SPORTS

SPORTS

A travel agent has been accused of cheating Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo out of nearly £250,000. 

The 53-year-old, named in Portugal as Maria Silva, also scammed the football star’s super-agent Jorge Mendes out of more than £14,000 and former Man Utd winger Nani out of more than £1,500. 

Her wrongdoing culminated in her getting a four-year suspended prison sentence at a court in Porto, Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias reported on Sunday. 

The newspaper revealed dad-of-four Cristiano, 36, was spared having to attend her trial after she made a full confession. 

The four-times Ballon D’or winner gave a statement to police after flying to Porto by private jet and meeting up with his lawyer Carlos Osorio de Castro. 

Jornal de Noticias exposed  the scandal about greedy Silva’s breach of the trust Cristiano placed in her by giving her his credit card details and pin codes. 

The newspaper said the €288,000 she scammed him out of - £245,770 - corresponded to around 200 trips he never made between Portugal and other European countries as well as Europe and Africa and the US. 

She reportedly carried out the fraud by getting clients to transfer cash for travel she arranged for them to her personal account instead of the business account of the travel agency she worked for. 

She then billed those trips to the accounts of victims like Cristiano Ronaldo, who had given her a ‘virtual’ credit card and pin code, to “fill the hole” in her company’s accounts, the report in Jornal de Noticias said. 

The newspaper reported she used the same tactic to rip off the likes of Jorge Mendes, his sports agency Gestifute, Nani and former Portsmouth and Everton footballer Manuel Fernandes. 

The fraud cost Fernandes £2,440 and Gestifute £36,000. Silva’s firm Geostar is said to have repaid the fraud victims the money wrongly taken from them and she agreed to pay back monthly compensation to her old employers to avoid going to prison. 

Cristiano was targeted between in a three-year period between February 2007 and July 2010 when he was playing for Manchester United first-time round and then Real Madrid following his record £80 million transfer to Spain. 

The Portuguese footballer gave the Policia Judiciaria in Porto a statement on June 7 2011 according to Jornal de Noticias. 

He is said to have entered the police station via a back door so his presence would go unnoticed.

 

Maria Silva is understood to have been quizzed by police in October 2013, declining to answer questions put to her by cops but making a full confession in court where she was found guilty of fraud and forgery. It was not made clear how her crimes were uncovered. 

The 53-year-old from the northern Portuguese city of Vila Nova de Gaia was convicted of on January 10 2017 by a criminal court in Porto, Jornal de Noticias revealed.

Revealing Cristiano’s former Portugal teammate Simao Sabrosa was among clients who unwittingly transferred cash to her private account instead of a company account as part of her fraud, the paper added: “Afterwards the travel agent had to plug the hole in the firm’s accounts. 

“She therefore began to bill those trips to Cristiano Ronaldo, who had an account at Geostar and for practical reasons, handed the agent a virtual credit card and pin code.

 

 

[Mirror]

Philippine boxer-turned-politician Manny Pacquiao declared Sunday he will run for president in 2022, ending months of speculation about whether the legendary fighter would seek the country’s top job.

“The time is now — we are ready to rise to the challenge of leadership,” said Pacquiao, as he accepted the nomination of a rival faction in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruling party. 

The eight-division world champion and beloved national hero made the announcement weeks after losing what could be his last professional fight against Cuban Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas. 

Pacquiao, who entered politics in 2010 as a congressman before being elected to the Senate, has long been expected to make a tilt for the country’s highest office.

The 42-year-old is deeply admired in the archipelago nation for his generosity and hauling himself out of poverty to become one of the world’s greatest and wealthiest boxers.

His boxing credentials along with fighting poverty and corruption are likely to be the key themes of his campaign. 

“For those asking what are my qualifications, have you ever experienced hunger?” Pacquiao asked the national assembly held by the anti-Duterte faction of PDP-Laban.

“Have you ever experienced having nothing to eat, to borrow money from your neighbours or to wait for leftovers at a food stall? The Manny Pacquiao that is in front of you was moulded by poverty.”

AFP

Anthony Joshua is now set to clash with Oleksandr Usyk on September 25 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

But the 31-year-old insists that he will do everything in his power to get the fight with his fellow Brit sorted in the UK as soon as possible.

