Andy Murray: British Number One Has Surgery On Hip Injury

Britain’s Andy Murray has had hip surgery in Melbourne and says he hopes to be playing again in time for this summer’s grass-court season.

The former world number one, 30, has not played a competitive match since he was knocked out of Wimbledon in July.

The ongoing problem forced the Scot to pull out of the Australian Open, which begins on 15 January.

“I’m not finished playing tennis yet. I’m going to be competing at the highest level again,” he said.

“I’m very optimistic about the future – the surgeon is very happy about how it went.”

Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, believes if he can return to 95% of his best, that will be enough for him to compete again at the top level.

He hopes he will be hitting balls on court again after seven or eight weeks, and has been given 14 weeks as a guide for a return from this kind of surgery.

But Murray, who has fallen to 19th in the world, said he is not “interested in coming back for a specific tournament”.

“My plan is to be back playing around the grass-court season – potentially before then – but I’m certainly not going to rush anything,” said Murray, speaking from his hospital
bed in a telephone conference call to a group of British journalists.

“I want to know when I come back that I’m ready.”

He was operated on by Dr John O’Donnell at the St Vincent Hospital in Melbourne on Monday.

Murray posted a photo from hospital on Instagram and said: “Feeling really positive and looking forward to starting rehab.”

Iwobi, Walcott, Metersacker Get Low Rating In Arsenal Defeat To Forest

Super Eagles forward Alex Iwobi was rated poor for his performance in Arsenal’s shock 4-2 away defeat to 10-man Championship club Nottingham Forest in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday.

Iwobi was brought back into the Arsenal first eleven against Forest after sitting out the thrilling 2-2 draw against Chelsea in the Premier League last Wednesday.

But despite playing the full 90 minutes, Iwobi could not prevent Arsenal from crashing in the third round for the first time since 1996.

And according to mirror.co.uk’s Arsenal player ratings, Iwobi got four out of 10 for his disappointing performance.

And commenting on Iwobi’s performance, the paper wrote: “Another poor performance from a player horribly out of form. Played in a deeper role than normal but couldn’t influence the game.”

Other Arsenal players who were rated four were Theo Walcott, Mohamed Elneny, Joe Willock and Mathieu Debuchy.

The two players who got good ratings were David Ospina and youngster Reiss Nelson, while Danny Welbeck who got Arsenal’s second goal and Ainsley Maitland-Niles both got five.

The worst rated players were defensive duo Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding who were rated three.

Arsenal player ratings vs Nottingham Forest:

David Ospina (6)

Rob Holding (3)

Per Mertesacker (3)

Mathieu Debuchy (4)

Reiss Nelson (6)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (5)

Joe Willock (4)

Mohamed Elneny (4)

Alex Iwobi (4)

Danny Welbeck (5)

Theo Walcott (4)

New Barca Signing, Coutinho Injured As Brazilian Completes Record Move

Philippe Coutinho will not be able to make his debut for Barcelona until the end of January because he has a thigh injury, the club said on Monday.

“Coutinho has an injury to his right thigh and he is expected to be out for around three weeks,” Barcelona said on their website.

Coutinho, 25, was officially unveiled by Barca on Monday, completing a 160-million-euro ($192 million) move from Liverpool, making it the third richest transfer in history.

The Brazilian midfielder could in theory make his debut on January 28 when Alaves visit the Camp Nou in La Liga.

AFP

2018 Nigeria’s International Sporting Calendar At A Glance

On January 3, sports minister Solomon Dalung evoked several reactions from the sporting populace after he outlined sports achievements under his watch in 2017, at a press conference in Lagos.

While some slammed the Plateau State-born minister for claiming credit for the sports achievements of the outgone year when he didn’t play any role, others praised him for moving the sports sector forward.

Though the year 2017 was filled with so much drama before, during and after the federations elections, several of these federations still recorded some commendable successes.

