Russia 2018: At Last, The ‘War’ Is Over By Tayo Ogunbiyi

Amidst a most stunning ambiance, the 23rd edition of Federation of International Football Associations, FIFA, World Cup, tagged Russia 2018, came to a scintillating close on Sunday, July 15 at the 81,000 capacity Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. In the past one month, football fans across the world have watched with great excitement as 32 nations locked horns for the coveted 18 carats gold FIFA World Cup trophy.

The closing ceremony of the Russia 2018 World Cup was as exhilarating as the entire competition itself. Famous Nollywood star, Will Smith, US-born singer Nicky Jam, Russian opera, singer Aida Garifullina, legendary Brazilian soccer idol, Ronaldinho and German 2014 World Cup winning captain, Philip Lahm, were part of the galaxy of stars that added colour, splendor and elegance to the closing ceremony of what many have termed a most breathtaking World Cup.

FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, his French and Croatian counterparts Emmanuel Macron and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (what a dazzling and charming woman!) were among world leaders that witnessed the last match of Russia 2018.

The final match of the championship between France and Croatia was as impressive, action packed and spectacular as almost all the 64 matches witnessed at Russia2018. In the match that recorded six fascinating goals, the French national team came top by trashing a resilient and toughened Croatian side 4-2. With this victory, and having won her first World Cup title in 1998, France has now recorded a second triumph at the elite global soccer fiesta. Interestingly, the victory has equally put French coach, Didier Dechamps, in the league of Brazilian Mario Zagallo and German Franz Beckenbauer as those who have won the World Cup as both a player and a manager.

Since Uruguay hosted the first edition of the World Cup in 1930, during the era of revered FIFA President, Jules Rimet, the competition has continued to grow in leap and bound. From a 13 team event, with which it started in 1930, it grew to become a 32 team affair during the 1998 edition in France. Today, the World Cup commands a global TV audience in excess of one billion.

The 2018 Russia World Cup is particularly unique in many ways. For one, through the introduction of the controversial VAR (Video Assistance Referees), it is the first World Cup in which technology was deployed to assist referees in making crucial decisions. VAR is seen by many as a worthwhile invention that would ensure fairness by reducing human errors usually associated with football officiating at the highest level.

Another uniqueness of the Russia 2018 is in the flawless manner of its organization as well as reported hospitable temperament of Russians who were really good hosts. Prior to the eventual take off of the competition and based on certain stereotyped tales that were in circulation about Russia, many have doubted the ability of Putin country to host a memorable and eventful World Cup. But then, events of the past month seem to have proved cynics wrong as the Russians have not only hosted a great Mundial, but have also razzmatazz the whole world as regards the exquisiteness of their country.

In terms of security and safety concerns, Russia 2018 also proved to be an incredible event. The initial fear of many about the event bothered on the safety of visiting soccer fans across the world at Russia. As things eventually turned out, there was no major security breach worthy of note throughout the duration of the competition. Fans’ hooliganism was completely out of the equation. The usually cantankerous German and English soccer fans strangely turned a new leaf at the Mundial. Hence, at Russia 2018, worry over fans hooliganism was simply not a major concern.

Strictly in terms of footballing stuff, more than ever before, Russia 2018 has shown that football is more of a team event, and as such, individual brilliance and talents no longer count for too much. For instance, the Croatian, Japanese, Korean, Iceland and a few other national teams that came up with a closely knitted side thoroughly passed home the message that football is no longer about the number of superstars that are in a team but about how well a team plays together as a unit.

In particular, the Croatian team that got to the final amply exemplified teamwork as a major base for success in football as it got that far in the championship not on the basis of the individuality of its players but on the strength of joint effort. Unlike the Brazilians, Argentines and other such teams that depended mostly on the strength of their individual players to thrive at the championship, the Croatian team is an amazing study in team solidarity and group effectiveness.

Russia 2018 also sufficiently demonstrated to the soccer world that the days when so called bigger soccer nations could just stroll into a major soccer championship in sheer arrogance, expecting unhindered success, might be over for now. At the Mundial, big footballing nations such as Germany, Argentina, Spain and Brazil got the shocks of a lifetime as they all unceremoniously exited the competition when it was least expected.

