Cristian Rodriguez wins 2021 Tour du Rwanda

By Halligan Agade

Cristian Rodriguez, who rides for Total Direct Energie, has become the first Spanish and European rider to win the Tour du Rwanda.

Rodriguez also won the final stage eight after clocking 2 hours, 5 minutes and 6 seconds in the 75km distance race.

He was followed by Piccoli James of Israel Startup Nation who came in second place while Alex Hoehn finished third.

For the third consecutive edition of the annual UCI Africa Tour race, Rwandan riders failed to win a single stage.

Rwanda’s Patriots to face Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers in Basketball Africa League opener

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Rwandan side the Patriots will tip off the inaugural Basketball Africa League against Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on May 16 as the much-anticipated tournament edges closer to its historic start.

An overhead view of a basketball on court. (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)

The release of a fixture list revealed that three games will be played per day during the first week of the tournament.

A number of high-profile African teams will be on show during that first week, including Zamalek of Egypt, AS Douanes of Senegal and Tunisia’s US Monastir.

The BAL is using the bubble format that helped the NBA complete its 2020 season. A total of 26 games will be played. The season will tip off with an 18-game group phase consisting of 12 teams divided into three groups of four teams each.

The top eight teams from the group phase will qualify for the playoffs, which will be single elimination in all three rounds. The BAL Finals are scheduled to take place on May 30.

Champions from national leagues in six countries – Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia – were guaranteed representation in the inaugural BAL season. The remaining six teams, which come from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Rwanda, secured their participation through BAL qualifying tournaments conducted by FIBA Africa across the continent in late 2019.

The Patriots have tried to play down expectations about their chances given the amount of interest locally in the competition.

“We always set the target high, and we want to win the title. But it starts with getting some wins and qualifying for the quarter-finals, and then we can go on from there,” Aristide Mugabe, the team captain, told local publication The New Times.

“The message is simple: let’s go out there to compete and show the world that Africa has got talent”.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

CAF ban on African stadiums throws World Cup qualifiers in doubt

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Several of Africa’s World Cup qualifiers set to be played next month may not take place after the Confederation of African Football banned 20 of its 54 member countries from using their stadiums to host international games because they failed to meet “minimum requirements”.

In all, eight countries which are due to participate in the qualifiers were among those who had their stadium accreditations revoked by CAF.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) building in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The countries are Africa’s top-ranked team Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Mali and Namibia.

Among the reasons cited by CAF for the cancellations were substandard fields, “poor and inadequate” dugout areas for team officials and the lack of fixed seating for fans.

The decision was communicated to the countries on Sunday.

Senegal’s 60,000-seat Stade Léopold Senghor in Dakar is closed for renovations and a stadium in the city of Thies that the national team used for recent games has not been approved. Mali’s 50,000-seat Stade du 26 Mars in Bamako also hasn’t been accredited. As a result, both countries with no approved venues.

Member countries without any approved venues have until Friday to find neutral venues where they will stage their home matches.

This means there will be added cross-border travel during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in several COVID-19-related disputes in continental and club football across the continent.

Sierra Leone is also affected by the decision even if it is no longer a participant in World Cup qualifying. Sierra Leone is scheduled to play Benin in June to determine which between the two countries will qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

The game, which was rescheduled due to a COVID-19-related dispute, will now not take place in Sierra Leone.

Patrice Motsepe, CAF’s current president, rose to office earlier this year with one of his pledges centering on improving the continent’s football infrastructure.

Al Ahly, Mamelodi Sundowns to renew rivalry in CAF Champions League quarterfinal

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Defending champions Al Ahly will face Mamelodi Sundowns in the standout tie of the CAF Champions League quarterfinals following the draw for the knockout phase of this season’s competition.

The tie is a rematch of last year’s semi-final which the Egyptian side triumphed 3-1 on aggregate as it went on to win a record-extending ninth title.

The two sides also met in April 2019 at this stage with the South African side famously eliminating the Egyptian side 5-1 on aggregate.

Sundowns memorably thrashed Al Ahly 5-0 at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in the first leg of that quarterfinal. That was Al Ahly’s heaviest continental defeat and a 1-0 win at home in the second leg was not enough to see the Egyptians through.

Overall, the two sides have met each other eight times, all in the Champions League, with Al Ahly triumphing on four occasions, and Sundowns winning just once, while three games have been drawn. Neither side has defeated the other away from home.

The match will also have added significance for Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane who will come up against Sundowns for the first time since his stunning departure from Sundowns in September last year.

Mosimane left Sundowns after eight years in charge, having won five league titles and the CAF Champions League title in 2016.

Mosimane’s departure came as a shock as he had signed a four-year contract extension with the club just four months earlier following protracted speculation about his future.