Some of the country’s major sporting highlights of 2017 were the Super Eagles qualification for the Russia 2018 World Cup, the women’s basketball team triumph at the AfroBasket championship in Mali, wrestler Odunayo Adekuoroye winning Nigeria’s first silver medal at the World Championships in France and the excellent performance of its athletes at the World Para-Powerlifting Championships in Mexico.

However, 2018 even poses a bigger challenge for the country’s sports sector going by the number of top global events lined up.

Dalung at the conference acknowledged that the New Year was packed full with activities and was optimistic that the country would even perform better.

“The year 2018 is an intense sporting year for the nation. It is our hope that the year will see the consolidation of the successes of the 2017,” he stated.

CHAN 2018

Truly, it’s an intense year of activities across the globe, with the African Nations Championship, scheduled to hold from January 13 to February 4 in Morocco, the first major international tournament the nation would attend this year.

The Super Eagles B, Nigeria’s home-based national team would be attending the event and hope to better the achievements of 2014, when they came third at the event in South Africa four years ago.

They are drawn against 2014 champions Libya, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea in Group C of the competition meant for only footballers playing in their home leagues.

Coach Salisu Yusuf released a 23-man list of players last week that would fly the country’s flag in Morocco with former IfeanyiUbah goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa as captain.

The players and their officials are expected to fly out of the country in a few days to continue their preparations in Morocco ahead of Nigeria’s first match of the campaign against Rwanda in Tangier on January 15.

WINTER OLYMPICS

The unlikeliest event to participate in, Nigeria will be making a first-ever appearance at the Winter Olympic Games courtesy of her female bobsleigh team, who qualified for PyeongChang 2018, scheduled for February 9 to 25.

Perhaps, that was why Dalung didn’t mention the Winter Olympics as part of the major championships Nigeria would attend in 2018.

Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omega made history after successfully completing five races held across North America in Utah, Whistler and Calgary, meaning the three athletes will become the first in any sport to represent Nigeria in the competition.

Adigun, who represented Nigeria in the 100m hurdles at the London 2012 Olympics, started a Go Fund Me campaign in 2016 to raise the $75,000 (£66,000) needed to fund their Olympic bid, and she achieved her target in just 11 months.

Former Athletics Federation of Nigeria president, Solomon Ogba, said, “Their hard work was inspiring and I hope Nigerians can appreciate what it took for them to achieve this.

“They are all very successful people in their own right – in sports and out of it, and somehow they are still motivated and still push for more success.

“I have watched them train and work hard to represent Nigeria at the Winter Olympics in a very technical and high-risk sport and they have achieved that.”

Another Nigerian, Simidele Adeagbo, could become Africa’s first woman skeleton athlete at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Adeagob, a retired track and field athlete based in Johannesburg, is just a race away from qualifying for the Winter Olympics. The final qualifier, her fifth race, is scheduled for Lake Placid, New York, on January 11.

The 36-year-old’s interest in skeleton was sparked, when she heard about the amazing Nigerian bobsleigh team.

COMMONWEALTH GAMES

The 2018 Commonwealth Games, tagged Gold Coast 2018, holds from April 4 to 15 in Australia. The sports ministry began its first phase of camping for the event on December 17, 2017 in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.

Boxers, table tennis and para-table tennis players are camping in Lagos, while the weightlifters are in Abuja. Port Harcourt is camp of track and field and para-athletics athlete.

Sixteen athletes and 14 officials are also camped at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research Yaba, Lagos.

Nigeria has competed at 13 Commonwealth Games since 1950, but did not attend four Games, in 1962, 1978 (in protest at New Zealand’s policies), 1986 and 1998.

The country’s highest medal haul — 37 — at the Games was recorded in 1994 in Canada. Overall, the country’s athletes have won 61 gold, 66 silver and 85 bronze at the Games, with high jumper Joshua Majekodunmi winning Team Nigeria’s first-ever medal, silver, in 1950.

