Stewart Hall: My Targets At Leopards Are Crystal Clear

One of the region’s finest tacticians. A  well traveled coach who has won titles. In his own words, when his principles are threatened, he leaves. He indeed he has parted ways with many suitors. 

At a time when Leopards was flirting with relegation, and all hope was lost, he made a surprise move to join the Den. Probably surprising himself. His wife too, was astonished, and almost divorced him. However, he took up what he says is his toughest challenge ever. This season has looked promising but he says his main mission is not to win the title.

His words speak more about the man that is Stewart Hall. Kenyanstar sat down with the Ingwe tactician and here is his story, his analysis of Leopards and the derby.

Kenyanstar: When you first came to AFC Leopards, what did you see and what did you say to the management then?

Stewart Hall:  AFC have had financial issues, everybody knows that. I think most clubs In Kenyan football have financial issues and it’s one of the biggest issues holding back Kenyan football. So they originally wanted me to start in January when we agreed the contract but then I suggested to the management that I come in early for the last couple of games last season…not with an objective of winning the games or changing anything but with an objective of doing proper audit of the club. It was to have a look at the training staff, work with the players in training so that I could have a look at their attitude, character and also their ability, have a look at their training facilities, have a look at the setup of the club and produce a report of the club which we could act on and move forward. In that time, I also started looking for new signings. 

So I came in and I knew that I needed new players because the league table never lies…if you are 13th in the league it’s because you are not good enough, it’s not because you were unlucky. My personal objective was to look for new players so what I was doing is I was taking training sessions in the morning to assess my own squad and then in the afternoon I was meeting players that I would like to talk to and players that I knew from my experience in East Africa. I was watching DVDs as well in the evenings and they got me a lot of SuperSport DVDs where I was watching KPL games for that season looking at players. That’s where I first picked up Isuza…I watched several DVDs of Mathare and I was also going out to watch games. There was a lot of Division one games going on at Camp Toyoyo, I was watching KPL games and I also went to watch under twenty teams to see if there were any players in our under twenty team. I think I would say that is the hardest I have ever worked at a football club for a short period of time. Those three or four weeks before Christmas, I think I probably put in more hours, did more study and more work than anywhere else in the world I have ever worked.

KS: What is the biggest transformation at Leopards since you came in?

SH: In that audit I did, I talked to a lot of people, I even talked to supporters…supporters would stop me in the streets and I would talk to them. I listen to everyone…some people talk absolute utter rubbish but it comes out at the back side but some people actually talk sense. I talked to everybody about what they thought the problems were not only last season but over the last seven or eight years because everyone knows that it’s a long time since AFC were actually competitive as a club. Talking to everybody, the thing that kept on coming up was the discipline within the players was very very poor…another thing that kept coming up was that the fitness levels were poor and they were losing games in the last fifteen or twenty minutes. So those two things became a priority for me: improve the discipline and improve the fitness… so I drew a list of objectives and then I started working. The first things I worked on were the attitudes and the discipline of the players…

I also worked on the fitness levels of the players and that’s why I brought Mike the fitness coach and started getting together my own technical bench. So even the players who stayed from last season have changed their attitude; nobody is ever late for training and nobody ever misses training, we have very strict rules concerning time keeping and missing training. For the friendly games if anyone was late for training I left them. We keep strict records of every minute a player trains and plays so that we can keep very good records. There were a lot of issues with camping, with girls, with sex orgies and all sorts of stories about AFC. I think we have changed all that.

KS: How would you describe the situation when you took over Azam FC to when you took over AFC Leopards?

SH: The biggest difference is money and facilities. In Azam I had everything…I could spend 50000 dollars on a player and no problem. I could give a player 25000 signing fees and no problem. Here I have had to sign a whole squad for less than that…that’s the reason why you get the TcheTches, Pascals and you get real quality players. So it’s a completely different challenge. One of the reasons why I came here is that I wanted to work without money, where you work more on your instincts, knowledge and your ability to coach players. Here you fix problems by working on the small pitch but at Azam you could fix problems by signing another player. I have worked before without money but I have aso worked in clubs where I have money…so I wanted to prove to myself again and that’s the reason why I came here. 

I didn’t come here for the money, everybody knows that…my contract here is not even 40% of my salary at Azam…my allowances and bonuses at Azam were more than my salary here. My wife thinks that I’m absolutely crazy, the fact that I came here nearly got me divorced. I saw AFC as a massive challenge: working without money, working at a club where there are always big problems, and working at a club where there is always one disaster after another because that is what AFC has been in the last years.

KS: How would you describe yourself as a coach?

SH: My advice to young coaches is that there are three different path ways you can take in coaching; you can be a coach for young players and say that I want to focus on players under the age of nineteen to twenty one and I want to develop young quality players. For that you have to have a different kind of temperament and you need to have different qualifications. You can then be a coach for senior players and say that I want to coach a senior or national team…that requires a completely different skillset. You can also say that I want to be a coach of coaches…I want to be an instructor so you have three different career paths that you can go. I have the highest qualifications in every career path; I have advanced youth awards for coaching young players, I have academy Director’s license which you have to have in England to coach an Academy, I have UEFA pro license to coach senior players and I also have my youth UEFA coach of coaches awards, the highest awards which means I coach coaches. I produced million-dollar players at Birmingham City and not one or two of them…I took Gareth Southgate on his A license coaching award, I was his coach instructor. I also took Roy Keane so when you’ve worked at all those levels, that helps you as a coach because you draw on all those things. If I am working with Vincent Oburu, I draw on my ability and experience to work with young players because he is eighteen and doesn’t want me to treat him like Paul Kiongera.

KS: As a coach, you don’t get theatrical on the touch line and you are always silent…Is it your nature?

SH: Because you are thinking about the game…you don’t need to jump around and dance around on the touchline, when you are doing that you are missing something else that needs to be done.

KS:You came to a club that hasn't done well over the years for many reasons. How important is progression to a team and what will it take to move AFC Leopards forward?

SH: In one of the interviews you did with me after the game, you talked about pressure because we lost… you said we probably started too well and people then get expectations. Like our own chairman, he said after three games that we are going to win the league unbeaten… I mean I have no control of what people say, but I am a great believer in keeping the pressure off your players so that they can perform to the maximum. The pressure has to come to me, not the players because when the players get under pressure, things shut down and they stop expressing and enjoying themselves. People have to realize that we are going to lose games…we are building the team, it’s a new executive committee, it’s a new set of players so it’s going to take time and people have to be a little bit patient.

