• Sat. May 18th, 2024

Pick of the week: Xavi makes a U-turn after a controversial loss in El-Clasico, yet another celebration as Inter are confirmed champions while the NFF initiates a development to better the Nigerian game

By Nengi Ernest

Whether you are a die-hard fan or observer, last week delivered actions, excitement, and passion. On the contrary, this week’s actions were crowned with drama.

The Spanish football biggest league fixture, El-Clasico, could not have ended without a controversy. According to reports, La Liga is the only top-flight league in Europe not to implement the use of goal-line technology because Javier Tebas, La Liga’s president, deemed it far too expensive, which has sparked a controversy.  The Real Madrid vs. Barcelona game night had started well with Andrea Christensen giving Barca a 6th-minute lead and Vinicius Junior drawing Madrid level from the penalty spot after a foul on his teammate Lucas Vasquez. However, the controversy snicked in when Lamine Yamal’s effort in the 28th minute was reviewed for several minutes as it appeared to cross the line before the Madrid keeper Andrey Lunin cleared it out, eventually the goal was disallowed by VAR and a corner kick was awarded to Barca. Nevertheless, Fermin Lopez scored another for Barca, but that wasn’t enough as Madrid had the last say in the game with Jude Bellingham’s stoppage time goal, making it 3-2 against their rival.

Joan Laporte, president of FC Barca, expressed his dissatisfaction about the incident and called on the Spanish football federation to replay the El-Clasico game with Madrid if there is conclusive evidence that Lamal’s goal ought to have stood. Until then, Barca trails by 11 points, which will be hard to overturn with 6 games left. Surprisingly, Barca coach Xavi Hernandez made a U-turn on his decision to leave this summer. He will now remain until the end of June 2025 when his contract runs out.

Still in Spain, the Spanish government formed a special committee to oversee the country’s football. As a result, Pedro Rocha has been appointed as president. Rocha is currently under investigation as part of a corruption case involving Luis Rubiales.  Former president, Luis Rubiales was arrested earlier this month as part of a corruption investigation and separately due to go for trial on sexual assault for kissing Spain player Jenni Hermoso after Spain won the last women’s World Cup.

Pedro Rocha was voted in as RFEF president on Friday

Meanwhile, in the EPL, Nottingham Forest submitted a formal request to the PGMOL to release the audio recording between officials during their match against Everton at Goodison Park. Forest were very furious after three of their penalty claims were rejected in their 2-0 defeat, which has left them just a point above the relegation zone.  Nevertheless, Forest will be offered the chance to privately hear the Var audio from their penalty claims in the match against Everton

In Italy, Inter Milan sealed their 20th scudetto title by defeating their arch-rivals 2-1 in the Derby della Madonna.
Francesco Acerbi gave Inter the lead in the 18th minute with a header, while Marcus Thuram in the 49th minute smashed the second goal for Inter, at the dying minute England’s Fikayo Tomori, headed a relief goal for Ac Milan to give them a glimpse of hope but it wasn’t enough. The game couldn’t have ended without the rivalry drama as three red cards were given. Inter’s Denzel Dumfries and Milan’s Theo Hernandez were sent out for taking part in a brawl. The host finally ended up with 9 men as David Calabria was also sent out for violent conduct.  Ac Milan’s loss leaves them second with 17 points behind Inter. Players and fans of Inter were overwhelmed with joy as Simon Inzaghi brought back the good times. Inter has won the scudetto with five games on the back of a 27-unbeaten game run.

Elsewhere, It was an unforgettable evening at the historic Palacio de Cibles in the heart of Madrid, where many sports personalities and nominees graced the Laureus Awards 2024. Tennis great Novak Djokovic won the Sportsman of the Year award for a record-extending 5th time after winning it in 2012,2015,2016, and 2019. On the other hand, Aintana Bonmati was pleased as she became the first footballer to win the Sports Woman of the Year in the Laureus Awards. Previous winners of this category were Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, Naomi Osaka, and  Lindley Von. The Breakthrough of the Year award went to England Star footballer Jude Bellingham for his impact in Real Madrid. Meanwhile, legendary gymnast Simone Biles was recognised for the comeback of the year.

In athletics, the London Marathon was an absolute thrill. Olympics champion Peres Jepchirchir stormed to victory with a time of 2 hours 16 minutes 16 seconds. World record-holders Tiggst Asefa, Mergetu Alemu of Ethiopia, and Joycilline Jepkogei from Kenya beat the previous women’s only record of 2 hours 17 minutes 1 seconds set by Mary Keitany in 2017. In the men’s elite race, tributes were paid to 2023 winner Kelvin Kiptum, who died in an accident in his home country in February. The race ended with another Kenyan, Alexander Mutiso Munayo, as the winner. Others are Kenenisa Bekele, Emile Cairess, and Mohamed mahamed. 

On the courts, the Barcelona opens finals was a repeat of the Monte Carlo finals as it saw the match-up of Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas but in a twist of event, Casper Ruud avenged his defeat Ruud won his first title of 2024 as he defeated Tsitsipas in straight sets to win the Barcelona open 7-5 6-3  to claim his biggest title of his career.

In Nigeria, the NFF announced that it would organize a football award that would serve as a recognition and reward to the best players and coaches in the Nigerian game monthly. The awards will feature seven categories in its initial format and highlight the contributions of staff and players. It also aims to provide sponsorship opportunities. Details on the award categories, nomination process, and launch date will be released in due time.

In women’s football, the 2023/24 NWFL regular season came to an end with Sunshine Queens and Royal Queens relegated while Rivers Angels, Edo Queens, Bayelsa Queens, Confluence Queens, Nassarawa Amazons, and Heartland Queens booked their places for the Super 6 whereas, Ijamilusi Folashade of Fc Robo Queens who couldnt make it to the super 6 was named highest goal scorer of the regular season with 8 goals.

Summing up with the NPFL, the league will be on a one-month break after the matchday 32 fixtures are completed today. The four-week break is to allow Rivers United to conclude their outstanding matches in the NPFL.

Next week promises to be another exceptional week as by then, the complexion of the Champions League final and other major leagues in Europe will be clearer — Don’t miss out.

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