As for the English team, which most pundits agreed actually over achieved at the Mundial, it becomes quite clearer that if football were to ultimately come home, as it was excitedly chorused by English fans in the course of the competition, it would be through sterling (unfortunately English Raheem Sterling didn’t come to the party at Russia) performances on the pitch. Not through overly over hyped media crusade.

Back home, the pains of the Super Eagles’ disappointing outing at the Mundial have since subsided. Sadly, we don’t seem to have learnt much from our below par show as the nation’s football house is once again being immersed in needless leadership squabbles that portend great danger for our football. Regrettably, appropriate authorities seem not to be managing current footballing crisis with required tact and speed. Characteristically, it is only when FIFA hammer comes dangling that those concerned would start running helter and skelter.

Meanwhile, congratulations to France for deservedly winning the World Cup and also kudos to Russia for hosting an amazing Mundial. As the soccer world awaits what Qatar has to offer in 2022, football fans would continue to relish and savour some of the most astounding memories of Russia 2018. One of such, for me, is the image of dashing Croatia President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović tenderly patting France President, Emmanuel Macron on the head at the final. On the sight of the noticeable Macron- Kitarović show, a naughty commentator said: “What Russia has joined together”. One could not but chuckle at the prospect of such amusing remark. Goodbye Russia 2018!

Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa Ikeja

U.S. Counterspy Warns World Cup Travelers Against Hacking

Americans travelling to Russia for the world cup beginning this week  have been warned by top United States counterintelligence official not take electronic devices, to avoid their devices been hacked by criminals or the Russian government.

This was revealed in a statement  by William Evanina, saying even if they think they are insignificant, hackers could still target them. Evanina is an FBI agent and the director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

“If you’re planning on taking a mobile phone, laptop, PDA, or other electronic device with you – make no mistake – any data on those devices may be accessed by the Russian government or cyber criminals,” he said.

Such data especially your personally identifiable information are vulnerable.

“Corporate and government officials are most at risk, but don’t assume you’re too insignificant to be targeted,” Evanina added.

“If you can do without the device, don’t take it. If you must take one, take a different device from your usual one and remove the battery when not in use.”

Evanina’s warning comes as U.S. intelligence, law enforcement and congressional officials are still investigating Russian hacking in the 2016 presidential election .

The probe is on whether anyone with President Donald Trump’s campaign was aware of or aided it.

Trump has repeatedly denied there was any collusion and Russia has said it did not meddle in the U.S. election.

Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said British security agencies have issued similar warnings to its public and England football team, which is competing for the World Cup.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said it was “providing expert cyber security advice to the (UK) Football Association ahead of their departure to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.”

The NCSC, a branch of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency, also issued a warning to the British public.

Private cyber security expert Patrick Wardle said the official warnings constituted “really good advice.

When I travel to Russia, I bring ‘burner’ devices, so if they get hacked, it doesn’t really matter.”

A burner device is typically bought for temporary use, then thrown away.

U.S. agencies have issued similar warnings before other major international sporting events, including the recent Winter Olympics in Seoul.

Senate President, Saraki to Address Russian Parliament

The President of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki will be addressing the Russian Parliament during an exchange visit between June 19th and June 22, 2018.

Saraki who announced the visit on Thursday at plenary, told his colleagues that he would be addressing a special plenary session at the Russian Federal Council.

“This is to inform the distinguished Senate that i will be leading a delegation of the Senate to the Federal Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on an exchange visit from the 19th to the 22nd of June 2018.

“During the visit, i will address a special plenary of the Federation’s council,” Saraki said.

Speaking to our correspondent on the visit, Special Assistant to Saraki on Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Bamikole Omishore said that the visit is sequel to the meeting of Saraki with the Chairperson of the federal council Madam Valentina Matviyenko at the 2017 Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (IPU).

“They exchanged ideas and she invited the Senate President to deliver a speech during a joint special session.

“The event will also have a wreath laying ceremony at tomb of unknown soldier and other meetings to strengthen parliamentary relationship between both Russia and Nigeria.