KS: Money or time?

SH: If you have money you’ll do it quicker, if you don’t have money it will take longer.

KS: Have you dreamt success this season? If so, what would it be like…

SH: Well, I will tell you what I have in my contract…my objective on my contract with AFC Leopards is to be in and around the top three so that’s 100% improvement on last season of being in the bottom three. Some of the fans will say that is not good enough for a club like AFC Leopards but I think that with the age of the squad because the squad is very young and with the fact that we have signed very many players, next season Leopards will be stronger than this season. But we all realize this season because of the expectations of the fans so we still have to have a good season. My objective is to be top three in the league and to have a good run in the cups.

KS: Expectations - Do you feel the club has had too much expectations. If so, how are you managing that?

SH: Well there is… I mean you never know with fans, the fans have been very good with me, very supportive, they can see things happening and I think what the fans want to see is players fighting for the club… they want to see players fight for the badge and even when we lost to Sofapaka, the game was 94 minutes but even in the 94th minute we were still pressuring, trying to score and we still showed good desire and hunger so the fans want to see that. The fans don’t want to see players giving up; the fans don’t want to see players who are happy with losing. One good thing about this team at the minute is their fighting spirit and I think the fans appreciate that… yes we want to win but if you can’t win, you have to show everybody that you really tried and gave everything you’ve got.

KS: You were at Azam, where there weren't too many fans as is the case for Simba & Yanga. You also worked briefly at Sofapaka where there were not too many fans as Leopards. How important are fans to a team’s success?

SH: Very important. I saw that at Birmingham City when we were in the Premier League and we had 30000 people every game…you could not get any ticket because every game was sold out so there was pressure there and there were expectations. I think it is important to have fans than not to have fans even though they bring pressure and different problems. It is better to have fans because sometimes with Leopards as I have seen, the fans are capable of lifting the players… sometimes people say that the fans can be the 12th man and that is very true. I think AFC fans especially that first game we were playing against Nakumatt when everybody wanted to see this new AFC team, I thought the fans were fantastic and the players thought so too.

KS: Who is the best player(s) you have worked with, and why do they stand out?

SH: The best player I have worked with Christophe Dugarry. He was French and won a World cup winners medal with France when they beat Brazil in Paris…he came to Birmingham after that, was there for one and a half years and he absolutely transformed the club. The club was going to be relegated because we were in the bottom three in the Premier League….he came and scored like thirteen goals in the second half of the season and is without doubt the best player I have ever worked with.

KS: The modern manager has so much to contend with - social media, lifestyles etc. How have you managed this at Leopards?

SH: I don’t read. I have a rule, don’t get suicidal when you lose and don’t be too happy when you win. One of my great things is I study philosophy…there is a saying in Philosophy that don’t make promises when you are happy and don’t make threats when you are angry, so I transfer that into football and say don’t get too disappointed when you lose and don’t be too happy and get carried away when you win because both of those things will stop you from seeing the real facts. If you get really unhappy, you miss the real facts of the game because you are in a cloud and if you get carried away when you win, again you don’t see the problems. You have to be focused all the time so don’t read social media… I talk to fans but I am not really listening, it gets in one ear and comes out the other…I’m probably thinking what I am going to have for my dinner. I know that sounds harsh but you have to separate yourself from everything otherwise you don’t think clearly. 

Another thing, don’t talk about the game immediately after…after the game, I only talk about the game with media because it is your job to interview me and it’s my job to answer the questions to the best of my ability. I don’t talk to players or committee members after the game because you’re in an emotional state and you will say something that you might regret. If you have lost, you can hurt people and if you have won, you can make false promises. The players will tell you… we have our team debrief one or two days after the game… we never do it immediately after the game because the emotional state you are in is not right.

KS: Egos, big egos is an issue in many dressing rooms. How have you managed this at AFC Leopards?

SH: No…we don’t have it because you’ve got to be strong and make sure there is no. I signed fourteen players that I thought were right…people might not believe this because they know AFC Leopards and know what has happened in the past where the committee signed players or the CEO or the General Manager…that has not happened here, I signed all the players. What I do is that I come up with a list of players and then find out who is available, how much they are going to cost me in terms of salary and signing bonus and then the third thing I do which is really important is to check on their personality. Talk to somebody who has worked with him and knows him to find out as much background as you can…that way, you don’t get many bad characters and ego in your dressing room. Don’t sign a payer just because you think he can do what you want him to do in the dressing room…find out what he is going to do in the dressing room, in camp or on the team bus.

KS: KPL is quite a lucrative league in terms of money, exposure etc. Compared to the likes of the UG League. However, in terms of talent, it's not up there. Why?

SH: Well, I think it is the other way round. I am not an expert in Ugandan or Rwandan football although I’ve been there but I think out of the East African countries, Kenya has the most talent. That might surprise you but I think Kenya has the most talent. Kenya has more players playing outside than any other country. Tanzania only has Samatta and Uganda has a couple so they are maybe second to Kenya. Look at how many Kenyan players are playing in Europe, they are everywhere: Bulgaria, Slovakia, Sweden, Norway and even in the MLS. I don’t think any other country has that coverage so I think there is more talent in Kenya than in any other East African country. When I watched the KPL under 20 tournament at Christmas, we signed players from that tournament and I was really excited with the talent in that competition. I could have signed five or six players that I liked but obviously you can’t take too many so we signed three and they are in my first team and they are on the bench every week even though they are seventeen and eighteen years…that is how excited I am. I think Kenya is a hotbed of talent. 

The second part of the question you asked about what is holding it back….administration and lack of finance. What goes on between FKF and KPL is absolute nonsense…it’s like a Disney film, it’s a comedy…it’s nonsense and it’s holding back football. There is a big saying that when the elephants rumble, it’s often the grass that suffers and I think that is the problem. When FKF and KPL rumble, it’s the game and the actual football that suffers… I don’t think the players are supported enough in terms of financial, medical, coaching, facilities and the administration of the game... I don’t think the players are supported well enough.

KS: Your analysis of the team so far?

SH:  We need to score more goals… against Sofapaka we created six chances to score one. We dominate possession, even in Sofapaka you saw the game…we absolutely dominated possession. We’re not scoring a lot of goals and that’s the problem. We should be scoring a goal every three chances created.

