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.

After two weeks of inactivity, the UEFA Europa League resumes on Thursday November 23, 2017 with a total 24 matches set to be played in different venues across Europe.

Everton will be seeking to revive their Europa League campaign with a first win in the when they host Atalanta from 23:05 EAT. The Toffees lie bottom in Group E after suffering three losses and one draw.

Arsenal will meanwhile be eyeing qualification into the next round when they visit FC Köln in a Group H match slated to start at 21:00. A win for the Gunners will see them through as they currently top the group with ten points, twice the number of second placed Red Star Belgrade.

Below are all Thursday's fixtures (All times are in EAT)

GROUP A

FC Astana 19:00 Villarreal

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 23:05 Slavia Prague

GROUP J

Athletic Bilbao 21:00 Hertha Berlin

Östersunds FK 21:00 Zorya Luhansk

GROUP K

Lazio 21:00 Vitesse

Nice 21:00 SV Zulte Waregem

GROUP L

Rosenborg 21:00 Real Sociedad

Zenit St Petersburg 21:00 Vardar

GROUP B

Partizan Belgrade 23:05 Young Boys

Skenderbeu 23:05 Dynamo Kiev

GROUP C

Ludogorets Razgrad 23:05 Istanbul Basaksehir

Sporting Braga 23:05 1899 Hoffenheim

GROUP D

AEK Athens 23:05 HNK Rijeka

AC Milan 23:05 Austria Vienna

GROUP E

Everton 23:05 Atalanta

Lyon 23:05 Apollon Limassol

GROUP F

Lokomotiv Moscow 21:00 FC Copenhagen

Sheriff Tiraspol 23:05 Zlín

GROUP G

Lugano 21:00 Hapoel Be'er Sheva

Viktoria Plzen 21:00 Steaua Bucharest

GROUP H

1. FC Köln 21:00 Arsenal

BATE Borisov 21:00 Red Star Belgrade

GROUP I

FC Red Bull Salzburg 21:00 Vitória Guimarães

Konyaspor 21:00 Marseille

 

Western Bulls and former giants Mean Machine, relegated after finishing in the bottom two positions during last season’s Kenya Cup will be keen to start life in the second tier on a high.

Bongi Mbonambi will make his first start for the Springboks against Italy in Padova, while Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the starting team for Saturday’s third Test in the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.

Furthermore, the uncapped Warrick Gelant has been included on the bench and will make his Springbok debut should he go onto the field of play during the match.

The Springbok management decided not to risk Malcolm Marx for this weekend’s match, following the shoulder injury he sustained last week against France. This means Mbonambi, who has 12 Test caps to his name, will earn his first start on Saturday.Chiliboy Ralepelle will join Gelant on the bench.

Du Toit is fit again and picked at flank, where he replaces Siya Kolisi, who is not available for this match because of the birth of his second child. The versatile Du Toit suffered concussion two weeks ago against Ireland and as a result he missed the Springbok victory over France in Paris.

The rest of the team that edged the French in the Stade de France in the previous outing is retained.

“We decided not to risk Malcolm, which means Bongi will get a well-deserved first start in the No 2 jersey,” said Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.

“Bongi has worked hard and I have no doubt he will grab this opportunity with both hands, as will Chiliboy, should he get a run.

“Warrick is in good form and his work-rate during training has been impressive. I know he will add value and I am very excited for the possibility of seeing him in action.”

Coetzee said the Italians will pose a difficult challenge at home: “We respect the Italian side, they are well coached and I know they will be up for the challenge. However, we focus on ourselves and a disciplined and clinical performance is what is needed this weekend.

“It would be important for our pack to again create a good platform of which to play from and therefore our set piece will be key in the expected wet conditions,” said Coetzee.

Eben Etzebeth will again lead the Springboks after the big lock has shrugged off a lower leg injury, which he suffered in Paris.

