Talent, Discipline and Hard work: An Interview With Arnold Origi

He is from one of Kenya’s greatest football families. His massive talent has catapulted him to the top of the country’s goalkeeper charts. The Lillestrom netminder continues to scale greater heights and he says, he just got started.

His name is common music to Kenyan ears, thanks to his unmatched talent and skill. He takes honours for being one of the nation’s most disciplined footballers, both on and off the pitch. While he continues to rise, he has not escaped controversy. On several occasions, he has been criticized for declining to play for his country. The last time he was in goal for Kenya, Harambee Stars conceded a late controversial goal, that led to chaos at the Nyayo National stadium.

While he is not pulling stunning save on the pitch, he is watching another of his family members, fast-rising cousin, Divock Origi whose name continues to hit headlines in England. Kenyanstar had an exclusive sit down with Arnold Origi and here is his story.

KS: Kindly tell us about your football journey from Kenya to Norway…

Well my journey started coincidentally in 1995 in Dandora while playing for Young Mighties in the Dandora MYSA Championships. I say coincidentally because I had been playing as a striker for our team then. We were waiting for our game to start and I decided to play in goal in a game called ‘royal rumble’. I guess that my agemates who were born in Eastlands know this game. I played well in goal and it happened to be the day that our goalkeeper wouldn't show up for the game because he was grounded by his parents due to poor results during his end of term exams. My teammates seeing how well I did in goal in the royal rumble game forced me to play again in goal during our MYSA championship game.

I played well in the game and it happened that MYSA scouts looking out for players for the selection of the Mathare United U-12 Norway Cup team were there watching. I was later invited for the trials. All went well and I made the trip to Norway and that's how it all started. Later on I played for Ngara youth Pelico in what was then called Division 1. I later joined Pumwani Sportive in the then Super 2 League. It was there that I was spotted  by the then Mathare United coach Gabriel "kingi" Njoroge who was also my coach at the Norway cup team. He asked me to go and train with them. I obliged and again all went well and I signed my first professional contract in 2001. 

However, competition was stiff as the goalkeepers ahead of me were Duncan Ochieng, Enos Karani and Alex Mwangi. There was little chance for me to play and so in 2002 I was sent to play for the Mathare Youth side in the second division. I played there for a season and did very well and my performances earned me a call up to the national U-23 side and also got me back to the mathare senior team this time with Francis Kimanzi as the head coach in 2003. 

I became the second choice keeper, an understudy to Duncan Ochieng. I would make my debut against Gor Mahia at the City Stadium. Everything went well and from there on I became the first choice keeper.

The good run continued and this earned me my first senior national team call up under Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee. Unfortunately, I would later be dropped after Ghost was fired and Twahir Muhidin hired. Muhiddin didn't do so well and after a poor result in Morocco, he got fired too and Mohammed Kheri was appointed the new coach. Kheri recalled me and went on to give me my first international cap in a friendly at Kasarani in 2005, against Ghana.

The Ghana match went well and it was from there that my run as the number one goalie for the national team, something which has given me so much, started. My good run in the national team and Mathare United earned me a 2-month stint in Sweden with Bodens Bk, in the Swedish Nationwide League, before coming back to Kenya where I  played for Tusker for a year in the 2006 season. I later joined Moss FK  in the Norwegian nationwide league in 2007 and I played there for 5 years before moving to another Nationwide league Ull Kisa. I stayed in Kisa for a year before joining Lillestrom in 2013 where I am playing to date.

KS: You are probably the number 1 goalkeeper in Kenya. What is it that has kept you there for this long?

(Laughs) I  am not the number one at the moment because in the past few games I haven't been called up. But I thank God that I had quite a long and consistent run as the number one. What kept me there was plain and simple hard work. I knew and was aware of the responsibility that one has as a national team player and I also had an ambition that I was going to set a standard or rather the bar if you like as high as possible. The only way I could do that is through hard work. Sometimes the goalkeeping coaches who were there when I was there thought that I was crazy. At times it was difficult for them to keep up because almost at all times especially when we had our camps at Kasarani or somewhere where transport wasn't an issue, we were the first to go to the pitch and the last to leave.