KS: Youth or experience?

SH: Both. I like youth…youth give you vibrancy, enthusiasm and hunger. All these players who earn 25000 to 30000 shillings, they want a new contract…they all want to earn 40000- 50000 shillings. You can work that off as a coach by pushing them harder and demanding more. But you also need a bit experience. My experience is Mangoli, my captain and Kiongera, my vice-captain. They are my experience and they are only 25 and 26, but I always consult them in everything because I feel it is important that you get the support of the players and the players agree with. If I have an idea and there is two ways of doing something, I’ll discuss it with the two captains and then we decide which way we’re going to go.

KS:  Goalkeeping - Ian Otieno hasn't been as solid in goal. Not more than 3 clean sheets. Is he good enough?

SH: Ian has done well. Goalkeepers take longer to mature and he is a young player. The keepers we have are still immature and are learning. We also had an issue with the goalkeeping coaches at the start of the season. That has affected the keepers. In pre-season the keepers made many mistakes, since we didn't have a proper keeper trainer. We had Iddi who left for Simba, where he had a better offer, and brought in another coach who lasted for a week. Then we brought in another coach who we have now. He is doing a fantastic job and the performance has improved. Ian is also in the national team and that shows he is doing okay. All in all I don't think he is  a bad keeper.

KS:Paul Kiongera has won you matches this season. You also have crumbled without him. Is he your main player this season?

SH: Everyone knows our squad is one striker short. We have lots of young players - The suspended Vincent Oburu, Ingotsi - It’s been a little physical for him. That leaves us with only two strikers - Gilbert Fiamenyo and Kiongera. If I could sign one player tomorrow it would be a striker. Everyone knows I wanted Masoud Juma, but Kariobangi Sharks beat us to his signature. I would have loved one more experienced striker. I think Kiongera is influential in terms of his character. He is also very good with the young players. Him and Mangoli look after matters for me on the pitch.

KS: To win a KPL title, you need someone to give you 15+ goals. Is Gilbert Fiamenyo a man to win you the KPL  this season?

SH: Gilbert is playing with an injury from his old club. We need to look into it. In an ideal situation, he should be playing fewer football. Like he played 3 games in less than 8 days. He should have played two of those. Due to injuries, we have been forced to play him, but I don't want to. Sometimes he frustrates me, he doesn't score goals. He needs to work harder. He is a little too selfish with the ball. But he is a very strong, talented striker. 4 goals in 8 games by any standard is good for any striker. That’s a goal every two games.

KS: You currently have used your young players sparingly despite starting off the season with the hope that they could help you work out things. Have you changed your mind on young players, like Marcellus Ingotsi?

SH: No. The training at the moment is key for them than the match. They need to fill up a little bit. They have the ability to play KPL, but lack strength to play. If you put them up against the likes of Ulinzi, they just can't make it. If I leave them in the team, that kills their confidence. The supporters and press will have a go at them. What we do with them now is we put them on the bench. They have fitness and conditioning programs too. They will come back and will be a major part of the future AFC Leopards. 

KS: Injuries - How much have they slowed you down this season?

SH: We had a small squad, and injuries slowed us down. Add that to the banning of Oburu and Ndungu Samuel situation. Its cost us.

KS: Take us into your training sessions. What’s the routine?

SH: We do lots of tactical work on team shape. We do lots of tactical work on individual players. Players should have a picture in their mind, when I get the ball in a certain position, what happens next? That picture comes from previous experience and coaching. Most of our training is done in 11 against 11, where we start the game in different scenarios. If we lose the ball there, what is your job, what happens? We also do lots of tactical work on how our opponent will play.

KS: You have really focused on strength and conditioning. Why so and how is it working for you?

SH: The fitness coach Mike has done a fantastic job. The players are in great shape. Some players have individual fitness programs too. Some will work on agility, some pace, the young boys on strength etc. When I came and got all figures from the EPL, which is largely the most intense league. Players run between 11 to 12 kilometers in a game. In Kenya, they don't run even 8km. Why? In KPL why do players run less kilometers? Yet Kenya has fantastic athletes, but footballers don't run. Why? 

KS: Looks like 3-5-2 is your preferred formation. Is it working for you? Have players adapted?

SH: It is the preferred one currently globally, but in Kenya, all clubs play 4-3-3. Why? Because they follow the KNVB coaching systems. That's what is preached here. One holding player, two wingers. So that is what everybody plays. But the federations needs to be very careful with that, because  you are actually developing one direction coaches and players.

Gor Mahia played 3-5-2 with Nuttal, even in the Kagame Cup finals sometime back. Gor actually have over the last 3 or 4 seasons have had a little tradition of 3-5-2. Most of the teams here in KPL play that. Posta Rangers in our last match  played 4-4-2 with one of the strikers dropping into midfield especially when they lose position. So 4-4-2 becomes 4-5-1. That is the reason they don't give goals away. They don't give goals away because they play in a very negative fashion. The rest of the teams play 4-3-3; One holding player, two offensive, two wingers and that is how they play. That’s dangerous.

Sometimes for us we play 3-4-3; One holding player and two offensive or two holding players and one offensive, or four across midfield. Two wingbacks, and two holding like Chelsea play.

We have different formations of 3-5-2. You know the word pragmatic? You have to have a pragmatic approach to football. That is why Pep Guardiola will struggle to make it in England. You cannot play one system all the time, because it doesn't solve what the other team and game will throw at you sometimes. On Guardiola, if you got the best players in the world, which he had at Barca, with fantastic pitch and in a league you dominate, you can play in one way. If you are in a more competitive league, you can't play in one way. Because you can't beat Stoke City away, or Manchester United away. Jose Mourinho beat Chelsea, why? He changed his system totally and  man marked Hazard because he(Mourinho) doesn't have a philosophy, a preferred system.

In Kenya it's the same. How can you go to Thika and play football? The pitch is awful. I have said I can't keep goats there. How can you go and say, “My philosophy is 3-4-3, we will play on the floor..You will lose.”

KS:Which player(s) not from Leopards do you admire most and would sign if given chance?

SH: I told my Executive Committee if we sign young players, I promise you we will sell players and it will ease the financial issues. The quickest way to get money is sell players. I asked for young players to grow them, and polish them, then sell them. I think there are players in this team we can sell. Duncan Otieno is good enough to play in Europe as a holding midfielder. Robinson Kamura is good enough to play in Europe. And there are others.

