.0bn but will later extend to other financing options.

“A pilot implementation of Index-based Agric Insurance products in the 2017 farming season, in 10 northern states and for four crops (rice, maize, soya and sorghum) was successfully launched in 2017.”

According to the commissioner, the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, with 50 per cent government premium subsidies, is supposed to provide agricultural indemnity insurance covering crop, livestock, poultry and aquaculture.

3SC To Raise N200m To Supporters’ Club

Shooting Stars  have appointed a consultant to re-organise their  supporters’  club, targeting N200m for the project.

Chief Executive Officer of BOWLE Marketing and Sponsorship firm, Steve Kadiri, told our correspondent at the Lekan Salami Sports Stadium in Ibadan  on Thursday that apart from re-organising the supporters’ club, the move was aimed at   attracting more supporters to the outfit  through online registration. He added that an elite supporters’ club would be created.

Kadiri said, “The club realised the need to re-organise the fanbase and a few steps are being taken to make this happen. Part of the move is to open an online network where fans can register and contribute to the club’s progress. Shooting Stars are the best football brand in Nigeria with huge fans. But the club have  been going through a trying period,  which the fans must come together to solve.

“Through a fund raiser, we are raising N200m to put things right at the club. A number of top musicians will be invited to thrill the fans during the event that will be held soon. We are also setting up a  patron scheme and merchandising shop where the club’s  paraphernalia will be sold at the stadium.

“There will be  a VIP stand at the stadium where the elite supporters will sit during matches. All these are in place to raise money for the club and make them financially independent.”

After being relegated from the elite division, 3SC will play in the lower division in the new season.

Eze, Ojo Included In  CHAN Team Of  The Tournament, El Kaabi Named MVP

Home Eagles midfielder Dayo Ojo and defender Stephen Eze made the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) Team of the Tournament

Eze, who was a regular player for Nigeria as they went all the way to the final in Morocco, is one of three central defenders in a 3-5-2 formation CAF XI for the tournament, while Ojo, who scored a goal against Equatorial Guinea in the group phase, is one of the central midfielders in the final eleven.

The hosts Morocco dominated the tournament best 11 with five players that includes the Most Valuable Player and tournament highest goal scorer Ayoub El Kaabi who scored nine goals.

El Kaabi was presented the award after Morocco defeated Nigeria 4-0  in the final on Sunday.

Awards:

Man of the Tournament: Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco)

Top scorer: Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco) – 9 goals

Fair Play: Morocco

Team of the tournament

Goalkeeper: Akram El Hadi (Sudan)

Defenders: Omer Suliman (Sudan), Stephen Eze (Nigeria), Badr Benoun

Midfielders: Solomon Ojo (Nigeria), Walid El Karti (Morocco), Salaheddine Saidi (Morocco), Zakaria Hadraf (Morocco), Abdulrahman Ramadhan (Libya)

Forwards: Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco), Saleh Taher (Libya)

I Don’t have Anything To Prove..Henrikh Mkhitaryan

 

Henrikh Mkhitaryan insists he doesn’t have anything to prove after leaving Manchester United to join up with best friend Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Arsenal

The 29-year-old ended an unsuccessful spell at Old Trafford as he moved south in a swap contract that saw Alexis Sanchez the other way round.

Despite a big-money transfer to United in the summer of 2016, Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho never appeared convinced by Mkhitaryan.

Mkhitaryan endured a testing time during his spell at Man Utd.

The Armenia international often found himself on the fringes of the team but now has a new lease of life at Arsenal, setting up three goals on his full debut in last weekend’s 5-1 win over Everton.

Although he had a rough time in the north-west, Mkhitaryan wants to put the past behind him and find the sort of form that left United and Arsenal battling for his signature when he left Borussia Dortmund.

“I don’t want to find excuses,” he said. “I don’t want to blame anyone…I am starting a new chapter in my life, in my football career and I am very happy to be here.

“I will be pleased to achieve more than I have done in Manchester, of course. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I just have to enjoy myself, do my best and at the end I will see where I can reach.”

While in Germany, Mkhitaryan struck up an understanding – both on and off the pitch – with Dortmund team-mate Aubameyang.

Now Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has reunited the pair at the Emirates Stadium having completed a club-record deadline-day move to bring in Aubameyang from the Westfalenstadion.

The Gabon striker scored on his debut against Everton, assisted by Mkhitaryan, who is delighted to be working with his friend once again.

“I think it could only be in a dream that we could join another club other than Dortmund but I am very happy for that,” he said.

“I have known him very well, he is one of my best friends and the best team-mate I have ever had. I am very happy to have him here and I think all the fans are happy to see him in an Arsenal shirt.

“What can I say? I love playing with him. I can understand him from one step and hopefully for the next games we are going to achieve more.”

Arsenal impressed with a 5-1 win over Everton as Aubameyang & Mkhitaryan made their full debuts.