I however, have to say that Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Kheri - the coach who gave me my debut- inspired me as well. Mahmoud Abbas achieved a lot with the national team and he rightfully got the title ‘Kenya One.’ I wanted the same title and this kept me going and working. I would have loved to play with the national team at major tournaments - The Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup-  not once, not twice but consistently and  win at least one Continental Cup. As it stands today, Mahmoud Abbas remains the one and only Kenya one. As for Mohammed Kheri,  after the Ghana game I remember him speaking to the press and when he was asked what he thought of me and my performance in that game, he said, “Kenya has found a goalkeeper for the next 20 years.  This really inspired me and I can also say his(Kheri) words are  what kept me going with the national team. I wanted to see this prediction come true

KS: Tactically, what does it take to be a great goalkeeper?

To be a top goalkeeper you need to understand the game. You need to think as an outfield player. Top keepers do not stay in goal but they play in goal and the only way you can play in goal is by understanding the game. This will help you read the game better which will eventually help you make good decisions in positioning yourself; knowing for example when to come out of goal in case of a long ball behind the defense or a cross. In return, this will minimize your mistakes. A top goalkeeper is the one who commits the least mistakes in the course of the season.  

KS: You suffered a nasty injury in 2008 against Zimbabwe. Dennis Oliech -Kenya’s top striker then- came in to replace you. Kindly take us through this moment.

Yeah,  the injury in 2008. This injury has a huge impact in my career. It somewhat halted my progress because I was at my peak for both the national team and my club Moss. Besides that though, the injury also made me stronger as person and an athlete.

I was just on the back of a very good season in 2007 with my club Moss and was looking forward to building on it in 2008, and top clubs in Norway were already showing interest. My performances with the national especially in the build up towards that match were also putting in a good case for me in my quest to make a step to another level in my career. The injury did not happen in that game but it's something that had been building up for a long period.

It all started in the winter while training with Moss in the preseason. I developed a stress fracture on my knee cap something which at the time I suffered the injury wasn't serious and 3 weeks with easy alternative training in the gym would have been okay. I was however, young some would say and stupid, but I rather choose to say ambitious. I wanted to go to the top and nothing would stop me, not even the small pain on the knee. The fracture developed and I remember the day before the game in training the pain was almost unbearable and I was limping heavily. The assistant coach then Yusuf Chippo saw that I was limping and came to me and asked if I was fine because I looked like I was in a lot of pain. 

I confirmed to him that  I had some pain in my knee but it was nothing to worry about. I promised to play. We had beaten Guinea two weeks before and a win against Zimbabwe at home would send us top of the table with 6 points. I remember the vibe was good both in camp and outside the camp. The whole country was buzzing and there was an air of expectation. I wanted to be part of this great moment that was about to happen so I wasn't throwing in the towel. 

The game itself was amazing. We were good and I remember Mariga opening the score and Nyayo almost collapsed. The atmosphere was electric with ‘spider man’ up in the floodlights doing his thing. I also remember Dennis Oliech running rings around the Zimbabwe defense and we had a good connection in that game. We had worked on counter attacks the day before the game where he made runs behind the defense and I tried to find him with a deep drop kick behind the defense. It was working very well especially in the second half and he was having the game of his life. He scored the second goal half way into the second half and  the atmosphere at Nyayo stadium was out of this world. The crowd started chanting his name together with that of Raila Odinga and Barack Obama. ‘Oliech Odinga Obama’ were the chants.  Zimbabwe started pushing for an equalizer and started to press us really hard and it is during this period that I produced three good saves and all over sudden I was in the chant. ‘Oliech Odinga, Origi, Obama.’

I was feeling good and unstoppable. I wanted Zimbabwe to shoot because  I felt I could stop anything they threw my way even if we played the whole day. Then came the moment. I think we had 3 to 5 minutes remaining. A simple corner kick was floated and I thought I would calmly go out for it and lie down to run the the clock down a bit. 

Unfortunately my studs got stuck in the grass and I slightly twisted my knee and there it was- a career and life changing injury happened. I remember looking at my knee and not liking what I saw. I immediately knew something was wrong. I remember Dennis Oliech asking for my gloves. I was worried because I couldn't imagine Dennis playing in goal.  We had already made all our substitutions  which meant we were to play with ten men. Things didn't look good, but luckily the only thing he (Dennis Oliech)  had to do on his debut as the goalkeeper for the national team was take a goal kick. (Laughs heartily) 

On a couple of occasions you have sent into Kenya different sporting gear to mostly young goalkeepers. Why do you do this, and why is it important for a footballer to give back?