I admire some players. The winger at Ulinzi, Samuel Onyango. He is good enough for Europe. I think Kenneth Muguna will be good enough for Europe when he develops, he still need sto add in something more. The goalkeeper at Posta, Patrick Matasi is very good in the air. Last weekend we put lots of crosses in their box, but he comes and catches most of them. He has a big physical presence and they like that in Europe. If you aren't 6ft4 you cant play in Europe. In Europe they also want keepers who can kick it. Matasi can kick it miles away. He can play in Europe without a doubt.

KS: You haven't overseen many derbies in your career? Gor Mahia coming up. What does it mean to you?

SH: No. It’s a game, but it’s not anywhere near Simba- Yanga, and am sorry to say that. It’s not anywhere near Azam -Yanga. Azam - Simba. You won't get 60,000 fans. When you play in Tanzania, the people there support their football more than Kenya. I mean paying money to get into the stadium. You can go to Songea, MajiMaji and there 10,000 people, and that is in the middle of nowhere. You won't get 10,000 people in Nakuru.

When Azam plays Simba, there will be 5,000 fans, and 30,000 Simba fans and 10,000 Yanga fans and will join with Azam fans for the day. I have been in bigger derbies, Azam vs Birmingham, where you have to  queue for a month to get a ticket. The one on Sunday is just  a game of football.

KS: How’s the mood around camp ahead of the derby?

SH: I think what you have to make sure in derbies is you play the game and not the event because if you play the event, emotions will take over… you have to play the game and say that is their team and this is our team, how are we going to beat them... what is going to happen here? . Don’t worry about the crowd, don’t worry about the Executive Committee, and don’t worry about the media expectations. Play the game and not the event… the event will get you carried away and if you carried away by the event you lose the game so just play the game.

KS: Gor Mahia not in the best form really compared to previous seasons and they look vulnerable. What’s your analysis of their season so far?

SH: They play a very similar system to us but they play it differently. I noticed that they have been changing the midfield a lot and from when they started the season, they have changed the strikers…their preferred front two  at the start of the season  was Timothy Otieno and Jacques Tuyisenge with Meddie Kagere on the bench. But then Kagere came off the bench in one of the games and scored the winner, and since then he has stayed on the team. They have also changed the midfield around a bit…they have got probably five midfielders and they can pick any three from those five because they have the biggest squad, they have more money than us and they pay more salary than us so they should be. They tend to keep the three full backs and the two wing backs very consistent so when we sit down and try to second guess what their team might be, you know the goalkeeper, you know the back three and you know the wingbacks. But I think you’ll be guessing three midfielders from five and the striker you’ll be guessing two from three so you pretty much know what to expect.

KS: From your analysis of the Gor  team, what do you think are their strongest and weakest points?

SH: I think their defense is their strength and if they get beaten is only 1-0 so defensively they are quite compact and I think they have a lot of confidence In their goalkeeper. If they score a goal, I think they are quite confident they can win 1-0…but they are probably like us, they don’t score a lot of goals.

KS: AFC vs Gor, who has  a better team?

SH: They have bigger names, more established players because they have more money and a bigger budget but man for man, I don’t think there is a lot of difference. The players know each other so well that they tend to cancel each other out, and that is why these big games for the fans don’t turn out as good as you think they would be.

KS: If you were to beat Gor Mahia, what do you think will work for you?

SH: Hmm..not sure really.

KS: What makes the difference in a derby? Preparation, form or tactics?

SH: It’s everything but I think in big games you have an additional factor, that is you have nerves and anxiety. You have people who get carried away and play the event, not the game. This week will be key in getting the pressure off the players.

KS: Does this match have a direct impact on the title race?

SH: No…it’s too early. I think so far what I have seen, I like the Kenyan Premier League every year there is five or six teams who can win the league and that is healthy for Kenya’s football because it makes it harder to corrupt it. Like in Tanzania, Yanga and Simba corrupt everything and they are the league is always won between the two. If you look now, Ulinzi, Tusker, Gor Mahia, Leopards, Posta Rangers will be top six and then you will get one team who will surprise everybody, and at the moment it is Sofapaka.

KS: How well do you know Ze Maria as a coach?

SH: I don't. I can second guess how his team plays. I have heard him speak, but I don't think that's an issue. You need to know the system and players. It can't be me against him.

KS: So far as coach of Leopards, any mistakes you have made? Or anything you could have done better?

SH: Sign another striker, but I didn't have the money. If I could turn anything back now, tactically and attitude we have been good. Looking back, its been good. The team will be better.

KS: I understand that you were to present a list of your transfer wishes to the Executive committee this week… Ha that happened?

SH: No…it’s too early. May is very busy and you are still finding out about your players…you might get a bad injury where somebody is ruled out for three or four months so that changes your thinking.

KS: Any  remarks ahead of the match and also for the season to the fans?

SH: All the fans want us to win the game so we have to our very best for them. Having said that, we have to make sure that it doesn’t turn into an event so that everybody is thinking rationally, logically and you give your best performance so that is important. We know we have a responsibility to the fans but we have to manage that in a way that it doesn’t spoil the game. At the moment the fans are happy because every player is giving his everything for AFC Leopard so we have to continue that. For the rest of the season, we have standard of hard work. All players give 100% and we want to keep that.

KS: You have been very modest…you’ve not told me if you are winning this match or not…

SH: Kelele mingi sana…let the team do the talking and I just do my job. If we win, we will not get carried away; you will not hear us saying that we are going to win the league and if we lose you won’t see any panic…that’s what you have to do, you have to stay rational.

KS: Thanks coach for your time! All the best ahead on Sunday and in the league!

Watch Video Interview here...

An underwhelming second half summarized KPL AllStars’ huge 4-0 loss to LaLiga 123 side Cordoba CF on Wednesday July 19, 2017 at the El Mauli Stadium in Spain.

Kenyans will now have the ease of watching the KPL Allstars match from the comfort of their homes after team sponsors SportPesa confirmed that the match will be aired live on Bamba Sports. KBC, K24 and SuperSport will also be airing the match live.

The KPL AllStar select team is set to take on  Spanish side Cordoba CF who play in the second division LaLiga 123 on Wednseday July 19, 2017. The match will be played at 10:00pm Kenyan time at the Estadio El Mauli in Antequera City, Spain.

