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Africa to the World: Stars to watch this weekend in Europe’s top leagues

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This weekend, Africa’s finest foreign football exports will take to the pitch for their respective clubs around Europe and as usual, are expected to show the African spirit.

In England, Liverpool’s trio of Mohammad Salah, Saido Mane and Naby Keita will represent the African contingent when they tackle Manchester City on Saturday in the FA Cup semi final which will rekindle their rivalry a week after their rip-roaring 2-2 draw in the league.

In the EPL proper, Arsenal slayer a week ago, Zambian Enock Mwepu will hope to lead Brighton to a repeat of the 2-1 win against the Gunners when they confront Tottenham.

While in the Serie A, Victor Osimhen, Kalidou Koulibaly and Andre Zambo Anguissa of Napoli will look to bounce back from their shock 3-2 defeat by Fiorentina when they host Jose Mourinho’s Roma, hoping to get back their title chase back on track.

We bring you a preview of African stars when they file out for their clubs this weekend.

Mohammad Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita: Liverpool

The Reds’ African contingent will once again have their hands full when they take on Manchester City with Algerian Riyad Mahrez in tow, for the second time on one week.

Jurgen Klopp has so much faith in Salah and Mane, but could also rely on Keita to come on at some point against Pep Guardiola’s men.

Having kept Mane and Salah on the bench for the majority of Wednesday’s 3-3 draw with Benfica in the UEFA Champions League, Klopp is likely to start the forwards in Saturday’s Wembley showdown.

Enock Mwepu: Brighton & Hoves Albion

After a man of the match performance against top four chasing Arsenal with a goal and assist in Brighton & Hove Albion’s 2-1 shocking win at the Emirates Stadium last week, Enock Mwepu will again hope to start when the Seagulls seek another scalp offTottenham Hotspur, another top four contender.

Malian midfield maestro, Yves Bissouma, may likely play a part in this match with Graham Potter’s team looking to throw a spanner in the works of another top-four contender this weekend.

Hakim Ziyech: Chelsea

With Thomas Tuchel expected to rotate his squad in Sunday’s FA Cup encounter with Crystal Palace, Ziyech could start at Wembley Stadium against Patrick Vieira’s in-form side.

The Moroccan was the match-winner in last season’s semi-final success against Manchester City, something he will hope to replicate against the Eagles who will have Wilfred Zaha, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise in their rank.

Having already scored the winner in the second Premier League meeting between both clubs, Ziyech will back himself to flourish as the Blues hope to end the year on a positive note.

Ademola Lookman, Kelechi Iheanacho: Leicester City

The duo of Ademola Lookman and Kelechi Iheanacho are becoming important players for Leicester City as was witnessed in their contributions in City’s 2-1 win over PSV in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.

Lookman who came off the bench to create the assist for City’s winning goal, will be hoping to start against Newcastle United after a strong showing in Eindhoven.

In the absence of the injured Jamie Vardy, Iheanacho will also hope to see his chances of making the starting eleven at St. James’ Park brighter after his strong showing on Thursday.

Kalidou Koulibaly, Victor Osimhen, Andre Zambo Anguissa: Napoli

The trio of Koulibaly, Osimhen and Anguissa will want to banish the ghost of last week’s 3-2 defeat
Napoli suffered in the hands of Fiorentina to get their title dream back on track.

Koulibaly and Osimhen were part of the defeat but Anguissa missed out through suspension, and the two are likely to play from the start when in-form Roma visit on Easter Monday.

Osimhen will miss out due to an injury he copped towards the end of the match.

The Nigerian forward scored and assisted in the Fiorentina defeat but his efforts were not enough for the Naples outfit as they fell to a fifth defeat at their home.

Samuel Chukwueze: Villarreal

Chukwueze will be hoping to build on his heroics in Villarreal’s elimination of Bayern Munich on Tuesday, where he scored the crucial goal that took his Spanish side to the UEFA Champions League semi final, as the Yellow Submarines clash with Getafe.