South Africa

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant

Zoo Kericho tactician Sammy Okoth has blamed their poor start in top flight football for a 12th place finish in the just concluded 2017 season.

Zoo, who were playing for the first time in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL), were unable to record a single win  in their opening seven matches, a run that saw them drop nineteen points in those two months.

`` A poor start to the season ended up costing us in the end. We lost about six games consecutively at the start of the season, and building back the confidence in the payers was a difficult thing that took a long while. Towards the second leg the payers picked up and we got some good results here and there, but we weren’t consistent and we found ourselves battling relegation,'' he said.

Okoth has however put the season behind him and shifted focus to the next campaign, stating confidently that they are now eyeing better performances.

``We have however learned important lessons and I believe that we shall perform better next season. Remember this was our first outing in the Premiership. It was a learning process and we have learned plenty.”

 

Nakumatt FC coach Anthony Mwangi is adamant that were it not for the financial constraints that his side has endured in the just ended season, they would have finished in a  much better position.

Nakumatt ended the campaign in 15th place with 39 points, just one more than the relegated Western Stima. They however had to undergo many challenges, with the most notable one being lack of finances to cater for their day-to-day activities due to the liquidation of their sponsors. 

Their participation in the league had also come into question at one time when the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) governing council confirmed their suspension before the Court of Appeal ordered their reinstatement.

“I think everyone knows that our club has dealt with the worst financial crisis since the club was formed. This is the major thing that affected our performance. If we would have had players training regularly and being well motivated like in previous years, I know that we could have finished in the top three positions. And I mean it. We have better quality players than many of the teams that have finished above us in the league and that is a fact. We even had our striker contending for the Golden Boot,'' said Mwangi.

``But when players are not motivated it becomes difficult to achieve results from them. Everyone from the players to the technical bench had to push themselves to do their job, but at least things are now looking up. Maybe next season things will return to normal and if that happens I know that we shall finish in the top half of the table and perhaps even challenge for top honours,” he added.

 

Gor Mahia FC head coach Dylan Kerr has given his thoughts about his first season in charge of the Kenyan club, expounding on his experience in Kenya and what he is planning for the league champions come next season.

Since taking over as the Gor Mahia head coach, Kerr lost only one match on his way to securing a 16th title for the team where they amassed a total of 74 points from 34 matches. 

“I am very grateful to the players and everyone for this achievement. Since I joined the club, it has been continuous hard work and good discipline and the results are here with us today. We deserve to win this championship,'' said the former English professional footballer.

``I had never stepped in Kenya before but I have come to love everything about the country. I now know every street in town (Nairobi) and I can tell you that I am here to stay. 

On matter to do with next season, Kerr said that he is seeking to beef up his squad so that they can be real competitors in local and continental football. The club has already been associated with a move for Ulinzi Stars ace Samwel Onyango and Ivorian forward Ephram Guikan.

``I need two strikers, one defensive midfielder, one attacking midfielder, a winger and a right-back. There are players the management and I have already identified and it's a matter of engaging their clubs. We don’t just want to dominate in Kenya, we want to compete in Africa and will accolades at that level too,” he said.

 

Harambee Stars' recent norm of depreciating in the World FIFA Men's Rankings has once again come to effect in the month of October, sliding a further nine places down in the latest standings revealed on Thursday November 23, 2017

Kenya, who were ranked 102 in October, now find themselves in 111th position. The national team was dormant in the last FIFA international week following  Zambia's withdrawal from a friendly that was scheduled to take place in Kenya.

Africa

In Africa, Senegal lead the standings, having  moved up nine places from position 32 to 23 globally. Tunisia, who have moved one spot up to 27, take the second place while Egypt (31), Congo DR (36) and Morocco (40) wind up the top five.

World

Germany meanwhile still continues topping globally ahead of Brazil and Portugal who retain the second and third spot respectively. Argentina and Belgium complete the top five in that order.