The Kenyan team will be seeking good results that will motivate them in preparing for their second match which will be against Sevilla Atletico on Saturday July 22.

 

Harambee Stars head coach Stanley Okumbi who also doubles up as the KPL AllStars coach has named the starting lineup that will face Cordoba CF on Wednesday July 19, 2017. The match is a friendly and is set to kick off at 22:00 Kenyan time.

A team of 30 students from different schools have been selected to represent the country in the East Africa Secondary School Games in the swimming category. This year's edition of the regional games are set to be held in Gulu, Uganda from August 14 to August 27.

Agah Khan Academy is the school that is most represented with five swimmers followed by Oshwal and Jaffery Academies who both have two. 

BOYS

NAME SCHOOL COUNTY

1. Emmanuel Ndonga Agah Khan Accademy Nairobi 

2. Atuhare Ambala Agah Khan Academy Nairobi 

3. SmitMalde Oshwal Academy Nairobi 

4. Andrew Wamarema Strathmore Nairobi 

5. Kevin Adede Makini Nairobi 

6. Kunyiha Kirundi Agah Khan Academy Nairobi 

7. Nabil Shikely Jaffery Academy Mombasa 

8. Rushabh Shah Oshwal Academy Mombasa 

9. Abdalla H. Mazrui Agah khan High Mombasa

10. Jono Opande Braeburn Kisumu 

11. Joseph Okal Kisumu Academy Kisumu 

12. Adrian Ngweno Laiser Hill Kajiado 

13. Nigel Amos Akala Brookhouse Nairobi 

14. Larson Agade Kamusinga Bungoma 

15. Osama Mohamoud Serani Mombasa

GIRLS

NAME SCHOOL COUNTY 

1. Hadassa Gichovi Loreto Valley Road Nairobi 

2. Joy Ndonga Rusinga School Nairobi 

3. Samantha Hawala Loreto Valley Road Nairobi 

4. Kemunto Ongera Agah Khan Academy Nairobi 

5. Aisha Nasser Agah Khan Academy Nairobi 

6. Alexandra Kranck Hillcrest Nairobi

7. Tatyana Kiruthi Brookhouse Nairobi 

8. Tanam Mohata Hillcrest Nairobi

9. Nabiha Shikely Jaffery Mombasa 

10. Nikita Kassandra Juja Academy Kiambu 

11. Michelle Osiro Alliance High Kiambu 

12. Stephanie Machuka Limuru Girls Kiambu 

13. Felicia Tanzer Greensteds Nakuru 

14. Ivy Mayende Kabarak Nakuru 

15. Nicole Kowido St. Mary’s Lwak Siaya

 

Haambee Starlets head coach Anne Aluoch has named the final squad of 20 players that will depart for Botswana for the 2018 FIFA U20 Women's World Cup qualifier. Starlets will play Botswana on Friday 21 July at the Lobatse Sports Complex, Botswana and the teams jets out of the country on Wednesday July 19.

Of the 20 players selected, 15 players are from high schools and participated in the recently concluded National Secondary School Ball Games that were held in Nyeri. In the tournament, Wiyeta Girls'  were crowned champions and have been recognized handsomely with seven of their players in the travelling contingent to Botswana.

Corazone Aquino who plies her trade with Soccer Queens has been tasked with captaining the team as they seek a slot in the 2018 FIFA U20 Women's World Cup which will take place in France.  

Travelling Squad

Goalkeepers: Lilian Awuor, Judith Osimbo (both Nyakach Girls), Dinah Tembesi (Wiyeta Girls)

Defenders: Lucy Akoth (St Paul’s Abwao), Wincate Kaari (Thika Queens), Vivian Nasaka (Ibinzo Girls), Maureen Khakasa (Wiyeta Girls), Robai Khamusa, Leah Cherotich (Wiyeta Girls),

Midfielders: Lilian Mmboga, Corazone Aquino (Soccer Queens), Sheril Angachi (Olympic High School), Cynthia Shilwatso (Ibinzo Girls), Marjolen Nekesa, Cynthia Atieno.

Strikers: Martha Amunyolete (Wiyeta Girls), Mercy Akinyi (Nyakach Girls), Rachel Muema, Jentrix Shikangwa (Wiyeta Girls), Diana Wacera (Mathare United)

 

Kakamega High School's Green Commandos and Wiyeta Girls are among the five teams that have been named to represent Kenya in the East Afrcia Secondary School Games that are set to be held in Uganda from August 14 to August 27.

Girls

In the girls' category, Kenya will be represented by Wiyeta and Ibinzo Secondary School. The two teams earned the spots after reaching the finals of the recently concluded National Secondary School Games which were held in Nyeri. In the finals, Wiyeta thrashed Ibinzo 3-1 on post-match penalties following a 1-1 draw in normal time.

Boys

Upper Hill, St Anthony's and Kakamega High School are the three teams that will represent Kenya in the boys' category. Upper Hill were crowned this year's national champions following a 3-1 win over St Anthony's on post-match penalties after the two sides had drawn 1-1 in normal time. St Anthony's therefore qualified as runners-up, with the Green Commandos going as number three.

Kenya's Representatives

Wiyeta Girls.

Ibinzo Secondary School.

Upper Hill.

St Anthony's.

Kakamega High School.

 

National Super League side Wazito FC proved as heavy as Gor Mahia by holding them to a barren draw in a friendly on Wednesday July 19, 2017 at the Camp Toyoyo Grounds.

Gor Mahia under coach Dylan Kerr opted to use young players in the friendly, starting the likes of Oliver Maloba and John Ndirangu. The back three was covered by Joash Onyango Joachim Oluoch and Mike Simiyu.

Wazito

Wazito had probably the most and best chances in the game but could not get a goal even with the likes of Bob Mugalia and John Mabia in attack. Mugalia was teed up by Mabia early in the first half but wasted the chance from a goal-clear position.

The woodwork prevented Dennis Gicheru from taking the NSL side ahead in the second half after his spinning header hit the bar and went out of play. Joachim Oluoch then almost scored in his own net  after deflecting a Marilu Ihaji free kick but seems luck was on his side. Wazito went on to summarize their wasteful trend in the match with a squandered chance from substitute Peter Karuri's attack late in the match.

