Sports News of Saturday, 2 January 2016
African glory-seekers this year include South AfricanTokyo Sexwale, who is looking to be FIFA president, and Ghanaian Andre Ayew, bidding for his first CAF Footballer of the Year title.
Apartheid-era political prisoner cum business tycoon Sexwale hopes to succeed disgraced Sepp Blatter and become president of scandal-ridden FIFA after February 26 elections in Zurich.
Bahraini Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Jordanian Prince Ali Al Hussein, Swiss Gianni Infantino and Frenchman Jerome Champagne are the other challengers for the task of cleaning up the world football body.
Highlight of the Sexwale manifesto is a call for the ban on sponsors’ names appearing on national team shirts to be scrapped, which could greatly boost the income of cash-strapped associations.
Swansea City midfielder Andre Ayew is seeking to win his first CAF Footballer of the Year title in the Nigerian capital Abuja this month, counting on his performances for Ghana, Marseille and Swansea City to give him the award.
The midfielder was the joint highest scorer at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations which ended in February and continued his excellent form by scoring 12 goals in 14 matches for Marseille from February to May.
The son of Ghana legend Abedi Pele left to join English Premier League side Swansea City where is currently the leading scorer for the Welsh club even though he plays as a midfielder.
Manchester City midfielder Toure is favoured to win a record-extending fifth consecutive CAF Footballer of the Year title in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
Other stars shortlisted for the award are Gabon and Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ghana and Swansea City midfielder Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew.
Toure, 32, was voted BBC African Footballer of the Year last month and made the Ballon d’Or World Footballer of the Year and FIFPro World Team of the Year lists.
Another major event in the African football calendar is the 2018 World Cup groups draw with 20 African teams eyeing five places in Russia. The 20 teams who have qualified for round three will be drawn into five round-robin, home and away groups of four teams each. The five group winners will qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
The line-up for the June 24 groups draw in Cairo reads like a who’s who of African football with onlyEquatorial Guinea and Benin of the current top 20 national teams failing to make the cut.
Assuming seeding is based on FIFA rankings, as was the case for two knockout rounds, one of the five mini-leagues could comprise Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria and Morocco.
The other 16 survivors are Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.
On the pitch, in addition to two World Cup matchdays in October, there will be four rounds of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, the African Nations Championship and the Champions League and Confederation Cup club competitions.
In the qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations, to be held in Gabon in 2018, former champions South Africa are in serious danger of missing the tournament after being held at home by Gambia and losing away to Mauritania. Bafana Bafana — which means ‘the boys’ — tackle Group M leaders Cameroon at home and away during March and only two victories are likely to keep them in contention for a place among the 16 finalists.
Nigeria, Champions in 2013 and non-qualifiers two years later, play record seven-time title-holders Egypt twice in another highlight of the matchday 3 and 4 fixtures.