Joshua told the Daily Mail  August 14, “That’s when the Fury fight was booked. It would have happened by now.

“We were meant to have fought by now and here we are talking about it. But it will happen.

“I know what people are saying about boxing politics, but I’ll promise before the end of my career I will have done everything in my power to fight Tyson Fury.

“We saw it with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao [not fighting until they were beyond their primes] but that was a superstar fight.

“Me and Fury is streets, two warriors, two fighters who have come from the amateur system in the UK, and have taken the world by storm.

“We’ll get it on in Britain. Don’t worry about age, boxing politics, don’t worry about the American dollar.

“This is a British UK fight which can happen at Wembley, Tottenham, the O2, York Hall.

“I look at it less as a mega-fight for the world and more from the point of view that we are guys who first met in Finchley ABC. It is a grassroots fight.”

[Sun]

Tyson Fury believes he will never lose his unbeaten record, despite the looming threat of fights against dangerous punchers such as Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua.

Fury defends his WBC belt against Wilder on October 9, which could finally set up an undisputed world title showdown against Joshua.

Joshua risks his world titles against Oleksandr Usyk on September 25, live on Sky Sports Box Office, but Fury has appeared to dismiss the threat posed by his heavyweight rivals.

Speaking in an interview with Gary Neville’s The Overlap, which contains language some may find offensive, Fury said, “I’ve never lost a fight. I don’t think I’ll ever lose a fight, no. I don’t think I will.

“I don’t think there’s nobody out there to beat me.”

Joshua has reiterated his desire for a blockbuster battle, but Fury insists his British rival’s shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr is proof that he should not look too far ahead at future fights.

“How can he have me now, if I’ve got a rematch with Wilder,” said Fury. 

“The big thing is – I’ll tell you what they always do – and he already fell victim to it, Joshua.

“They talk about fights that’s not happening. Everybody wants to talk to me about the Joshua fight. They don’t care about the fight that I’m having.

“All of a sudden, they want me to look over what I’m doing and then get chinned. I’m laid on my back flat by Wilder and he’s taking my position.”

 

Reflecting on the remainder of his career, Fury said, “I’ve only got, two, three fights left, because there’s no more challenges.

“They’ve all been beaten. I’ve got Wilder next and provided I get through that, then I’ve got AJ.”

The two-time world champion also revealed how he battled depression after fulfilling his long-term ambition of defeating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.

“Before it was like I had conquered the world and it was nothing else that I wanted to do,” said Fury.

 

“When I was only young, Klitschko was a world champion, so I was always looking at him and when I’d completed it, it was game over for me.

“I didn’t want to continue, plus I was mentally unstable. Going into that fight, I was very depressed and down, and anxious. I always had that goal of beating Klitschko that kept me on the straight and narrow path, but after that goal was taken away from me, I had nothing else that I could focus on to give me that drive.

“It was like a total downward spiral and I didn’t want to live anymore. I was happy to die at 27. I was happy to finish, that was it. Nothing or nobody could bring me back.

“Not my wife and kids. I didn’t care. Every day I woke up, I just wanted to die. Only people who have been through depression and all that sort of stuff will understand what I’m saying.”

 

Skysports

Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee became the third coach to lose his job during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers in Africa after Kenya fired him late Wednesday.

The 53-year-old was named coach of the Harambee Stars for a fifth time last October following the surprise sacking of Francis Kimanzi.

Under his stewardship, Kenya registered two draws against Uganda and Rwanda during the World Cup qualifiers and have little hope of being among the 10 group winners after the sixth and final round of mini-league matches in November.

A statement from the Kenyan federation said the organisation and Mulee had “reached a decision to part ways by mutual consent, effective immediately”.

Mulee’s departure follows that of Zimbabwe coach Zdravko Logarusic on Sunday and Hossam El-Badry, who was axed as coach of Egypt last week.

AFP

Anthony Joshua has said he needs a fight against Tyson Fury “on my record” before his career is finished because boxing as a whole required at least one bout between the two British heavyweights.

Between them, the two boxers currently hold all the major versions of the heavyweight world title.

Talks of a unification ‘superfight’, which went on for months, appeared to be on the brink of ending in an agreement earlier this year only for a United States arbitrator to rule Fury had to fight Deontay Wilder for a third time.