 

Harambee Stars' next 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match in which they were to face Ghana in March 2018 has been pushed to the weekend of 3-11 September 2018.

After two weeks of inactivity, the UEFA Europa League resumes on Thursday November 23, 2017 with a total 24 matches set to be played in different venues across Europe.

Everton will be seeking to revive their Europa League campaign with a first win in the when they host Atalanta from 23:05 EAT. The Toffees lie bottom in Group E after suffering three losses and one draw.

Arsenal will meanwhile be eyeing qualification into the next round when they visit FC Köln in a Group H match slated to start at 21:00. A win for the Gunners will see them through as they currently top the group with ten points, twice the number of second placed Red Star Belgrade.

Below are all Thursday's fixtures (All times are in EAT)

GROUP A

FC Astana 19:00 Villarreal

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 23:05 Slavia Prague

GROUP J

Athletic Bilbao 21:00 Hertha Berlin

Östersunds FK 21:00 Zorya Luhansk

GROUP K

Lazio 21:00 Vitesse

Nice 21:00 SV Zulte Waregem

GROUP L

Rosenborg 21:00 Real Sociedad

Zenit St Petersburg 21:00 Vardar

GROUP B

Partizan Belgrade 23:05 Young Boys

Skenderbeu 23:05 Dynamo Kiev

GROUP C

Ludogorets Razgrad 23:05 Istanbul Basaksehir

Sporting Braga 23:05 1899 Hoffenheim

GROUP D

AEK Athens 23:05 HNK Rijeka

AC Milan 23:05 Austria Vienna

GROUP E

Everton 23:05 Atalanta

Lyon 23:05 Apollon Limassol

GROUP F

Lokomotiv Moscow 21:00 FC Copenhagen

Sheriff Tiraspol 23:05 Zlín

GROUP G

Lugano 21:00 Hapoel Be'er Sheva

Viktoria Plzen 21:00 Steaua Bucharest

GROUP H

1. FC Köln 21:00 Arsenal

BATE Borisov 21:00 Red Star Belgrade

GROUP I

FC Red Bull Salzburg 21:00 Vitória Guimarães

Konyaspor 21:00 Marseille

 

Bongi Mbonambi will make his first start for the Springboks against Italy in Padova, while Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the starting team for Saturday’s third Test in the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.

Furthermore, the uncapped Warrick Gelant has been included on the bench and will make his Springbok debut should he go onto the field of play during the match.

The Springbok management decided not to risk Malcolm Marx for this weekend’s match, following the shoulder injury he sustained last week against France. This means Mbonambi, who has 12 Test caps to his name, will earn his first start on Saturday.Chiliboy Ralepelle will join Gelant on the bench.

Du Toit is fit again and picked at flank, where he replaces Siya Kolisi, who is not available for this match because of the birth of his second child. The versatile Du Toit suffered concussion two weeks ago against Ireland and as a result he missed the Springbok victory over France in Paris.

The rest of the team that edged the French in the Stade de France in the previous outing is retained.

“We decided not to risk Malcolm, which means Bongi will get a well-deserved first start in the No 2 jersey,” said Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.

“Bongi has worked hard and I have no doubt he will grab this opportunity with both hands, as will Chiliboy, should he get a run.

“Warrick is in good form and his work-rate during training has been impressive. I know he will add value and I am very excited for the possibility of seeing him in action.”

Coetzee said the Italians will pose a difficult challenge at home: “We respect the Italian side, they are well coached and I know they will be up for the challenge. However, we focus on ourselves and a disciplined and clinical performance is what is needed this weekend.

“It would be important for our pack to again create a good platform of which to play from and therefore our set piece will be key in the expected wet conditions,” said Coetzee.

Eben Etzebeth will again lead the Springboks after the big lock has shrugged off a lower leg injury, which he suffered in Paris.

South Africa

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant

Arsenal are set to enter negotiations to bring Schalke 04 midfielder Leon Goretzka in the January transfer window, as per reports in the Guardian.