WORLD CUP

The Super Eagles under German coach Gernot Rohr emerged the first African side to qualify for the Russia 2018 with a game to spare.

The Eagles qualified from a tough group that included African champions Cameroon, Zambia and Algeria. But the three-time African champions stunned their critics with some amazing displays beating Chipolopolo home and away, hammering the Indomitable Lions 4-0 in Uyo before holding them to a draw and then beating the Desert Foxes 3-1 at home and then losing their final game of the qualifiers in bizarre circumstances.

The country’s qualification was almost thrown into disarray when it was discovered that right-back Abdullahi Shehu was ineligible for the final qualifier against Algeria in Constantine last November.

But despite FIFA stripping the Eagles of the point earned in the 1-1 draw and handling the three points to the North Africans, it was not enough to stop the country’s trip to Russia for the Mundial.

The Eagles are drawn in Group D against perennial foes Argentina, Croatia and debutants Iceland. The Nigerians begin their campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad on June 16 before taking on Iceland in Volgograd six days later. They end their group games against Argentina on June 26.

The World Cup takes place in Russia from June 14 to July 15 in Russia.

FIBA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL WORLD CUP

African champions D’Tigress will be heading to this year’s FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain, having never won a game at the competition.

In their FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup debut in 2006 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nigeria lost all their five games. This year, they will chase more than their first win in the history of the competition.

Nigeria and Senegal will represent Africa at the 16-team FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018, which will take place from September 22 to 30 in Tenerife, Spain.

Both countries, finalists at last year’s AfroBasket Championship for Women in Mali, join hosts Spain and reigning Olympic champions USA, Argentina, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Belgium, France, Greece, Latvia and Turkey.

OTHERS

Nigeria will host the 21st Africa Senior Athletics Championships scheduled for July 30 to August 5 in Asaba, Delta State, while the country’s young athletes would compete at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina in October.

Nigeria also won the hosting rights for the 2018 Africa Wrestling Championships with Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as host city.

Nigeria Professional Football League champions Plateau United and MFM will campaign in the CAF Champions League with Enyimba and Akwa United representing the country in the CAF Confederation Cup.

The national football teams, men and women, would also be involved in several continental qualifiers, at various levels.

Barca Agrees To Sign $192 million For Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho finally got his wish on Saturday when Barcelona agreed to sign the Brazilian star from Liverpool for 160 million euros ($192 million) in the third richest deal of all time.

The swoop for the 25-year-old attacking midfielder — which contains a 400 million euro release clause — will be the third biggest deal in football.

Last year, Paris Saint-Germain shelled out a world record 222 million euros to lure Brazilian star Neymar from Barcelona before the French champions then agreed to pay Monaco 120 million euros for Kylian Mbappe in a deal which will be officially activated once the striker’s loan period is completed.

Wenger Banned For Three-Matches, Fined £40,000

Arsene Wenger has been handed a three-match touchline ban and fined by the Football Association over comments he made about the refereeing of Sunday’s Premier League game against West Brom.

In a separate case, the Arsenal boss has also been asked by English football’s governing body to provide his observations on what he said about penalty decisions that went against the Gunners in both of their last two matches over the festive period, against the Baggies and Chelsea.

“Arsene Wenger will serve a touchline ban for Arsenal’s next three matches after he was charged with misconduct,” an FA statement said.

“It follows an independent regulatory commission hearing today at which the Arsenal manager admitted that his language and behaviour in the match officials’ changing room after the West Brom game on Sunday was abusive, improper and questioned the integrity of the match referee. He was also fined £40,000 ($54,000).”

Earlier, Wenger said he was unrepentant over his comments about penalty decisions against the Gunners.

“I maintain what I said in the press conference — 100 percent,” Wenger told reporters on Friday ahead of his side’s FA Cup third-round match at Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

“I try to serve this game with honesty and integrity and when I have something to say I will say it.”

