Kenyan Star of The Week - Jos Openda

While most coaches are losing hair plotting on how to have at least one trophy in the cabinet at the end of the season, to Jos Openda, that has never been a concern. To him, Kenya Hockey Union league title is assured even before the first ball of the season bullies off. In fact, his biggest concern is how to finish the season in style, to win the league without conceding a goal. 

Openda, a man who never played hockey beyond the confines of Kisumu with KibosSimba(Kisumu Sikh Union), now Butali Sugar, returned to the sport he silently walked away from as a form of protest due to poor treatment of players by the club management then to become one of Kenya's success stories. 

With seven African Club championship gold medals hanging on his chest,  17 league title with Telkom Orange and now targeting to win both without conceding a goal, Jos Openda is our KenyaStar of the week. 

KS: Thank you for having us Coach, tell us about your early days in sports.

I played hockey when I was in school, that is Kisumu Boys' High School. At that time we were doing Nationals and we were defending champions nine times in a row. Yes there was a year Kisumu Boys' held the title for the ninth time in a row, that was the time I was part of the team and I played two Nationals and we won both, one was in Nairobi the other was in Thika. Those were my playing days in hockey, I managed to play for some clubs in Kisumu, a team called Kibos Simba. I  played for Nyanza team and I remember there used to be a tournament called Tata Cup Interprovincial it used to be a very interesting tournament it used to be the highlight of National tournaments and then along the way I switched to basketball. 

KS: Which position in the field did you used to play in hockey?

I used to play mostly as a half but sometimes i could rotate. I played alongside Michael Omondi and Peter Katsa. We used to play at times at the central midfield and at times I'd be pushed to the right or left half.

KS: Your dad was a football administrator, your brother played football so why hockey for you?

Well, that's what  guys found actually amazing... many people wondered why hockey. Why I never played football much was because in football there is so much contact and basically I believe in playing a game where there is not much contact....that's why even when you watch the girls that I'm coaching the way they play, I tell them to avoid  physical contact because it does not really help much. So maybe that's why I decided not to play football. Basketball also was another one which i started as a joke, it just started as a joke and I can't believe I played for the national team also in basketball.

KS: Did you feature for the hockey national team too?

No...I didn't feature for the hockey national team but I had a call-up for the junior team way back, in 1979..... you were not born by then (laughs). In 1979 there is a team that went to Barcelona and I was in the call-up for that team but it was unfortunate that I could not stay in Nairobi for long because there was nobody to stay with so I had to go back to Kisumu.

KS: Where did you play your basketball?

I started off basketball in Kisumu also and that's when I became a household name. In fact people knew me more on basketball then than hockey...very few people knew that I played hockey. 

KS: You leaving hockey for basketball was not a choice. What exactly made you move to Basketball?

Actually what made me stop playing hockey was that I had a small rift with the people who were managing hockey that time, in Kisumu. 

We never used to get equal treatment and I didn’t like the way my fellow team mates were being treated. I was one of the best players so basically I would get first class treatment but the others who were like spurring partners were really not getting the same treatment. We realized that the allowances were kind of halved when we go out and that didn’t go well with me. I always feel that players should be treated equally, across the board. In fact, if you look at my team, Orange, those are some of the things that I work toward. I don’t see that any player is better than the other. However good you are. Talents are different but you know, when play as a team, you have to be treated equally and that’s why we’ve been able to achieve everything that we’ve got.

KS: So when you look back to that time, do you regret that you made the switch?

Nobody knew. Nobody knew that it was a protest.  They looked for me but I just told them, you know what.... in fact, we moved quite a number of players but some decided to go back.

When I meet people like Paul Omanyi, at times we laugh. He tells me that I decided that I didn’t want to see the world. That he saw the world. I would have been an Olympian, but it wasn’t meant to be. So I can’t say that I have any regrets, I am happy the way I am. Am happy with what I do now. 

KS: When did you start coaching hockey?

I started coaching hockey when I joined Posta...that time I was playing basketball too. It so happened that  we were training at the university grounds and I saw a few people who looked familiar, I had seen them on the corridors of Posta offices and I asked them if that was a Posta team and they reckoned it was... I asked if they had a coach and they said they don't have, so I took over. I coached them for one and a half years and I remember that time it was the Kenya Ladies Hockey Association that was running ladies' hockey and there were very few teams. Tobias Oduor was the man behind these things and I remember we used to play against Inter-Capital and we used to be beaten seriously: I remember in our first game we were beaten 17-0 then we started reducing the scores and by the time I was leaving back to basketball, at least we could hold Inter-Capital, they could not beat us so many goals... maybe just seven. We were reducing the number of goals then I had to stop and concentrate on basketball. We had a big assignment in basketball, we were playing the African Club Championship and we were going to Egypt so the office felt that I was needed more in basketball than in hockey because hockey by then was not popular.

KS: So here you are today and one of the best coaches in Africa. You’ve won several titles with Orange. Would just take us through that journey?

I say it’s been a sweet journey with Orange since i came back as a coach after I had stopped playing. In fact, I really protested the first time they contacted me to go back as a coach. I told them that it’s been many years when I was involved in hockey. It was way back in 1989 and I was coming back in 2002. That about 20 years plus. And I asked them, “why me?”

But Betty Masinde is the one who insisted that she wanted me back to coach the team. Maybe she realized something in me which I didn’t know. Initially, I was a bit adamant.  I didn’t want to take up the job but then I said, “why not?” Let me take up the challenge and I did. You can’t believe the first time when I stepped into the pitch to train them. They were already top gear, winning most of the games. I had to act like I knew what was happening but truth is I was a bit in the dark. I started growing with them gradually, learning a few things from them and other players who came in to help with coaching.

