Saturday, June 22, 2024
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I’m Never Going Down without a Try

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I like surprises. I like surprising people as much as I like to be surprised. This is the reason why my two moves in Europe wasn’t anywhere near the press. 

 

I remember well when I landed in Tel Aviv. I was too preoccupied with the next step that I couldn’t wait to see the club representative who had come to pick me at the airport.

 

But before the Israel stint I had a short deal back at home with Thika Queens.

 

My contract with Spedag FC had elapsed and after featuring in the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Cameroon there had been a lot of offers on the table. Of course, Spedag and the national team had played a major role in my career; AWCON being the pinnacle.

 

Akida in action against Egypt at MISC Kasarani

There were teams that had shown interest in my services but there was a fear in me. The fear was on my parents too. I had left the country before for tournaments but leaving to go stay away from them had a mixed reaction. I didn’t know what awaited me neither did they. What derailed my departure further was that my parents’ word on education. I had to finish school first.

 

So before I made a decision of moving out of the country I decided to ink a short term deal with Thika Queens. It was in the off season and I only managed a couple of games more so in the preseason before the pressure from my representative continued.

 

The Thika management was understanding enough to allow me to leave despite not having represented them in a competitive game. I’m forever grateful for that. We had a proper team there. If I was to stay I think we were going to dominate the local scene for some time. They had roped a few foreigners too and I think the balance was perfect. We had national team players in the team and adapting wasn’t hard. I clicked immediately. It was sad I had to leave early.

 

Apart from the fear of the unknown in playing away from home. I had my graduation coming up in a matter of months and I wanted to wear the gown before moving out. It was always my mum’s dream to see me graduate. It might have taken long to graduate due to my schedule but I was determined to finish school. Not for my mum and family but for my future. Little didn’t I know that lightning was going to strike twice in a matter of days.

Akida in action for Ramat HaSharon

Of the deals that I had on the table, Ramat Hasharon was the best. What convinced me about moving to the team was the fact that they had represented Israel in the UEFA Women’s Champions League in the previous team and was forming a squad to make it back to the competition. They sounded convincing and knew what they wanted. It was a project I really wanted to be part of.

 

As I said earlier, arriving in Israel wasn’t the occasion; inking the deal was out of this world. Everything was set up from my arrival to the day of the signing. It was the first time I was seeing professionalism being displayed first hand.

 

There was no sleeping in a hotel or in some unknown place. The club had apartments for new players and anyone was free to go rent a house of his choice once they felt settled. We had everything at speed dial. I don’t want to lie. I didn’t sleep in my first day. Everything seemed surreal.

Little didn’t I know that lightning was going to strike twice in a matter of days.

In the morning before inking the deal, I was taken in a short club tour where I was shown the facilities and our home ground. It was to join the mid-morning session with the junior girls’ team just for some warm down before inking the deal. My mum and brothers were always on the phone to ask if everything was okay and couldn’t hide my joy when everything was done. I think they didn’t believe it until I confirmed and sent them pictures. I could see the smile in their faces. I had done something that had them proud. Mine was to get down to business.

 

What people don’t know that a day after signing my deal was the day I was to graduate from Kenya Methodist (KeMu) University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA). My chair was empty that day but just seeing my name emblazoned in that plastic chair was everything for me. In a matter of hours, I had signed my professional deal and had graduated. Double win.

 

 

Akida’s empty seat in KeMu graduation that she didn’t attend

We had a good start to the season and everything went on well until injuries hit us. We were forced to play girls from the junior team and I always played out of position to help the team; right back to be precise. It was a position I have never played before but I think I did well when I was slotted there. There was a game, under the floodlight that I forgot myself and took on everyone; it’s in a clip. I gave an assist from right back but the dress down that came after the game.

 

I was to defend not to attack. I was caught out of position so many times in the game and I think the coach was right. But playing at right back instilled some discipline in me in matters positioning. It’s something that I use to date; not to be afraid of trying new things in my position but to always stick with the team’s plan.

 

My display in Israel didn’t go unnoticed and it was just a matter of time before my representative came back again that there were offers around Europe. We had not done well with my team due to injuries and some factors that were beyond us and when I concluded my first season, the team that had won the league and who were to represent us in the Champions League were really on my neck. My coaches at the club had informed me of the same but I had to consult. No sooner had I told my agent the same than he came with a list of teams.

 

Just as my deal with Hasharon a few people knew of the move. The arrival wasn’t that scary and full of unknown things as with my first stint but when I arrived in Turkey it was a different ball game all together.

 

Akida in action for Besiktas against Atletico Madrid

It was a step higher. Everyone was a crazy about the game. The Istanbul Derby was something else. The week to the game the streets turn into something else. Everything is literally at a standstill.

 

That apart, the facilities were a notch higher that what we had in Israel. We were allowed time to play in the Vodafon Arena when we hosted Atletico Madrid; surreal experience. This was just a team that I use to see on the internet. Here they were, flesh and blood.

 

The changing room with my  jersey. Esse Akida 14. The white colour has never looked more beautiful under those lights. This was the little girl from Kilifi living her dream. I shed a lot of tears when such things happen. I remember my family. The people who look up to me. My country. The female gender and I feel I owe them my career. I want to fight for every one of them.

 

In Kenya we are not privileged enough to have such of these things I have had in my career. I receive numerous message more so on my Facebook page from people who just need help on how to go about their careers. They are genuine from their voices. At times I’m overwhelmed to help them in the little ways I can.

 

I want to give them hope. I want hope to everyone who doesn’t have the belief. I want to encourage all the youths in this country. Those with no clear paths on where they will be in the coming days. They need that guidance and I’m always willing to do my part. But I can’t do it alone. It needs a collective effort.

 

 

Esse Akida in her earlier days as a match official

I’m glad that a number of my colleagues are now joining European leagues. And this shows that we are all capable down here. We have good players in Kenya, it’s only the opportunity that we lack. I am saying this because I have played in some of the best teams. It’s a challenge to the federation to make things better for the lady footballer. To make the Kenya Women Premier League stronger.

 

This is the same reason that I want to open a foundation. To help those young girls and boys in Kilifi. I am a product of help. Without Moving The Goal Post (MTG) Kilifi I couldn’t have been here. I was helped and I have to help. It’s not that it’s a mandatory thing but it’s because I feel it’s the right thing.

 

I know things will be up one day for every female Kenyan footballer. But that will only happen if me and you can pull in the right direction. I want to do my part. And maybe if things don’t work, at least I would have gone down after trying.

Kakuma Raised Me

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I have a lot of untold stories. Good. Sad. Stories of determination. Just stories.

 

Many of you have heard the name John Kuol. Defender at Kenyan Premier League side Kariobangi Sharks. It’s easier to spot me because of the height and if that’s not enough, my dark skin should help you pick me out of any crowd. Make no mistake, I wouldn’t trade my complexion for anything. It is power, the black power.

 

Away from my appearance and being a player at Sharks a lot happened long before I became a professional footballer.