KS: On a couple of occasions you have sent into Kenya different sporting gear to mostly young goalkeepers. Why do you do this, and why is it important for a footballer to give back?

Yeah I do this because first  of all my dream is that Kenya becomes one of the top if not the top goalkeeper producing country in Africa. My dream also is  to have a generation of goalkeepers in the national team where all of them are plying their trade in Europe. I believe if I get the time to train with a few kids this can be achieved. As a result of the time I have spent playing in Europe, I am convinced that I know what it takes for a goalkeeper to play in Europe. However, this needs time  and at the moment I do not have that apart from a few weeks or days when I am on holiday back at home or with the national team which is not enough. 

So the only thing I can do for now is to encourage them and this is what's my intention with these equipment.  Besides that,  for a  long time goalkeepers haven't had someone who they could look to and come to whenever they needed playing equipment. Outfield players have had so many outfield players; Mariga, Oliech, Robert Mambo, Victor Wanyama, Ayub Masika, Johanna Omolo and many others.  For goalkeepers I feel it is my responsibility to take care of them. I might not be able to help all of them but the two or three I can help, I will do so wholly because I know how much it means to them and the boost it can give to their young growing careers. It's Important for a footballer to give back whenever they can because these young kids really look up to us. We are their role models and giving them something is a symbol that you have recognized their talent and you think they are good enough, otherwise you wouldn't have given them the football shoes or gloves. The kids know this as well and I am 100% sure that this acts as a massive encouragement to them.

KS: You have had several run-ins with the previous administration, including Sam Nyamweya and Robert Asembo. They accused you of sabotage. How do you describe your relationship with Sam’s regime?

I wouldn't really want to start any confrontation with Mr. Nyamweya in the press. His tenure as the president of the Kenya FA is over and I know he is a proud father and grandfather. I think I saw somewhere in the social media that he was enjoying  life and especially as a grandfather. I saw his picture with his grandchild and he looked really happy. So I choose to respect that and not start any confrontation with him in the media.

KS:There is a new regime. In your opinion - Have things changed?

I honestly really don't know how things are or how they are doing because  I haven't been in Kenyan football long enough after they took office to make any sober judgement on what they have done. I was there early when they took office during the Guinea-Bissau game and I can honestly say that there was a huge change then as far as the organization around the national team was concerned. I don't know if that standard is still the same today because I haven't been in the team after that. If it is still as good,  then well done but as I said before I haven't been around long enough in their tenure to make any sober judgment.

KS: You previously have declined to come play for Harambee Stars due to a couple of reasons. Why was it so?

(Laughs) I think it's quite funny and interesting that it has always been stated that I declined or dishonored the call ups. Well, just to make it clear there is no single time I have ever declined or dishonored a callup to come play for the national team. The number of times that I never showed up for games was simply because  the release letters asking for me to be released came very late. I have been a very important member of the teams that I played for here and the clubs that I played for or even play for now weren't so keen on letting me go because of fear that I might come back injured. I also have to say that the respect the clubs over here have for our country as a football nation isn't that big. So anything that would give or would have given them any reason to deny me legally a chance  over and play for the national team they would have used it and used it brutally. I could have created problems and forced my way to come and play for the national team, but as footballer player you also have to be professional and respect your employer. The number of times that the letters came on time there wasn't any problem and I always came and did my duty to the best of my ability.

KS: In 2016, after Guinea-Bissau scored a controversial goal late into the match at Nyayo, you confronted the match officials in a not-so friendly manner, in protestation of the goal. Violence erupted. Robert Asembo later said that you should bear the blame for the violence.What do you say about your actions in that match. Do you feel guilty?

No, I  do not feel guilty even for a second. Football is a game full of emotions and allover the world we always see referees decisions being aggressively protested by players when they think it's a wrong decision and they do not agree with it. You don't see supporters creating havoc and disrupting the match. They (players) contest decisions, get booked like I did if the referee thinks that the protests are too much and unwarranted and the match goes on. You do not see what happened in Nyayo happening. It was an important match for us and up to date I am still convinced that the ball didn't cross the line. I protested and  got booked but to be honest I don't think that was the reason for the violence.

KS: We haven't seen you part of the national team recently? Have you quit international football? 

