Sundowns, Wydad register big wins in rearranged CAF Champions League fixtures

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Athletic Club on Sunday recorded impressive victories in their rearranged CAF Champions League matches on Sunday and go top of their respective groups.

The matches involving the two teams, originally scheduled for February 23 and February 13 respectively, were moved forward by CAF due to COVID-19-related disruptions.

The Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) Champions League trophy. (Photo credit MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

2016 champions Sundowns cruised to a 5-1 win against 10-man CR Belouizdad of Algeria at the Tanzania National Main Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

The Algerians got off to the worst possible start as Chouhaib Keddad was sent off after just three minutes for handling a shot by Themba Zwane, who converted the resulting penalty.

Amir Sayoud equalized for CR Belouizdad, who were designated the ‘home’ team in this match, a minute before half-time.

However, the floodgates opened in the second half with goals from Peter Shalulile and Zwane within the first 10 minute of the second half making it 3-1.

Lebohang Maboe made it 4-1 with a quarter of an hour left and Kermit Erasmus came off the bench to round off the scoring just before the end of normal time.

Sundowns now sits top of Group B with six points, four ahead of TP Mazembe and five ahead of Al-Hilal Omdurman and CR Belouizdad.

Meanwhile, Wydad thumped South African side Kaizer Chiefs 4-0 at the Stade du 4 Août in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The two-time champions raced into a 7th minute lead through Mohamed Ounajem with Ayoub El Kaabi doubling their advantage shortly before the break. Substitute Simon Msuva and Yahya Jabrane completed the rout with a goal each late in the game.

The result sent the Moroccan club to the summit of Group C with a maximum six points from two games with Guinean club AC Horoya a further two points back. Chiefs, who are yet to score, are third with one point followed by Petro Atletico of Angola who are yet to register a point.

CAF allows Libya to host international football matches

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Libya is free to host international football matches following a safety, security and stadium inspection of the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) last month.

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

“The CAF Emergency Committee has lifted restrictions on hosting of CAF international matches on Libyan territory,” Africa’s football governing body said in a statement.

“Football matches will now return to Libya, beginning by Benghazi Stadium, subject to a number of conditions being met on stadium suitability to host CAF matches.”

CAF’s confirmation came after Libyan Football Federation president Abdulhakim Al-Shalmani announced that a decade-long ban on international football matches being played in Libya had been lifted.

Since 2011, during the Libyan civil war which resulted in the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, FIFA imposed restrictions on hosting of international matches in the North African country.

This forced Libya’s clubs and national teams to play their matches in countries like Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Tunisia.

Though the sanctions were lifted briefly in 2013, they were reimposed thereafter.

As a result, Al Ahly Benghazi will be able to play their CAF Confederation Cup group match against ES Setif of Algeria on March 17 with the national team being able to host Tunisia in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier a week later.

CAF, however, added that set a deadline of March 10 for Libya to comply with the CAF club licensing, safety and security requirements in addition to satisfying follow-up inspections on the stadium suitability.

COVID-19 concerns force postponement of Africa Cross Country Championships

By Grace Kuria

The 6th edition of the Africa Cross Country Championships that had been scheduled for March 6th and 7th in Lomé, Togo, has been postponed to a later date.

Agnes Jebet leads a pack in the senior women’s 10km race during the National cross country championships at Ngong race course.
Image: ERICK BARASA/The Star

In a statement on Wednesday, the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) said, “The announcement was made following a request by the Togolese authorities who raised sanitary measures to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Togo, which has so far registered 6,548 Coronavirus cases and 82 deaths.

The event had already been postponed in March 2020 due to presidential elections in the West African nation.

Kenya is among the countries that have been preparing a strong team for the 2021 Africa Cross Country Championships. The East African Nation recently held a tough national qualifying championship in the capital Nairobi that saw a number of new talents emerging from the muddy affair.

Kenya to host U20 Barthés Trophy in June-July

By David Ochieng Mbewa

The Under-20 Barthés Trophy tournament will be hosted in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, from June 24-July 4, Rugby Africa, the continental rugby governing body, announced on Tuesday.