 

Representing Sharks in a league match against KCB FC in Machakos

 

South Sudan. The youngest nation in Africa. We had longed for peace but it came with its fair share of struggles. I was born in a time of war and some of my age mates are still at war. I thank God I can now change a few lives through football back at home.

 

My parents flew and his family from South Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya when I was about three months old. I barely knew anything so some of these stories were told when later in life. Books have helped me understand why I wasn’t raised in my country.

 

A quick search would tell you that Kakuma is one of the largest refugee camps in the world. The place is under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and they are mandated to aid and protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people, and to assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.

 

Featuring for Kakamega High School under Brenden Mwinamo. Its a school that shaped my football career

 

You would be in the same camp with an Ethiopian, Somali, Ugandan and so many people from different countries. There is no time for laxity if you are to survive. When my parents couldn’t contain the war anymore, they moved to Kakuma with my siblings. Four of us.

 

On arrival in late 1999, the only thing we were guaranteed was peace but there are other vices that we could still see. Drug abuse. Early pregnancies. Things like those that are associated with informal settings. But all dad wanted was peace and food. He said that the sound of the gunshots was too much for him and Kakuma guaranteed until 2003.

 

The number in the camp had grown due to the persistent war in Sudan and the neighboring countries and food started becoming scarce. My dad had to re-strategise to ensure that all of us had enough to eat. He heard of a newly formed refugee camp in Ethiopia so we had to relocate once again; this time to Dima Refugee Camp. We left without our extended family members.

 

Dima was a good place; the only challenge we had was with school since I was growing and needed to start schooling. It really unsettled my elder siblings since they had nowhere to continue with their education. The bigger number that had arrived at Dima forced those in charge of the camp to start nursery school which I was enrolled in. But things didn’t go as planned and we had to return to Kakuma early in 2007. Mainly because we were growing so fast and dad felt that he had missed his brothers and who had helped him raise us hence the return.

 

It was the year Kenya had its elections and things turned worse late that year with the camp forced to host so many internally displaced people who had been forced to flee their homes. Interestingly, when we returned to Kakuma, I was sent straight to class two, so I basically didn’t go through class one like everyone else. I was a bright kid and that showed in my grades.

 

The age group was mainly composed of aspiring footballers and hip-hop musicians but in the camp, you had to go through school. It was the only sure way to stardom. If we want to leave the camp; we had to go to school because that was the mentality that was instilled in us.

 

I could only manage to study class two and three in Kakuma before we moved to Nakuru. A year after we left Dima, there was repatriation to South Sudan between 2008 and 2009 so we went back to my home country for a while and that’s how my elder sister got married. So while we returned to Kakuma, she did return to Nakuru-Kenya where her husband had settled. That’s how I found myself in Nakuru a year later after she convinced dad that the place offered a better learning environment that what we had in the camp.

 

  • Me and Mwas during our time at Hyrax-Nakuru

 

The school I joined was Hyrax Primary School. It still stands and that’s where I met Moses Mwangi, the player you all know as Mwas. I don’t think we were so much into football then but we played during the school games and we were good at it. I was to play with Mwas at both Kakamega High School and Kariobangi Sharks before he left for Ulinzi Stars.

 

But my football journey didn’t start at Nakuru. At Kakuma, art and football kept us busy. We had a team called Danger FC. It would be a bad name for any visitor in a country but we felt it was the best name we could have settled on. We could hustle for balls. Visit hospitals and pick the used rubber gloves that had been disposed of by the doctors and turn them into balls. We could kick the ball until it burst; all this time with our bare feet. That’s how we formed Danger FC. We didn’t have a manager and the whole team barely had any uniform.

 

Because people regularly moved, Danger barely had a recognized team so Black Devils was formed. The team was a stark contrast of Danger because they had a team uniform. The founder was an ardent Manchester United fan and made it upon himself to get us proper uniforms; basically United uniforms. The name had been coined from United’s nick name (Red Devils) but since we were darker than dark, Black Devils was a befitting name.

 

Standing (top right) while representing Danger FC. It was the first team I ever played for.

 

After completing my Class 8 at Hyrax, I decided to go back to Kakuma and join my family for the holidays. At that time, Mwas had some contact with the Kakamega High School head coach Brenden Mwinamo and he was to be offered a trial. Those who passed the trials were to be offered scholarships for their secondary education. I’ll be lying if I said I expected to play football as I was eagerly waiting for my results to continue with my secondary school.

 

From nowhere, while in Kakuma, I received a strange call. It was Mwinamo on the other end. After a chat, he told me that Mwas had told him about me and they wanted me to travel to Kakamega for the trials. Since Mwas was part of this and we had formed a formidable friendship, I obliged. That’s how I found myself at that great footballing school.

 

Same position this time in the colors of Black Devils-still in Kakuma

 

We were going to be part of the first team eventually but in Form one, you don’t expect to walk straight into the first team. There was an array of talent in each position and you had to be the best to make the team. That class had everyone you’d think of in the Kenyan football scene. We could line up now against any team in the country and beat them hands down – trust me when I say that.

 

That was the belief that was instilled in us. In Form Two, I felt I was good enough to be in the first team. And while I was part of the team, playing time rarely came by for me and I decided to leave the school in search of a school that would give me more game time. That’s how I landed at Menengai High School in Nakuru. I think we were a decent team, not as good as Kakamega, but decent. We made it to the Regional finals and lost. I really wanted to make it to the nationals to show Kakamega what they were missing but things don’t work that way at times.

 

My Form Three was spent at Menengai but since a chunk of the team were Form Four’s it meant that I was going to be alone in the coming season and that’s how my football journey might have ended. By that time, Kakamega was crying out for a central defender and they approached me once again; it was too good to turn down. The likes of Joseph Okumu (now with IF Elfsborg of Sweden) were leaving and they needed a person to fill the slot and I was to be the man.

 

At Form 3 training with my team mates in Menengai-Nakuru

 

I returned to the school for my last year in school and together we made it to the Nationals of the Kenya Secondary School Ball Games that was held in Nyeri where we came third. We then made it to the East Africa Ball Games and had another good outing.

 

It was only a matter of time since the big clubs came calling for me and my teammates. When at Menengai, Chemelil FC had approached me through their assistant coach Charles Odero who was coaching Chemase Secondary School and I featured for their junior team in the KPL U20. They had Okumu in my final year in school and when they came with an opportunity for their senior team, I couldn’t turn it down because I believed they were best suited for me.

 

While with the team, game time wasn’t a problem and we had a lot of good memories together. I believe were it not for the financial issues, Chemelil could have won the title at some point when I was still there. The team was made up of young hungry players who were doing everything week in week out with a mixture of experienced players who had the club’s DNA. Yes, we had our struggles but we gave our best every time we showed up for games.

 

Mixing it with my current employers Kariobangi Sharks while still with Chemelil (Pic: Fabian Odhiambo)

 

At Chemelil, some headache arose. It was which country to represent. I was born in South Sudan but I had spent a chunk of my life in Kenya. A lot of my schoolmates were being handed junior national call ups to Kenya at a time when South Sudan had not been active in junior tournaments. But when I asked my parents on what to do, their choice was always going to be South Sudan. And while I was young and eager to represent a nation, I was to wait for my chance. It was to come later with the South Sudan U23 while I representing Kariobangi Sharks at club level.