Gor Mahia

With pace on the flanks through Maloba and Ndirangu, Gor Mahia sought to break on counter attacks but were unfruitful in their quest. Softie's first effort on goal was deflected for a corner, with Jeconia being denied a goal by Zachary Onyango after some exchange of passes with Maloba.

Zachary Onyango would then go on to stop John Ndirangu and Innocent Wafula's long range efforts to preserve the draw for Wazito.

 Gor, who will not be involved in this weekend's matches used the match to keep themselves fit for their next league assignment which is against Muhoroni Youth. Wazito on the other hand were using the friendly to prepare for their weekend GoTV Shield encounter with GFE 105 at the Kipchoge Stadium on Sunday 23.

Kaya Tiwi Girls and Laiser Hill are among the four teams that will represent Kenya in this year's East Africa Secondary School Games which are set to be held in Uganda from August 14 to August 27.

Girls

In the girls' category, Kaya Tiwi and St Brigid Girls made the cut after facing off in a hotly contested finals. Kaya Tiwi eventually emerged winners, retaining their national title with a 48-35 win over their opponents. St Brigid qualify by virtue of being runners-up with former basketball powerhouse BuruBuru Girls failing to make it to the regional games after finishing fourth behind Tigoi who were third.

Boys

In the boys' category, Laiser Hill and Upper Hill are the ones tasked with flying the country's flag. Laiser Hill defeated their arch rivals Upper Hill 51-43 in the boys’ basketball finals to clinch the national trophy.

Basketball Representatives

Kaya Tiwi Girls.

St Brigid Girls.

Upper Hill School.

Laiser Hill School.

 

Juventus have officially signed Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for an initial fee in the region of  €12.2million. If certain clauses are met in his time with Juventus, the transfer fee could however rise to €15.3 Million.

Szczesny has agreed a four-year deal which will see him with the Sere A Champions until 2021 and the former Arsenal man is well pleased with joining the team.

"I'm delighted to be at Juventus. I've spoken to Gigi Buffon – a true legend of the game. When you join Juve, it's because you've been chosen. I didn't hesitate one moment before coming here and I'm ready to take on this challenge. Juventus is the best possible choice for my career. I'm 27 years old and I want to win. At this club there's the right mentality to do so," he told a news conference.

The Poland international joined Arsenal from Legia Warsaw and made 181 appearances for the Gunners before joining AS Roma on loan for two seasons.

 

Arsenal took three points after beating Bayern Munich on post-match penalties after a 1-1 draw on Wednesday July 19, 2017. This was in the ongoing ICC Cup in Shanghai, China.

Bayern Munich however dominated most of the match and played more experienced players compared to the Gunners who gave match time to almost all their young players.

Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring for Bayern in the 9th minute from the penalty spot after Maitland-Niles was adjudged to have bundled over Bernat in the box. Despite complaints from Arsenal players, the referee stuck to his decision and Lewandowski stepped up to send Petr Cech the wrong way to give Bayern the lead.

Arsenal would however equalize late in the game from a terrific counter attack, Ramsey clipping a perfect cross in for Iwobi to head into the far corner and make it 1-1 in the 93rd minute.

Arsenal then went on to win the penalties 3-2, Iwobi the man again to score the winning kick with Emiliano Martinez saving two spot kicks to hand Arsenal the win.

 

Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice to inspire Borussia Dortmund to a 3-1 win over AC Milan on Tuesday July 18 in the International Champions Cup.

Nuri Sahin opened account for Dortmund in the 15th minute, driving a low shot into the left corner past Storari before Aubameyang made it 2-0 from the spot four minutes later. 

In the 23rd minute, Milan striker Carlos Bacca displayed an incredible solo moment, getting past a handful of Dortmund players from midfielders before beating Weidenfeller. In the 61st minute, Dortmund broke into a quick counter attack, with Pulisic being fed with the ball in the left flank before teeing up Aubameyang to tap the ball home and seal the win for the Bundesliga team.

BVB Statring XI: Weidenfeller, Zagadou, Bartra, Sokratis, Piszczek, Sahin, Castro, Rode, Aubameyang, Dembele, Pulisic.

AC Milan Starting XI: Storari; Abate, Paletta, Zapata, Rodriguez; Kessié, Mauri, Bonaventura; Borini, Bacca, Niang.

 

FIFA Vice President and head of the Spanish Football Association Angel Maria Villar has been arrested in Spain in an anti-corruption operation. 

Other people reportedly arrested include his son Gorka, secretary of the Tenerife Federation Ramón Hernández Baussou and Finance Vice President at the RFEF and member of Uefa's Finance Commission Juan Padrón.

Maria Villar was arrested for alleged misuse of the federation's finances including to support his re-election to the role for an eighth consecutive term. He has been the President of the Spanish Football Federation for 29 years and was re-elected less than two months ago for another term in the office.

In 2015, Villar was fined more than 20,000 Euros by Fifa for failing to co-operate with an investigation into the awarding of the controversial 2018 World Cup.

 

Francesco Totti has confirmed that he will be staying put with AS Roma, but this time as the Director.

Totti retired from football at the end of the 2016-17 season after 24 years with AS Roma and there were rumours that he has received offers to play in Japan from next season. The Italian international has however quelled those stories after confirming that he is indeed Roma’s next Director.

“The first part of my life as football player is finished, now a second part begins as director, and I am hoping to do well as on the pitch. Now begins a new phase and a new adventure.” Totti told Roma TV

“It will take time, step by step, to understand the role most suitable for me, and I will try to help all, from the youth team to the chairman. I don’t know how long it will take. There are people who think about their new role outside the field while they play; until 28 May I thought only about the field, he added.

The Italian international further revealed his eagerness to work with the entire Roma fraternity, stressing that he is confident that he will thrive in that position.

“Now I have the opportunity to work with AS Roma, with the sports director Monchi, the president [James] Pallotta and the coach [Eusebio] Di Francesco. I am lucky to know this club so well, I just have to understand what I want to do, and find the right role. At the moment I want to be everything and anything, an important character for Roma. I think that my future will be beautiful; I will choose a perfect role for me. Di Francesco? I have a great relationship with him.’’

During his 24-year spell with Roma, Totti made over 786 appearances for the clubs where he scored a club-record 307 goals and lifted the Serie A title twice. The 40-year old also also made 58 appearances for Italy with his most successful moment with his country being 2006 where they won the World Cup

Arsenal continued with their impressive pre-season with a 3-1 win in a friendly agaisbt Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday July 15, 2017.