At the 2017 IPU, Saraki also began negotiations for a better trade relationship between Nigeria and Russia.

Omishore disclosed that Saraki will also make out time to support the Super Eagles during one of their games at the World Cup.

He listed those that would be accompanying Saraki on the trip to include: Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Majority Whip, Senator Adeyeye, Senator Danbaba, Senator Sunmonu and others.

Source NAN

Iceland FA Boss Issues warning To Nigeria, Others: We’ll Shock The World Like At Euro 2016

Icelandic Football Association President Guðni Bergsson is confident that the team can make it to the knockout rounds of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia like they their amazing performancein 2016 European Championship in France.

Iceland in the 2016 European Championship in France  got to the knockout stages without  any game loss to their Group F matches before losing to France in the last eight.

The underdogs, gracing the worldcup mundial for the first time, are drawn in the same Russia 2018 group as Nigeria, Croatia and Argentina.

“Getting into the World Cup is one of the most important events in the history of the whole of Iceland,” Bergsson told Russian News Agency TASS.

“We have a rather complicated group, but two years ago we already surprised the whole football community with a performance at the European Championships in France, and now we are ready to repeat.

“I cannot imagine how far our team will go in the World Cup, but I can say with certainty that those players who will go to Russia will play with the heart and with all their heart.”

The federation has chosen Gelendzhik as the team’s base during the forthcoming tournament and the former Bolton Wanderers player feels the resort town will enhance the team’s performance in the tournament.

“Before the final choice, we allocated two bases for ourselves, the first one in Rostov-on-Don and the second one in Gelendzhik. We originally planned that we would be based in the southern cluster, so that the team could thoroughly prepare for the matches. After visiting the base in Gelendzhik, all other options have disappeared: it is perfectly equipped with all the most necessary for preparation and the location in the mountains and proximity to the sea will add to our national team of energy,” he said.

“Another factor in the choice of the base is the close proximity to the cities of matches in the group stage, so long-term flights will not be a problem for our team, especially since we used to fly long distances when playing matches of the qualifying round .. In my opinion, for all teams this should not be a problem, because you need to come and play football, and not think about flights.

“At the moment, 80% of the (ticket) quota is bought; I can say that the fans of the Icelandic team will be no less than at the European Championships and about 20% of the total population of the country. Many plan their holidays even for the sake of one match in Russia and, in my opinion , it’s great, I’m absolutely sure that everyone who comes to Russia will get maximum pleasure and enjoy the beauties of Russian nature and learn the true Russian hospitality.”

TIceland will begin their World Cup campaign on June 16 against Argentina at the Otkrite Arena before facing Nigeria on June 22 at the Volgograd Arena and Croatia on June 26 in Rostov-on-Don.

Russia To Star Deaf Cat As World Cup Oracle

Russia on Monday announced a deaf white cat who lives in Saint Petersburg’s historic Hermitage Museum as its official prognosticator for the World Cup’

Achilles the Cat will hope to repeat the legendary and superb exploits of Paul the Octopus and other “psychic” animals tasked with predicting winners of football’s showpiece event.

“We will hold a special press conference and hand Achilles a Fan ID card,” the Hermitage Museum’s cat press secretary Mary Khaltunen told the R-Sport news agency.

The fact that Russia’s most fabled collection of art has a spokeswoman for cats may be news to some.

But R-Sport says Hermitage Museum cats are legion – and apparently football experts.

The cats were first brought to the Hermitage when Peter the Great made its Winter Palace into the new imperial home in the 17th century.

Empress Elizabeth of Russia eventually issued a decree demanding “the shipment of cats to the court”.

The Hermitage was turned into a private art collection after Catherine the Great’s death in 1796.

The Hermitage’s Cat Museum founder Anna Kondratyeva said Achilles went on sabbatical and “put on a belly” after also picking winners in last year’s Confederations Cup in Russia.

It was not immediately clear how well he did.

But the 4.7-kilogramme (10.4-pound) feline would have to be in top form to repeat Paul the Octopus’s correct prediction of all seven German wins at the 2010 World Cup.