 

In action for the South Sudan national team against Uganda

 

Sharks were to call six months after I had joined Chemelil and I couldn’t turn them down since they had a good offer. Furthermore, they had some of my school mates and adapting was going to be easy. William Muluya believes in young players and their project proposal, as narrated by their chairman when I arrived at their offices, was the best.

 

That’s where I have been to date. But the journey has just started. I still believe I’ll continue with my education at one point in my career. I really liked school and I want to have a degree. Maybe a Masters too. If God allows me, I’ll do a PhD. I’m dead serious about this.

 

I do go back each holiday to the camp to help in my little ways. Buy them balls. We have a program (More than Boots-MTB) with one of my former teammates at Dangers called Jong Kuch who resides in the USA. The kids down there had asked for boots in one of our visits and we felt we could do more hence the name. We make it upon ourselves to visit as regularly as possible just to encourage them.

 

Going back to Kakuma has become a norm. Mentoring the boys is something I’d want to do forever.

 

I have other aims though. I want the war in my country to stop. I dream of a day where we have no one at Kakuma. The peace you find at home can never be found anywhere and everyone deserves it. It’s my aim that one day I’ll be back in my country to help.

 

For now, I want to continue playing at the highest level. I know I can make it. Just as I was determined when I was Kakuma. No matter where football takes me, Kakuma will always be home. That place made me. Kenya is my home and since the two countries share the same flag colours, I’ll always feel at home here as I should have felt in South Sudan.

 

(Main Pic: Fabian Odhiambo)

Where Are They: The conquering Kakamega High School Team of 2014

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Kakamega High School is known to be a bedrock of talents in the country.

 

With many players tracing their roots to the school, the 2014 team that beat Kisumu Day by a solitary goal in a packed Bukhungu Stadium remains one of their best assembled team.

 

But where are the players six years on since that triumphant day?

 

Goalkeeper: Timothy Odhiambo (Ulinzi Stars)

After a stint with Sony Sugar immediate after school, the Kenya U23 keeper is currently in the books of Ulinzi Stars where he is fighting for the number one position with James Saruni having been tasked with the goalkeeping duties when his counterpart had an injury.

 

Vitalis Akumu (Western Stima)

The player’s future remains unknown following the mass exodus being witness at Stima.

 

Pistone Mutamba (Unattached)

The bully striker is currently without a club after being one of the players that were released by Wazito FC.

 

Also Read: First Goal for Wanyama in the MLS

 

Alfred ‘Kemboi’ Wekesa (sidelined with injury, ex AFC Leopards)

One of the most important players in the Kakamega team then has been sidelined since picking a nasty injury at the end of 2016.

 

Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma (AIK, Sweden)

Yet to feature in a competitive game for his new side AIK after picking an injury in the preseason. Expected to return in October.

 

Harun Nyakha (Ushuru FC)

The captain of the side has had stints with Tusker FC, Mount Kenya FC and AFC Leopards. Currently with National Super League side Ushuru.

 

Sulemani Majenga (Kakamega Homeboyz)

Joined the now defunct Palos FC after school before moving to Homeboyz.

 

Edwin Mukolwe (Nairobi Stima)

Signed by AFC Leopards after school, the player left the club in December last year and has been in thebooks of Stima since then.

 

Apollo Otieno (Tusker FC)

The defensive midfielder who is being linked with a move away from Tusker FC had stints with Chemelil Sugar FC before.

 

Also Read: Timbe Career Stats as he turns 27 

 

Joseph Okumu (Elfsborg, Sweden)

One of the most successful story of the 2014 team. After school, he only managed to feature in the Kenyan Premier League for six months with Chemelil before stints in South Africa and the USA before landing in Sweden. Just as Ouma, he is a regular for the national team-Harambee Stars.

 

James Mazembe (Kariobangi Sharks)

Joined Kariobangi Sharks immediately afters school and has been there since.

 

Others were:

  • Kelvin Monyi (Western Stima)
  • Brian Wesa (KCB)
  • Benson Mutinda (KCB)
  • Alphonse Ndonye (Mathare United)
  • Vincent Chacha (Ulinzi Stars)
  • Stephen Etyang (Kakamega Homeboyz)
  • Brian Andanje (Kangemi All Stars)
  • Bernard Biko (Chemelil Sugar)
  • Omar Rashid (*)

 

Also Read: Kakuma Raised Me 

 

⚽14 Goals in 13 Apps: Breaking Down Olunga’s goals

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There have been calls for Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga to leave Japan for a more ‘serious’ league and it’s not hard to see why.

 

The former Gor Mahia striker has taken the Japanese J1 League by storm by sitting on top of the scorers’ chart with 14 goals after amassing 13 games; his latest being a double against Kashima Antlers.

 

Also Read: KPL Transfers-Speculations and Done Deals

 

Olunga’s closes challenger in the goal scorers list is Urawa’s Leonardo who has nine goals with Marcos Junior and Everaldo-both Brazilians) being on eight goals each; Olunga will be hoping to add to this tally when they travel to Cerezo Osaka in their next match. 

 

But how has Olunga spread his goals in the season?

 

Hat trick

Vegalta Sendai

Brace

Kashima Antlers

Shonan Bellmare

Consodole Sapporo

One Goal

Vissel Kobe

Cerezo Osaka

Yokohama Marinos

Nagoya Grampus

Urawa Reds

 

Also Read: Im never going down without a fight

OFFICIAL: John Ochieng joins Gor Mahia from Chemelil

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Chemelil FC midfielder John Ochieng has joined Kenyan Premier League giants Gor Mahia on a four year deal.

 

An elated Ochieng while speaking with Pepeta described the move as a dream come true and said he was confident he was going to deliver at his new station.

 

“Its a dream move considering its the best team in the region. I have worked with coach Patrick (Odhiambo) before and he was one major reason why I chose Gor. I have spoken with the ehad coach too before and they showed interest in me when immediately after our game in Kisumu,” Ochieng said.

 

The midfielder revealed that he ought to have signed early with the KPL giants but was waiting for the paperwork between his former club and the Kenyan Football Federation to be ratified.

 

 

Also Read: KPL Transfers: Specualtions and Done Deals

 

 

“Chemelil had not given me the release letter but that has since been donw. I want to thank the,m for the opportunity they accorded me. I had great memories there and were it not for them I dont think Id be here today.

“Attention now for me is at my new station and I hope I’ll repay the fans and the coaches for the trust they have in me. I just can’t wait to get started,” the midfielder added.

 

The player is said to have received an offer from Tanzania side Biashara United which is coached by his former coach at Chemelil Francis Baraza.

 

(Image: Fabian Odhiambo)

🇰🇪 How Kenyan Players fared abroad in the weekend

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Cercle’s Johanna Omolo, Michael Olunga, Anthony Akumu were some of the Kenyan players to feature away from home in the weekend.