Liverpool are also rumoured to be keeping tabs on the German international as he runs out of contract at the end of the 2017/18 season. The 22-year-old has seen a steep rise in stature since his move to Schalke from Vfl Bochum in 2013. Goretzka was one of the shining lights in Germany’s Confederations Cup victory in Russia earlier this year.

An attacking midfielder by trade, with an ability to pop in goals at crucial intervals, Goretzka has been earmarked by Gunners boss Arsene Wenger as a potential successor to Santi Cazorla and a possible replacement for Jack Wilshere.

Schalke’s sporting director Christian Heidel, however, remains confident to extend Goretzka’s stay at the club despite strong interest from Premier League clubs.

“I think if Schalke had no chance to keep him I would be the first to know that,” Heidel told German outlet SportBild. “But I haven’t received that kind of information until now.

“Leon will make a decision soon without us building any pressure on him.”

Germany’s national team general manager Oliver Bierhoff dropped a massive hint earlier this month regarding Goretzka’s future by suggesting that a move to England cannot be ruled out.

“We feel that England, because of the amount of money you have with TV rights, young talented players like Leroy Sané and [Schalke’s] Leon Goretzka are moving to England and this is not good for our league but also for the quality of our game,” he said.

Arsenal will be in Germany on Thursday to play FC Koln in a UEFA Europa League group stage fixture.

 

Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have given Manchester United a huge boost at a crucial stage of the season by returning from injury, Juan Mata has told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview.

Ibrahimovic and Pogba both made their comebacks in the 4-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday -- Ibrahimovic after seven months out with a knee injury and Pogba after missing 12 games with a hamstring problem.

The busy winter fixture list will see United play nine games in December alone and Mata has revealed that Ibrahimovic, Pogba and Marcos Rojo, who has also returned after seven months out with a knee injury, have given the whole squad a lift.

"When you play for such a club, the expectation is amazing and you always have to win," he told ESPN FC. "You always have to play good and win, and, at the end of the season, lift trophies.

"The more that we are fit to play the better for everyone. Zlatan and Paul are experienced players, top players and they give us a lot of things on and off the pitch. It's a big boost for us.

"Zlatan and Marcos have been out for a long time and it's great to have them back. They trained hard, they fought hard to be back so it's really positive to see them on the pitch and see them performing well.

"With Paul the same. You know how much he likes football. He hates to be out of the football pitch, so it's been a great week for us in terms of injured players coming back. It's a big boost for the whole team and for the mentality of the squad."

Mata, 29, will celebrate his four-year anniversary at United in January and last season he added the Europa League and League Cup to the FA Cup he won in 2016.

After winning two trophies in his first season, Jose Mourinho brought in Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof over the summer to help challenge for the Premier League and Champions League this season. And Mata believes Mourinho has built one of the most complete squads he has known at Old Trafford.

"I think at United right now we have a fantastic squad," he added. "We have a good mix of experienced players and young players, players who know the Premier League really well.

"We have signed great additions to the squad. I don't know if it's the best, but it's definitely one of the most complete squads that I have been in. We play so many different tournaments, not just the Premier League, the cups and the Champions League and we need to be ready.

"We need to have a deep squad if you want to compete until the end in every single trophy so I think the manager if happy with the squad. As a team, we feel confident and really happy with each other. I think there is a good atmosphere in the dressing room. Hopefully we can do great things together."

 

On Wednesday November 22, the UEFA Champions League will host a total of eight matches from four Groups in different venues across Europe.

Below are all the matches (All times are in EAT)

GROUP A

CSKA Moscow 20:00 Benfica

FC Basel 22:45 Manchester United

GROUP B

Paris Saint Germain 22:45 Celtic

RSC Anderlecht 22:45 Bayern Munich

GROUP C

FK Qarabag 20:00 Chelsea

Atlético Madrid 22:45 Roma

GROUP D

Juventus 22:45 Barcelona

Sporting Lisbon 22:45 Olympiakos

 

Ethiopia national team coach Ashenafi Bekele has compiled a 27-member squad that is currently training in preparations for the upcoming CECAFA Challenge Cup.