AFP

Rwanda Coach Hopes For Fully Fit Squad For CHAN

Rwanda coach Antoine Hey hopes his team will avoid injuries as they continue their build-up to the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco which will be held from 13 January to 4 February.

The Amavubi are in Group C along with Nigeria, Libya and Equatorial Guinea.

Hey’s charges arrived in Sousse, Tunisia on Tuesday after a long trip from Kigali via Doha for a week camping exercise before jetting off to Morocco for CHAN 2018.

They are due to play friendly matches against Sudan, Namibia and Algeria while in Tunisia.

“The players arrived on Tuesday after a very long trip from Kigali via Doha. The trip was very tiring, so we couldn’t train. We just reached the hotel, getting used to the environment, held a short meeting,” Hey told the Rwanda Football Federation official website.

“On Wednesday, we had two training sessions, and we will continue on Thursday and Friday, then play the arranged friendly matches on Saturday against Sudan and on Sunday, we will play against Namibia behind closed doors before playing the most important friendly match against Algeria next Wednesday, January 10.

“We have all players ready, no injuries, no worries. The atmosphere in camp is as usual, very disciplined and focused and professional. We have one week of fully preparing our side, all players will get playing time in all the friendlies we will play.

“We hope that we don’t get injuries or setbacks as we work on our final pieces of getting the team ready for CHAN tournament.”

NFF Confirms Poland Friendly For Eagles

The Nigeria Football Federation has granted Gernot Rohr’s request to lead the Super Eagles against Poland in a friendly affair.

Both teams are searching for warm-up encounters ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Poland, who are housed in Group H alongside Japan, Colombia and Senegal, confirmed on December 11 the White and Reds manager Adam Nawałka had agreed to lead the Eastern European nation against the Eagles on March 23.

Poland open their Russia 2018 campaign against the Lions of Teranga in Moscow on June 19, and Nawalka believes playing a strong side like Nigeria would help him prepare his team to match the physical style of play of the Senegalese.

Nigeria are drawn in Group D alongside Croatia, South American powerhouse Argentina and tournament’s dark horses Iceland.

The Eagles, who will be making their sixth World Cup appearance in Russia this year, are looking to win their first game against Croatia at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 16, and Nigeria coach Rohr sees a friendly against Poland as good contest to prepare for the Croats, who have a similar playing style to the Polish.

And the NFF, who had refused to confirm or deny that Poland had approached Nigeria for a friendly after it was leaked to football365.fr early in December by Rohr, revealed on Sunday the game would be played in Warsaw on March 23.

The federation tacitly confirmed reported friendly fixtures against Egypt in May and England at Wembley in June.

“The World Cup is the big one next year and I believe we are going to be very ready when the tournament kicks off,” the NFF president Amaju Pinnick was quoted as saying on the thenff.com.

“We have lined up four friendly matches starting with the game with Poland in Warsaw on March 23. There will be other matches on March 27, May 28 (in Nigeria) and June 2.”

Pinnick expressed the federation’s satisfaction with on-field and off-field results for Nigerian football last year, believing the country would win more honours this year.

He said, “Largely, it was an excellent year, on and off the field. The bookmakers, analysts and football fans all over the world thought we were going to find it difficult in our World Cup qualifying group, but we made it to Russia with a match to spare. Now, we have already kick-started the preparations to the finals with a landmark agreement with the team on funds and renewal of the coach’s contract to keep him fully focused on the job.

“Like the World Cup, qualification for the CHAN was also down to hard work and focus. We are ready to work even harder and focus much more ardently on our objectives in the year 2018, because we want to win the CHAN and achieve our best-ever outing at the World Cup.”

“Don’t Worry I Have Lot Of Space” – Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo joked he has a lot of space for trophies after winning the Best Player of the Year at the Globe Soccer Awards, Soccerway reports.