 

But how did others fair?

 

On Saturday, Johanna Omolo completed the full minutes as Cercle Brugge managed a 3-2 win over Mechelen in the Belgian top division following; Omolo receiving a yellow card in the 29th minute.

 

In Egypt, winger Cliff Nyakeya was introduced in the second half for Mahmoud Toba as FC Masr managed a 1-0 win over El Gouna in the Egyptian Premier League.

 

On Sunday, in Sweden, Anthony Wambani managed to clock the full minutes as IF Vasalunds went top of the Ettan league with a 2-1 win over Orebro. Ochieng Ovela wasn’t in action as he is nursing an injury.

Defender Joseph Okumu managed to play in the entire minutes as 10-man IF Elfsborg went down to Ostersunds FK by a solitary goal in the Swedish Allsvenskan.

 

Eric Johanna played 64 minutes as his side Sodra managed a one- all draw against Vasteras SK. The draw took Sodra to 4th on the log with 22 points from 14 games.

 

In Japan, Michael Olunga‘s seven-game scoring streak came to an end on Sunday as Kashiwa Reysol was held to a scoreless draw by hosts Oita Trinita in the Japanese top-flight league.

 

In South Africa, midfielder Anthony Akumu came on in the last 15 minutes of the game as Kaizer Chiefs were held to a 1-1 draw by Stellenbosch

Anthony Akumu opens Kaizer Chiefs account

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Harambee Stars midfielder Anthony Akumu opened his Kaizer Chiefs account in his first start for the club in their 3-2 comeback win over Polokwane City on Saturday.

Hosts Polokwane had taken a 17th minute lead through Nku; a goal that was to the difference as both teams headed to the break.  doubling their tally. Maluleke doubled their lead a minute after the hour mark but it was Chiefs who turned the tie around.

Katsande pulled a goal back in the 71st minute after being put through by Nurkovic with Nurkovic being the provider once again for Akumu who tapped in from close range for the equalizer in the 75th minute. Polkwane crumbled a minute later when Nurkovic was to put his name in the scoresheet.

The win see Chiefs go top of the log with 52 points after 24 games; six points above Mamelodi Sundowns who who have played a game less.

On the same day, striker Michael Olunga scored his 11th goal of the season as Kashiwa Reysol went down 3-1 to visitors Cerezo Osaka.

Bruno Mendes, Koga and Nishikawa had given Osaka a 3-0 lead heading into the final stages of the game but Olunga pulled what was to be a consolation two mintes from time to maintain his healthy lead at the top of the top scorers chart.

On Friday, Kenyan goalkeeper Arnold Origi received a red card as HIFK went down 3-2 to hosts Inter Turku in the Finland top flight league.

Origi got his first yellow card in the 87th minute and received the second two minutes later this coming after conceding two penalties earlier on.

Sofapaka renews sponsorship with Betika

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2009 Kenyan Premier League champions Sofapaka FC have renewed their sponsorship with Betting firm Betika for the next two years.

In unveiling the deal worth Shs 77M for the next two seasons, club president Elly Kalekwa welcomed the new development saying it will go a long way in motivating the players.

“We are glad to have our partnership with Betika continue to grow. We are delighted to have the firm once again come to our aid during these uncertain times. We hope this will go a long way in motivating the players to effectively deliver on the pitch,” Kalekwa is quoted by the club’s portal.

”I want to thank Betika for being with us over the years and we promise to continue to work with them in the future.”

Wazito snaps up Leads United left back

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Kenyan Premier League side Wazito FC has snapped up striker Vincent Oburu for undisclosed period.

Oburu joins Wazito just days after confirming his three years association with AFC leopards where he rose through the club’s youth ranks.

In a statement the club said: “We are pleased to announce the signing of striker Vincent Oburu from AFC Leopards.

“The former Lang’ata High School striker is expected to boost our attack ahead of the 2020/2021 FKF Premier League campaign.”

Oburu said: “I am happy to join this team, it is a good career step for me because it gives me an opportunity to work hard and improve as a player. I want to work well with my coach and teammates so that we can achieve what the team wants which is winning titles.

“To the fans, I urge them to keep supporting the team and we the new players will help take the team to the next level he said.”

Head coach Fred Ambani said: “I think Oburu needs no introduction. He is a very good striker and he definitely adds quality to the team. One of our problems last season was failing to score goals and I think with him in the team he will help solve that problem.”

Oburu was part of the Harambee Stars’ team that won the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup title.

Breaking:Gor Mahia defender Joash Onyango joins Simba

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Gor Mahia defender Joash Onyango has officially joined Tanzania Premier League giants Simba SC the club has confirmed.

While announcing the new acquisition on their social media platforms, Simba said that they had acquired an experienced player who will be helpful in their CAF Champions League campaign.

“We have bigger ambitions this season in regards to reaching the later stages of the CAF Champions League and challenging for the domestic titles. Therefore, the club has to sign players with experience in big matches.

“Harambee Stars center back Joash Onyango has officially joined Wekundu wa Msimbzi and is ready to represent us,” Simba said.

The defender leaves Gor Mahia after a sterling outing with the club that saw him get a call up to the national team prior to the 2019 African Cup of Nations. He has been a cog for Harambee Stars since then and has been a consistent figure in the Gor Mahia team.

Onyango becomes the latest player to cross from Gor Mahia to Simba after that of Francis Kahata and Meddie Kagere; Simba having lured Danny Sserenkuma previously too to their camp.

Kenya U23 striker joins English League One side

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Kenyan U23 striker Jonah Ayunga has joined English League One side Briston Rover FC on a two-year deal the club has announced.

In a statement, Bristol said: “The Club is delighted to announce the signing of striker Jonah Ayunga for an undisclosed fee.

“The highly-rated 23-year-old, who scored over 20 goals last season, joins the Gas on a two-year deal from Havant and Waterlooville.”

On his part, Ayunga said: “I’m delighted to be here. Ever since I heard about the potential of the move I’ve been excited to join.

“I have chats with Ben and hearing the plan that he has for both me and the club and where he wants to go showed me that this is a good place to be.”

Ayunga has previously trained with both the Kenya U23 and the national team Harambee Stars.

Harambee Stars defender returns to Leopards after Slovakia stint

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Harambee Stars defender Yusuf Mainge has returned to AFC Leopards after failing to extend his loan deal with Slovakia top-flight side FK Pohronie.

Mainge joined Pohronie in August 2019 on a loan deal but returned home at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. With the resumption of the Slovakian league, the player was expected to join the team ahead of the new season but he opted against a new deal.

Asked by Pepeta about the decision, Mainge said: “I decided against renewing my contract due to personal reasons. I am now back at Leopards since I still have a contract with them and will wait to see what the future holds.”

Pressed to reveal about his future plans, the player failed to give assurance on his contract situation at Leopards insisting that he was taking each day at a time.