The tournament is set to be held in Kenya from December 3 to December 17 2017 in three different counties namely Kisumu, Kakamega and Nakuru.

Nine players have earned their first national team call up and will be hoping to make the cut for the final 23-man squad list due to be announced in the coming days. The seven are Welwalo custodian Bereket Amare, Adama Ketema’s midfielder Knean Markneh, Wolaitta Dicha’s striker Tsegaye  Birhanu and Dedebit’s forward Abel Yalew.

Ethiopia have been placed in Group B together with Zimbabwe, Burundi , South Sudan and majority winners Uganda. They will take on Burundi in their first match on Monday December 4 at 14:00, with their last match against Zimbabwe on Tuesday December 12 being the last in the group stages.

Ethiopia provisional squad:

Goalkeepers: Tarike Getnet (Dedebit), Bereket Amare (Welwalo Adigrat University), Tekelemariam Shanko (Hawassa Ketema)

Defenders: Girma Bekele (Ethio-Electric), Amsalu Tilahun (Fasil Ketema), Abebaw Butako (Kidus Giorgis), Anagawe Badege (Dire Dawa Ketema), Temesgen Castro (ArbaMinch Ketema), Tewodros Bekele (Mekelakeya), Abebe Tilahun (Sidama Bunna), Henok Adugna (Jimma Aba Jifar).

Midfielders: Samson Tilahun, Mesude Mohammed (Both from Ethiopia Bunna), Tesfaye Alebachew, Biruk Kalbore (Both from Woldia SC), Knean Markneh (Adama Ketema), Endale Kebede (ArbaMinch Ketema), Behailu Teshager (Ethio-Electric), Yonas Geremew (Jimma Aba Jifar), Firew Solomon (Hawassa Ketema).

Forwards: Abdulrahaman Mubarak (Fasil Ketema), Abubakher Sanni (Kidus Giorgis), Addis Gidey (Sidama Bunna), Tsegaye Birhanu (Wolaitta Dicha), Amnauel GebreMikael (Mekele Ketema), Abel Yalew (Dedebit), Dawa Hotessa (Adama Ketema).

 

 

Ahead of their crunch Champions League clash against AS Roma on Wednesday, Atletico manager Diego Simeone has come to the defense of Antoine Griezmann over his goal drought and urged fans to support him so that he can get back to his best.

The French international is currently in one of the worst spells,  having gone for eight games without scoring a goal and has managed just three goals in all competitions. The poor spell made him subject to boos by fans at the weekend after failing to find the net in the derby stalemate with Real Madrid.

'Antoine is worried and it's normal because he wants to show us his best version and he needs to score for that, said Simeone in Wednesday's pre-match conference.

'It's also true that he did a great job in a lot of matches even if he didn't score but he had a great relationship with goals in the last years so now that he's not scoring he's suffering and so does the team.

'Also, the fans get angry because he has been our top scorer in the last seasons. The kid has everything, he's an awesome player, from our side we know that we just need to support him.

'Giving him the opportunity to play and trusting him because he's a player with goals in the blood so he will naturally find his way back to it.'

'The people of Atletico Madrid have demonstrated their affection and its critical when the situation gets very negative. People have shown great appreciation for him.

'How long has he been here? Four years! He has given so much its normal for that to happen, they demand so much of him, he is an idol of the club,'' he added.

Atletico desperately need a win in Wednesday in order to keep their dreams of reaching the last 16 alive. They are currently third in Group C with only three points, four adrift of second placed Chelsea and five behind leaders AS Roma. 