Rugby Ball Laying in Grass (Photo by Franck Seguin/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

The initial date for the tournament was March 25-April 4, but Rugby Africa had allocated “fall back” dates in case of any disruptions or delays.

Last year, the tournament, which was supposed to take place in April at the same venue, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as was the entire rugby season across the continent.

The announcement came just days after the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) successfully staged the first top-flight rugby match in the country since March 2020.

KRU chairman Oduor Gangla, who spoke to CGTN after the match on Saturday, said the tournament would be one of a number of events staged in the country this year.

“We have a lot of activities planned for this year. We have the Barthés Cup which we are hosting later this year. We have the Africa Gold Cup; I think we have all seen the dates in early July. We will have Safari Sevens, we will have the Sevens circuit,” Gangla said.

The Barthes Trophy is the only national-level junior rugby tournament in Africa, with eight national U20 teams competing for the title.

The winner of the tournament will qualify for the Junior World Trophy tournament, organised by the sport’s global governing body, World Rugby, which is scheduled for September.

NAPSA Stars stuns Gor Mahia to qualify for CAF Confederation Cup group stage

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Kenyan league champions Gor Mahia twice surrendered a lead to draw away against Zambian side NAPSA Stars in their CAF Confederation Cup additional preliminary round second leg on Sunday.

The match ended 2-2 with NAPSA Stars winning on aggregate and guaranteeing them a place in this season’s Confederation Cup group stage and a maiden appearance in CAF interclub competitions.

Zambian club NAPSA Stars recovered to knock out Kenyan champions Gor Mahia on aggregate and qualify for this season’s CAF Confederation Cup group stage. /VCG Image

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Nairobi, Gor Mahia made the perfect start as Samuel Onyango broke the deadlock in just the 17th minute to level the tie and hand the Kenyans a vital away goal.

Their joy was short-lived as the home side replied instantly through Austin Banda just a minute later. Gor Mahia seized the initiative just two minutes later through Clifton Miheso to make it 2-1 with the 2-2 aggregate score sending them through on away goals.

The tie remained finely poised as both sides tried to strike a killer blow in the second half but neither, Gor Mahia in particular, made their chances count.

However, with the game in its dying seconds, veteran Zambian forward Emmanuel Mayuka converted a penalty to equalise for the home side and earn them a draw on the day and a 3-2 aggregate win to progress to the group stage.

Elsewhere, 2018 champions Raja Casablanca of Morocco made it to the tournament after squeezing past Monastir of Tunisia despite losing 1-0 courtesy of a first-half goal by Elyes Jelassi.

Raja won 6-5 on post-match penalties after the tie had ended 1-1 on aggregate with the Moroccans having won their home leg by a similar score.

Last season’s runners-up Pyramids F.C. of Egypt scored a goal in each half to defeat Racing d’Abidjan of Côte d’Ivoire 2-0 for a 4-0 aggregate result.

Onassis Mntambo scored the only goal of the game as South Africa’s Orlando Pirates defeated Batswana champions Jwaneng Galaxy 1-0 in Johannesburg and also completed a 4-0 aggregate win.

Algerian club JS Kabylie edged Stade Malien 1-0 with Barreddine Souyad scoring the winner in just the fourth minute. The win saw the tie finish 2-2 on aggregate but the Algerians qualified on account of the away goals rule as they lost the first leg away from home 2-1.

Cotonsport of Cameroon and Jaraaf of Senegal defeated SONIDEP of Niger and F.C. Platinum of Zimbabwe 1-0 respectively, to advance with 2-0 aggregate wins.

ES Sétif of Algeria and Asante Kotoko played out a goalless draw with the former advancing 2-1 on aggregate.

Oliver Boissy rounded off the scoring as Burkinabe side Salitas F.C. thumped Bouenguidi of Gabon 3-1 to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg and qualify 3-2 on aggregate.

Al Ahly Benghazi (Libya) and Enyimba (Nigeria) both needed penalties to advance to the group stage. The Libyans beat Motema Pembe (DR Congo) 8-7 on penalties after the match ended 2-2 on aggregate while Enyimba beat fellow Nigerian side Rivers United 5-4 on penalties after the tie ended 1-1 on aggregate.