We lost in the final in my first continental assignment. We were the defending champions but we lost to Nigeria. The following year,we lost again to Nigeria, in the final. We had beaten them in the preliminaries and losing in the finals really disturbed me. When I got to know the trick, how to do certain things, how to prepare the team and how to have the team ready for all games– I learnt to know that you can beat a team in the preliminaries but when you meet the same opponent in the finals you can still be able to win and here we are now, celebrating along.

When I joined, Orange were the league champs. They had won the club champs once or twice but after that it became very elusive thing. Now when I got into the team, those are some of the things that we sat down and strategize on. I always believe in winning. There is no short cut in winning and when you want to win, you just have to plan. Winning is sweet and I told them that we will win the club champs as long us we’ll still be walking.

We want to get to the Guinness Book of records as the only women’s club to have won a record sixth Africa club championship in a row. We’ve won the club champs, five times in a row, something which has never been achieved by any other club in Africa in the ladies category and we are going for a sixth one this year. I’ve done seven clubs champs in total with the team; they won two before I came. 

I can’t remember when we didn’t win the league. They were winning the league before I came in and we’ve retained the same status and we don’t want anything to change. Not anytime soon.

KS: What are some of these tricks which make you tick?

I can say that you have to totally understand the players’ mood. You kind of create a rapport with them in a way that you don’t use a lot of dictatorship on them. You’ve got to listen to them once in a while but not all the time. I can say 60% of the time you got to be hard but once you give them room that you can also listen to them, it becomes easy. That’s the biggest thing. The other thing is just having the winning mentality. I’ve never believed in losing. In fact the lose that I had when I was just starting with the team provoked me. I had to go for a coaching course and seminars. KHU (Kenya Hockey Union) exposed me by taking me to a lot of seminars where I learnt a lot about hockey and from there I just implemented what I learnt.

I believe that having players who are ready to work and play for the team is also another thing that contributed to that success. You’ve noticed that the senior payers moved on when there was transition in the team. I lost about 15 players but it was a gradual lose and by the time I was getting to 20, the team had already transited. The players are seeing today have only been here for seven years of playing together.  They are the same players I went with to Ghana and we were last. When we came back, a major shift happened in the team but I told the young ones that their time will come. I exposed them in the tournaments where they played poorly but now they even want to win club champs without conceding a goal.

Our tactics are very simple. As a team we train pretty hard and then before game, we talk as a team. We call it ‘fungua  roho[open your heart]’. We sit down and players give us what they think and we analyze and advice on the best way to go about it. A player can sometimes think that what she knows is right. You have to listen to her and tell her why that cannot work in this particular game, why it will work in another game. Once you follow instruction life is very easy. But most importantly, once you give an idea, you don’t have to close them in that idea – that it’s cast on stone. Once in a while, thy have to go out of the box, do something extra ordinary. Allow them to express themselves. That way you’ll be able to se talent coming out. That’s what we do and that what makes Orange tick. Key thing is, I’ll listen to the players. In fact people wonder how I cope with these girls. Its simple, we have four female coaches and the Team Manger is also a lady. I’m the only male in the team. 

KS: What is your obsession with winning the title without conceding a goal? This is a target you first set in 2014. It has eluded you though at times with only two goal margin. Do you believe that this is the year to do it and what is the obsession?

It’s something that we set way back and it’s quite unfortunate that my friend coach Meshack  Senge (Strathmore) is the one who has messed it up most of the time. I remember last year, when we were on the verge of getting it, he pulled a two-all draw with us. Those were the only goals we conceded in the entire league tournament. When we got to the club champ, a team from Nigeria managed to score two goals against us. The only goals we conceded in that tournament. 

Looking at the analysis of the league and club champs, I realized that there are only two teams that have managed to score against us and asked myself a question that if only one team can manage to get a goal from us (in the league), then its possible that we can get the league without conceding a goal. We are really working very hard to stop all the team and it’s something that we’ll be able to achieve. This is one thing that I am obsessed with and I am quite sure that God will give it to us.

KS: Earlier in the year you said that you’ll be retiring from active coaching. This is not the first time you’ve said so and the information going round is that you may rescind that decision. Could be true that achieving this obsession, winning the league and club champ without conceding a goal is what is still holding you back? 

No. one thing that I want to make very clear is that I am not leaving this ladies team. We’ve been together for a very long time. I am with them. What is happening is that the lady coaches whom have been with all along are getting ready for bigger assignments. Last year they sat on the bench for league games and they did very well. They managed to win the league. This year again, with the target still set, am still with them, watching them from the terraces, I don’t sit on the bench if you’ve seen that but we are always together with them and see how we can help the team grow and from there, if all goes well they’ll be hands on. But I’m not leaving. I’ll still be with them.

KS: A time is coming that you’ll have to leave for one reason or another. When you leave hockey as Telkom Orange coach, what next for Openda?

That is already in plan. If you’ve noticed of late I’m not in Nairobi most of the time. I come in when the team has a session then after that I rush to Kisumu. I got into poultry farming. I don’t believe in spending and having a good life in Nairobi then when I die, you want to go bury me in my shags (village) which I don’t know anything about. Also I want to see if I can get a team in Kisumu and start something with them. I’ve already identified some Girls’ school -Nyawara Girls. I want to see if it would be possible for us to work together and see if I can take them to the national school games. Those are some of the things I’ll be doing but I’ll not leave. I will always be with them (Orange) till death do us part.

KS: This may be a tough one for you. There was a time, around 2014 when the spirit of your team was broken down when you lost one of your players. Ho was that time for you as the coach and the players? 

Betty Tioni. Losing her was my saddest moment with the team. She was in the team that played in Uganda in Club championship that year and less than six months we were back in Zimbabwe. As much as the team was emotionally affected by her death, something amazing is that when we went back to Zimbabwe for club champs, (that was going to be the third time in a row that we were chasing the title), the girls played for Tioni. They gave it their all for her and when we came back, we took the trophy to her grave and placed it there and told her: “This is for you.”