Although Mkhitaryan joined United, he has been a self-confessed Arsenal fan for over a decade having fallen in love with Wenger’s attacking philosophy and has lofty ambitions for his time at the club.

“I loved the way that Arsenal were playing at the time, I loved the way Arsene Wenger was treating his players, I loved the way that everything was happening around the club,” he explained.

“So it was just a dream, it was a drive to say ‘why not? I’m supporting Arsenal and I want to play for that club as well.’

“Of course first of all we have to win lots of games. Secondly, we have to think that we have to win titles because at the end of your football career only the titles mean something.

“I think if you play football, it doesn’t matter for which club, you have to achieve the maximum and you have to win titles because if you are playing just to play football it is better to stop playing it, you have to play to win titles and leave your name in the history of football.”

Eden Hazard: I Am Happy At Chelsea

Chelsea is hoping to wade off  interest from Real Madrid to keep Eden Hazard who admits he is glad about Zinedine Zidane’s long-term interest in him

Hazard is currently preparing for Chelsea’s match with West Brom on Monday

Eden Hazard has refused to deny a move to European giants Real Madrid despite admitting he is ‘happy’ at Chelsea.

Since joining from Lille in 2012, Hazard has become Chelsea’s main star and one of the Premier League’s best players, scoring 13 goals and creating nine assists in all competitions this season.

Inevitably, his spectacular form has led to him attracting interest from Madrid, with the struggling La Liga outfit lining up a big-money move for the 27-year-old this summer.

Speaking to Marca, Chelsea star Eden Hazard refused to rule out a move to Real Madrid

Hazard has scored 13 goals and created nine assists for Chelsea in all competitions this term

And Hazard, when asked about a move to Madrid, told Spanish paper Marca: ‘In football you never know. I’m happy at Chelsea, and focused on them.’

Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has been a long-term admirer of the Belgian star and Hazard also revealed his delight at the Frenchman’s interest.

Hazard added: ‘I remember 10 years ago, when he first spoke about me, it was incredible.

‘Know that he was my idol when I was a child, I have seen thousands of videos about him and now he is the manager of one of the best clubs in the world, so yes, it is a luxury.’

Hazard is currently gearing up for Chelsea’s Premier League clash with West Brom on Monday night.

Antonio Conte’s side currently sit fourth in the English top flight, one point above Tottenham and five ahead of Arsenal with 12 matches remaining.

 

Nigerian Firm Wins Mining Competition In S’Africa

A Nigerian firm, Thor Exploration Limited (also known as Segilola), a gold mining company that operates in Osun State, has won the 2018 Investment Battlefield in South Africa.

A statement issued by Mr. Olayinka Oyebode,  the Special Assistant on Media to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, on Thursday, said the company was selected as the most promising of the 22 junior mining firms that to part in the battlefield competition.

According to Oyebode, Thor Exploration beat Algold Resources, a Mauritanian gold explorer and developing company, to the second position.

The company’s CEO, Segun Lawson, accepted the award after pitching the project to a panel of judges made up of leading analysts and investors on Wednesday night in Cape Town, South Africa.

Oyebode said the award came just as Nigeria was named among the top 10 mining designations for 2019 at the event.

The company, which has considerable interest in some West African countries, is also listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Thor’s flagship asset is its fully owned Segilola Gold Project in Osun State.

 

Northern Ireland Manager O’Neill Extends Deal

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has extended his contract for 4 years which will run until 2024, the Irish Football Association announced on Friday.

The 48-year-old is set to lead Northern Ireland in the next two European Championship qualification campaigns and their quest to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

He committed his long-term future to Northern Ireland after her turned down the chance to replace Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager last month.

“I am extremely proud to manage my country and I am pleased to be extending my time in charge of the senior team,” O’Neill said in a statement.

“In recent months I have been approached about taking other opportunities in football. However, no other challenge attracted me as much as taking Northern Ireland back to a major tournament.

“I would like to thank the Irish FA for the belief that they have shown in me by granting this contract extension and for the fans for their ongoing support of me and of the Northern Ireland senior men’s international team.”

O’Neill led Northern Ireland to the last-16 at Euro 2016 but his team fell short of making it to this year’s World Cup in Russia, losing a two-legged playoff against Switzerland last November.

As part of his new contract, O’Neill will also take up the role of chief football officer and will take overall responsibility for the development of the game in Northern Ireland. (Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

Public And Private Sectors Must Agree For Growth..Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says Nigeria’s economy cannot develop without a working agreement between both public and private sectors.

He said Abeokuta on Wednesday when the National Executive Council and some members of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture visited him at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library.

The NACCIMA team was led by the national president, Iyalode Alaba Lawson.

Obasanjo, who noted that the interplay between the private and public sectors would lead to improved and innovative delivery of services through informed policy formulation, added that both needed each other to move the wheel of development forward.