As a result Fury, having previously drawn with and then stopped Wilder, is set to make the maiden defence of his World Boxing Council (WBC) belt against the American in Las Vegas next month.

Before then, Joshua is set to face World Boxing Organization (WBO) mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk in London on September 25, with a crowd of some 60,000 expected at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the home of the Premier League club.

But Joshua, also, the World Boxing Association (WBA) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion, knows that a fight against Fury is the contest boxing fans want to see and that a question mark will hang over his career if he does not face the ‘Gypsy King.’

“Do I need Tyson Fury on my record? I need it,” Joshua told the BBC 5 Live boxing podcast.

“We need it for boxing. It’s what we all need, I need it. Come on, let’s see how good I am.

“Fight good fighters and they bring out the best of you. Training camp is hard. To get better is very difficult in boxing. To fight Tyson Fury is a big challenge.”

Joshua added: “Let’s see how far I can take myself during this period. It’ll be a good challenge mentally. Not about him, but because I actually want to do well.

“When I wake up in the morning early and I’m tired, my body’s battered, I still go out and do what I do. It’s great rewards and only someone like Fury can give that to me.”

[NewsDirect]

The tap of meaningful and beneficial relationship between the Nigeria Football Federation and Corporate Nigeria continues unabated with the NFF and Premier Lotto Limited announcing on Sunday that the latter, popularly known and addressed as Baba Ijebu, will formally seal agreement as the Official Bet Sponsor of the National Teams today.

The partnership officially began on 1st September 2021 and will run for four years.
In the past couple of weeks, the NFF administration under the leadership of its President, Amaju Melvin Pinnick has sealed immaculate partnership deals with leading airline, Air Peace as the Official Airline of Nigerian National Teams, and with MTN as the Official Communications Partner of the Super Eagles and the National Teams.

Today’s event that officially brings Premier Lotto into the mix of NFF’s VIP bouquet of partners and sponsors will hold at the Banquet Hall of Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

President of NFF, Pinnick said on Sunday: “We are very excited to finally seal this partnership with Premier Lotto.  We are happy with what they are doing and the processes and checks they have put in place to ensure integrity, credibility, diligence and sustainability.

[Sun]

Cristiano Ronaldo was the name sung around Old Trafford once again, as Manchester United defeated Newcastle 4-1 on Saturday.

The 36-year-old was making a return for the club and was included in the starting XI alongside Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood in attack.

Ronaldo opened scoring for United with a tap in, after Woodman spilled the ball into his path.

However, the visitors made it 1-1 in the second through Javier Manquillo

Ronaldo drilled in his second of the day through Woodman’s legs, before Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard added more goals.

Arsenal finally won for the first time this season, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring a controversial winner in the 1-0 win over Norwich City.

Manchester City also defeated Leicester City 1-0.

 

 

Nigerian football clubs have transferred 1,904 players out of Nigeria in the last decade, a FIFA report says.

 

Wild celebrations greeted Akwa United’s emergence at the end of the 2020/21 season as champions of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) for the first time in their history.

As the Promise Keepers embarked on a victory parade through the streets of Uyo, Franklin Udeme, an ardent fan, wondered how many of the history-making players would remain at the club when they begin their CAF Champions League campaign.

Mr Udeme was right to be worried. At least four members of the team have since departed the country in search of greener pasture.

Almost every club in the NPFL and even in the lower ranks have seen players move abroad, even to remote places such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar, in search of professional careers.

According to a recent FIFA report, Nigerian clubs sold 1,904 players in international transfers in the last decade.

FIFA REPORT

The report ranked Nigeria 17th in the world and first in Africa for volume of players’ movement in the decade.

 

One of the most intriguing cases is that of Chisom Chikatara, fondly called Kolanut Boy.

Chikatara

Chikatara joined Wydad Casablanca of Morocco from Abia Warriors in 2016, after a brilliant performance for the home-based Eagles at the African Nations Championship – CHAN 2016 – held in Rwanda, which saw clubs and agents swarm around him like ants on sugar.

He grabbed a hat-trick in Nigeria’s 4-1 thumping of Niger Republic at the Stade Regional Nyamirambo, Kigali, and by the next morning, the local sports journalists had rechristened him “Chikatala.”

