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Afcon 2023 draws throws up interesting matchups as Nigeria face Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone again

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African teams on Tuesday, learned their opponents in the qualifying round for the continents’ biennial football competition, the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Afcon, billed for Cote d’Ivoire next year.

Three time winners, Nigeria has been pitched again against Sierra Leone whom they played out a spectacular 5-5 draw over two legs (4-4 in Benin City and 1-1 in Freetown) in the last qualifiers for the Cameroon edition.

The Super Eagles will also square up against Guinea Bissau whom they defeated 2-0 in Cameroon as well as Sao Tome and Principe or Mauritius in Group A.

The draw which was held in South Africa and anchored by former South African dedender Lucas Radebe and ex-Cote d’Ivoire striker, Salomon Kalou, threw up more interesting pairings as the 32 seeded nations look to qualify for the epic African football showpiece, with plenty of ambitious teams believing they can emulate reigning champions Senegal and go on to win the tournament.

The Lions of Teranga on their part, will be hoping to defend their crown in Cote d’ivoire but they will have to contend with the likes of Benin Republic, Mozambique and Rwanda in Group L.

The Black Stars of Ghana will have to negotiate their way past Madagascar, Angola and the Central African Republic in Group E if they hope to make it to the tournament proper.

1996 champions South Africa would be aiming for a return to Afcon after missing the last edition but standing in their path in Group K will be Morocco, Zimbabwe and Libya.

2021 host, Cameroon will have their hands full when they confront Kenya, Namibia, and Burundi in Group C, while hosts Cote d’Ivoire will tackle Zambia, Comoros and Lesotho even though they have already secured their place in the tournament.

What this means is that only one other team from their group will qualify for the competition which will make the group a group of death.

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers start in June 2022.

How the teams are grouped:

Group A: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome e Principe or Mauritius

Group B: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Togo, Eswatini

Group C: Cameroon, Kenya, Namibia, Burundi

Group D: Egypt, Guinea, Malawi, Ethiopia

Group E: Ghana, Madagascar, Angola, Central African Republic

Group F: Algeria, Uganda, Niger, Tanzania

Group G: Mali, Congo Brazzaville, Gambia, South Sudan

Group H: Ivory Coast (hosts), Zambia, Comoros, Lesotho

Group I: Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Sudan

Group J: Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Botswana

Group K: Morocco, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Liberia

Group L: Senegal (holders), Benin, Mozambique, Rwanda

Sports

Female Kenyan world marathon champion banned for five years over doping

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A female Kenyan marathon world champion, Betty Wilson Lempus, has been handed a five year ban after she was found to have violated the World Athletics anti-doping rules on two occasions.

Lempus, 31, who came to international limelight after she smashed the Paris Women’s ’s half-marathon record in 2021, was initially placed under observation after she tested positive for the banned metabolite, Triamcinolone Acetonide.

She was to later falsify medical documents to explain the presence of the metabolite in her system, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), said in a report.

As a result, she has been disqualified from the Paris half-marathon and all races since the discovery, the AIU said.

Lempus’ punishment covers two years for the doping violation and four for the attempt to cover it up, but a year was subtracted from the ban owing to her admitting to both offenses.

The AIU, in its report, said Lempus had claimed that she had been injected with Triamcinolone Acetonide at a Kenyan hospital 16 days before the Paris race.

“But in June 2022, the Medical Superintendent from the hospital in question stated that though Lempus had been present that day, she had not received an intramuscular injection of Triamcinolone Acetonide at the hospital on this date,” the anti-doping body said.

“The official also cited other discrepancies, including false hospital documents, including address and phone number, and that the doctor, whom Lempus claimed attended to her, is not employed at the hospital.

“Confronted by the AIU with this evidence in October 2022, Lempus admitted to Tampering.”

“We are pleased to conclude this case, especially because this athlete almost got away with her attempt to dupe the authorities and to cheat other runners out of their rightful rewards,” said AIU Head Brett Clothier.

“This is the right and fair outcome, and it’s a signal to all that the AIU takes its mission extremely seriously and will pursue every angle in seeking to reach the truth,” he added.

The anti-doping agency of Kenya which worked alongside the AIU to conclude the case, said it was happy with the outcome about battles to stamp out doping in the eastern African country’s athletics.

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Wigan Athletic sack Ivorian coach, Kolo Toure, two months after appointment

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Former Ivory Coast defender turned coach, Kolo Toure, has been sacked by Wigan Athletic football club two months after his appointment after he failed to win any of his nine games in charge.

The former Arsenal and Manchester City defender made history as the first black manager to be appointed by the club after the sacking of previous manager, Leam Richardson, in November 2022.

However, his appointment did not change the fortunes of the club as he was only able to garner just two points from his seven Championship matches, with the club bottom of the Sky Bet Championship on 25 points, table, just four points from relegation.

Kolo Toure was signed by Wigan on a three-and-a-half-year deal in late November, but a run of nine games without a victory in all competitions has brought an abrupt end to his spell as manager at the DW Stadium – after just 59 days.

The Wigan board, in a statement on Friday by chief executive, Malachy Brannigan, said:

“Firstly, I’d like to thank Kolo, along with Kevin and Ash, for their efforts during their time at the football club.

“Unfortunately, the results on the field have not been as we would have liked and as tough a decision as this was, the board felt it necessary to give us the best possible chance of remaining a Championship club next season.

“We know that this time of year is a key period for any football club, ourselves included.

“Therefore, we will now work swiftly and effectively to ensure the right person is appointed as the next permanent manager of Wigan Athletic, with the immediate objective of remaining in the second tier for next season.”

The 41-year-old Ivorian, had worked as first-team coach at Leicester since February 2019, but his first move into management has not proven to be a success.

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