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Fifa honours Mercy Akide, the first African woman to play professional football in the USA

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World football governing body, FIFA, has poured encomiums on former Super Falcons star, Mercy Akide-Udoh, who is on record as the first African woman to play professional football in the now-defunct Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) league in the USA.

From playing for local club, Jegede Babes FC of Lagos in the burgeoning Nigerian women’s league, Akide-Udoh grew to become one of the most decorated female footballers on the continent.

The lethal striker was named the first African Women Footballer of the Year in 2001, and played for the Falcons of Nigeria in three FIFA Women’s World Cups and also helped Nigeria’s Super Falcons to three African Women Championships (AWC) titles in 1998, 2000 and 2002, and was a 1999 and 2004 FIFA World All-Star.

Akide-Udoh’s presence in female football symbolized Nigeria’s accomplishments, with FIFA acknowledging her as “the most renowned figure in African women’s football and one of the most formidable attacking players of the previous decade.”

A citation on Akide-Udoh on the FIFA website said the most decorated female African footballer, through her contributions, significantly increased the visibility of African women in global football.

“Her journey began in Port Harcourt in 1975, where she honed her skills by playing with boys in her neighbourhood.

“Subsequently, she progressed to join a local team and later relocated to Lagos to play for Jegede Babes.

“After displaying outstanding performances during the 1999 World Cup in the United States, Akide received a four-year scholarship to Milligan College in Tennessee.

“During her time at Milligan, Akide demonstrated exceptional performance. Her achievement of scoring 42 goals in 1999 was instrumental in Milligan achieving its most successful season in the history of the football program.

“Akide also holds three Milligan’s football records of the most goals scored in a single game (7) and single season (42) and most points in a single season (99).

“Subsequently, she transitioned to playing for the Hampton Roads Piranhas of the W-League and later for the San Diego Spirit of the Women’s United Soccer Association in California.

“It was during her time at San Diego Spirit that she became the first recipient of the CAF Best Female Player of the Year Award in 2001.

“In 2003, Akide returned to Hampton Roads, where she dedicated three seasons of her career.

“In her first season back with the Piranhas, Akide achieved the league’s Most Valuable Player Award as a result of scoring the winning goal in the National Championship game.

“Following her collegiate career, Akide represented Nigeria in three FIFA Women’s World Cups (Sweden 1995, USA 1999, and 2003) as well as the Olympic Games in Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) respectively.

“Upon retiring, Akide ventured into coaching and took on the role of youth development director for several U-16 and U-13 teams in the United States.

“She received the FIFA World All-Star recognition in both 1999 and 2004. While in 2005, FIFA appointed her as an Ambassador for Women’s Football. Akide was inducted into the United Soccer Leagues’ Hall of Fame in 2013.

“In 2019, Akide-Udoh was recognized as the Regent University athletic department’s Coach of the Year in the United States.

“Her expertise in the sport was further acknowledged in 2021 when she was appointed to the football advisory panel of the International Football Association Board, the entity responsible for determining the laws of the game.

“Akide, who was featured on the cover of the official program of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, got married to football journalist, Colin Udoh in 2004.

“Presently, Akide and her husband live in Virginia Beach, Virginia, alongside their two children and is currently the Assistant Team Director of Steel United, Virginia, a youth football team based in the United States.”

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South African Akani Simbine beats Omanyala to pick 100m gold at Atlanta City Games

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South African sprint sensation, Akani Simbine, on Saturday at the Atlanta City Games further put a dent on Kenyan 100m African record holder Ferdinand Omanyala’s claims of being the continent’s king of sprint by pipping him to the second spot.

The defeat by Simbine meant that Omanyala was handed his second 100m defeat in less than a week.

Omanyala who is Africa’s fastest man at the moment and Commonwealth Games champion has however, insisted that the two successive defeats he has suffered does not take anything away from his position as Africa’s sprint king as he is taking a different approach to his season and has noted that he will only peak when the time is necessary with the main focus being the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

After the heats, Omanyala noted that they shall be keen to take a day at a time and improve on the weak areas

“We are taking it a race at a time and it’s a long season where the main target is the Olympic Games so we are not going to peak too early this time and we are handling each race as it comes and improving on the important areas,” Omanyala said.

At the Atlanta City Games proper, Omanyala had a great start off the blocks and seemed to be in great shape to take the win Simbine had the better chance as his finishing was top notch.

Athletics World reports that
Simbine crossed the finish line in a world leading time of 9.90 while Omanyala came in second in 10.10.

“After the race, Simbine was over the moon and noted how it was important to represent his country with pride and place their name on the world map,” the report said.

“You know I’m representing South Africa and I’m happy with the win and I’m so happy to be out here. I’ve always been part of the conversation. I’ve never left so we’ll see.”

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Egyptian midfielder Elneny announces departure from Arsenal after eight years

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Egypt and Arsenal midfielder, Mohamed Elneny, has announced his departure from the club at the end of this season after eight years at the North London club.

Elneny who made the announcement in a video on Friday, said he will depart the club following the expiration of his contract.

Elneny joined Arsenal from Swiss side Basel in 2016 and made 161 appearances but in the last two seasons, the Egyptian midfielder has struggled for playing time due to a combination of injuries and loss of form.

In 2019, under former manager Unai Emery, he was loaned out to Besiktas for the 2019-20 campaign, where he played 36 times for the Turkish side.

Upon returning to Arsenal, he found a more prominent role under new manager Mikel Arteta.

Elneny’s contract was due to expire at the end of last season, but Arsenal opted to extend it by an additional year. With this extension now coming to an end, it has been widely reported that the 31-year-old will leave the club this summer.

In the video on X, Elneny said:

“Gooners, I’m here today to send you a message. To say goodbye and thank you for everything you’ve done for me, the love, the support, and the kindness. I am really going to miss you so much and you will be in my heart forever.

“I wanted to say how much I love you and how much you mean to me. I will never forget the way you supported me. I am going to see you on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium to say goodbye face to face.”

He added that he would bid farewell to fans at the Emirates on Sunday as Arsenal host Everton in their final league match.

Though Elneny did not say where he would go after leaving Arsenal, it is believed he will be heading to the Saudi Arabian league to join a horde of elite players who have made the Saudi League the new football haven.

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