 

By the time Chikatara arrived for his breakfast at Super Eagles’ Hills Views Hotel at Kiyovu Road on January 19, word had filtered out that Wydad had won the race to sign him.

It turned out that he jumped before looking, his gaze firmly fixed on the money. He probably saw Morocco as a stepping stone to Europe where he would achieve his football dreams. Alas!, he was wrong.

Today, those dreams have turned to dust. Chikatara struggled in the Moroccan Botola League, scoring just once in 12 appearances in two best-forgotten seasons at Wydad Casablanca.

 

Chisom Chikatara
Chisom Chikatara

Chikatara joined El Gouna FC of Egypt in 2018 and again scored only one goal in 11 appearances. They sent him on loan to another Egyptian side, Tala’ea Gaish, but he failed to find the net in five games. The once dreaded striker now plies his trade with Gokulam FC in the Indian second-tier league.

At 26, Chikatara still has many years ahead in the game. Would he want to come back to the NPFL to relaunch his career? Probably not, as he may be earning better in India’s second-tier league than he would in Nigeria.

Chikatara’s story reflects those of many Nigerian footballers who rushed abroad in search of a professional career in the game. They think any league abroad is better than the NPFL. How did this fallacy become the Nigerian local league footballer’s truth?

 

NPFL Connection

Both the Nigerian footballers desperate to travel abroad and the NFF can be said to share the responsibility for the current situation.

For a player whose club owes a backlog of salaries and benefits, seeing mates who had made the journey abroad return home in changed circumstances only hardens his resolve to also play overseas. 

The NFF says it wants to stop Nigerian players from joining lower-ranked leagues abroad so as to save the Nigerian league. But the league lost its allure partly because of the NFF’s myopic obsession with the senior national team, experts say.

 

If football reflects the socio-economic realities around it, the summer transfer window that saw many NPFL players move abroad is an accurate reflection. This is a football league struggling to deal with both a crippling economic recession and maladministration. It is therefore not surprising that Nigerian players continue to hustle to join just any club ‘abroad’.

 

Reasons for the desperation

The recent move of Anayo Iwuala (Anayo) to Tunisia reflects this scenario. Unconfirmed reports said he will earn about $50,000 a month, compared to the $1000 he was earning while at Enyimba.

When Taye Taiwo joined French Ligue1 giants, Olympique Marseille, in 2011, many thought the move would open the doors for NPFL players directly into top European leagues. They hoped it would change the impression that the local league no longer commanded the respect of scouts from the biggest European leagues.

Sadly, after Taiwo joined Marseille, the Nigeria league continued to experience low-scale transfers with most movements confined to clubs in North Africa. The likes of Orok Akarandut, Junior Ajayi, Kingsley Sokari , Junior Lokosa, and recently Iwuala have gone up-north in the continent in pursuit of fortunes.

Players believe playing at home will not earn them calls to the Super Eagles while money is also a major factor behind the desperation to play in countries like Albania, Serbia, Romania, and Cyprus.

As long as the culture of irregular payment of salaries continues in the NPFL, footballers will need little persuasion to join ‘lower leagues’ that offer consistent wages, experts say.

Findings by PREMIUM TIMES also revealed that some agents also advise players to accept offers from lower leagues as a pathway to bigger deals in Western Europe. But these are callous agents more interested in lining their pockets than protecting their players’ interests.

 

Experts Speak

Christopher Adedojoh, a Nigerian football agent, says the NFF needs more than sound bites to stop players moving from the NPFL to supposedly lesser leagues abroad.

Mr Adedojoh told PREMIUM TIMES that club owners must respect players’ contracts and pay salaries and bonuses as at when due.

“It is not the players and agents that are the problem here, it is the NFF’s failure to make the league lucrative for players to stay. 

“How do you stop players from accepting offers from lower leagues overseas when clubs owe six months’ salary and are also not paying other bonuses?

“This has to stop or more players will move to Albania, Qatar, Kuwait, and other lower Leagues in Asia and Europe,” Mr Adedojoh said.

Shina Philips, another agent, is the initiator of the longest-running football award in Nigeria – The Nigeria Pitch Awards. He says the NFF has only a limited role in players’ career choices.