The octopus also correctly picked final winner Spain by settling its tentacles over the Spanish flag when it was lowered into Paul’s tank.

Achilles’s selection process will be less dramatic: the cat will simply sticks his snout into the winning bowl of food.

“Achilles was born deaf, which may explain his heightened intuition,” R-Sport wrote.


Super Eagles Can Make Us Proud In Russia – Aregbesola

The Governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has congratulated the Super Eagles of Nigeria for becoming the first African nation to secure a spot in next year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

In a statement signed by the media adviser to the Governor, Mr Sola Fasure, Aregbesola urged to Super Eagles to keep their foot on the ground and do the nation proud in Russia next year.

An ardent Arsenal fan himself, Aregbesola urged the Nigeria Footballer Federation to continue to fully support the team.

“I congratulate the Super Eagles on the feat, who would have thought that in a group with football powerhouses like Cameroon, Zambia and Algeria, we would have qualified with a game to spare”.

“I am proud of what this team has been able to achieve so far and I believe they can make us proud in Russia. “

“The Nigeria Football Federation must from this moment begin to make arrangements that will ensure that we have a successful showing in next year’s competition”

“ For the first time in a long while, we are not having to depend on other countries to do us a favor for us to qualify”

Aregbesola also congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians for what he described as a milestone while also praising the team and members of the technical crew for their patriotism.

‘Baba Ijebu’ Splashes N50m on Super Eagles

As jubilation, celebrations and words of commendation continues to pour in following Nigeria’s qualification for Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament, Chief Kensington Adebutu,also known as Baba Ijebu, has rewarded the Super Eagles with the sum of N50m.

A statement by the Nigeria Football Federation, Ademola Olajire, said the businessman urged the Super Eagles to go for glory in Russia next year.

He said, “Adebutu was full of praises for the Super Eagles for their determination, professionalism and commitment throughout the qualifying campaign, which saw them overhaul the so-called Group of Death with a game to spare.

“Speaking with the duo of midfielder Ogenyi Onazi and match –winner

Saraki Tasks Sports Ministry, NFF Ahead of World Cup

As congratulatory messages continue to roll in for the Nigerian Super Eagles on qualifying for Russia 2018 tournament, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has chimed in through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, that the Senate would work to ensure that Nigerian players were well equipped and prepared for the 2018 tournament.

He said, “Right now, we must begin to plan and work towards victory for our Super Eagles. They have made us proud on the field; now, the NFF, the Ministry of Sports, the sponsors and all concerned stakeholders must work together to ensure that our players and the team thrive at the World Cup.

“As our players continue to make us all proud and demonstrate the greatness in our diversity, I want to also congratulate all Nigerians. We can truly achieve great things when we come together.”

“I want to congratulate our players for the way that they have played throughout this whole qualifying phase. It is my hope and the hope of millions across the country that our Super Eagles will represent our nation and the continent well at next year’s World Cup. It was great to have been in Uyo to cheer you on to victory”.

Super Eagles’ Victory, Independence Gift to Nigerians- Buhari

Following Alex Iwobi’s sterling goal to secure Nigeria’s place in the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament, President Muhammadu Buhari through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, has described the victory as “very sweet, soothing and a 57th Independence Anniversary gift to the nation.”

The statement read, “As he joined millions of football-loving Nigerians in rejoicing with the players and their coaching crew, President Buhari called on all Nigerians to apply the values of perseverance, resilience, discipline, hard work and team-spirit which propelled the footballers to excel since the beginning of the qualifying matches, to all sectors of national life.

“The President promised that the Federal Government will continue to support the team within available resources so that the nation will maximise the unifying potentials of sports in general and football in particular.

“He enjoined the entire team and Nigerian Football Federation officials to remain steadfast and focused when they begin preparations for the global football fiesta in order to make Nigeria proud.

“President Buhari urged public, private organisations and well-meaning Nigerians to continue to assist the Super Eagles as the team heads for a sixth appearance at the summit of football competition.

“The President also appreciated the government of Akwa Ibom State for the invaluable support it has been rendering to the football team, describing it as worthy of emulation.”