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Tokyo Olympics begin with colourful ceremony in empty stadium

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Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
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Tokyo 2020 Olympics begins with an opening ceremony in an almost empty stadium in Japan.

At an Olympics opening ceremony overshadowed by the coronavirus, Tokyo 2020 organisers on Friday paid tribute to medical workers as athletes from across the world paraded into an almost empty stadium, their smiles hidden behind masks for the first time.

Normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, the ceremony was shorn of its glitz, with fewer than 1,000 people in attendance, strict social distancing rules and signs calling on spectators to “be quiet around the venue.”

The organisers also sent the traditional message of peace as global pop stars sang John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Imagine,” while drones formed the shape of the Olympic emblem in the sky above the stadium and transformed into the shape of the globe.

“With the world in a tough situation because of the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to pay my respect and express my gratitude to medical workers and all those who are working hard every day to overcome the difficulties,” said the president of the organising committee, Seiko Hashimoto.

Most countries were represented by both male and female flagbearers in an Olympic first, but not everybody took pandemic measures.

Teams from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the Pakistan flagbearers paraded maskless in an awkward contrast to protocol and the vast majority of other athletes at the ceremony.

Regardless, it marked a coming together of the world, with an audience of hundreds of millions around the globe and at various stages of the pandemic tuning in to watch the start of the greatest show in sport.

Members of the Canada delegation wore patches in the colour of the rainbow, the symbol of the LGBT community, on their jackets.

U.S. first lady, Jill Biden, clapped the Americans as did France President, Emmanuel Macron, for the French team.

The Olympic oath, recited by the athletes at the end of the parade, has been updated for the Tokyo Games, with athletes swearing their commitment to inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination for the first time at the Olympics.

The opening also featured fireworks in indigo and white, the colours of the Tokyo 2020 emblem, and gave a nod to Japanese tradition represented by giant wooden Olympic rings linked to the 1964 Games.

A vastly smaller number of athletes marched in the teams’ parade, with many flying in just before their competitions and due to leave shortly after to avoid infections.

Delegations tried their best to liven the mood. Uganda, wearing bright traditional costumes, did a few measures of a dance, while the Argentine delegation jumped up and down on entering.

The Nigerian contingent was also fully represented in their green and white attire. (Reuters/NAN)

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Nigeria qualify for 2023 Africa U20 Cup of Nations

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Nigeria’s U20 boys, Flying Eagles, on Tuesday night overpowered fit-fighting Cote d’Ivoire in an explosive semi final match to reach the final of the ongoing WAFU B U20 Championship in Niamey.

The ticket to Saturday’s final also came with a ticket to next year’s Africa U20 Cup of Nations taking place in Egypt.

Midfielder Daniel Daga put Nigeria in front after only five minutes when he cleverly escaped the attention of the Ivorian defenders to nod in from a well-weighted pull out.

The seven-time African champions then launched onslaught after onslaught on the Ivorian goal but failed to add to the tally, before the Ivorians equalized just before half time from an intelligently-taken free kick at the edge of Nigeria’s eighteen-yard box.

Neither team could find another goal to gain upper hand before the end of regulation time inside the Stade General Seyni Kountché, and the game went into extra time.

Forward Ibrahim Yahaya got the winner for Nigeria in the 111th minute of play when he tucked in from the penalty spot to make it 2-1.

Nigeria will square up against neighbours Benin Republic in Saturday’s final.

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Arsenal squandered Champions League spot after loss to Newcastle United

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Ben White score own gaol
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Arsenal’s Champions League hopes suffered a major blow as Newcastle powered their way to a deserved win at a raucous St James’ Park.

Newcastle’s Bruno Guimaraes condemned the Gunners to a costly 2-0 defeat with an 85th-minute strike after Ben White’s own goal had put the Magpies ahead in front of a crowd of 52,274.

As a result, Arsenal will go into Sunday’s final round of fixtures two points behind their North London rival Tottenham, who are fourth on the table and with their fate out of their own hands.

Victory was no more than Eddie Howe’s side deserved as they bounced back from successive defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City to take their tally to 46 points, the most they have collected since returning to the Premier League in 2017.

