The regular Championship season has ended. Now the real drama begins. This week, the four teams occupying third to sixth in the final table will embark on the play-offs with one aim: victory at Wembley on Monday 25 May and a slice of the riches and prestige on offer in the Premier League. The final itself is famously billed as the richest game in world football, with roughly £120m on offer for the winner next season, before the bar is lifted again courtesy of the Premier League’s hugely lucrative new TV deal starting in 2016-17. But first, teams must survive the tense, nail-biting, exhilarating or heart-breaking experience of the semi-finals. This season’s promotion race has been the closest since the division was renamed the Championship in 2004, and with just five points separating Norwich, Middlesbrough, Brentford and Ipswich in the table, the play-offs promise to be just as tight.
Play-off Semifinal fixtures:
Friday 8 May 2015:
Brentford vs Middlesbrough 7:45 pm
Saturday 9 May 2015:
Ipswich vs Norwich 12:15 pm
Friday 15 May 2015:
Middlesbrough vs Brentford 7:45 pm
Saturday 16 May 2015:
Norwich vs Ipswich 12:15pm
Monday 25 May 2015. The winner joins Bournemouth and Watford in the promotion from Championship to the Premier League.
See shading! Manny Pacquaio implies Floyd Mayweather Jr was hugging him during their fight rather than punch him. Ironically Mayweather was arrested and jailed for domestic violence for beating his baby mama, Josie Harris, a few years ago. Do you agree?
The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) has lined up two friendlies (against Canada and New Zealand) for the African champions and female senior football team, the Super Falcons of Nigeria. NFF women committee chairperson, Dilli Onyeadinma disclosed that the Falcons will leave early for Canada after their two-leg Olympic Qualifier against Mali. “Once we are through with the qualifiers we will proceed to Canada. We have plans for the team to play against New Zealand and Canada before the Falcons play their opening game.” These friendlies are warm up matches for the Women’s World Cup to be held in Canada where the Falcons will seek to better their best outing which was a quarterfinal berth at the 1999 version in held in USA.
The 1999 team featured the following players: Ann Chiejine, Yinka Kudaisi, Martha Tarhemba, Adanna Nwaneri, Eberechi Opara, Kikelomo Ajayi, Stella Mbachu, Rita Nwadike, Gloria Usieta, Marvis Ogun, Prisca Emeafu, Judith Chime, Nkiru Okosieme, Florence Omagbemi, Maureen Mmadu, Florence Iweta, Nkechi Egbe, Patience Avre, Mercy Akide and Ifeanyi Chiejine. This team played a remarkable quarterfinal game against Brazil at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, Landover, Maryland. Brazil was leading 3 -0 in the first half before Nigeria equalized 3 – 3 in the second half (through Emeafu, Okosieme and Egbe) before loosing 4 – 3 to a golden goal scored by Brazil in the 104th minute. Some said it was a revenge of Nigeria’s golden goal against Brazil’s men’s team at Atlanta’96 Olympics.
A reminder that the BBC’s Women’s Footballer of the Year vote closes on Monday, 11 May at 10:00 BST. The nominees are Spain’s Veronica Boquete, Germany’s Nadine Kessler, Scotland’s Kim Little, Brazil’s Marta and Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala. The winner will be revealed on BBC World Service on 26 May and you can make your choice via this link or by SMS, with full details found here.
Naija and African people, let’s make out time and vote for our girl Oshoala! We don vote o!
The three rival FIFA presidential candidates to Sepp Blatter will hold talks in Switzerland on Monday with rumours one or more will pull out. Dutch FA chief Michael Van Praag, ex-Portugal international Luis Figo and FIFA executive committee member Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein will meet in Nyon. There is speculation one, or even two, candidates may drop out and support the best challenger to Blatter, 79. UEFA is based in Nyon but the talks will not be held at its headquarters. It is thought the candidates will use the opportunity to decide how they can best proceed given that Blatter is the overwhelming favourite to be re-elected. An announcement could potentially be made in the days following the meeting. On Monday Prince Ali, of Jordan, said he would not be distracted from the task of trying to oust Blatter from office. “I will continue the race until the end,” he said in a statement. Blatter, the Fifa boss since 1998, is seeking a fifth consecutive term of office and has yet to issue an election manifesto. Speaking to reporters earlier this year he said his “mission” within football’s world governing body had not yet concluded. In March, Blatter rejected a joint offer from the BBC and Sky to take part in a televised Fifa presidential election debate. The vote – which will be held on 29 May in Zurich at Fifa’s annual congress – requires the winning candidate to secure a two-thirds majority in the first round of voting. If subsequent rounds are required then a simple majority is all that is required for victory.
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson has been named Premier League manager of the month for April. The Foxes boss oversaw a run of four straight wins that lifted the club out of the relegation zone. This is the first time 51-year-old Pearson has won the top-flight managerial award. It comes after successive victories over West Ham, West Brom, Swansea and Burnley lifted City off the bottom of the table for the first time since November.
Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke is the player of the month for his five goals in four games. This included a hat-trick in Villa’s 3-3 home draw with fellow relegation-threatened QPR and the winner in his side’s 1-0 win at Tottenham, which helped put distance between Tim Sherwood’s side and the bottom three.