Shina Philips with Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr
Shina Philips with Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr

Mr Philips, who had organised seminars for football agents in the country, says the NFF is an advisory body that can only guide players on transfers and not block their moves.

“Even from a moral point of view, I think the NFF has some level of responsibility in guiding players when they want to make some of these choices.

“If, for example, a player with great potential is heading to one of these obscure leagues, the NFF can talk to the player and to his agent to rethink the decision for the good of the promising career.”

However, Mr Phillips said, the most important work for the NFF is to ensure the local league becomes more vibrant and lucrative.

“I think the NFF and the other concerned authorities should begin what I call aggressive marketing, let them reach out to these billionaires who have money and love football. They can replicate in Nigeria what they love about Arsenal, Chelsea, and the Manchester United of this world. Supporting football is not just about giving Super Eagles money.

“Imagine Dangote, Otedola, Adenuga having football clubs where they pump money into, just like their businesses. The league will not only be lucrative for Nigerian players to stay in but would also attract foreign players.

“They have what it takes to build the structure and the infrastructure for a world-class football team.”

The football agent made reference to former Nigerian clubs that were owned by millionaire businessmen – Abiola Babes, Iwuayanwu Nationale, and Leventis United – saying they paid so well that they drew players from across West Africa.

 

Players’ Views

Hapoel Petah Tikva attacking midfielder, James Adeniyi, turned down offers from NPFL clubs after a short stint with COD United in Lagos to join Albanian side, Bylis Ballsh, in 2012. He then moved to Slovenia and later joined Gabala in Azerbaijan. Adeniyi believes NPFL is far below global standards in terms of organisation.

“I played for COD United before packing my kit and heading to Albania. These leagues might be of low standards, but they are still many steps ahead of NPFL. I needed it as a stepping stone, but I had to move to Azerbaijan later on.

James Adeniyi

“The League in Azerbaijan is far more organised than the NPFL, and nobody owes you any salary,” he said.

The NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, has declared that no Nigerian player will again join the lower leagues in Europe. But such a declaration can only come into effect if the local league becomes attractive to sponsors and other corporate bodies to identify with, observers say.

For Chisom Chikatara, his grace to grass tale has become part of NPFL folklore and epitomises the danger that awaits NPFL players who do not make the right career move.

Such stories again demonstrate that the grass is not always greener even on the other sides of the ocean.

 

 [PremiumTimes]

A nine-year-old Nigerian, Munir Sada, has joined Arsenal Football Kid Academy in London, United Kingdom.

Pictures of the nine-year-old with Arsenal document trended online, with many Nigerians excited about the move.

Sada, who was kitted in an Arsenal jersey, was with two women said to be his parents in the picture.

An Information Officer at Kaduna State Department of Public Affairs, Yunus Abdallah, in a Facebook post said the nine-year-old is an indigene of Zaria, Kaduna State.

“Arsenal FC have signed a nine-year-old Nigerian. Munnir Muhammed Sada an indigene of Zaria Local Government of Kaduna State is expected to be playing for the youth soccer team of Arsenal FC,” he posted. 

 

Sada was said to have always dreamt of being a football legend like Lionel Messi.

However, no official statement has been issued by Arsenal on the Nigerian resumption to its academy.

 

Another Nigerian youngster in Arsenal

In August 2020, Arsenal also confirmed the signing of the then 19-year-old Nigerian-born midfielder Tim Akinola.

Akinola joined Arsenal on a free transfer after his leaving Huddersfield Town at the end of last season.

“Young midfielder Tim Akinola has joined us after leaving Huddersfield Town at the end of last season.

“The 19-year-old, who impressed in Huddersfield’s youth set-up, has met up with his new team-mates and is already training with our under-23s and academy players ahead of the new season.

 

“Before joining Huddersfield Town in June 2019, Tim was at Lincoln City, where his progress was rewarded by breaking into the first-team squad in the EFL Trophy. During his time with Lincoln City, Tim also had a spell on loan with non-league side Lincoln United in January 2019.

“Predominantly a central midfielder, Tim, who started his youth career at League Two side Mansfield Town, is eligible to represent both Nigeria and England,” the statement read.

 

 Punch

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