KS: Your dominance especially in the local league is quite amazing. What are other teams not getting right and do you think lack of competition is a challenge to the women’s hockey? 

I cannot talk for other teams. I can only talk for Telkom Orange. Our sponsors are doing everything for us and we have no other choice but to win. So I don’t know what other teams are doing. I don’t even know where they train. All I know is that Orange treats us well and that why we are here. We are like a semi professional club. 

KS: But does it bother you that you don’t have much competition locally and even at the continental stage, save for South Africa who are slightly ahead of us?

The competition is there. If you watch how we play against local teams, they come out. They want to bring us down. No team walks into the pitch with the  mind that they are going to loss. They actually make us sweat. It doesn’t come easy. The difference is, how do they prepare for us? Same to club champs. We are working extra hard. If you watched the way we played here during the club champs, it speaks volume. If you remember the final against Ghana Revenue Authority we beat them 2-0. That was a tight game. 

KS: Every match is a tough one for coaches but who is one team or coach that gives you sleepless night whenever you are going to meet?

I can’t say they give me sleepless nights because when you have a sleepless night it can be very dangerous but there are teams that are coming up, trying very much to dislodge us.  In the league am talking of the likes or Amira, Chase Bank and Strathmore University which has very good facilities but they don’t give us sleepless nights. Sliders used to be there but I don’t know what happened to them. I think they need to get their acts right. Vikings too used to be there but they slumped a bit. They have a few issues but I know they’ll come back. Basically, all teams are okey. All they need to do is to work hard because for you to beat Orange you must work extra hard.

KS: What structures do you have I place to take players up the ranks?

What is happening is that we have coaches in charge of different roles. For example we have Josephine Ataro who is in charge of scouting. Being a teacher, she identifies talents for us during school games.  

Besides that, we used to have a program for the junior team. We had about 16 players and the good thing is that most of the players have joined colleges where they play for their respective colleges and when they come of age they’ll rejoin Orange. We want to revive that program, subject to sponsorship we get from Orange. Hockey is a very expensive sport. 

KS: I’m going to ask you a difficult question. Who is the best talent you’ve ever worked with since you joined Orange?

The best talent I’ve worked with is Betsy Omalla. She’s currently based in the UK but she always come back and have sessions with us.

KS: on the same note: Is there any player in the league or out of your team that you’d like to work have in your team.

I look at a player like Yvonne Karanja of Strathmore. I like her play. A speedy player. She plays like our forwards. Forward oriented. She’s one player that I won’t mind coming over but also, I don’t want to kill other clubs. ThenI’ll talk about Pauline Naise whom I believe that her talent is still not being nurtured the way it’s supposed to be. I believe that she’s playing more of social than competitive hockey. That if she moves to Orange, she’ll be able to get a taste of these club champs more frequently and then her maturity in the game could really come up. 

KS: Have you made a move on any of these players?

Pauline, yes I did. There was a time she stopped playing hockey and I sent emissaries for her and when she came back, I was shocked she joined Amira. Maybe her friends are there, she feels comfortable but I told her the best place to be is Orange. Let’s wait and see how it goes. Yvonne of course is still in college so we cannot even discuss more about her.

KS: What are some of the challenges you face as a coach especially one who works with female players?

There was a time this pitch we are training on was at its worse. That is the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced as a team until they did some repair on it but it’s not the kind of pitch a team that has won club champs should be training on. We need a better pitch than this. 

Another big challenge we have is the availability on the pitch itself. We share the place with so many clubs and it’s become a very big challenge. There are times you have to cut short your training because other teams also want to train. Like now, the national team is supposed to start their preps for AFCON. When they come, it will be a bit hard for us to do our training on this pitch. The fact that there is only one hockey pitch in in Kenya is the biggest challenge.

Other challenges are on players. Initially we used to train from 10 A.M but when most of them, who by then were in colleges, started working, we pushed it to night. Most of them are not on work release so I have to wait for them to clear work duties.Most of them work in banks, and some are teachers so they have to finish their work then rush for training.

KS:Do you have plans as a club, to have your own pitch?

If only my team manager was here, she would have answered that question. There are somethings that I really don’t deal with directly. My job is to make sure that players are training and they are fit.

KS: What’s your take on corporate involvement in hockey as a sport. I know you have Orange but most of the teams do not have sponsors. What’s your take?

We need sponsors to come on board, not only for clubs but also for national team. For us to get back to where we used to be, especially the men’s team, we need to go out and play against the top clubs. This is only possible with big sponsorship. Ladies can do it because of Orange. If Orange is used well, it’s very easy for Kenya to conquer Africa but for men, they need to get back and the biggest thing is sponsorship. 

There was a time I handled the national team for an assignment in South Africa. We were in a pathetic situation. We didn’t have proper accommodation. Personally, I was not happy. There is nothing as bad as when you are coaching a team and you are not happy. We had a nice pitch to train on but after training we needed to rest.

If we can get sponsorship on board, Kenya can go far just the same way like Rugby. We are nowhere in Africa but now we just go, threaten people but no consistency. We need to win something instead of these bronze and silver that we keep on getting. We need to start going for Gold then get off the block and see where we are. If we can get sponsors on board and take the team out of Africa and play the best teams in the world, we’ll be good to go. 

KS: Would you encourage young people to join hockey and what are the advantages of playing hockey?

Long time in this country, it was a MUST you had to carry a hockey stick when you were joining High School. I don’t know what happened along the way. 