Zambian side Nkana F.C., who finished the game with 10 men, lost 2-1 away to Morocco’s TAS Casablanca but progressed 3-2 on aggregate.

Three-time Confederation Cup winners CS Sfaxien of Tunisia sealed their place in the group stage on Saturday with a 5-2 aggregate win over Rwandan side AS Kigali.

Tanzanian side Namungo F.C. holds a strong advantage heading into the second leg after thrashing Primeiro de Agosto of Angola 6-2 at the Estádio da Cidadela in Luanda.

Meanwhile, the second leg between Étoile Sportive du Sahel of Tunisia and Young Buffaloes of Eswatini is due to take place. The Tunisians hold a 2-1 advantage from the first leg.

Kenya hosts first top-flight rugby game since March 2020

By David Ochieng Mbewa

The first top-flight rugby game in Kenya in almost a year was played on Saturday as Kabras Sugar RFC defeated Kenya Harlequins at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi to win the Sisimka Charity Cup.

Members of Kabras Sugar RFC celebrate after defeating Kenya Harlequins 29-10 at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, to win the Sisimka Charity Cup. PHOTO: CGTN Africa/David Maeri

The sport had been suspended in March last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and resumed earlier this month following clearance by the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture.

The match was a high-quality one despite the 11-month layoff. Kabras overcame an early setback to thump their opponents 29-10 and seal a convincing victory in the inaugural competition.

Reserve players of Kabras Sugar RFC observe physical distancing as they follow the Sisimka Charity Cup game. PHOTO: CGTN Africa/David Maeri

The match was played under strict COVID-19 health protocols with no fans in attendance. In addition to that, temperature checks were taken, players and staff observed physical distancing, stewards were on hand to ensure observance of the protocols and match balls were regularly disinfected.

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chairman Oduor Gangla welcomed the return of the sport which he said had suffered significantly from the effects of the pandemic.

“Despite the lack of game time, it has been a steep learning curve for them (players). All our other competitors have been playing since about July last year. So, we are quite behind the curve in that respect,” Gangla told CGTN Africa after the match.

Kenya Rugby Union chairman, Oduor Gangla. PHOTO: CGTN/David Maeri

“Our income dropped very significantly because sponsors were saying there is no rugby, plus even we are significantly affected, so everyone cuts back. So, it has been quite challenging, even getting back the return to play.”

“But I am very happy and even the players, I think, you noticed, were quite happy to get back and just express themselves.”

He also praised the players, who despite not being competitively active for several months, put on a good show for fans who watched the game via livestream through a local media house.

“You can only get match fitness by playing a game. We will start slowly. If you look at Australia or even South Africa, when they resumed, the games were pretty slow, you saw a lot of players struggled with fitness. This will be no different. Every season is the same; you start off slowly and you keep building it up.” he added.

Kabras Sugar RFC in action against Kenya Harlequins during the Sisimka Charity Cup at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. PHOTO: CGTN Africa/David Maeri

Even though only a handful of games have been played so far, Gangla said he had no worries about conditioning concerns surrounding the players.

The 2021 Kenya Cup season is scheduled to kick off on February 27 with the semi-finals and final being played on May 22 and May 29, respectively.

Rwanda announces partial resumption of sporting activities amid COVID-19

By XINHUA

 Streets are seen empty due to the precautions taken against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Kigali, Rwanda. (Photo by Cyril Ndegeya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Rwanda’s Ministry of Sports on Sunday announced the resumption of some sporting activities in the country after more than a month of suspension following the Cabinet resolution on COVID-19 restrictions in the country.

Individual and non-contact outdoor sports activities such as jogging, athletics, individual physical fitness, hiking, cycling, golf, tennis, badminton, skate, archery and squash are allowed to resume from February 23, the ministry said in a statement.

Martial arts will be allowed for only individual fitness exercises and practice, it said, adding that group practice and competitions are prohibited.

Individuals must stick to COVID-19 containment measures and those who violate them during sports exercises will be punished by law enforcers, Rwandan Minister of Sports Aurore Mimosa Munyangaju told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

She called on everyone to do exercises to stay healthy and fit while protecting themselves from possible COVID-19 infection.