 

After seeing his side extend their winning streak to 17 matches across all competitions with a 1-0 win over Feyenoord on Tuesday, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has insisted that they are only focused on winning and not about the next round.

City had already progressed to the last 16 earlier this month but still found the energy to pip Feyenoord 1-0 thanks to Raheem Sterling's 88th-minute goal which eventually sealed a top spot for them t in Group F with a game to spare.

“We play to win the games and after that we will see how things finish,” Guardiola told reporters after the match.

”It is important that City have got 15 points at this stage for the first time and we are going to go now to Shakhtar to try to finish well and to try to go and win the game.

“In the last 16, it doesn’t matter which one (you get), it always will be complicated.”

They now shift focus to their final group match against Shakthar Donetsk on December 6 where they will be without Kevin de Bruyne, the playmaker having already picked up five yellow cards this campaign.

 

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The gambling industry is growing rapidly in Kenya. We could be competing with the West African nations. Since last year, the country has witnessed over 10 bookmakers join the industry with each contesting for a piece of the pie.

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.

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 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.

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? 

Rayon Sports Club have confirmed that former Sofapaka and Amavubi goalkeeper Evariste Mutuyimana is no more. Unconfirmed reports claim that a heart attack on Tuesday September 12 at his home was the cause of his death.

Mutuyimana started professional football with Rwandese side Kiyovu Sport before joining Police Kibungo in 2011.The 26-year old then moved to Kenyan side Sofapaka in June 2014 where he played for three seasons. He later moved to Rayon SC, where he was the reserve goalkeeper until his demise.

Mutuyimana has also featured for the Rwanda national team, his most notable appearance being in a 5-1 loss to Tunisia in an International Friendly back in May 2012.

“As Rayon Sports officials, we want convey our message of condolences to all the club fans and family following the death of goalkeeper Evariste Mutuyimana this Tuesday morning.” his club posted on social media.

 

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”.

Tanzanian government have informed SportPesa Limited that they also want to see a Tanzanian team play against Everton on July 12 at the National Stadium. Gor Mahia are the ones with the opportunity after winning the SportPesa Super Cup finals.

Director of Sports Development in the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports Yusuph Singo confirmed that they have asked the betting firm to organize a friendly match between Everton and one of Tanzania's bigwigs.

``We have asked them (SportPesa) to organse a special friendly match between Yanga and Simba later this month,'' said Singo.

``If all goes well, the winner of the match will confront Everton at the National Stadium. I am sure many local soccer fans would like to see the English Premier League team face one of the top teams in the country,'' he added.

 

Everton are considering a pre-season friendly in Tanzania as part of their expected new sponsorship deal with SportPesa.

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.

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."

Former Arsenal and Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor has described joining Crystal Palace as the “worst decision” of his career.

The 33-year-old Togolese striker is currently playing for Turkish side ?stanbul Ba?ak?ehir after being released by the Eagles in the summer of 2016.

Adebayor signed a six-month deal with Palace at the beginning of 2016 – a decision he says he would reverse if given the opportunity.

“I had some great experiences in England in clubs who are among the best in the country,” he told L’Équipe, as reported by the Daily Mirror.

“I was happy there, my family too. The only error that I made was to sign for Crystal Palace in January 2016.

“I did it just to please my entourage, who were saying to me: ‘Manu, you have to start playing again!’ It was the worst decision of my career.”

He would played 15 senior matches for Palace under then boss Alan Pardew scoring once in a losing effort to Watford.

It turned out to be his worst return for a single club since turning professional nearly 20 years ago with hometown side AC Merlan Lome.

Prior to relocating to Selhurst Park, the enigmatic centre-forward had already plied his trade with three different English clubs, most notably Arsenal from whom he joined Manchester City before returning to North London with Tottenham Hotspur.

In his first season with Ba?ak?ehir, the former Monaco man, has managed to register six goals across 11 league appearances including a hat-trick against Galatasaray.

 

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."