But what we’ve done as Nairobi Hockey Association which I’m also part of (vice chairman), is that we started a development side for young players. These are the people who are going to take us where we need to be if they are treated well. We are in partnership with some friends from Netherlands who are giving donations in terms of sticks, kits etc. Since hockey is a very expensive sport and we cannot tell the kid to go buy a hockey stick, all we need the kids to do is walk to City Park every Saturdays from 8 .am and play hockey. When schools close they do it from Monday to Friday. Teenagers need to be involved in a lot of sport. Once you keep your mind busy you’ll avoid a lot of things. 

KS: If you were not here today, as a coach, what would Openda be doing?

Jos Openda has a lot of things to do. Do you know that when I started coaching hockey I stopped doing fitness with my age mates? We used to meet and play for about two hours and after that….  I’ll still be involved in sports in some way or the other. 

KS: Lastly, you’ve talked about your experience in South Africa with the national team. What is your take on the kind of treatment players have received from KHU over the years when they step up to the national team? We are talking about allowances here.

That has been there. In fact I remember before we went for the world league, player had said that they will not travel without allowance. Some even turned down the call up. It’s their right. Let them be given their allowances. There are some things which need to be put into perspective before you call a team. Like you see these girls training here, if Orange tells me that they are not going to pay them, I’ll not call them for training. It would be a waste of time. 

Why do you call players to the national team then you don’t pay them? Give unto Ceasar what’s Ceacar’s and then tell, now that I’ve done this to you, I need results. And they will give you results. For example, we have a game in Mombasa this weekend, already we know where we are going to stay, what we are going to be paid in form of allowances. They will definitely travel to Mombasa, they will travel in the most comfortable way possible and they’ll sleep in a five star hotel. Will they not give you results? They have no choice. That’s the same way the national team should be. They should be put in a way that they don’t have a choice but to give the results.  But here we want to treat them like some third rate citizens and expect results from them. It’s so sad.

Rewind, briefly, to the point when GorMahia suffered their first loss of the season against a resilient Western Stima. Marcelo Ze Maria’s initial reaction to that slim defeat in April had been one of fury. He was livid, humiliated, crushed and looked helpless in finding a solution in what might have hit him and the boys that day. 

It took a while for those emotions to simmer down and rational thought to return but then, as he gave his back to the Moi Stadium pitch, reality seems to have sank in; the 2017 season was never going to be easy.

“We gave our all today but the goal couldn’t just go in. They (Stima) gave us a good game but we have to keep on working to ensure we win our next games. We know there are no easy games in this league but ours is not to lose focus,” Ze Maria said then

Now return to the present. Gor Mahia are currently a top of the log despite having been not at their best for the better part of the first leg but margins point to a title race that will be the tightest in recent years.

Adaptability

The same group of players who failed to find a way past Western Stima and later past a young Mathare United side have achieved eight wins; the most in the division. If there had been initial doubts in the demands being placed upon them by a coach who insists upon total commitment, then they have been  allayed. 

Plenty has been made of the switch in formation since his arrival, instigated in the latter stages of their game against Ushuru Fc. Adopting three at the back has clearly been a masterstroke and a tactical tweak that has hurt opposition.

“The change of formation must suit the players I have at my disposal. It will be a gradual process but I am happy that the team is willing to learn and implement my style of play,” Ze Maria’s sentiments months after replacing Frank Nuttal in the GorMahia hot seat last season.

Trust

Ze Maria inherited a filtrated environment after the unceremonious departure of Nuttal but despite the pressure that comes with coaching one of the biggest teams in the region, he has managed to keep his charges on toes; building trust and transforming some of his fringe players to beaters; Kenneth Muguna, Oliver Maloba, Wellington Ochieng and Timothy Otieno to mention a few.

“Tuyisenge will be out for some time but we believe we have players who can fill his void. GorMahia is made of more than one player and I believe those at my disposal would do the job,” Ze Maria prior to the derby match against AFC Leopards.

Trend Setting and Title duel

The quite celebrations conducted in front of the club’s own fans in the Mashemeji derby were a show of unity and reflected a remarkable transformation. “The boys deserve a pat on the back for the good performance. Considering the magnitude of the game, they gave their best but we have a lot of games between now and the end of the season so I can only urge them to maintain focus and replicate the same show in our forthcoming assignments.

His sentiments were however different when his side was held by Tusker FC and Thika United respectively; the Brazilian claiming that teams always came in their duels with a negative approach something he termed as a backward idea. His notion was, his side always set the style of play for his opponents who had a special plan they execute in only games involving his team.

“Every team comes to play GorMahia with a negative tactic. All they do is to waste time and the officials help this by not adding the appropriate time,” his sentiments after the Tusker stalemate. “I think our opponents today played for less than 30 minutes in the second half and the referee ought to have added more time." He added.

“It is still too early to say who will win the title because we are a head with a small margin. All we know is we have to concentrate on our games and take them as they come if we are to win the title,” Ze Maria said after their week 12 1-1 draw against Thika United.

The end to the first leg of the season is just a game away but one feels Ze Maria has tasted all the ingredients that he feels will help him wrestle the title. His team seem unstoppable on a good day, their conviction swollen and the manager a man inspired. 

READ: 

Ze Maria: When You Are At Gor Mahia, The Expectation Is A Win In Every Match

Simbas 15s Team Manager Simiyu Wangila has urged his side to proceed to Saturday’s match against Germany with utmost caution, as the German side is very strong and should not be underrated. Simbas face Germany on Saturday 27 May, 2017 at the RFUEA Grounds, with the two sides placed 23rd and 24th respectively in the rankings.


``We have to go into the match with a lot of caution….we respect the Germans quite a lot. If you look at their games during the European circuit, they have actually been featuring very well and it is a team that is not to be taken for granted. That is why we had to go down to South Africa and fine-tune ourselves,’’ said the team manager.


