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Barbra Banda, a rising women’s football star, ruled not eligible by gender verification test

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By Christi Young

Barbra Banda, a rising star in women’s soccer and the captain of Zambia’s national team, was ruled ineligible for this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations by “gender verification” tests, according to Zambian soccer authorities and multiple reports.

Banda, a 22-year-old forward, scored two hat tricks at last summer’s Olympics and has excelled for her Chinese club, Shanghai Shengli. But she was mysteriously “unavailable” for Zambia’s women’s AFCON opener on Sunday due to what Zambia’s soccer federation (FAZ) called “medical reasons.”

Reports soon emerged that pre-tournament tests had revealed natural testosterone levels that exceeded limits set by governing bodies. Andrew Kamanga, the FAZ president, said in a statement Wednesday that the rules are those of the African soccer confederation, CAF, and in line with regulations developed by FIFA, the sport’s global governing body.

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CAF has distanced itself from Banda’s absence, and did not respond to news reporters’ request for comment. But Kamanga told BBC Sport Africa: “All the players had to undergo gender verification, a CAF requirement, and unfortunately she did not meet the criteria set by CAF.”

An official CAF document requires team physicians to attest that players have “been examined … to verify their gender,” and that the players “do not show any perceived deviation in secondary sex characteristics and are therefore presumed to be of female gender.”

In 2011, FIFA outlined similar “gender verification” regulations that required soccer federations to “actively investigate any perceived deviation in secondary sex characteristics” — which are physical traits typically associated with one sex but not directly involved in reproduction. Entire women’s national teams have been required to confirm, via team doctors and personal medical documents, that they are women. If necessary, the regulations state, a medical officer can call for “a physical examination performed by an independent expert.”

Rights advocates and scientists have criticized the requirements, calling them invasive and discriminatory — and devised primarily by Western men, based on traditional Western gender classifications, but applied across global populations.

“These policies and procedures violate the athlete’s privacy, and the tests themselves violate bodily autonomy,” Katrina Karkazis, an Amherst professor who has studied sexuality and testosterone, told reporters.

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They also completely exclude certain athletes like Banda, who, as a woman, likely would not be allowed to compete in men’s soccer either. “For FIFA men’s competitions, only men are eligible to play,” FIFA’s regulations state.

Those regulations — although currently under review, according to FIFA — have not been walked back. And CAF’s are similar, if not stricter, according to Zambian officials.

Last fall, the International Olympic Committee updated its guidance to discourage “invasive physical examinations” and “policies that require women to modify their hormone levels to compete.” Those, the IOC said, are “disrespectful” and “potentially harmful,” and “can have serious adverse impacts on their health.”

IOC officials said they’d heard directly from athletes who explained that old regulations, which mandated testosterone suppression, “generated severe harm to their health.” In one high-profile case, South African runner Caster Semenya recently told HBO that testosterone suppression drugs “made me sick, made me gain weight,” gave her panic attacks, and made her worry about heart attacks.

“It’s like stabbing yourself with a knife every day,” Semenya said. If she wanted to compete, she “had no choice” but to take the drugs. She instead gave them up and, by extension, gave up her Olympic dreams.

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According to Zambian officials, Banda and other players faced a similar choice. FAZ spokesman Sydney Mungala told ESPN that, in the aftermath of Banda’s breakout performance at the Olympics, she was told that her testosterone levels were above CAF’s threshold, and was offered medication to lower them. “Our medics engaged the players and they weren’t willing to go through with it,” Mungala said, citing the potential side effects.

BBC Sport Africa reported that Banda had taken medication, but still did not meet testosterone requirements.

Banda’s hormone levels have not affected her participation in professional leagues. She played for DUX Logroño in Spain as a teen, then moved to Shanghai. She is now reportedly the subject of interest from Real Madrid, among other top European clubs, and could make a move this summer.

“The players being denied an opportunity to showcase their skills on African soil have been free to play at FIFA- and International Olympic Committee-organized competitions that deploy a less stringent standard,” Kamanga, the FAZ president, said in his statement.

But Banda will not appear at the African continental championship for her national team. Nor will three lesser-known teammates who, according to reports, have also been deemed ineligible by the “gender verification” process. Their “opportunity,” Mungala told ESPN, “has been lost.”

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Banda has not commented publicly on the situation. While sidelined, she has been telling her teammates: “I am with you all the way.”