The sole reason why I haven't been in the national team is because I haven't been selected. However, I don't complain or mind because I see the man manning the posts at the moment is a very good goalie. I am a huge fan and good friend of Boniface Oluoch.  I think he is a top goalie and has been doing well in the games that he has been playing for the national team and fully deserves his position as the number one goalie for Kenya. I would have been disappointed if the person playing in goal currently wasn't good enough.

KS: Last year, you had a training ground bust up with Basel Zakari and you were suspended. How was it so yet you are known to be quote disciplined?

Whatever happened between Basel and I is something that happens in almost every training pitch in the whole world. In my opinion i think it's only positive. As long as the players don't end up hurting each other and they can leave whatever happened on the training pitch, shake hands and move on then as a coach I would be happy because  it just shows that I have players that care and that I can easily trust them to do the job that I want them to do. Basel is a winner and I am a winner. We had a different opinion on how things should be done or need to be done. We shook hands after training and up to now even though he has left Lillestrom we respect each other and are friends.

KS: A number of former Harambee Stars players have accused ‘Kenyan internationals’ of ‘not reporting and speaking out’ when bad things like alcoholism and sex were occurring in the national team camps. Do you feel you are a victim of these claims?

I personally have never seen any issues of alcoholism or sex while in camp in a way that was abnormal. I have seen players enjoying themselves after we have played games mostly away but why should I get involved or why should anybody get involved in a person's business when he came and did his job. I don't think anyone has the right to get involved or meddle in a grown man's business after he's done his job. I have never seen these cases before the game. I heard about the same before the game against Zambia which I must admit was very unfortunate and disappointing but I never saw it.

KS: You have reportedly had offers from Monaco. Is this true? Also have you received an offers from elsewhere?

(Laughs) Do not believe everything you read in the press. 

I however, still believe that I have 7 or 8 years left in my career. I see Buffon playing at the very highest level at the age of 39 and he is still going strong and doesn't look like stopping anytime soon. Mark Schwarzer played in  Champions League for Chelsea and the Premier League for Leicester at the age of 39. El Hadary the legendary Egyptian goalie just recently played the Africa Cup of Nations past his 40s. So I still believe I have a number of years. It's just a matter of taking good care of yourself and your body and living a disciplined life.

KS: Liverpool Echo quoted you saying, “Divock has everything you need to be a top striker. He can be the best. The only hindrance to him becoming the best is in himself..” What is your opinion so far on Divock playing at the top level?

I said that about Divock and not because he is from my family but because I really mean it and he has shown that  quite a number of times. For instance  at the World Cup. He went and showed quality at the very highest level in football. Then he went to Liverpool and before his ankle injury in the game against Everton, he was really putting in some top performances game after game. You cannot fluke top performances at that level game after game. You really must be quality to perform at that level. He had a dip in form recently but this is normal with a player of his age. It comes a point where you need or have to find yourself and identity yourself as to what kind of player you want to be or are. It's part of development process that a young player has to go through. He is giving Liverpool a different kind of dimension in their play, which I think will help them solve the problem that they have when facing the so called "smaller teams". He is the kind of striker who  will make tireless runs behind defenders, something which is a nightmare to many defenders and even though he might not get the ball he creates room in dangerous positions for the creative Liverpool midfielders like Coutinho, Mane and  Lallana. This is what this players need and have been lacking whenever playing against the smaller teams who look to stay compact and deny these the players the space. Plus he's had 3 assists in the last three games that he's played. He is working hard, he is humble and it's only a matter of time before he starts finding the back of the net again.

KS: How does it feel being part of a great football family? Any pressure?

(Laughs heartily) No. No pressure at all. If anything it helps you stay focused and grounded. If you have a father that has captained both his club and the national team, and has the title as the only captain to ever lift a continental trophy in the country and then an uncle that was the first Kenyan to play professional football in Europe and the first Kenyan to play Continental football in Europe, you have no choice but to be humble. What else can you bring to the table as achievements on the football pitch that these guys haven't achieved? No you just have to stay humble and keep on working and hope that you can be able to achieve something that's worth mentioning at the family dinner table. So no I have no pressure. Just thanking God that He has blessed me with people who have laid a difficult challenging path that I have to follow and try and maintain.

KS: Thanks for your time Arnold. All the best ahead!

Arnold Origi was previously Interviewed on Kenyanstar in 2011 as a Kenyanstar of the week. 

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."

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