Wangila also talked on the importance of Wilson Kopondo and Biko Adema coming back into the team. Kopondo was out for a long period due to injury while Biko Adema was representing the country with the 7s team. ``If you have been looking at the Kenya Cup, Kopondo’s return has been quite a wonderful thing for us. He has also missed playing on the pitch with the national team and now he is back. For Biko Adema, the exposure he has got playing with the 7s team has been awesome and using him at the position that he has been playing, we want to give him a chance and see what he can give us after going through the sevens circuit. He is now back here and we are sure that on Saturday, he will put in a very good performance.’’


Wangila summed up by expressing what it means for the Simbas to win Saturday’s match against Germany. ``Winning that game is very important for us so that the confidence level of the team can be up there as we go into the African Cup and Elgon Cup.’’

 

Kenya 15s captain Wilson Kopondo conveyed his joy in returning to the Simbas squad after a two-year absence. Kopondo was named the captain for the 15s side and will be assisted by Darwin Mukidza.


Speaking to Kenyanstar during the team naming event on Thursday, Kopondo said that he is happy to be back in the team and to represent the country. ``It feels great to be back, that is for sure. I love the game a lot and being involved in it to represent my country is something that always makes me happy. I am also glad to be part of a team which has put in so much effort in recent months.’’


On the team selection, Kopondo was satisfied with the assortment of new and experienced players. ``I like the blend a lot; blending experienced players, returnees and the new talents who have been standing out regardless of the situation is a very good thing. Bringing together fresh new talent, experience and the Cape Town vibe is very nice.’’


The captain also detailed what they need to do to beat a strong Germany side, who are only one position below them in the rankings. ``Technically, they (Germany) are very sound so we have to be strict defensively and also quick on our feet. They are a technical team so we will try and disturb their rhythm…we will also try to run them a lot and see if they can be able to keep up with our high altitude.’’


Simbas face Germany on Saturday 27 May, 2017 at the RFUEA Grounds.

Kakamega Homeboyz coach Mike Mururi believes that his players have recently gained momentum and can match any team’s competition in the Kenyan Premier League. Homeboyz have not lost in three of their last league fixtures, winning two and registering a draw. Their most recent win was against a struggling AFC Leopards side.
The good run has seen them rise to 7th position in the table with seventeen points, and Mururi’s thought is that the players have now come together as a team and understand each other more. ``I must say the boys have picked up form. We want to maintain the same form in our next match, and the next. We are capable of competing with any opposition in the league and just need to be consistent. I think we have finally gelled together as a team, and the players understand each other more.’’
Kakamega Homeboyz next match is away to Bandari on Saturday.

5 debutants are lined up to make their debut this weekend, as Kenya 15’s Simba takes on Germany in a Test match on Saturday at the RFUEA Grounds.

Speaking during the naming of the squad, team manager Wangila Simiyu said, “We have a pool of 36 players and those who have been selected have merited to be in the team. With young players like Ikambili and Mayaka coming in, it shows that Kenya Cup is becoming a competitive league.”

Led by captain Sean Armstrong, the German side arrived in the country Tuesday, and will be looking to get things going over Kenya. The European nation is also in contention for the World Cup in 2019, and the match will be as key to them as it will be for Kenya.

Here are the squads for both sides.

Germany:

Sean Armstrong, Raynor Parkinson, Timo Vollenkemper, Kehoma Brenner, Jaco Otto, Jarrid Els, Harris Aounallah, Dale Garner, Michael Poppmeier, Jörn Schröder, Pirmin Stöhr, Luis Ball, Antony Dickinson, Chris Howells, Ben Ellermann, Daniel Cook, Jamie Murphy, Marcel Coetzee, Erik Marks, Damien Tussac, Tim Menzel, Mikael Tyumenev, Julius Nostadt, Christopher Hilsenbeck, Dasch Barber, Samy Füchsel, Mathieu Ducau, Felicien Vergnon, Marcel Henn.

Kenya Simbas

15. Tony Onyango (Homeboyz), 14. Darwin Mukidza (KCB, Vice Captain), 13. David Ambunya (Quins), 12. Patrice Agunda (Quins), 11. Jacob Ojee (KCB), 10. Biko Adema (Nondescripts), 9. Samson Onsomu (Impala), 1. Moses Amusala (KCB), 2. Peter Karia (KCB), 3. Dennis Karani (Impala), 4. Wilson Kopondo (Quins, Captain), 5. Simon Muniafu (Impala), 6. Eric Kerre (Impala), 7. Davis Chenge (KCB), 8. Martin Owila (KCB).

Replacements:  16. Philip Ikambili (Homeboyz)17. Oscar Simiyu (KCB), 18. Bramwell Mayaka (Homeboyz), 19. Oliver Mang’eni ( KCB), 20. George Nyambua (Kabras Sugar), 21. Kelvin Masai (Homeboyz), 22. Leo Seje Owade (Impala), 23. Dennis Muhanji (Quins).

AFC Leopards SC have made a clear intent to improve their fortunes in the league, first by replacing the departing coach Stewart Hall with Dorian Marin, but now have gone a step higher by a signing highly-rated striker.

Taxes on online betting firms will be lowered if recommendations of a House committee to reduce levies introduced in March by Treasury secretary Henry Rotich are adopted,  reports the Business Daily.

“The committee further adopted amendments to clauses… maintaining the status quo on taxation of betting, gaming and lotteries and having the proceeds go to sports fund,” noted the report from the committee.

Mr Rotich proposed in March to raise the tax rate for betting firms to 50 per cent of gross profits from 7.5 per cent.

The tax would fund sports, culture and the arts, he said.

This prompted an uproar from gaming firms which warned that the seven-fold tax hike would suffocate the fledgling industry and hurt supporting businesses including telecomms and media companies.