Unai Emery’s men may be perfoming at an high level in Europe but have been off-form in La Liga, claiming only four points from their last 15, leaving them eight points behind Real Sociedad in sixth spot.

Chukwueze will be hoping to notch his sixth goal in La Liga if he can get one past Getafe.

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Botswana sprint star Letsile Tebogo speaks of ambition to match Usain Bolt as world’s greatest

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Botswana sprint star, Letsile Tebogo, has talked of his ambition to match his idol, Usain Bolt, with the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics kicking off in July in the horizon.

Tebogo who had been tipped by many as the next big star in the world of athletics, has also not been resting on his oars as he has backed up his desire with some impressive performances in the circuit by winning silver in 100m and bronze in 200m at the 2023 World Championships.

The 20-year-old also started the 2024 season like a house on fire, first running a world leading 19.94 in 200m at the ASA Athletics Grand Prix in Johannesburg, South Africa, before lowering his personal best in 400m with a time of 44.29 in Pretoria in March.

Before then, he had shattered the 300m world record in February, clocking an impressive 30.69 at the Simbine Curro Classic, a time that was a better than those managed by Bolt and US legend, Michael Johnson.

And with Olympics looming, Tebogo told sport journalists he has set “lofty ambitions” for himself and believes a good outing in Paris will put him on the road to becoming one of the greats like his idol.

“He (Bolt) is my idol – the person I most look up to. What he achieved was truly amazing. Whenever he ran, I watched him on TV,” Tebogo said.

“Everyone remembers Usain and I would love them to remember me too when I hang up my running shoes. I do not have to be the number one of all time – being among the top three will do just fine.”

Tebogo is seeking to become the second athlete from his country to win an Olympics medal after Nijel Amos claimed silver at the 2012 London edition.

He also believes Africa has great potential in the sprints and the time to show it on a global stage has come.

“The time has come for African athletes to dominate sprint events on the international stage,” the University of Oregon undergraduate said.

Tebago was the first African to win a medal in 100m at the World Championships last year, and since then, has continued to tower above his competitors in sprints.

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Three African athletes under investigation for allegedly fixing Beijing Half Marathon to favor Chinese runner

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Three African marathon runners, Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat both from Kenya, and Dejene Hailu from Ethiopia, are under investigation after they were accused of fixing the Beijing Half Marathon race by deliberately allowing a Chinese athlete, He Jie, to win.

The incident which occurred on Sunday at the 13-mile run and captured on video, saw the African runners who were all in the lead deliberately making way for He Jie, a member of China’s marathon team and national marathon record holder, at the finish line.

The 25-year-old Chinese runner won the half-marathon in a time of 1:03:44, just one second ahead of the trio after all four had run together for the entire race.

After the video went viral, the
Beijing Half Marathon organisers, the Beijing Sports Competition Management and International Exchange Centre, released a statement saying the incident is being investigated.

Mnangat who seemingly admitted the fraud, later told the South China Morning Post he let He Jie win “because he is my friend,” but however added he was not given any financial reward for doing so.

The South China Morning Post which reported the incident in a write up on Monday, said that in the controversial video, the three athletes can be seen gesturing towards the finish line and apparently slowing their pace to let He, the 2023 Asian Games marathon gold medalist, take the lead and ultimately win the race by a narrow one-second margin in a gesture that seemed orchestrated.

The Beijing Sports Bureau has also confirmed that an investigation was underway.

“We are taking this matter very seriously and will communicate the findings to the public once the investigation is complete,” an official from the Bureau stated in a statement.

This incident has however, sparked a significant backlash on Weibo, China’s leading social media platform, where users expressed disappointment and frustration.

“This will certainly be the most embarrassing championship in He Jie’s career,” one user posted, while another user said “with such a major organizer and such a well-known event, this really pushes sportsmanship to the ground in shame.”

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