Cameroon to address pitch worries

Cameroon’s national stadium will shut during April in a bid to improve pitch quality ahead of Africa Nations Cup and World Cup qualifiers.

Built in 1972, the Stade Omnisports Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde has come under criticism locally and internationally due to the deteriorating playing surface.

Home to Cameroon Elite 1 sides Canon Yaounde and Tonnerre Yaounde, the stadium will close in the hopes of improving the turf quality prior to 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June.

“The minister for sports and physical education has instructed that all measures be taken at the administrative level for the stadium to be ready for use before the June hostilities,” Cameroon press officer Linus Pascal Fouda said in a statement.

Cameroon will host DR Congo on June 2 in the first round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying, before a home match against Guinea Bissau on June 16 in 2013 Cup of Nations qualifying.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Bielsa reciprocates Guardiola praise

Athletic Bilbao manager Marcelo Bielsa has heaped praised on Barcelona counterpart Pep Guardiola ahead of their sides’ La Liga clash.

Guardiola said on Friday that he looked up to the Argentine and wanted to learn from him, however, the South American feels that the roles should be reversed.

“The teacher and the student are defined by achievements,” Biesla told reporters.

“Look at Guardiola’s work and mine and you will see who is the student and who is the teacher.

“No, I’m not the teacher, because the things that I have done in football are not comparable with what Guardiola has done.

“I think he’s a coach who has built a team which plays like no other in the last 25 years. And they not only play in a different manner, but in a better manner as well.

“Do I admire him? Of course. He was an emblematic player, and now an unforgettable part of a winning club, where he has built his team,” Bielsa concluded.

Guardiola has won two Champions League and three La Liga titles among several other trophies as Barcelona manager.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Halsey behind Petrov in cancer fight

English Premier League referee Mark Halsey has offered to share his experience of battling leukaemia with Aston Villa’s Stiliyan Petrov.

Bulgarian Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia this week, a disease 50-year-old Halsey successfully overcame in 2009.

Halsey returned to refereeing in 2010, and has promised to support Petrov in any way he can.

“I’ve refereed Stiliyan a lot and he is a lovely guy,” Halsey told The Daily Mail.

“It needs Stiliyan to get his friends and family, and the whole of football, round him. People will rally round and that is a major help.

“He has got to go about his life as normally as possible. There will be bad days, but you get them in life anyway.

“I have offered Villa my support. You don’t know what it is like until you go through it. I have had chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“My wife, Michelle, has leukaemia and is on drugs every day. She leads a normal life, too, although she also has her bad days.

“If Stiliyan wants to give me a call, I am here morning, noon and night.

“At first your whole world caves in. My instant reaction was, ‘Am I going to die?’ But you have got to battle.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Kean eyes United double

Blackburn manager Steve Kean is eager to steer his side to a rare league double over Manchester United on Monday.

Kean’s side recorded a sensational 3-2 Premier League victory at Old Trafford earlier this season, which helped turn around their season.

They host the Red Devils at Ewood Park looking to increase the three-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone.

“It’s a tough one but we had a positive result earlier in the season,” Kean said.

“We played very well there so there’s no reason why we can’t acquit ourselves well again at our place.”

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson spoke kindly of Kean midweek, lauding his fellow Scotsman’s impact during a difficult season at the Lancashire club.

Kean was appreciative of the comments and reciprocated the praise.

“It’s fantastic when a manager who has won what he has finds your number and speaks to you in person. I take my hat off to him,” Kean said.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Mwafulirwa considers European switch

Malawi international Russel Mwafulirwa has not ruled out a return to European football following his departure from IFK Norrkoping.

Mwafulirwa, 29, returned to South Africa’s Premier Soccer League following the end of his three-year contract with Swedish club IFK.

The former Ajax Cape Town player has been training with Jomo Cosmos, where he played between 2003 and 2006.

“I have been training with Cosmos for sometime but my work permit is taking too long to be processed,” he told Goal.com.

“We are yet to agree on one or two things with Cosmos but they have made me a good offer.”

“In the event that it does not work out here then I will obviously head back to Europe. I will not mention the names but a number of teams have shown interest in me. Returning to Europe is not beyond realms of possibility.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Frey appreciates Inter experience

Genoa goalkeeper Sebastien Frey has highlighted the importance of his time at Inter Milan ahead of the teams’ Serie A clash on Sunday.

Frey, 32, played for Inter between 1998 and 2001, before moving to Parma.

He joined Genoa ahead of the 2011/12 season.

As he prepares to lock horns with his former club, the French goalkeeper expressed his appreciation for Inter’s role in advancing his career.

“Inter are the club who brought me to Italy, I can only be grateful to them,” he said.

“I also hold president Massimo Moratti in great esteem.