If adopted, sports betting firms will continue to enjoy lower taxes of between five and 15 per cent.

The companies have been paying five per cent tax on lottery, 7.5 per cent on betting, 12 per cent for gaming and 15 per cent for prize competition.
Apart from this, players in the gaming industry pay 30 per cent corporate tax.

Gaming industry executives said about seven million Kenyans have registered for betting services.

Dorian Marin will be the new AFC Leopards tactician replacing Briton Stewart Hall who has decided to part ways with the club. 

The Romanian, Marin, has had stints in Uganda and also Ghana at club level. Besides that, the 56 year old tactician has overseen a number of national football teams among them Eritrea. 

Kenyanstar has exclusively learnt that Stewart Hall had a hand in the appointment of the Romanian who was a front runner for the Sofapaka FC job in 2012. Besides that he was also one of 4 finalists who were set to take over the Egyptian national team job. 

Marin is expected to continue with Stewart Hall's project at the club and hence the transition should be smooth. 

Marin is further expected into the country anytime this week. 

Multiple reliable sources within the club have told Kenyanstar that AFC Leopards is in the process of finalizing its transfer business that include among others Wesley Onguso and two highly rated internationals.

Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo has left the club by mutual consent after one season in charge in which they finished runners-up, the former European champions said on Monday.

Usually known simply as Nuno, the Sao Tome and Principe-born coach was halfway through his contract when he departed one day after his team suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at Moreirense in their last league game of the season.

Porto finished second in the league, six points behind champions and arch-rivals Benfica. They kept up the chase for most of the season until their challenge faltered with home draws against Feirense and Vitoria Setubal.

They also reached the last 16 of the Champions League before losing to Juventus and suffered a shock elimination on penalties at the hands of Chaves in the Portuguese Cup.

"Porto and Nuno Espirito Santo reached an agreement on this Monday afternoon to end the coach's contract by mutual consent," said the club in a statement.

Porto won the Portuguese league nine times in 11 seasons from 2002/03 to 2012/13 but their dominance came to an abrupt halt, with arch-rivals Benfica winning the last four.

Since 2013, they have appointed Paulo Fonseca, Julen Lopetegui, Jose Peseiro and Nuno as coaches, while Luis Castro and Rui Barros have also been in charge on an interim basis.

Goalkeeper Nuno's playing career took him to Vitoria Guimaraes, Deportivo La Coruna, Merida, Osasuna, Dynamo Moscow and Aves, though he spent much of his time as second-choice.

He had two stints at Porto, the first from 2002-04 when he played second fiddle to Vitor Baia and the second from 2007 to 2010, when Brazilian Helton stood in his way.

Nevertheless, Nuno won a Champions League, Intercontinental Cup and UEFA Cup, four Portuguese league titles and three Portuguese Cup winners medals during those two spells.

His coaching career began as assistant to Jesualdo Ferreira at Malaga. He was named Valencia coach in July 2014 but was fired one year and four months later.

Chelsea's Antonio Conte was named Manager of the Year at a League Managers Association awards ceremony on Monday after leading his side to the Premier League title and FA Cup final.

The 47-year-old Italian, whose team finished seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, will lead Chelsea out against Arsenal in the Cup final at Wembley on Saturday.

Chelsea's 93 points was the second highest total since the Premier League began in 1992 and they became the first Premier League team to register 30 victories in one season.

"I think I've had a lot of incredible emotions in my first season here in England. I want to say thank you to all the people who voted for me. It's great to receive this award. I hope I deserved this," Conte said.

"It's fantastic to read all the names that won this trophy and to stay with these managers is a great achievement for me. I hope to continue in the best way," he added after receiving the award from former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

Chris Hughton, 58, was named Championship (second-tier) manager of the year after guiding Brighton & Hove Albion into the Premier League as runners-up to Newcastle United.

Angel Maria Villar was re-elected as the Spanish Football Federation's (RFEF) president for the eighth consecutive time on Monday after he stood unopposed. The term of office for the 67-year-old, who got 112 votes with 11 abstentions and six spoiled ballots, will run until 2020, with Villar having been first elected in 1988.

The former Athletic Bilbao and Spain midfielder has presided over the most successful era in the history of the Spanish national team, who won successive European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and their first World Cup in 2010.

"We have received huge endorsement which has brought us an undeniable victory. We have worked and won cleanly, it is a legitimate triumph, ratified by a strong majority," Villar told reporters.

The president is elected by an absolute majority of the members of the assembly which includes 120 members representing the clubs, players, referees and managers/coaches, who in turn are elected by the federation's ordinary members.

The president's former secretary general, Jorge Perez, had said he would run against him for the post but instead brought a case against Villar to Spain's highest sports court over alleged irregularities in the election of the RFEF assembly.

Perez withdrew from the election in protest, deciding not to present his candidacy on May 5, and asked the Spanish Sports Tribunal (TAD) and Sports Council (CSD) to annul the election of the RFEF general assembly, which they did not do.

In response to Perez's accusations, the RFEF published a statement saying the assembly election process had been conducted with "absolute honesty and transparency" and that the criticism was "completely untrue and biased".

Inter Milan forward Gabriel Barbosa has apologised for storming off the substitutes' bench when he realised he was not going to be used during Sunday's Serie A match at Lazio.

The 20-year-old Brazilian has had a frustrating first season at Inter, making just nine appearances, all as a substitute, and playing a total of only 111 minutes since his 30 million euros ($33.71 million) move from Santos last August.

He has managed one goal and picked up three yellow cards in that short period on the pitch.

His frustration boiled over during the 3-1 win at Lazio after he was not among the three substitutes brought on by coach Stefano Vecchi in the closing minutes of the game.

Television pictures showed him angrily leaving the bench before the final whistle.

