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Thousands line up in Liberia but meet opposition over award to Wenger

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Arsene Wenger arrived in Liberia on Wednesday evening, with the ex-Arsenal boss set to be handed the country’s highest honour from president George Weah.

Wenger, who ended his 22-year association with the Gunners in May, will be inducted into Liberia’s Order of Distinction.

It comes after Weah, the former World Footballer of the Year who was elected as his country’s leader last year in a landslide victory, decided to honour both Wenger and another coach, Claude Le Roy.

Wenger, 68, was given a warm welcome when he touched down in the town of Harbel shortly after 9 pm, and is set to become a Knight Grand Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption.

According to information minister Eugene Nagbe, the Frenchman has been awarded the distinction because he “has contributed to sports in Africa and has given many Africans opportunities”

Le Roy discovered Weah when operating as Cameroon manager in the late 1980s.

Read Also: Essam El-Hadary: World Cup’s oldest player retires from Egypt duty

Upon Le Roy’s recommendation, Wenger signed Weah when manager of Monaco in 1988, paying Cameroonian club Tonnerre Yaounde £12,000 for the striker.

Weah, now 51, has labelled Wenger as one of the most important men in his career.
In a 2007 interview with the Telegraph, Weah stated: “Arsene Wenger made me not just the player I am today but the man I am.”

The award ceremony will take place in the country’s capital, Monrovia, on Friday.

But over the past week, debate in Liberian newspapers and radio shows has mounted over whether the award — usually reserved for individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to Liberia — is right.

“This Knight Grand Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption title, which the nation can bestow upon Liberian and non-Liberian alike, should not be about the personal connection between the President and Wenger or Le Roy,” Liberian newspaper Front Page Africa wrote in an editorial.

MP Darius Dillon on his part said: “The nation’s highest honour cannot be given to somebody who has not done something directly for the country.”

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Nigeria, Zambia clinch women Olympic football slots for Paris 2024

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The Super Falcons of Nigeria and the Copper Queens of Zambia on Tuesday picked the last two spots in the women’s football tournament at the Paris Olympics after winning two-legged playoffs in the fourth round of African qualifiers.

While Nigeria played out a goalless draw against the Banyana Banyana of South Africa in Pretoria to qualify after a 1-0 win in Abuja last week, Zambia needed an extra time win to get past Morocco in Rabat in their second leg encounter.

The Copper Queens successfully turned a 2-1 first-leg home defeat into a 3-2 aggregate triumph with a 2-0 win over the Atlas Lionesses at Moulay Hassan Stadium.

Orlando Pride of USA striker, Barbra Banda, opened the scoring for Zambia in the 38th minute and got her brace when she converted a penalty in the 105th minute to send her country to the Olympic starting in July.

However, the two African countries have been drawn into tough groups for the football event at the Games.

The Super Falcons will take on world champions Spain and former world champions Japan and Brazil in Group C at the Olympics while Zambia is in Group B alongside France, former champions the United States and Germany as well as last year’s women World Cup semi-finalists, Australia.

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Spain denies Nigeria’s ‘Future Eagles’ visa for international tournament

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Spanish authorities have denied Nigeria’s Under-15 football team, popularly known as Future Eagles, the opportunity of participating in an international invitational tournament which would also feature Belgium, Italy and England.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), in a post on its X handle on Tuesday, said members of junior football team including the players and their officials were denied visas to attend the tournament in Spain.

The Nigerian football body said though the Spanish embassy did not give reasons for the visa denial, the team would “therefore not be travelling to take part in the Uefa U16 Development Tournament.”

The Future Eagles made up of 20 players and seven officials, were set to depart Nigeria on Tuesday, ahead of their first match against Belgium scheduled for Friday, before squaring up against Italy and England.

The Uefa Under-16 Youth Development Tournament, which is organised by Europe’s football governing body, has been held since 2012 and is intended to expose elite junior players to international football and ease their transition into senior levels of the sport.

The Future Eagles, coached by Patrick Bassey, recently returned from a tournament in Morocco where they won one match and lost one against their Moroccan counterparts on a two-match tour of that North African country.

Their first game had ended in a 2-3 defeat, but they bounced back to win the second game 5-3 in the city of Kenitra.

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