“I can’t really talk about the future right now because a lot has changed with the pandemic (Covid 19). Mine is to take each day at a time and when something comes up I’ll definitely announce it,” he added.

The player who has captained the Kenya U20 side and was part of the last constituted Kenya U23 team is said to be on the radar of Kenyan Premier League Sides Tusker FC and Wazito FC.

First league start for Victor Wanyama as MLS resumes

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Harambee Stars Captain Victor Wanyama managed his first league start for Montreal Impact on Friday morning but it did less in preventing his side from succumbing to a 0-1 loss at the hand of New England.

It was the second appearance for the Kenyan since joining the club from Tottenham Hotspur having made his debut for the Thierry Henry coached side in the game against Olimpia in March before the coronavirus break.

Wanyama completed the entire minutes but a goal from Argentine Bou in the 56th minute was all England needed to win the game.

Wanyama will hope for a change of fortunes when they take on Toronto on July 16 with their team currently sitting last in their group; the MLS having returned in a tournament format.

Turkish giants Besiktas interested in Michael Olunga

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Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga is attracting interest from Turkish giants Besiktas according to reports from Turkey.

SporX indicates that Besiktas has earmarked Olunga as a replacement for striker Burak Yilmaz who moved to French Ligue One side Lille this year.

Olunga has been on the form of his life since the resumption of the Japanese J1 League where he sits at the top of the top scorer’s charts with nine goals.

In his stint with Kashiwa, the 26-year-old former Gor Mahia striker has bagged 42 goals in 52 appearances and assisted another 12; an outing that has made him a target for teams across Europe.

Besiktas coach Sergen Yalcin wants a striker to boost his attack ahead of the new season and has urged the club board to go for Olunga with the player expected to coast 900 Euros (Approx sh 115M).

Burdened By The Yorke Of Improving

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There are expectations and then there are realities and being brought up in a scene dominated by your seniors, it is never going to be a smooth ride in a race that stardom is the ultimate prize.

 

The Kisumu football scene has been awash with raw talent in the past few years and boasts of some of the finest footballers to have graced the local football scene. From Harambee Stars’ stalwart of yesteryears Bobby Ogolla to the uprising Kenneth Muguna, Gor Mahia’s Wellington Ochieng is not only one who can trace the start his footballing career from the region, but he is as a good example as any other player who would want to be emulated by the upcoming talents in his backyard.

 

Ochieng has been a constant figure in the Kisumu football scene from the tender age of twelve. The defender, who can play in all positions in defence, was incorporated into the beautiful game by his father but knew he was headed for greater things in the footballing world when he joined Urusi FC (a respected team in Kisumu known for churning out young talented players). Ochieng also reserves huge praise for his primary school head coach Mr. George Odiero for playing a key role in shaping his career.

 

“My father was a coach with some local team in the outskirts of Kisumu and most of the time he’d tag me along and I acted as the ball boy for his team in my tender years. My real journey though started with Urusi FC with one Allan Moi, who was the coach then giving me my debut for the club’s U16 side despite being 12-year-old then.

 

“Playing with players who were older than me was a norm and I think it toughened me up and gave me picture of what I was to expect in my future career. Mr Odiero gave me the belief while in school. He was teaching at our neighboring school Kibos Sugar Research but he could in weekends pair us with local teams to test our progress more so in the Term One Primary School Ball Games; he taught me of never being afraid to face my challenges head on however huge they seem. I was there (Urusi) for two years winning two editions of the Kisumu Youth Football Association (KYFA) U16 tournament. These are moments that I cherish looking back to where it all begun,” Ochieng opens up.

 

Ochieng who says since his childhood his urge to improve has seen him go for bigger challenges and it was no surprise when he was to join Kisumu Youth Olympic Centre (KYOC) U18 side in 2009 while still undertaking his secondary school education at St Iganatius Magadi and was to help his team gain promotion to the county’s second Division Tier in 2012; the same year that he completed his secondary school education.

 

“When I joined KYOC, they were featuring in the country’s third division of football and that was a step for me in my career since I was joining a league where competition was a notch higher. It was not an easy ride and we had to wait for three years to achieve something meaningful as we earned promotion into the second division in an unbeaten fashion. I had been made captain of the team and I chipped in with four goals. In the same year I had managed to help my school to make it to the County levels of the Secondary School Ball Games for the first time in their history. That was one of the best years in my footballing life,” Ochieng remarks.

 

The secondary School Ball Games has been a hub for many coaches who spot raw talents in a bid to incorporate them into their team. Many have made the move straight from school to the country’s top tier, the Kenyan Premier League (KPL). Ochieng had surely been spotted that year and was not going to be short of suitors who were queuing for his signature, many being teams across the Nyanza region. When it was clear that he was no longer going to be with KYOC, Ochieng had to make a move that would not only thrust him into the national scene but one he hoped that was to build his career. He had to look for a coach who understood him and who was ready to help in his learning curve and in James ‘Odijo’ Omondi (now at Muhoroni Youth) who was at Agrochemicals FC, he found one.

 

His one-year stint at Agro is nostalgic. Ochieng wanted to help his new team to gain promotion to the KPL, something he says was one major reason why he joined the team from the Muhoroni Sugarbelt but they only managed a third place finish in the 16 team log. Only two teams made the playoff round during this time; a perfect tale of so near yet so far.

 

“Actually I knew I was leaving KYOC after finishing school and helping them move to the second division of the County League. My worry was to where I was heading to since I had many offers on the table. I wanted a deal that was to help me grow and my next move was going to be determined by how much I played. Odijo had watched me grow from a tender age since he was a constant figure in the Kisumu football scene and after a lengthy talk with him, I was convinced that joining Agro was good for me.

 

“By that time Agro were fighting to gain promotion to the KPL and I wanted to be part of that history sadly it never came to pass as we finished third. I had to take positives from my time there since I made 20 appearances and scored seven goals, five being headers,” Ochieng continues.

 

Agro Chemical would again miss narrowly on promotion the following year after finishing fourth and Ochieng’s four goals did little to ease the pain. At the end of the 2014 season, KPL side and neighbors Muhoroni Youth came calling and he could not resist

 

By 2015 one Patrick Odhiambo, who had been an assistant to Odijo at Agrochemicals had joined Francis Baraza at Muhoroni Youth in the same capacity. The former having worked with Ochieng thought he could be a good addition to the team that was taking the top flight by storm and although Ochieng admits it was a tough test in his slowly rising career, he was rearing to prove that he could mix it with the big boys.

“Having studied Muhoroni closely I felt they were a good team for me. They had slowly improved since coming into the top flight in 2012 and the urge of mixing it with the big boys was too good to turn down. I enjoyed my first season in the KPL and adapted quickly since the players at Muhoroni were my neighbors when I was at Agro and mingled with them almost every time so it made my work easier. I was involved in eleven goals in my first season there, scoring on two occasion.

 

On his second season at Muhoroni, Ochieng had become a regular figure at Muhoroni and had started eleven games prior to June; a steady progress that leaves him purring despite the club problems that had threatened to deny him a chance to join Gor Mahia.