"Inter supporters and team mates, during yesterday's game I suddenly adopted a thoughtless and inadequate attitude by leaving the pitch before the end of the game," he said on his Facebook page.

"Once the heat of the moment had died down, I realised, in calmness and with the support of my family, that the incident was unsporting and contradicted my professional values.

"I recognise my mistake and would like to register my sincere apologies to all the Inter fans who always supported me and to my team mates."

Gabriel, whose made his professional debut as a 16-year-old in 2013, emerged as one of Brazil's great hopes during three seasons at Pele's former club as he scored 57 goals and impressed with his pace, trickery, skill and clinical finishing.

He scored on his Brazil debut against Panama last year, went on to play at the Copa Centenario and won Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro with the under-23 team.

Vecchi said after the game that he expected the club to take action, although Inter have not commented since.

James Davison said it will be bittersweet to fill in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday but plans to do his best despite limited preparation time.

Davison completed 88 laps on the sprawling 2.5 mile oval speedway on Monday, with a best speed of 223.670 mph. It was the first time in two years the 30-year-old Australian, who has two previous starts in the race, was in the cockpit of an Indy car.

"It's certainly mixed emotions," Davison told IndyCar of replacing Bourdais. "No racing driver ever wants to secure an opportunity under these circumstances.

"I got to know Sebastien a little better when I was living in St. Petersburg a couple of years ago, and we were teammates together at KV Racing in 2014 when I was a rookie. He was very good to me there."

The 38-year-old Bourdais slammed head-on into the safety barriers when his Honda-powered car lost control on Saturday during qualifying.

Bourdais, who drives for Dale Coyne Racing, underwent surgery for pelvic fractures, officials said on Sunday.

Team owner Dale Coyne told IndyCar that Bourdais may not race again this year.

"He's got a plate, screws in his hip bone and plate on his pelvis. ... So it's at least 12 weeks, which may get him ready for Sonoma (in September), but why run one race?" he said.

"Let him rehab for the other four months and get ready to go for next year. Have him out and in January start testing with him and go at it."

Sunderland manager David Moyes has resigned after the team's relegation from the English Premier League. The former Manchester United coach announced his decision at a meeting with the club hierarchy in London on Monday.

Owner chairman Ellis Short says "having worked tirelessly throughout the campaign to avoid relegation from the Premier League, David has chosen to leave the club without compensation, which is testament to his character."

Moyes lasted only one season at Sunderland.

The Scot says, "I wish the players and my successor well in their efforts towards promotion back to the Premier League."

The team line-ups for the Under-17 World Cup (17th edition) to be held in India between 6 and 28 October 2017 are now complete, after the CAF (African Confederation) qualifiers were over on Monday.

Victories in their final group matches ensured Mali and Niger progressed to the tournament joining Ghana and Guinea, who had already sealed their qualification.

Niger made history by qualifying for a first-ever FIFA tournament after defeating Tanzania 1-0.

The 2016 AFC U-16 Championship held last year ensured Iraq, Iran, Japan and North Korea qualified for the tournament from Asia. Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and the United States of America recently qualified from the CONCACAF (Central, North American and the Caribbean) region.

England, France, Germany, Spain and Turkey recently sealed their places for the FIFA event after finishing as the best 5 teams from the 2017 UEFA European Championship.

Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay are the final CONMEBOL nations that will participate from South America while New Caledonia and New Zealand have qualified from the OFC (Oceania) region. Hosts India qualified for the tournament directly.

Welcoming the 24 countries, Tournament Director of the Local Organising Committee Javier Ceppi said, "It is very exciting to know the 24 teams that will be playing the World Cup. The line-up is superb, with established powerhouses in the category (such as former World Champions Brazil, Ghana and Mexico) and teams making their debut, among them the hosts India. Having seen the teams and knowing of their quality, football fans are in for a real treat in October and it is key that they can start getting their tickets now and book their place in history before is too late".

With the 24 teams in place, the attention now turns to the official draw, which will take place on July 7 and determine the fixtures for each team.

The 24 teams are:  India, England, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Japan, North Korea, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, United States of America, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Mali, Niger, Ghana, Guinea, New Caledonia and New Zealand

Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid lift their 33rd La Liga title on Sunday as he scored his 40th goal of the season within two minutes against Malaga to put Real in the driver's seat in their bid of dethroning FC Barcelona.

Real Madrid were three points ahead of Barcelona on the La Liga table and needed a draw or win against Malaga to win the 2016-17 title. Madrid beat Malaga 2-0, thanks to goals from Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, while Barcelona won 4-2 against Eibar. It was Madrid's consistency throughout the season that eventually proved to be the difference.

Despite the happiness of winning the domestic title, Ronaldo slammed the media for projecting him what he's not, saying he's "not a devil."

Post the match, Ronaldo was asked about a gesture he made to Celta Vigo players midweek during Madrid's 4-1 win over the Galicians insinuating that Celta had been offered bonuses to damage Madrid's title charge.

Ronaldo hit back at the press for making a mountain out of a molehill.

"People say things about me without knowing a thing and it bothers me. You (the media) say things about Cris without knowing the truth," Ronaldo retaliated.

"I am not a saint, but I am also not a devil like many people think I am," Ronaldo added.

Ronaldo further said that he has a family and such negativity about him in public affects them.

"I don't like this type of thing because I have a family, I have a mother, a son, and I don't like that they say stupid things about me."

The smile was back on Ronaldo's face when he was asked about his form lately. With the goal against Malaga, Ronaldo scored his 14th goal in the last nine games.

"I've prepared to be in top shape for the end of the season," he said.

Ronaldo said he was glad to be of help to his team that won Madrid's first title in five years.

"I've helped the team with my goals, my decisions and for that I am happy," Ronaldo added.

Real Madrid have their eyes set for a European double now as they prepare to face Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final on June 3 in Cardiff.