He said his administration made use of this synergy and it paid off, especially in getting the formula that led to cement being produced in Nigeria and exported to other countries

The former President stated that this was a digital age and the public sector must rise up and acquire the necessary Information Technology skills needed to survive in the modern world of telecommunications.

He said, “We cannot move forward if the private sector does not appreciate the importance of public sector in moving the economy forward.

“The relationship must be bilateral. That is private and public sectors working closely together. Wherever necessary, the public should invite the private; and wherever necessary, the private should work with the public.

“We did that when I was in government. I invited a major importer of cement and asked him, why can’t we become producers and exporters? And from the answers he gave, I told my then Minister of Industry to further look into the answers and fine-tune them.

“And this led to the formulation of the policy on cement. Twelve years after, cement is not only being produced here, it is being exported to other countries. That is the kind of synergy I am talking about. The symbiotic relationship between the public and private sectors must be strengthened.”

“Again, whatever we need to do, we must do it to make the civil servants ICT compliant. This is very important. I started that while I was in government but it was not sustained,” he added.

Obasanjo, who had earlier commended the Lawson-led executive for its visionary leadership in deploying ICT in collating the database of all the small and medium-scale enterprises in the country, said the association should select other areas in the economy and proffer solutions to the challenges there.

He called on NACCIMA to empower the youth and women, because “if you empower a woman, you have empowered a whole family; and when a woman earns money, she uses that money to take care of her children unlike her male counterpart.”

Lautaro Martinez Prepares For Inter Move

Rising Argentine star Lautaro Martinez, described as a potential newbee in Jorge Sampaoli’s 2018 World Cup squad, is set to sign a contract  worth over 25 million euros ($30 million) with Inter Milan.

The 20-year-old striker, who currently plays for Racing Club and the Argentina under-20 side, has chosen Inter ahead of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Valencia and will join the northern Italian outfit this summer.

“Everything is going well for Lautaro’s departure. It’s 99 percent he’ll play for Inter Milan next year,” his agent Ronaldo Zarate told Argentina’s Radio La Red in quotes carried by the Italian press.

According to Gazzetta, Martinez will sign a five-year contract worth 20 million euros plus 1.5 million euros per season. The contract will have a 120-million-euro release clause — 10 million euros more than Inter’s Argentine ace Mauro Icardi, who has been touted for a move away from Inter next summer.

“Next week we’ll try to finalise the remaining details and conclude the sale of Lautaro Martinez,” Racing club president Victor Blanco told Radio La Red.

Martinez has scored seven goals and had three assists in eight matches for Racing this season, with former Inter Milan stars Diego Milito and Javier Zanetti of Argentina reported to have acted as intermediaries with the Italian club

Nigeria’s Beans Export Ban Is Still In Force – EU

On Thursday, the European Union insisted that Nigeria must take proper risk management measures and provide required measures before it could export their dried beans to Europe.

According to the EU, Nigeria must meet specified terms before the ban will be suspended, but stated that it was supporting the strategies that would ensure the embargo is lifted.

The EU banned Nigeria from exporting beans in June 2015 on the ground that the produce contains high level of pesticide considered dangerous to human health.

Speaking at the formal presentation of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation’s National Quality Infrastructure Programme Assisted Export Control Plan for Nigeria on Zero Reject in Abuja, the Head of Trade and Economics Section, EU Delegation, Mr. Filipe Amato, stated that the EU welcomed the efforts of the Federal Government in ensuring quality and safety of agricultural commodities.

He said, “The European Commission’s regulation that suspended the import into the EU of dried beans from Nigeria clearly states that Nigeria has to implement appropriate risk management measures and provide required guarantees. The EU, through the National Quality Infrastructure Programme implemented by UNIDO, has supported the process since 2016.

“This support has been in multiple ways, which include the establishment of a full chain management system, the conduit of excellence, a value chain diagnostic to address the concerns raised by the director-general, health and food safety; support to the inter-ministerial committee; and support to the visit of the Senate Health Committee to Europe in 2016.”

Amato, who disclosed this at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, added, “Others include workshops for farmers/producers/processors on standard operating procedures for dried beans and support to prepare the export control plan.

“Ultimately, it will be the DG of Health and Food Safety that will decide if the conditions are met to lift the ban once the integrated export control plan will be formally submitted for his attention. The support of the NQIP will continue until July of this year.”

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, who doubles as the Co-Chairman of the UNIDO-NQIP Committee, Chief Audu Ogbeh, stated that the world was being driven by trade and Nigeria must get it right when it comes to the exportation of agricultural produce.

“It is not only about export but the quality of produce that we export and what we eat. We poison ourselves a lot by what we eat. This assignment is far more serious than the idea of produce export, because we must ensure that what we eat and export is safe for our health and the health of other people,” he said.