 

“The following season, the 2016 season did not start very well since I had to sit out at some point but it is always my progress that I take a keen look into. I took my time and when I came back, I scored four goals in eight appearances before I left. This time it was a chance that I could not turn down, there was no way I was going to turn down Gor Mahia,” Ochieng remarks.

 

The player admits that he was over the moon in joining Gor Mahia as it was another chance to add silverware to his cabinet. They might not have won the league in his maiden season that saw him appear five times more so in cup games but the mixing it with some of the best players in the league and a top coach in Ze Maria was just too good to believe.

 

The player was to make his debut against Mombasa’s Mahakama FC in the GOtv Shield; the only competition which he had a real chance of appearing in due to the quality that was in the team. The right back who is welcoming the competition in the team says mixing it with the likes of Rooney in August 2017 is just a testimony that his move to Gor Mahia was the best he could have ever hoped for as a player in the country.

 

“At first I thought it was a joke that Gor Mahia had enquired about my services but it came true. Thinking of playing for Ze Maria and training with some of the best players in the league was too good to turn down. I knew I was not coming in straight to the first eleven but I vowed to do my best in training and left the rest for the coach who I believe gave everyone a fair chance.

 

“I waited for my time and I knew that if I was to get a chance, it was up to me to give my best in the colours of my new team. My debut came in the GOtv Shield and I think I did just well; I made five appearances in the first six months at the club and the urge to walk from the tunnel in that jersey has been the same today as it was in day one against Mahakama.

 

“Of course every player wants to play week in week out but with the talent at our disposal, you might find yourself out in certain games but we support whoever is chosen to start; it’s all about team work in our camp-when they win, we all win. The two coaches I have worked under have the winning mentality and despite their difference in formation, there aim is based in winning.

 

“Coming up against Everton was like a pinnacle in my career. Playing against the best in world football is every footballer dream and enjoyed every bit of our time in Tanzania where we faced some of the best teams in the region. My pride was not only pinned in winning the Sportpesa Super League but with the fact that I played in all the four games to help my team book a date with Everton.

 

“The experience here at Gor has been more I could have bargained for and I feel I made the right choice by coming here. Since I joined we have won the two accolades, the KPL Super Cup and the SportPesa Super Cup and I believe we will be winning more and we will be facing more testing matches in the coming year. Winning titles, after a season of hard work and determination is all a footballer would want,” Ochieng notes.

 

Bad Loser

There is no one in these sides of the footballing world who can narrate Ochieng’s rise to stardom more than the current owner of Urusi Football Club Mr Sospeter Oduor commonly known as Arua by those who nurtured; the chairman come coach having roped the young Wellington from the dusty Kibos pitches to his side at a tender age of 13.

 

“I am the one who introduced Wellington to the real world of football this after we spotted him in our friendly clash against a team called Amani FC which he was featuring for then in Kibos. Their team was a seasonal one and we thought it was wise to have him on our camp to aid in his progress and we have never regretted making that move.

 

“He is risen among the ranks and as a coach I am very proud to see one of my products make it just as we had hoped for. He is one dedicated player and leaves everything on the pitch; it is a character he possessed from a tender age. His only fault is in not accepting defeat. He always wants to win; he is a bad looser. Losing affected him so much at his tender age that it could affect his performances a times in next games. I still see him gutted when results don’t go his team’s way but I hope he has matured enough to know that loosing is part of the game.

 

“He is a role model to the kids down here. He usually attends our trainings when he is around town and at least we can give him as an example to these young players who would want to make it footbllwise in their future lives,” Odour says.

 

Discipline

For Odijo, who introduced Ochieng to the real vagaries of football demands in the country, the player possesses a rare trait of discipline that he has only found in a few players who he has worked with before. Odijo further reveals that Ochieng is just one of the ‘Agrochemicals 2014 Class” that has gone to not only make Kisumu proud but him as a football coach in the country; the coach having worked with the player too during his time at KPL side Muhoroni Youth.

 

“I had been involved in so many youthful football programs around Kisumu when I first had an ecounter with Wellington. I had watched him grow to a dedicated player and when I felt the time was ripe, I signed him for Agro. The funny part is despite us being buddies in the football circle, he still had to send me to his parents when I went for him to sign for Agro; it was a rare show of the discipline he has for his parents and that showed me the kind of player he was outside the football circle.

 

“He was part of the Agro team in the 2014 season that missed promotion to the KPL by a whisker and when you look at the focused players in that lot, many of them are now competing in the KPL despite that set back. That shows you that despite what happens in football, nomatter, where you are, try as much to give your best for you never know who is watching and this is an area Ochieng perfected well. He didn’t care about tomorrow, he gave his best every time he put on the Agro shirt and did the same during our time at Muhoroni and the result is for there for all to see.

 

“The expectations at Gor Mahia are a bit higher and maybe he is not getting games as he wishes but I know he will adapt. His dedication and urge to learn is going to take him places. You can come back to me about him in the next three years and Im sure he will have made a positive progress,” Odijo says.

 

National Team Material

For Dyllan Ker, the Gor Mahia coach who found Ochieng already at the club after being shipped in by Marcelo Ze Maria, it has been a tough choice to left the defender out of his first eleven considering his versatility across the defence with his output both in training and when called upon described by the Briton as second to none.

 

“We have a good squad at Gor Mahia and it is some of a headache to leave certain players out of the first eleven. I have enjoyed working with Wellington because of his sincerity and his dedication in training and in the field of play. He will run over a brick wall for the team from the first minute to the last without tiring. He is still young, vibrant and have enough room to learn. He is focused and the first who will always talk to me when he feels things are not right and I like sincere players.

 

“He can play all across the field. I could play him in midfield and even as a striker and I know he will still give the result I request from him. He is a quite lad outside the field of play all he needs is to focus on his game at all time. I still don’t know why he has not received a national team call up because from the call ups I have seen I feel he deserves a slot,” Kerr opines.

FACT FILE

NAME: Wellington Ochieng

AGE: 21 years

Place of Birth: Kisumu-Kenya

POSITION: Defender

Clubs:

2007-2008; Urusi U16

2009-2012: Kisumu Youth Olympic Centre (KYOC)

2013-2014: Agrochemicals

2015-2016: Muhoroni Youth FC

June 2016 to Date: Gor Mahia

School;

Primary: Kibos Prisons Primary School

Secondary: St Ignatius Magadi

The Article first appeared in the Soka Magazine

22|6|24 Predictions: Back Belgium and Portugal Wins

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Saturday Popular Bets

Belgium and Portugal will be in action later today in the Euro 2024 as the race to make it to the knockout round heats up.

Belgium lost their opening game and will be fighting to make things right when they come against Romania with Portugal looking to make it to the next round when Turkey comes calling from 7pm EAT.

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The Egyptian league will be ongoing too with a chunk of games set to continue today. Pepeta experts will bring you the predictions of other games set for Saturday and extra tips to help you bank some money today. 