Togo goalkeeper Kossi Agassa has urged the country’s football authority to put its house in order as the Hawks attempt to return to the Africa Cup of Nations. Despite boasting a large array of European-based players and reaching the quarter-finals in 2013, Togo failed to qualify for this year’s tournament in Equatorial Guinea. And the highly experienced Agassa, 36, has warned that the country risks missing out again in 2017 unless a Fifa-endorsed normalisation committee, set up to run Togo’s Football Federation (FTF), brings order to the administration of football in the West African country. “Togo’s problem is a deep one and it’s all about the federation,” Agassa told BBC Sport. “We have good players but we are always facing different problems within the federation. “Bringing success is not about the players but it also includes the football authority.
Two days after saying he would be open to a re-match with Manny Pacquiao, unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather Jr. reversed course on Thursday while describing the Filipino as “a sore loser”. In an interview with Showtime to be broadcast on Saturday, Mayweather expressed his disgust that Pacquiao had blamed an injured right shoulder for his defeat by the American in the so-called “Fight of the Century” in Las Vegas. Pacquiao, the former eight-division world champion, lost a unanimous decision to Mayweather on Saturday in the richest prize fight ever before undergoing successful arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder four days later. “I’m not going to buy into the bull— … and I don’t want the public to buy into the bull—-,” Mayweather said in a sampling of quotes released by Showtime on Thursday. “He lost. He knows he lost. I lost a lot of respect for him after all of this.” Asked by Showtime whether he had noticed Pacquiao being hampered by his shoulder during their 12-round bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Mayweather replied: “Absolutely not.” He then added: “He was fast. His left hand was fast. His right hand was fast and he was throwing them both fast and strong. Excuses, excuses.” Barely one hour after the contest ended, Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, said the 36-year-old southpaw had been troubled by a previous injury to his right shoulder. “You guys saw the fight yourself. When you review the film, you’ll see how infrequently he threw the right,” Arum told reporters. On Monday, an MRI scan in Los Angeles confirmed the Filipino had a torn rotator cuff and on Wednesday he underwent surgery. Earlier this week, Mayweather said he would be willing to give Pacquiao a rematch next year, telling ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that he would delay his proposed retirement from the sport. “I will fight him in a year after his surgery,” Mayweather told Smith in a text. Mayweather has one fight remaining on his Showtime contract and has repeatedly said he intends to quit after a bout in September, although after Saturday’s fight he told reporters that he is “human” and occasionally contradicts himself. On Thursday, however, the 38-year-old American made a complete U-turn on that statement. “Did I text Stephen A. Smith and say I will fight him again? Yeah, but I change my mind,” said Mayweather. “At this particular time, no, because he’s a sore loser and he’s a coward … If you lost, accept the loss and say, ‘Mayweather, you were the better fighter’.”
Qatar have appointed Uruguayan Jose Daniel Carreno as their new head coach to steer them through the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, the Asian Football Confederation said on Friday. The former striker had been in charge of Qatar Stars League outfit Al Arabi this term after winning the Saudi league and cup double with Al-Nassr last year. He succeeds Algerian Djamel Belmadi, who was sacked last month after a winless group stage exit at the Asian Cup in January. Carreno is charged with leading Qatar to a first World Cup finals ahead of the Gulf state staging the tournament in 2022. Qatar have been drawn in Group C of the joint qualifying tournament for Russia 2018 and the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which starts next month, alongside China, Hong Kong, Bhutan and Maldives. Lebanon have also made a coaching change ahead of the qualifying campaign with Montenegrin Miodrag Radulovic tasked with leading the West Asians after replacing Italian Giuseppe Giannini. Lebanon, the surprise package in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers after making it through to the final stages for the first time, are in Group G along with South Korea, Myanmar, Laos and Kuwait. Radulovic has twice coached club sides in Kuwait, who are expected to challenge Lebanon for the runners-up spot in the pool behind the Koreans.
Brazilian great Pele is recovering in a Sao Paulo hospital after undergoing surgery on a prostate condition. The 74-year-old was operated on after being admitted to the Albert Einstein Hospital on Tuesday, having also been treated at the same hospital in November. A medical statement quoted on the Globoesporte website read: “Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pele) is in hospital after he underwent a surgical procedure of transurethral resection of the prostate. “His condition is stable and he is in a room at the hospital.” According to the statement, Pele’s condition is being monitored by doctors Gustavo Caserta Lemos and Fabio Nasri. However, it does not say when the three-time World Cup winner might be discharged. Pele was also treated at the Albert Einstein Hospital late last year after being diagnosed with a urinary tract infection that stemmed from a November 13 operation to remove kidney stones. He has only one kidney, having had one removed towards the end of his playing career.
World players’ union FIFPro have criticised the “dearth” of good soccer governance in Indonesia that has led to the cancellation of the domestic league and urged all parties to work urgently to resolve the long-running row. The Youth and Sports Ministry opted to suspend the Indonesia Football Association (PSSI) last month after growing tired at their recommendations to have two clubs banned from competing because of ownership issues ignored. The PSSI opted to cancel the season last week after the government blocked their attempts to restart the suspended 18-team league and the body have been emboldened by FIFA. The world governing body have said they will suspend the country from all international competition if the government doesn’t back down and allow the PSSI to independently operate by May 29, the same day as FIFA presidential elections.