Gyms, recreational centers and swimming pools will remain closed, except those in hotels that will be allowed to operate for accommodated guests with negative COVID-19 test results, according to the statement.

As of Saturday, Rwanda has recorded a total of 17,988 cases with 16,597 recoveries and 247 deaths

U20 AFCON: Gambia, Tanzania hopeful of qualification despite draw

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Gambia and Tanzania are still in the running to secure a place in the quarterfinals of the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations despite settling for a 1-1 draw in Nouadhibou, Mauritania, on Friday.

Tanzania came from a goal down to hold Gambia to a 1-1 draw in their Group C match of the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Nouadhibou, Mauritania. /VCG Image

The Gambians began the game well and were eventually rewarded for their efforts through Momodou Bojang gave them the lead six minutes before halftime with a brilliant volley.

However, prior to that, Gambia, and Bojang in particular, had been guilty of squandering several gilt-edged chances.

Tanzania came out better in the second half and found themselves on level terms with just two minutes of normal time left. Novatus Dismas struck a free kick which managed to evade Gambian goalkeeper Lamin Saidy and wound up in the back of the net.

Gambia tried to snatch a win thereafter but a shot from Drammeh Kajally hit the post.

The result left both teams on one point each in Group C with the West Africans in third place and their counterparts from the East in fourth place.

They both trail leaders Ghana and Morocco, who both have four points, after the two sides drew 0-0.

While both sides still have hopes of advancing to the knockout stages, they will each have to face off against the former champions in their final group games. Gambia will take on three-time winners Ghana while Tanzania faces off against 1997 champions Morocco.

Meanwhile, Burkina Faso leads the way in Group B with four points after beating Central African Republic 3-1. They are followed by Tunisia, who are level on points with them, following a 2-0 win against bottom-of-the-table Namibia.

The start of the final group games kicks off later on Saturday when Group A leaders Cameroon plays last-placed Mozambique and hosts Mauritania battle Uganda for a place in the quarterfinals.

The top two teams of each group advance to the quarterfinals along with the two best third-placed teams.

Al Ahly makes winning start to defence of Champions League title

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Egyptian side Al Ahly overcame a furstrating start to defeat Al-Merreikh of Sudan in their opening Group A match of this season’s CAF Champions League.

Defending champions Al Ahly scored three second-half goals as they hammered Sudanese champions Al Merreikh 3-0 in their CAF Champions League Group A match. /VCG Image

The match had been rescheduled due to Al Ahly’s participation at the recently concluded FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar where they finished third.

The defending champions scored all the goals in the second half to register a 3-0 victory at the Cairo International Stadium in Cairo.

Mohamed Magdy Afsha, Walter Bwalya and Mahmoud Kahraba scored in a 14-minute period to end the Sudanese champions’ resistance and go top of the group.

Though Al Ahly dominated the match, Al-Merreikh also threatened on occasion but were denied by the outstanding Mohamed Elshenawy.

Al Ahly is joint top of the group with Simba, who defeated AS Vita Club, on three points followed by the Congolese club and Al-Merreikh.

Tanzania appoints Dane Kim Poulsen as national football team coach

By David Ochieng Mbewa

The Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) has announced the appointment of Kim Poulsen as the coach of the national men’s football team.

“The Tanzania Football Federation has appointed Danish Kim Poulsen, a Danish national, as the head coach of the national team (Taifa Stars),” TFF said in a statement.

Tanzania named Kim Poulsen of Denmark as coach of the Taifa Stars on a three-year contract. VCG Image

Poulsen, who replaces Ettiene Ndayiragije, returns for a second spell with the Taifa Stars on a three-year contract. His previous spell at the helm of the East African side was between 2012 and 2013.

Ndayiragije left his role last week following the elimination of the Taifa Stars from the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) in Cameroon.

Poulsen was previously also a technical director for Tanzania’s U-17 team that qualified for its maiden Africa Cup of Nations 2017 in Gabon. He was also coach of Tanzania junior teams in 2011-2012.

The 61-year-old, who hails from Denmark, is tasked with guiding Tanzania to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.