“Inter have it written in their name, they are a club where foreigners have always been important and who helped bring success in the last few years.”

The match against Genoa will be Inter’s first under interim coach Andrea Stramaccioni, who took over from the sacked Claudio Ranieri last week.

The visitors are eighth in Serie A, and have managed just two wins from 13 matches in all competitions, but Frey is expecting a tough challenge nonetheless.

“This will be a complicated match,” he said.

“We will have to give our best.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Wenger confident of keeping key duo

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is confident that key duo Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott will sign new deals at the club.

Van Persie has been repeatedly linked with a move away from the Emirates, with Real Madrid and Manchester City believed to be keen on the striker.

Walcott’s time in north London has also come under increasing scrutiny from the club’s fans.

However, Walcott’s form has taken a turn for the better over recent weeks, and Wenger remains sure that both players will commit themselves to the club.

“With Theo and Van Persie, that will be sorted out at the end of the season,” Wenger told reporters.

“Theo is playing very well. He has improved his technical level a lot, his links with other players and his calmness in front of goal. He is developing very well.

“It is something I will look to sort out very early. Yes, I am confident they will sign. To say that I am always confident, yes I am.

“We want to keep our best players.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Lotito has faith in Lazio charge

Lazio president Claudio Lotito says his team are in control of their own destiny in the race for Champions League qualification.

Lazio are third in Serie A, and have nine matches of the season remaining as they seek to secure a place in UEFA’s elite club competition.

Lotito is confident Lazio, who hold a three-point advantage over fourth-placed Napoli, can get the job done.

“I am convinced that Lazio can play on equal terms with all teams,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Every game has its own story. Lazio, however, are the masters of their own destiny. If the team plays with a spirit of sacrifice and is motivated, we can get great results.

“Nine games left, nine finals. We are in the lead and the match with Parma will be difficult against a team that is in need of points. The team must give 101% to get a result.”

Lazio looked set to lose their coach when Reja attempted to resign in February, but Lotito claimed any problems behind the scenes have now been resolved.

“Everything with Reja is okay, we’ve cleared up any misunderstanding and we are not looking for anyone to take his place,” he said.

“Lazio will buy three or four players in the summer so the project continues.”

Lazio are away to Parma in Serie A on Saturday.

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Garcia predicts tough Toulouse test

Lille coach Rudi Garcia is expecting a closely fought and physical contest when his side face Toulouse in Ligue 1.

Reigning champions Lille host Toulouse at Stadium Norde on Sunday.

The sides sit third and fourth respectively in the league standings, and are locked in a battle for the final UEFA Champions League spot.

Toulouse go into the game on a fine run of form, having won five of their last six games.

Lille have also impressed in recent weeks, picking up maximum points from their last two outings.

“It’s definitely an important game for Toulouse,” Garcia said.

“But they’re a direct contender with us and we are at home, we are at home, so we hope the Stadium Nordics crowd will help us to win this game, because it s highly possible that we won’t see a great game on Sunday.”

“I mean it will be an intense game, with a lot at stake.”

“Toulouse have the best Ligue 1 defence, they are a very athletic team, who score half of their goals via free-kicks or corners, they love tough battles and they make a lot of mistakes.”

“But they are here, doing well in the league.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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Arteta shrugs off Cesc comparisons

Mikel Arteta has urged Arsenal fans not to compare him to former club captain and fellow Spaniard Cesc Fabregas.

Arteta arrived at the Emirates Stadium from Everton in August 2011, following the sale of Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City.

The former Rangers and Real Sociedad player has made 34 appearances in all competitions during his first season at Arsenal, scoring five goals.

Like Fabregas, Arteta is a graduate of Barca’s famed youth academy, but the older man has asked for time before being judged against his predecessor’s high standards.

Arteta told The Evening Standard: “Cesc wasn’t the same player in his first season as in his last, so how can anyone expect me to be the Cesc Fabregas of last season in my first?

“I knew because everybody was saying to me, ‘Mikel, you are going to go to Arsenal and it’s going to be really tough for you because you are going to be under so much pressure. Cesc is leaving, Nasri is leaving, the team are not doing well.’

“But I said, ‘I don’t care, I want to go to Arsenal. Arsenal are the club I have to play for.’

“I will show that I am no Fabregas, I am no Nasri, I am myself.

“I will try my best for the team. If people want to compare me then it is up to them but I know that if I do that, I am making a mistake on the first day. I didn’t want to waste any time.

While Arteta does not wish to be directly compared to Fabregas, he did seek out his countryman for advice on Arsenal prior to signing for the north London club.

“I have talked to Cesc a few times,” he said.

“I rang him when I was going to join because I wanted to know things.

“When you have been in football in different places, there are certain things inside the club you have to know before agreeing to move there. That’s what I asked him about and he was very helpful.”

Sat 31 March, 2012
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