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Those who love him, love him with so much passion. Those who hate him, also do so with the same gusto. If a book on ‘The most hated footballers’ were ever to be written, several chapters would be dedicated to him.

Matatu culture is part of living in Nairobi City and the transport means used by all. Soccer fans use their own cars, buses and matatus for traveling to away matches.

The day is September 26th 2010. Kenya U-20 coach Vince Ombiji brought on a young and promising player as the national junior side took on Lesotho. The rookie had an almost immediate impact, as he ran down the Lesotho defense rugged. Fleet foot works, pacy and pin point crosses made him a darling to the fans instantly. Kenya’s next big thing was alive.

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has landed 0.75 billion shillings from FIFA in a grant that is aimed to make the federation set up and manage their inhouse media activities.

Kenyanstar has learnt from sources privy to the deal that the world governing body has agreed to hand the Federation a grant of USD 7.5M to set up their own media production for the league matches.

The news coming barely weeks after Supersport suspended their broadcast deal with Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and later on laying off staff earlier on this week, will be welcome to the soccer industry.

FKF president has been in the news saying how FKF and the KPL would be produced in-house and availed for free to air (FTA) TV channels.

To reduce pressure in starting up, our sources say, FKF will absorb the staff that were working for Supersport to do the production and there is likelihood they may buy the studio Supersport had set up in Nairobi.

Eric Ochieng' aka Cantona is one of most iconic soccer athletes to grace Kenya Premier League in the 1990s.

He is the Kenyan version of Portuguese super agent Jorge Paulo Agostinho Mendes. He is many things to many people, and recently added another feather to his cap by venturing into player and coaches representation. Starting off as a journalist, he grew through the ranks to become a Television producer, took the big risk and ventured into football administration, before jumping ship to start what has been a largely successful venture of talent management.

The figure of Ksh. 600,000 released by Gor Mahia today, as the total gate collections for the Gor Mahia vs Zoo Kericho match in Kisumu are ‘stupid figures’,  Gor Mahia Organizing Secretary Judith Anyango has told Kenyanstar in a long ranging Interview.

A terrific dribbler with an eye for goal. His skills and potential on the pitch have always left fans ecstatic. His dazzling runs and fantastic crosses have raised his profile in the local scene. He slowly grew through the ranks both at club and national level. He recently added to the statistics of players who have made the bold move from AFC Leopards to bitter rivals Gor Mahia where he penned a long term contract. 

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.

“She was playing doubles in a singles tournament!” Nile screamed at the ‘Day of the Unborn Child’ protest.

“I believe that ‘life at conception’ should be the law, and that clearly means two people won the Grand Slam,” said Nile, who is both an avid fan of professional tennis and aggressively campaigning to legislate how people use their uterus.

“That’s clearly against the rules!”

However, feminists argue Nile’s view that pregnancy is a sporting advantage shows ignorance to the realities facing those who are pregnant.

“Serena Williams was in control of her own body during the Grand Slam tournament, and as such has the right to her title, and the right, always, to bodily autonomy”, said Immy Grantson, an outspoken activist campaigning for progress on women’s issues.

“Williams, like all people, has the right to choose what she does with her body: whether that be powerful backhands, and/or be pregnant”, said Grantson.

This comes at a crucial time in New South Wales legislation. Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi’s End12 Campaign hopes to make it legal for world class athletes to choose whether or not they are pregnant.

When asked for comment by The Garter Press, Venus Williams, who lost to Serena Williams under the now contentious circumstances, said she was “excited to be an aunt”.

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.

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."

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."

Wilfried Zaha has rejected Gareth Southgate’s suggestion that he had imposed a timescale to be selected again by England, effectively holding the national team to ransom, and has defended his right to instead represent the country of his birth, Ivory Coast.

Bale and Ronaldo both played as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 yesterday. Goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro strengthened their grip on the La Liga title.

However, despite the victory, all is not well at the Santiago Bernabeu. Spanish outlet Diario Gol claimed yesterday that Ronaldo was fuming with Zinedine Zidane for substituting him late on.

The former Manchester United star provided the assist for Benzema's goal but was replaced by Isco in the 79th minute. It was said that Ronaldo believed Bale should have been substituted instead after an abject display.

But Diario Gol claim Bale was also angry after the game. The former Tottenham star's stock is rising in Spain after helping Madrid win the Champions League twice in the past three years. And the Wales international reportedly believes Ronaldo is preventing him from becoming the club's main man.

Bale has to play on the left wing due to Ronaldo's desire to play further up the field. He feels that Zidane is making a mistake by deploying him in that position as he prefers to play on the right, where he can cut inside.

Club chief Florentino Perez is now monitoring the situation as Madrid's two biggest stars aim to do outdo the other. 

Ireland and Everton defender Seamus Coleman faces up to a year on the sidelines after breaking his leg during a World Cup qualifier against Wales.

The ever-present risk of serious leg injuries in football was unfortunately realised once again as Wales’ Neil Taylor was shown a red card for a poor tackle during the 0-0 draw.

Once he realised what had happened, Coleman held onto his damaged leg while waiting for help.

Coleman was given oxygen on the field as medical staff attempted to immobilise his leg before taking to and ambulance and then hospital.

The final score took a back seat to Coleman’s well-being  after the match.

“It’s a bad break. Seamus is a fantastic player and character - it’s a major blow for the lad, for his club and for us,’’ Ireland manager Martin O’Neill told the UK’s Sky Sports.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world - I haven’t seen it back - but naturally disappointed. He’s gone to hospital and I think it’s broken.

“I saw Seamus’ reaction - he was holding his leg up and it didn’t look good.”

The length of Taylor’s suspension is yet to the decided but one this is for sure – Coleman is facing a lengthy stint of rehab before his professional career resumes.