Unsettled striker Olivier Giroud opened the scoring for the Gunners in the 32nd minute from close range before Ramsey making the scores 2-0 from a well-timed run to connect with Nacho Monreal’s cross from the back.

Egypt international Mohammed Elneny made it three for Arsenal three minutes before the break after his deflected shot went into the net. Lustica pulled one back for the Ausrtralian team in the second half from an indirect free kick after Ramsey had been adjudged to have passed the ball back to keeper Emiliano Martinez.

The match ended 3-1 in favour of Arsenal. The Gunners are engaging in pre- season to gain fitness after the summer holidays. It is also an opportunity for new players like Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac to gel in with the team before the 2017-18 season starts.

Former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu is now a Barcelona after completing his move back to the LaLiga giants.

Everton FC striker Wayne Rooney is a happy man after scoring for the toffees in his first match since his return t the club.

Rooney made a return to his boyhood club from Manchester United and needed only 34 minutes to announce his arrival with a goal. Picking the ball from 30 yards, the England international unleashed a superb strike that went into the top-left corner past Gor Mahia keeper Boniface Oluoch. 

Rooney's goal was instrumental in Thursday's match, with Everton registering a narrow 2-1 win over KPL league leaders Gor Mahia. Two minutes after the former Manchester United man's goal, Jacques Tuyisenge equalized for Gor Before Kieran Dowle's late strike sealed the win for Everton.

“To score for Everton again is a great feeling. It’s something I’ve been thinking of for the last couple of weeks, once I knew [the move] was happening. Thankfully, I’ve done it in today’s game and that 45 minutes will only help,'' Rooney told Evertontv.

“I just received the ball from out wide and I was in a bit of space so I took my chance and thankfully it went in. I was pleased with it. It’s a good start but I think we have to improve still. It’s early days and we knew it would be a tough game in tough conditions but I thought we did well,” added the 30-year old.

Rooney will be instrumental for Ronald Koeman's side this season as they try to challenge for the EPL title and the Europa League.

 

Popular Articles

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Besides the magic on the pitch, critics have continually accused him of laziness and being a party animal. Is he? Kenyanstar sat with John ‘Softie’ Ndirangu and here is his story.

Kenyanstar: Thank you for your time. Tell us about your football journey so far.

John Ndirangu: I started playing competitive football at Nakuru AllStars when I was in form 2, by then the club was in playing in Nationwide League. I was with them all along, even when they got promoted in 2014 to the Kenya Premier League.  As a footballer, I have faced both difficult and easy times.

KS: Where did this nickname Softie come from?

JN: I rarely talk too much, and people say my face is soft. So, Softie.

KS: Please tell us about your time at Nakuru AllStars.

JN: It was a bit hard for me since there were the demands on the pitch and at the same time I was schooling. I had to carefully plan my time. However, sometimes it was difficult for me because I had to leave school for training and when I got back to class I was so tired and couldn't focus fully.  

KS: You made a name for yourself  while you were at Allstars. Tell us about your time playing there and your relationship with the players, coach, management etc.

JN: First, I would like to thank Robert Muthomi. He took me as his son, he took care of me,he used to advise me and  managed me well. I also thank everyone who coached me. During my time there, I learnt something from all coaches and this made me grow to who I am today. My teammates were also supportive, as football is a team sport and you support each other. 

KS: You would later join Bandari. However, you never stayed there for long...

JN: I would not wish to discuss about my time at Bandari. It was very difficult for me.

KS: What exactly affected you?

JN: Lack of play time.

KS: Well, you at one point joined Kariobangi Sharks. What necessitated the move?  

JN: After Bandari I went back to Nakuru Allstars to get my form back. However, at the end of the season the team got relegated and so we agreed with Robert Muthomi, the CEO,  that since I had already made my name and was still young, it wasn't proper to play in the lower tier. Therefore I joined Kariobangi Sharks. We agreed with President Nick Mwendwa that if the team won't get promoted to the top league he releases me and that's what happened when I joined AFC Leopards.

KS: Leopards - You joined the club, lots of expectations, but left. Kindly tell us about your time at Leopards.

JN: I enjoyed my time at Leopards and would like to thank the management and coaches. They believed in me and I wish them all the the best. In December, I was asked by Leopards to look for a suitable club where I would go on loan and I felt it was not good for me. Therefore I  asked them to just release me instead. As a team last season we were unlucky not to do well and meet the expectations but I personally think that I played my part and was very surprised when they suggested a loan move for me in the transfer window. 

KS: You have some serious football skills. Very good running, very good dribbles. What's the tactical secret for you?

JN: Apart from talent in me I do watch skillful players like Neymar, Ronaldinho and Cristiano and try apply what I see on the pitch. Besides, I also work very hard.  

KS: Harambee Stars: You have grown from U-23 to the senior team. Tell us about your time and experience so far at Stars

JN: Each and every coach has his style of coaching and the kind of players he wants. I think during Bob Williamson's time I was called several times to the national team. He liked my dribbling skills and speed and he would tell me to just do that in the pitch, since that is what made him like me and give me a call up.  

KS: We haven't seen you at the national team in recent days. Why?

JN: As I have said each and every coach has his style of coaching and kind of players he wants. However, while at AFC Leopards I earned a call up.  

KS: You made what many call a 'daring move' by switching from Leopards to Gor. Do you feel it was a daring move or just any other normal transfer?

JN: I believe if you have talent and you work hard everything is possible. Talent can never be hidden. Kama unajua unajua. For me I see it as a normal move. My time will come and I'll shine.

KS: Gor Mahia - How is life there. What are your targets/goals?

JN: I am enjoying life at Gor. They do things professionally and think that's what differentiates Gor with other clubs. My target is to play as many games and help the team lift the title and in future I go to Europe. 

KS: You have been accused of the following: Missing training at times intentionally, partying a little too much and alcoholism. Your response?

JN: In life you must have friends and enemies and for you to make in life you must have enemies. All these stories came up when I was at Leopards. When Ivan Minnaert left a Luhya coach took over and he only wanted Luhya players. Therefore, Ian otieno and  I decided to stay at home because no matter how hard we worked in training, we weren't being considered.  On the issue of alcohol, I even cannot tell how it tastes. Yes, I used to go to clubs and watch football while drinking Delmonte juice.  