Arsenal, were first to threaten when Granit Xhaka fed Eddie Nketiah, who cut inside from the left, but saw his right-foot shot blocked.

Callum Wilson’s pace made life difficult for Arsenal and White had to block a Sean Longstaff cross and a Joelinton shot within seconds as the home side pushed for the opener.

Bukayo Saka threatened on 21 minutes and the England international’s second strike forced keeper Martin Dubravka into another save before Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale produced a solid 37th-minute stop from Allan Saint-Maximin.

Martin Odegaard then flashed the ball across the Magpies’ penalty area, but the Gunners fell behind on 55 minutes.

Saint-Maximin played Joelinton into space down the left and he crossed to the near post, where White could only guide the ball into his own net.

Newcastle Utd celebrate White’s own gaol

As the visitors chased an equaliser, Wilson sent a 63rd-minute snapshot just over, Ramsdale palmed away Jacob Murphy’s shot and was relieved to see Wilson’s late lob from 40 yards drop just wide.

The keeper dived bravely at Wilson’s feet with five minutes remaining, but the rebound fell perfectly for Guimaraes, who wasted no time to seal the points.

Mikel Arteta was fumed after witnessing his team throwing away a whole season’s hard work in a woeful 2-0 defeat at St. James’ Park.

Mikel Arteta

With his team’s Champions League dram almost over, Arteta could not hide his exasperation anymore.

“Normally, I will always defend my players. Not tonight, it is too difficult. We didn’t compete. We never got into the game. We lost every duel. They were comfortably better than us.

“I am incredibly disappointed. It’s a very painful one. It was in our hands, it’s not in our hands now. We have to put our head down and swallow all the poison that we feel,” He told a press conference

Arteta’s anger was echoed by Granit Xhaka, who pulled no punches during an explosive post-game interview. The Arsenal midfielder declared the Gunners didn’t deserve a spot in Europe’s showpiece event next season.

Granit Xhaka 

“From the first minute to the 90th we didn’t deserve to be on the pitch today,” he told Sky Sports. “What happened was a disaster performance and like this you don’t deserve to play Champions League, you don’t even deserve to play Europa League. It’s very hard to take at the moment. I don’t know why we’re not doing what the coaches ask for.”

“If someone isn’t ready for this game, stay at home. It doesn’t matter the age. If you’re not ready or you’re nervous, stay on the bench, stay at home, don’t come here. We knew this game was maybe the most important for us but, with a performance like this, it’s not acceptable.”

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Official: José Peseiro now Super Eagles Head Coach

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José Peseiro
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The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has appoint Joeé Santos Peseiro as the new Head Coach of the national team after weeks of endless reports of the Portuguese being the frontrunner for the Super Eagles Head coach job.

The NFF announced the appointment on Sunday, saying appointment is with immediate effect but subject to the signing of agreed terms between the NFF and Peseiro.

Peseiro, 62, will take charge of the Super Eagles starting with friendlies with Mexico and Ecuador later in May.

Mr Peseiro has coached clubs and national teams in four continents— Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

He has coached at Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto, Panathinaikos, Rapid Bucharest, Sporting Braga, Victoria Gumaraes, Al-Hilal, Al-Wahda, Al-Ahly Cairo, Sharjah FC and Real Madrid (assistant coach during the Galacticos era), and worked as Head Coach of the Saudi Arabian and Venezuelan national teams.

A statement from the NFF said Peseiro is expected to lead out the Super Eagles for the first time against Mexico at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas on May 28, before flying to New Jersey to face Ecuador at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison on Thursday, June 2.

NFF in the statement also announced that former Nigerian international forward, Finidi George will now be the First Assistant to Peseiro, with Salisu Yusuf to be the Second Assistant as well as Head Coach of the CHAN and U23 National Teams.

Usman Abdallah is the Third Assistant while Eboboritse Uwejamomere will be the Match Analyst and another former Nigeria international, Ike Shorounmu will be the Goalkeepers’ Trainer.

Peseiro succeeds Augustine Eguavoen who failed to qualify the Super Eagles for the 2022 World Cup holding in Qatar.

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