Another person who may have a point to prove in this tie will be Sundowns midfielder Gaston Sirino, who failed to land a move to the Egyptian champions in December.

In July last year, Sirino had signed a new long-term deal with Sundowns which keeps him at the club until 2025 but he then fell foul of the club later, reportedly expressing his desire to leave and link up with Mosimane.

Though Al Ahly tried to land his signature, Sundowns terminated negotiations in December saying the clubs had failed to agree on a transfer fee for the Uruguayan.

The other quarterfinals will see four-time champions Esperance of Tunisia face off against Algeria’s CR Belouizdad, who are making their debut in the competition’s knockout phase.

Tanzanian giants Simba will be hoping to match their best showing in the competition by reaching the semifinals when they come up against Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa.

Two-time winners Wydad Athletic Club, meanwhile, will face off against former champions MC Alger.

The first legs of the quarterfinals will take place between May 14-15 while the second legs will take place between May 21-22.

Zimbabwe permitted to use Chinese-built stadium in World Cup qualifier By

By XINHUA

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has allowed Zimbabwe to use the Chinese-built National Sports Stadium when the senior men’s football team – the Warriors – host South Africa for a World Cup 2022 qualifier in June.

CAF had banned the use of all Zimbabwe’s stadiums in 2020 because they did not meet set standards.

While the country hosted African Cup of Nations qualifiers at the National Sports Stadium after the ban, there were fears that CAF would this time around insist on the upgrade before allowing it to be used for international matches.

There had been some doubts about the stadium’s fitness after the Zimbabwe Football Association were fined 2,000 U.S. dollars by CAF over some technical frailties, the state-run Herald newspapers reported Tuesday.

The paper said CAF had since released a list of approved stadiums to host the upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers, including the National Sports Stadium in Zimbabwe.

The Warriors will host South Africa between June 5 and 8 before traveling to Ethiopia four days later.

They will play Ghana back-to-back in the second window in September, by which time the National Sports Stadium is expected to have been fully refurbished, the paper said.

The 60,000 seat stadium was opened in 1987 as a modern facility, but authorities have failed to maintain it at par with international changes at sports facilities.

Usman, Namajunas score KO title fight wins at UFC 261

By CGTN Africa

Kamaru Usman knocked Jorge Masvidal out cold to retain his UFC welterweight belt while Rose Namajunas pulled off a stunning first-round head kick KO to dethrone strawweight champ Zhang Weili at UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday.

JACKSONVILLE, FL – APRIL 25: Kamaru Usman of Nigeria walk out during introductions to fight Jorge Masvidal of the United States during the Welterweight Title bout of UFC 261 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 25, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

In the third title fight on the bill, women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko dominated Jessica Andrade as she coasted to a second-round technical knockout victory to retain her crown.

Famed for his powerful wrestling, 33-year-old Usman came into the main event on Masvidal’s home turf on a 17-fight winning streak, and he won the first round comfortably before bringing the fight to a sudden halt in the second.

The Nigerian uncorked a thunderous right hand a minute into the second frame to deck Masvidal, who looked out before he hit the canvas, silencing the boisterous home crowd and extending the longest winning streak among active fighters in the UFC.

“Been a while since I’ve been extremely nervous for a fight. But he elevated me. He made me go to the workshop and sharpen all my tools to put on a performance like that,” Usman said in his post-fight interview, his daughter in his arms in the octagon.

“I am the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet right now,” he added.

In the co-main event Namajunas, who won the title in 2017 and had one successful defence before losing it to Andrade in 2019, landed a left high kick flush to the jaw to put the lights out for Zhang after just a minute and 18 seconds of their title fight.

Namajunas dived in to finish off her opponent but referee Keith Petersen was quick to wave it off as the American snapped her opponent’s 21-fight winning streak and became the first woman in the UFC to reclaim a title.

South Africa FA postpones unveiling of new Bafana Bafana coach due to COVID-19

By David Ochieng Mbewa

A new coach for South Africa’s national men’s football team will be unveiled next week after the South Africa Football Association (SAFA) postponed this week’s event due to COVID-19-related disruptions.

The announcement was due to take place on Saturday but the prevailing situation arising from the pandemic forced SAFA to push the event forward.

The announcement of a new coach for South Africa’s football team, scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed until next week. /VCG

“The Bafana Bafana coach announcement scheduled for Saturday, 24 April 2021 has been postponed due to global Covid-19 travel issues,” SAFA said in a statement on Friday.

“We will reschedule the announcement to next week and further updates will be provided here. We apologize for the inconvenience caused.”

