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‘From Goals To Match Winners,’ African Top Performers In The Premier League So Far

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We’ve so far witnessed two match weeks in the English Premier League this season, and African players have played a huge part of the action.

From scoring goals – including match winners – to making assists, and leading from the front, to lining up defensively or coming off the bench for their respective sides.

Five of the 23 goals in the opening week’s set of matches were scored by African players. And 17 African players featured in the just concluded match week two, accounting for three of the 44 goals scored.

But, with only 18 matches played in total, some of the African contingent have no doubt made early statements of intent.

With some displays already grabbing headlines…

News Central sports looks at a few of the them who have shone brightly for the continent.

Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal):

After starting both games for Liverpool – their 4-3 win against Leeds United – and twice finding the back of the net against Chelsea at Stamford bridge. Sadio Mane looks to have picked up from where he left off last season, playing a huge part to end Liverpool’s 30-year-wait to bring the title to Anfield, albeit in a season delayed by a pandemic.

The reigning African Footballer of the year caused problems for Chelsea’s back line at the weekend, forcing a red card on Andreas Christensen after the Blues defender wrestled him down to reduce Frank Lampard’s side to 10 men. He also showed determination and quick reaction to score his second at the bridge, following a mistake by the Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

If Liverpool are to retain their title, Mane is sure to be front and centre of things, alongside his other African teammates.

One of whom is…

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt):

Salah opened his account with a hat-trick against Leeds – the first to be registered this season, and the Egyptian has so far, as always, looked nothing short of dangerous for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Salah’s electric presence and goals have been crucial for Liverpool since he joined them in the summer of 2017, helping them to both a domestic title and European glory in the Champions League in 2019. And many of their fans, especially those in Africa, will hope the goals keep coming and in double figures this season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal and Gabon):

The Arsenal captain got on the score sheet in their opening game of the season against Fulham on 12 September which the Gunners won 3-0, before putting pen to paper three days later on a new contract to keep him at the Emirates Stadium – a priority accomplished for  manager Mikel Arteta after the Gabonese striker’s exploits in the Gunners FA final and Community Shield trophy-winning victories.

Aubameyang has already started repaying that confidence back, providing the assist for Alexandre Lacazette’s opener at home against West Ham in their second game at the weekend. And should Arsenal have a crack at a title challenge this season, Aubameyang will be the obvious target man.

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast):

It took only 13 minutes for the Ivorian to grab a winner for Palace against Southampton on match day 1, before scoring a second-half brace at Old Trafford against his former club Manchester United. Zaha’s future has been the subject of lots of speculation in recent years, having been linked to moves away from the club and the 27-year-old has never been one to be shy about his intentions.  

Palace manager Roy Hodgson will be hoping to keep Zaha at Selhurts Park by the close of the transfer window on 5 October, but with such match-wining displays, a move, though hard to see based on his current high market value – especially in a pandemic – might not be entirely ruled out for an eager talisman like Zaha.

Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City and Nigeria):

Not one known for scoring many goals, Ndidi helped Leicester City keep a clean sheet in their 3-0 win at newly promoted West Brom on the opening weekend, whilst starting in the centre of a defensive back-four set-up for the Foxes. He also had the same placement in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Burnley at the King Power Stadium.

But a position his manager Brendan Rodgers explained is temporary: “Wilf is a player that I have real confidence in,” said Rodgers.  “He played the position [centre-back] very well and he has the attributes to play there. We don’t want him there for a long period of time.”

Ndidi’s tackling ability and pressing in midfield may not have been entirely missed, but likely to be in more demand as a main stay for Leicester City and whatever their ambitions for the season might be.

Other mentions…

Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace and Ghana):

Schlupp has looked good on the left flank both wins for Palace, and he provided the assist for Andros Townsend’s opener at Old Trafford. Schlupp’s contributions to the Palace attack has also helped flourish the combination between fellow countryman Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha upfront.  

Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace and Senegal):

AnotherAfrican in the Palace starting set-up. The 30-year-old centre-back showed solidity at the back at home against Southampton and away against Odion Ighalo’s Manchester United.

Yves Bissouma (Brighton & Hove Albion and Mali):

The 24-year-old started both games Brighton this season, but now faces a three-match after getting sent off in their second with a straight red card for catching Newcastle’s Jamal Lewis in the face from a high black-heeled kick.   

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Bread Crisis: Libya’s Central Bank Rejects New Letters of Credit for Flour

Governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) Al-Siddiq Al-Kabeer emphasised that the letters of credit, which were opened in 2020 for the supply of flour, were appropriate for the amounts consumed in Libya.

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In response to the Head of Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj’s regarding requests for new letters of credit to import flour, the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) Al-Siddiq Al-Kabeer has on Sunday issued a statement.

Al-Kabeer emphasised that the letters of credit, which were opened in 2020 for the supply of flour, were appropriate for the amounts consumed in Libya.