NB: You are encouraged to place your stake on single bets

1X2 Market (Winners in Bold)

  • Belgium v Romania
  • Georgia v Czechia
  • Turkey v Portugal 

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BTTS

  • Criciuma v Botafogo
  • Gremio v Internacional
  • Operario v Botafogo 

Over 2.5 Goals

  • ENPPI v El Gouna
  • El Gaish v Smouha
  • FC Seoul v Suwon FC 

Bet Here>>>Paripesa

Over 1.5 Goals

  • Almagro v Nueva Chicago
  • Defensores v Gimnasia Mendoza
  • Deportivo v Estudiantes 

Also Read: Friday Prediction Results

COSAFA 2024: Kenya U23 Kicks Off preparations

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The Kenya Under 23 Men’s Football team, the Emerging Stars, begun their preparation for the upcoming COSAFA Cup in Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Friday at Nyayo Stadium.

The team which will be under the tutelage of Harambee Stars assistant coach Ken Odhiambo had a total of 20 players attend the first day session with the rest expected to join on Saturday.

Also Read: Ticket prices for Gor Mahia’ coronation day revealed

Those who took part in the Friday session include Anthony Akumu and Johnstone Omurwa, as well as Alphonce Omija, Chrispine Erambo, Baron Ochieng, Haniff Wesonga, Rooney Onyango, Kaycie Odhiambo and Alpha Onyango who have previously been part of the senior team. Others were Sebastian Wekesa, Paul Ochuoga, Boniface Onyango, Geoffrey Onyango, Wilson Stanley, Shariff Musa, Bajaber Mohammed, Patrick Otieno, Hassan Beja, Fortune Omoto, and Samuel Kapen.

Kenya has been pooled in Group B alongside Zambia, Comoros, and Zimbabwe. The U23 Stars will kick off their campaign against Zambia on June 27, 2024, at the NMB Stadium. They will then face Comoros on June 30, 2024, at the Wolfson Stadium and conclude their group matches with a match against Zimbabwe on July 2, 2024, at the Wolfson Stadium.

The top teams from the three groups and the best runner-up will advance to the tournament’s semi-finals.

The squad is expected to be trimmed ahead of their departure to South Africa on Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

Kenya U23 Provisional Squad

Goalkeepers: Bryne Omondi (Bandari), Brian Bwire (Tusker), Sebastian Wekesa (Kariobangi Sharks), Ibrahim Wanzala (Kakamega Homeboyz)

Defenders: Alphonce Omija (Dhofar, Oman), Paul Ochuoga (Gor Mahia), Boniface Onyango (Tusker), Geoffrey Onyango (Kariobangi Sharks), Hanniff Wesonga (KCB), Amos Wanjala (Nastic Sports Academy, Spain), Johnstone Omurwa (Portugal), Faiz Opande (USA), Baron Ochieng (Sofapaka)

Midfielders: Wilson Stanley (Kariobangi Sharks), Shariff Musa (Gor Mahia), John Ochieng (Zanaco, Zambia), Anthony Akumu (Unattached), Chrispine Erambo (Tusker), Aldrine Kibet (Nastic Sports, Spain), Bajaber Mohammed (City Stars), Alpha Onyango (Gor Mahia), Austin Odhiambo (Gor Mahia), Rooney Onyango (Gor Mahia), Patrick Otieno (Posta Rangers), Hassan Beja (AFC Leopards), Emmanuel Osoro (Nzoia Sugar), William Gatimu (Bandari), Fortune Omoto (Kariobangi Sharks), Kaycie Odhiambo (AFC Leopards)

Forwards: Benson Omalla (Gor Mahia), Josphat Lopaga (Dynamo Brest, Belarus), Samuel Kapen (Nairobi City Stars), Moses Shummah (Kakamega Homeboyz), Zech Obiero (Leyton Orient, England), George Gitau (Middlesborough, England), Jeremy Bissau (Brooke House College, England), Jacob Onyango (Sofapaka)

Also Read: Friday Bet Prediction

Ticket Prices for Gor Mahia coronation day announced

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Gor Mahia will be up against Bidco United in their last game of the 2023/24 FKF Premier League season on Sunday, June 23, 2024.

Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has revealed that they will hand Gor the trophy after the game which will be staged at the Kenyatta Stadium, Machakos where hosts Bidco United have contacted Big Brother Event and Ticketing to handle the tickets for the game.

Also Read: Friday Best Bet

In a communication sent to media rooms on Friday, each VIP seat will retail at KES 500 for with the fans set to occupy regular seats set to part way with KES 200. Tickets will be available on Matchday outside Naivas Supermarket in Machakos and outside the stadium with the selling points set to be opened from 7 AM on match day.

Gor will be looking to bounce back from their 4-2 shocking loss to FC Talanta in midweek as they look to end the season with 73 points with Bidco currently placed 10th with 44 points after 33 games.

The coronation day will also be a perfect opportunity for head coach Johnny McKinstry to give proper goodbye to the Gor Mahia family after taking over the Gambia national team earlier in the month.

The Green Army are currently gearing for CAF Champions League competition where they are being linked with names in the region as they aim to make a mark in a test they missed last season due to a transfer embargo.

Also Read: Argentina begin title defence with a win

21|6|24 Predictions: Bet on more Goals in the Netherlands v France game

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Friday Popular Bets

The Netherlands and France will be looking for a ticket in the last 16 of Euro 2024 when they meet later today in Germany.

Both teams won their first games and would like to wrap up things as early as possible with the Didier Deschamps side coming into the tie as the favourites owing to their recent h2h stats but with the possibility of missing Kylian Mbappe, they might just lack the cutting edge.

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But before the France game, there will be ties between Poland and Austria with Slovakia and Ukraine opening the day proceedings from 4pm.

The Egyptian league also resumes today where giants Al Ahly and Zamalek will be in action against EL Dakhlya and Pharco respectively. Pepeta experts will bring you the predictions of other games set for Wednesday and extra tips to help you bank some money today. 

NB: You are encouraged to place your stake on single bets

1X2 Market (Winners in Bold)

  • Poland v Austria✔️
  • Al Ahly v El Dakhlya✔️
  • Zamalek v Pharco✔️

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BTTS

  • Slovakia v Ukraine✔️
  • Smorgon v SFK Slutsk✔️
  • Gomel v Shakhter✔️

Over 2.5 Goals

  • Netherlands v France❌
  • Chile v Paraguay U20❌
  • UAI Urquiza v Platense❌

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Over 1.5 Goals

  • Foshan v Shenhua❌
  • Wugo v Meizhou❌
  • Rizhao Yuqi v Henan❌

Also Read: Thursday Prediction Results

Copa America: Argentina open campaign with win over Canada

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Argentina kicked off their Copa América title defence with a 2-0 win over debutants Canada on Thursday night.

Canada proved they could hold their own against elite opponents, but a mighty Argentina side were too much over 90 minutes.

The World Cup winners dominated the first half and had multiple chances to take the lead but were forced to work for the eventual breakthrough.