South Africa began searching for a new coach following the dismissal of Molefi Ntseki late last month after Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

SAFA previously said the position had attracted “extensive interest” from high profile coaches around the globe in addition to local trainers.

Former Real Madrid manager and Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz is reported to be the frontrunner to take the job.

Queiroz coached South Africa during a two-year spell from 2000, leading them to the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations in Mali, where they reached the quarterfinals, and qualifying for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea.

However, he was dismissed before the World Cup and went on to become an assistant of legendary British manager Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

South Africa is set to begin its qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in June. The 1996 African champions are in Group G together with Ghana, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

South Africa is scheduled to kick off its campaign with an away encounter against Zimbabwe in Harare on June 8 before hosting Ghana the following week.

South Africa, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire get tricky draws for Olympic football tournament

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Africa’s representatives at this year’s men’s Olympic football tournament were handed tricky fixtures following the draw for the group stage at FIFA headquarters in the Swiss city of Zurich on Friday.

16 men’s teams and 12 women’s teams drawn into seven groups for the respective Olympic Football Tournaments later this year. /VCG

Côte d’Ivoire was drawn in Group D alongside defending champions Brazil, Rio 2016 runners-up Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Egypt, two-time bronze medalists, will face off against two former winners of the competition Spain (Barcelona 1992) and Argentina (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008), and Australia in Group C.

South Africa, meanwhile, were also drawn against two former winners Mexico (London 2012) and France (Los Angeles 1984) and Japan, whose best result was a third-place finish in 1968.

The trio will be hoping to get through their respective groups and go all the way and emulate the feats by Nigeria and Cameroon who managed to win gold in 1996 and 2000, respectively.

Elsewhere, Africa’s sole representative in the women’s tournament, Zambia, was drawn in the same group (Group F) as Brazil, China and the Netherlands.

Hosts Japan were grouped with Canada, Great Britain and Chile in Group E while Group G, arguably the toughest one, will has Sweden, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

Zambia, Chile and the Netherlands will be making their maiden appearances at the tournament.

Both the men’s and women’s Olympic Football Tournaments will be played in a group stage, followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and bronze medal and gold medal matches.

Rejuvenated Kipchoge wins NN Mission Marathon

By Reuters

ENSCHEDE, NETHERLANDS – APRIL 18: Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya celebrates with the gold medal in the victory ceremony for the NN Mission Marathon held at Airport or Vliegveld Twente on April 18, 2021 in Enschede, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, the Olympic marathon champion and world record holder, sent a warning to his rivals ahead of this year’s Tokyo Olympics by cruising to victory in the NN Mission Marathon in Enschede, the Netherlands on Sunday.

In his first outing since a shock defeat at October’s London marathon, where he came in at eighth place, Kipchoge finished the marathon at Twente Airport with a time of two hours and 04.30 minutes to reaffirm his status as the hot favourite for the Olympic race in Sapporo in August.

Jonathan Korir of Kenya was second with a personal best of 2:06.40.

Kenya’s 100m champion inches closer to Olympic qualification

By CGTN Africa

Kenya’s former national 100m champion Mark Otieno, is edging closer to qualifying for this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games after he shattered his personal best by 0.3 seconds during the All Comers Athletics Meet at the National Heroes Stadium, Lusaka on Saturday.

Mark Otieno during the national relay team morning training session at Nyayo stadium in Nairobi on May 07, 2019. The Kenya team will fly the national flag at the IAAF World Relay Championships set for Yokohama, Japan, on May 11-12, 2019./Twitter

Otieno clocked 10.19 seconds to win his 100m semifinal race before storming to victory in 10.11 seconds in the final.

That saw Otieno erase his previous personal best of 10.14 seconds when winning the national title in 2017.

Interestingly,  Ferdinand Omanyala also ran 10.11 sec during the National Relay Series on January 23 but it was judged to have been wind-assisted.

However, Omanyala finally downed the National Record on March 30 when he won his 100m during the Betking MoC Grand Prix at Yabatech Complex in Lagos.

The performance was enough to see Omanyala attain the Tokyo Olympic Games qualifying standards, beating the target of 10.05sec but his previous ban for doping violation locks him out.

This is after the government and Athletics Kenya moved to lock out any athlete who committed any doping offence from representing the country.

Athletics Kenya is yet to ratify Omanyala’s time from Nigeria but has written to Nigeria Athletics to provide the official results and doping tests results from the championships before they can ratify the record.

Otieno’s performance in Lusaka fell short of the Olympics qualifying time of 10.05 but the athlete will take another shot at the 200m on Sunday.

The qualifying standard is 20.24sec but Otieno has a season’s 20.86sec.

The qualifying period ends in June hence giving Otieno and other Kenyan sprinters more time to qualify for the Summer Games.