The General Union of Bakers in Tripoli shut down all bakeries in the city on Saturday, citing an increase in the price of ingredients. This move was justified by the union’s head, Saeed Boukhreiss who claimed the new prices were necessary due to the new prices of flour being linked to lack of supply by the mills’ company.  

The Governor explained that the PM’s call represents a grave breach of the country’s financial law and public spending controls, stipulated in the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). He further stated that the state’s balance of foreign exchange with the Libyan Foreign Bank (LFB) is linked to sovereign revenues.

Al-Kabeer also countered rumours suggesting that it had opened letters of credits for importing unnecessary food items.

He further reminds the GNA officials on their obligation to control the country’s borders and ports to curb the smuggling of subsidised goods, especially flour and fuel.

Bakeries reopened Monday after the Bakers’ Union reached an agreement with the control authorities. Bread prices have been impacted largely by flour shortage, the prices of wheat which increased globally by 40% and the new exchange rate of the Libyan dinar to U.S. dollar on the confectionary sector. Bakeries may face dire straits in the coming months if state authorities do not resolve the problem satisfactorily.

In 2018, inflationary pressure and dwindling oil prices among other factors saw bakeries in Tripoli abruptly shut for two weeks, thereby triggering a food crisis around bread – a staple for many Libyans.

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Chevron Nigeria, Host Communities Disagree over Reported Oil Spill in Bayelsa

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Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) has held divergent views with members of its host communities in Bayelsa on leakages reported at Funiwa Oil Fields operated by the oil firm off Bayelsa Coast.

The CNL’s host communities include Koluama 1 and 2, Ekeni, Ezetu 1and 2, Fishtown, Foropa and Sangan in Southern Ijaw and Brass Local Government Areas.

It would be recalled that fishermen operating near the Atlantic Ocean coastline had on Sunday reported an oil leak suspected to be from the Funiwa Fields.

Reacting to the development, Esimaje Brikinn, General-Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Chevron said that there was no oil leakage from its operations in Bayelsa.

“CNL, operator of the joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), (the NNPC/CNL JV), is aware of media reports suggesting an oil leakage from Funiwa field in Bayelsa.

“We wish to state that contrary to these reports, there has been no such oil leakage or spill incident at any of our facilities in Bayelsa State.

“Therefore, any observed crude oil in the environment is not from our operations. CNL remains committed to protecting people and the environment and conducting its operations reliably and efficiently,” he said.

However, Chief Young Fabby, a Community leader in Koluama 1, in an interview said that the denial by Chevron was merely a ploy to evade liability for the leakage and associated pollution.

He said that Chevron had deployed several helicopters to apply chemical dispersants to dissolve and breakdown the oil deposits on the water surface without the knowledge of stakeholders in a bid to cover up the spill.

“We are precise on the location of the oil discharge; it is at Well No 5, within the Funiwa field location. We have video clips of the leakage and wondered why Chevron is denying this incident.

“They have been using chemicals without first informing the regulators and the community, as we speak, I am at the coastline and we have a heap of nets stained with oil and the crude oil has hit the coast,” Fabby said.

Another community leader from the area, Mr Mathew Sele-Epri, said that there was ample evidence of the oil spill, adding that he personally went to the site to verify the claim.

He said that all the operators near the area had denied liability and that the community leadership would ask for the assistance of the Bayelsa Ministry of Environment to determine the source.

“All the companies near the spot, Chevron and Conoil have denied ownership of the oil and we now wonder who has the oil, we are going to engage the state ministry of environment to help us track the source.

“They will bring the regulators to take samples and match the ones we have taken and conduct a fingerprint test to find out which of the operators is responsible,” Sele-Epri said.

When contacted, Mr Idris Musa, Director General, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), said that the agency would dispatch its officials to the Funiwa field to ascertain the source and cause of the leak.

First Exploration and Production, an indigenous oil firm operating Oil Mining Leases 83 and 85 acquired from Chevron following its divestment from some of its assets in the area where it still retains interests in some fields.

Officials of Conoil and First Exploration and Production have yet to respond to requests for comments on the incident.

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Egypt’s First Flight to Qatar after Three Year Dispute

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Egypt’s national carrier, EgyptAir, resumed flights to Qatar on Monday following the settling of a regional dispute that erupted in June 2017.

The plane left Cairo en route to Doha carrying 38 passengers and is set to return later with 91 people on board, Cairo airport sources said.

The Egyptian and Qatari national carriers last week announced the resumption of flights between the Arab countries after a Saudi-led bloc including Egypt ended a boycott of the Gulf emirate.

Qatar Airways will also resume flights to Cairo on Monday, while flights to Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria are scheduled to start on Jan. 25.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt signed a declaration with Qatar ending a rift that lasted for three and a half years.

In June 2017, the quartet severed diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist militant groups, an accusation that Doha denies.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have announced the reopening of their airspace to Qatar.

Emirati low-cost airline Air Arabia is also scheduled to resume flights between the UAE’s Sharjah city and Doha on Monday.

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