Angel Di Maria had a chance on a breakaway within seven minutes, but he couldn’t beat rushing goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau before Alexis Mac Allister’s header was also saved. The Canadians almost grabbed a sneaky lead at half-time but Stephen Eustaquio’s header was saved by Emi Martinez from point-blank range.

Coming into the second half, Argentina finally cracked resilient Canada. Mac Allister was through in the box and sacrificed his body as Crepeau took him out. The ball then fell to Julian Alvarez and the Manchester City man scored his first Copa América goal from a tight angle.

Canada, however, eventually found their footing again. Substitute Jacob Shaffelburg almost combined with Cyle Larin, Liam Millar and Jonathan David but all their efforts fell short.

Argentina captain Lionel Messi – who had a quiet game up until the hour mark – looked to add a second but struggled to find his magical touch. Instead, he assisted substitute Lautaro Martinez, who sealed the game in the dying moments to earn all three points.

Euro 2024: Spain beat Italy to make last 16

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Spain secured their spot in the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a 1-0 win over defending Champions Italy in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday night.

They created countless chances and were utterly dominant but won by a narrow scoreline thanks to an own goal by Riccardo Calafiori in the second half.

After being kept at bay by goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma for almost an hour, Alvaro Morata’s flick-on was poked in by the knee of the unfortunate Calafiori. There was no response from Italy, who were comfortably second best, despite playing their part in a captivating match.

Two European giants meeting in the group stage of the tournament meant there were high hopes and it lived up to its billing with an electric opening half. Spain were the ones delivering most of the eye-catching stuff, moving the ball around beautifully with intensity and creativity, while Italy succeeded in keeping them out – but only just.

They had Donnarumma to thank as he made three excellent saves, tipping over Pedri’s header in the first two minutes, before later denying Fabian Ruiz and Morata. Spain’s Nico Williams should have scored when he headed wide, then struck the crossbar, but he put in an impressive display alongside teenage sensation Lamine Yamal, 16, who played with freedom, curling an effort narrowly wide later on.

Italy had just three touches in the opposition box in the first half and not a single shot on target, and did not up their game after the break. There were glimpses of a threat on the counter-attack but it was Spain who continued to rack up the chances – Pedri and Morata coming close again as they cruised into the last 16 with two wins from two matches, having not conceded.

Italy still have a chance of progressing. They face Croatia on Monday – a nation that has finished in the top three of the past two World Cups – while Spain take on Albania.

Harambee Stars midfielder extends his deal in Romania

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Romania top flight side UTA Arad has confirmed that they have extended the contract of Harambee Stars midfielder Eric Johanna Omondi for another season.

Omondi signed for Arad in October 2023 as a free agent with his initial deal set to expire in June 2024 but after a brilliant outing with the team where he emerged as the player with the most assists for his team last season, the team has decided to extend his deal for another year.

Also Read: Harambee Stars defender set for Finland move

“With the most assists in the recently concluded edition, Eric Omondi continues with UTA in the 2024-2025 season!” the club said in a short statement.

Omondi who arrived in Romania after a brief stint with Thailand side Muangthong United made 26 appearances for Arad last season and scored four goals as they finished eighth in the regular season.

The midfielder is one of the experienced players in the current Harambee Stars setup having previously featured for SK Beveren of Belgium, Jonkopings Sodra, Brommapojkarna and Vasalund in Sweden. Locally, Omondi is a graduate of the famed Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) and featured for Mathare United in the Kenyan top flight.

After sometimes in the cold in the national team, Omondi had recently been called up to the Harambee Stars squad by Engin Firat but twice failed to make the trip with the team outside the country.

Also Read: Serbia threatens to leave Euros

EXCL: Harambee Stars defender set for Finland move

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Harambee Stars defender Collins Sichenje is set to move to Finland top flight side HJK Helsingfors on a season-long loan deal Pepeta can confirm.

The defender is yet to feature for AIK this season despite shaking off an injury that had derailed his participation in preseason preps for the club; the player having found it hard to break into the first team since then.

Also Read: Serbia threatens to quit Euros

Pepeta revealed last month that the player wanted AIK to let him go if they couldn’t promise him more playing time with a chunk of clubs having expressed interest in having him on loan. Among the clubs that had shown interest in the player was Serbian side Vojvodina FC but they player has decided to return to Finland where he had a good outing last season.

Sichenje was loaned to Finnish KuPS last year where he helped them to a second-placed finish and scooped the Young Player of the Year award; KuPS missing the title because of an inferior goal difference to Helsingfors.

The deal is expected to be made official by both clubs before the end of the week with Sichenje expected to return to his parent club at the end of the year as he still has a running contract with AIK until 2026.

HJK are currently placed second in the Veikkausliiga table with 25 points, the same points as leaders KuPS who have played a game less.

Also Read: Thursday Bet predictions

Serbia threaten to quit Euro 2024

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Serbia have threatened to quit Euro 2024 if UEFA fails to take action following alleged chanting between fans of Croatia and Albania.

A section of supporters attending the 2-2 draw in Hamburg on Wednesday could be heard taking part in offensive chants aimed at Serbia.

Jovan Surbatovic, general secretary of the Football Association of Serbia, has suggested Serbia may not continue at the tournament in Germany unless the European governing body hands down sufficient punishments.

Serbia play Slovenia in their second Group C match on Thursday in Munich.

“What happened is scandalous and we will ask UEFA for sanctions, even if it means not continuing the competition,” Surbatovic told Serbia state broadcaster RTS. “We will demand from UEFA to punish the federations of both selections.

“We do not want to participate in that, but if UEFA does not punish them, we will think how we will proceed.”

On Wednesday, UEFA cancelled the media credentials of a Kosovar journalist Arlind Sadiku for allegedly making a nationalist gesture towards Serbia fans during their game against England in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday.

Copa America: Canada, Argentina set to open up tournament tonight

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The defending champions Argentina will take on Jesse Marsch’s Canada in the first game of the competition on Thursday night.

The Argentines, who won the tournament in 2021 and went on to hoist the 2022 World Cup, are no strangers to Copa America success. They reached the finals in 2015 and 2016 and finished third in 2019.

This year’s tournament brings together 10 South American teams and six from North and Central America and the Caribbean, in the 48th edition of the tournament, hosted for the second time by the United States.

Holding the tournament’s all-time record with 34 top-three finishes and 128 match victories, Argentina are a formidable force. Messi, tied for seventh place in the tournament’s all-time scoring chart with 13 goals, also holds the record with 17 assists.

On Thursday he will surpass Chile’s Sergio Livingstone record by playing in his 35th Copa America match.

Argentina, coached by Lionel Scaloni and featuring 21 players from their World Cup-winning squad, are tipped to make it to the final on July 14 in Miami, Florida.

Ranked number one in the FIFA world rankings, Argentina will face 49th-ranked Canada. With newly appointed American coach Jesse Marsch, Canada are using the tournament as preparation for the 2026 World Cup which they will co-host with the U.S. and Mexico.

Canada’s Copa America squad features only two players over age 30, goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (30) and midfielder Jonathan Osorio (32), and 15 are aged 25 or younger.

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