KS: Any closing words? 

JN: I just want to thank God for the gift of life and talent. I also want to tell my fans that they should  not lose hope in me. I know they believe in me and I won't fail them. 

KS: Thanks for your time Softie!

 

READ: John 'Softie' Ndirangu: Major Transfer Or Forced Out? 

Following the news that Serena Williams was two months pregnant when she won the Grand Slam, Rev. Fred Nile MP, has called for the world champion to be stripped of the title, claiming “foetal personhood” means she was unfairly advantaged.

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

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

“That’s clearly against the rules!”

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Former Inter Milan midfielder McDonald Mariga has come out to praise the Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino for the key role he has paid in developing the career of his brother Victor Wanyama.  

The Kenyan International skipper has been a vital part of the Spurs midfield, prove of just how much Pochettino trusts Wanyama. Big Vic first played under the Argentine gaffer at Southampton and were later reunited at Tottenham last summer.

“He (Wanyama) said Pochettino is the coach who has made him. He’s the one who, when Victor came to Southampton, he taught him what to do and how to play, all the things. He’s the one who taught him everything and made even more qualities for Victor. He gave him exposure and confidence. If you don’t have confidence from the coach, you cannot perform well. He’s helped him a lot,” Mariga told ESPN.

Pochettino’s favorite 3-4-2-1 formation has suited Wanyama perfectly as he provides cover to the wing backs when they move forward to attack, something that has put Wanyama in favor with both the manager and the Spurs supporters.

The midfielder will be expected to take his spot back in the starting XI for the FA Cup semi-final meeting with Chelsea at Wembley this Saturday evening after a minor injury.

As the title race stiffens and Spurs still on track for the cup glory, Wanyama may just be the rock Tottenham needs to win the first trophy in over years.

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

Drogba had been without a club since leaving MLS outfit Montreal Impact in November, after rejecting a move to Brazilian giants Corinthians in February.

However, the 39-year-old Ivorian striker has finally found a home in Phoenix, where he will also be part of their "MLS expansion franchise ownership group."

Phoenix are in their fourth season in the USL, 12th in the Western Conference with one win after three games.

"I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC," said Drogba.

"After seeing firsthand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch.

"I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS."

Drogba - a two-time African Footballer of the Year – scored 23 goals in 41 competitive appearances for the Impact, having won four Premier League titles and the Champions League among other trophies with Chelsea.

"We want our club and our city to be synonymous with international excellence, and Didier Drogba is a testament to Phoenix Rising FC's commitment to that mission,” said Phoenix Rising club governor Berke Bakay.

"Soccer is an international language understood by sports fans all over the world, and we want to help inspire fluency among new fans everywhere we play throughout North America."

Work has been completed on the first proposed venue for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar - the Khalifa International Stadium. More than five years before the tournament kicks off, Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) has confirmed extensive renovations on the 40,000-seater venue are now finished.

The renovations include the installation of revolutionary cooling technology promised during Qatar's successful bid, which will keep the pitch at an optimum 26 degrees and the stands somewhere between 24 and 28 degrees.

SC secretary general H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi said: "The completion of our first stadium more than five years before the Qatar World Cup begins is an important milestone that reflects our determination to deliver a tournament the entire Arab world is proud to be a part of.

"As we promised in our bid, our innovative stadiums offer an unrivalled experience to fans and players alike. I'm proud we can show these off to the world and welcome fans with the hospitality this World Cup will be remembered for."

The stadium, originally constructed in 1976, will first host the 2017 Emir Cup final on Friday and will also be the venue for the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Qatar Football Association (QFA) president Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani added: "Khalifa International Stadium is close to Qatari hearts and has seen some of Qatar's biggest sporting occasions over the years since it was first launched in 1976.

"It is therefore a fitting venue for the biggest match of Qatar's football calendar, the 2017 Emir Cup final between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd, and we look forward to welcoming fans into the magnificent remodelled stadium on Friday evening."

Former Tottenham striker Souleymane Coulibaly has accused the Egyptian club of treating him “like a slave” and “traumatising” his family.

Coulibaly joined Spurs in 2011 from Siena for £1.5m but failed to make any senior appearances.

He has played for Grossto, Bari Fc, Pistoiese, Peterborough United, Newport County and later Kilmarnock where he left in January to agree a three-and-a-half year deal with Al Alhy. He later returned to England without the club’s permission, prompting the Egyptian Premier League champions to lodge a complaint with FIFA.

The 22-year-old Ivorian has now claimed his actions were because of mistreatment while in Egypt, saying his family has been left “traumatised” by the experience.
Coulibaly added that Al Ahly had confiscated his passport which prompted him and his family to “flee” back to England at the first possible opportunity, and that he is willing to accept a ban from FIFA for his actions.

He said in a statement: “I’m not crazy, I left for a reason. I’m very sorry but I could not stay in that team anymore. My passport was held hostage. I was forced to do what I was told, for example bow down and pray every time I scored. I did not feel comfortable in the team and environment. I have tried my hardest for five months but I have reached my limit.

The team wasn’t welcoming. They never passed the ball so I had to fight and struggle in order to score. The coach forced me to play how he wanted me to play. I can’t play being forced to follow orders. If I didn’t obey the orders I was taken to the office and yelled at. My wife and kids are traumatised. My family is Christian and didn’t feel comfortable practicing their religion in the country.

I’ve been playing and working hard since I started without the right to a break. I left without saying because I had to flee the first chance I had a hold of my passport. They treated me like a slave all because of money. If FIFA are going to ban me I am willing and ready to accept the ban. My peace of mind and safety are what are most important to me.”

Al Ahly president Mahmoud Taher has since denied Coulibaly’s statement. Taher believes that Coulibaly’s accusation comes in response to Al Ahly’s complaint to FIFA and insists the club will not back down.

The club president’s statement read: “We deny all of Coulibaly’s allegations. What he claims never happened and he was never mistreated or abused by the club’s coach or players. Logically, if he was being abused he should have immediately spoken about this as soon as he left us, not after we filed a complaint to FIFA.

Al Ahly will not be blackmailed and will not back down until Coulibaly pays for what he did. This is a false accusation and a lie. He thinks that by saying this we will withdraw our complaint and back down but Al Ahly will not be blackmailed.”

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

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