Real Madrid star Ronaldo retained the gong, winning for the fourth time overall following a stellar 2017.

The honour added to his record-equalling fifth Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s The Best Award this year after helping Madrid to LaLiga and Champions League glory.

“It is a special moment and I am very happy to receive this award,” said Ronaldo, whose agent Jorge Mendes was named Best Agent of the Year.

“I would like to thank the coach, my team-mates and Real Madrid. Thanks to the people that voted for me and do the same next year.”

Asked if he had enough room for his trophies, Ronaldo added: “Don’t worry I have a lot of space.”

Madrid swept the board at the Globe Soccer Awards, named the Best Club of the Year, while Zinedine Zidane claimed Best Coach.

“I want to say thank you, here I am representing the club and its president,” said the Frenchman. “It’s an honour for me and the club.

“Receiving this award means that things are working well. Thanks also to the president and to Real Madrid for giving me the opportunity (to coach the team). All the players are incredible and I congratulate all of them.

“This is for them, not for me. Thanks also to all the coaches. I have won many things, but this job is very difficult. Lastly, and most importantly, I dedicate this to my mother.”

Osun to Host Nigerian, Foreign Athletes For International Marathon

By Toba Adedeji

Race Director of Ile Ife Heritage Marathon Organization, Adedayo Akinbode on Thursday said no fewer than 150 athletes; both Nigerians and foreigners would participate in the first edition of the International Marathon Race holding on February 4, 2018.

Akinbode while speaking at NUJ Press Center, Osogbo, said lle Ife Heritage Marathon is a destination marathon borne out of a desire to showcase to the world, the rich cultural heritage of the Yoruba people through the century old Ile Ife matchless iconic heritages.

She posited that, “The marathon race event would also present unique opportunities for visitors from within and outside Nigeria to have first-hand contacts with many Ile-Ife’s iconic cultural sites and values. It will also provide ample opportunity to introduce sports to the growing population of residents as a platform of social development.”

She therefore urged interested participants to register for the with the fee of N16,500 for Nigerian and $53.60 for expatriates.

Akinbode contended that the marathon race is of International Athletics Standard of 42.195 kilometers distance.

Also, speaking at the press conference, the State of Osun Commissioner for Social Protection, Sports and Special Needs, Mr. Comrade Biyi Odunlade expressed the support of the State Government for the first edition of International marathon in the State.

Odunlade made it known that the purpose of the marathon race is to showcase the heritage of the cradle of Yorubas and the State which is why we are focusing our attention to Ile-Ife.

He said “There are three key objectives to this program; this kind of initiative was part of six integral point agenda the governor in building healthy life for every citizens of the State; for made know the cultural heritage we are blessed with in the State and to boost the Internally Generated Revenue of the state.”

Sanchez Future Anyone’s Guess, Says Wenger

Arsene Wenger admits he is no nearer to establishing where Arsenal’s Chilean star Alexis Sanchez’s future lies.

Wenger praised the 29-year-old’s two-goal display that helped secure a 3-2 victory at Crystal Palace on an evening where the French manager equalled Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson’s Premier League record of 810 matches in charge.

Sanchez’s commitment has been questioned this season following his failure to reach agreement with the north London club about an extension to his current contract that expires at the end of this season.

Wenger believes the player’s performance at Selhurst Park showed there has been no let up in the player’s effort, but with the January transfer window about to open, has no idea about the player’s next move.

Sanchez scored his first goal in the 62nd minute but not all his team-mates celebrated the strike with him.

“First of all nobody knows what will happen really,” said Wenger.

“It’s difficult to speculate. At the moment we are focused on short-term, that means the next game (against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday) with the players committed and ready to fight.

“It’s not a guarantee of how long you stay somewhere. As long as you are somewhere, you give your best.

“I felt he was very good tonight from the first minute on, focused on the game. This kind of Sanchez is a great football player, as we know. That’s the kind of performance we want from him.”

AFP