FIFA spokespeople did not immediately respond to questions about the governing body’s rules. FIFA has said it is “currently reviewing its gender eligibility regulations,” and consulting medical, legal, scientific, performance and human rights experts, but it has not commented on Banda’s case. (YS). GMTNews

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Sports Identified As A Means For Youth Ascendance To Leadership Positions

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Top tournament logo, bottom kickoff by Dr Jeff-Nnamani

As YELI kicks off Football Tournament

▪️By Japheth Onyilofo

Vice President of Doctors Health Initiative and Medical Director/CEO of Novo Health Africa Ltd., Dorothy Jeff-Nnamani yesterday charged Nigeria youth to adequately gear up to assume leadership positions by taking active part in sporting activities.

Dr Jeff-Nnamani who made the call in an address at Community Secondary School field Umueze Awkunanaw, Nkanu West Local Government Area, Enugu State, at the kickoff of football tournament organized for the youth by her pet project, Youth Entrepreneurship and Leadership Initiative, YELI, expressed delight over the take off of the competition.

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Dr Jeff-Nnamani

The competition christened YELI Soccer Tournament is one of the avenues through which YELI, Dr. DorothyJeff-Nnamani’s initiative wants to give back to the society. “YELI is my pet-project that seeks to give back to society through youth entrepreneurship and leadership development”. She said.

Furthermore, she expressed confidence that the tournament would be a veritable instrument in training the youth to acquire leadership skills, “key characteristics, qualities, skills and attributes of a leader are inevitably found in sports. Effective sports men or women must have to display a higher degree of integrity and honesty”.

The philanthropist who developed interest in sports as a child hinted that it was her late father who ignited the fire in her. “As a child I watched my late father HRH Igwe, Chukwuma Nwankwo, Igwe Naezoruoha 1 of Obinagu Uwani Akpugo, who owned a football team called Olympic Football Club Enugu displaying the spirit of Sportmanship whenever his team won or lost a match”.

Her address reads in part, “I am greatly delighted to do the kick-off of YELI SOCCER TOURNAMENT, a flagship of Youth Entrepreneurship and Leadership Initiative (YELI). YELI is my pet-project that seeks to give back to society through youth entrepreneurship and leadership development…”

Continuing, she said “Looking back, As a child I watched my late father HRH Igwe Chukwuma Nwankwo Igwe Naezoruoha I of Obinagu Uwani Akpugo, who owned a sport (football) team called Olympic Football Club Enugu displaying the spirit of sportmanship when his team won or lost a match. I can still remember him telling the coaches and players about team building. He always put in his best business acumen and community leadership ability in scouting, discovering and training of football talents in the then Anambra State. One of the outstanding product of Olympic Football team is Christian Chukwu popularly known as Chairman Chukwu, whose exceptional leadership skills as the captain of our National Team earned Nigeria her first African Nations Cup trophy in 1980. Another significant person is Senator Ken Nnamani who was the senate president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 4th Republic. Agree or disagree, as popular opinions have it, Sen. Ken Nnamani’s leadership ability was the death sentence to the 3rd term ambition of the then Obasanjo regime in the year 2005.

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“In the light of the above and in view of the myriad of leadership challenges facing the nation, YELI Soccer with the theme “Leadership through Sports” is an instrument we are using to train the youths on leadership skills. From available data, there is a strong correlation between leadership and sports.

“Let me reiterate, like the African celebrated writer Chinua Achebe, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely is a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of her leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of leadership”.

The key characteristics, qualities, skills and attributes of a leader are inevitably found in sports. Effective sport men or women must have to display a higher degree of integrity and honesty. They are invariably good communicators, confident in their own ability and exude a positive attitude. Unfortunately these qualities seem to be in short supply in our country.

“On this note, I want to urge the coaches and players in this tournament to look at the skills and qualities that helped you to build a team of your best players on merit, and apply them to the way you lead in your family, community, church, business and offices. That is the magic formula our country needs; you may be surprised at the result”, she concluded.

In the opening match of the tournament, Agbani Football Club walloped Akpawfu Football Club by un replied two goals.

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According to GMTNews reporter at the event, fixtures for other matches of the tournament as released by the Coordinator, Mr. Onyema Okoani, on September 20, 2022, Ihuokpara will lock horns with Ugbawka by 2:00 PM, while Obuoffia will take on Obe by 3:50 PM. Both matches take place at Central School Nara.

September 21, 2022,
Amaechi Idodo will slug it out with Amankanu at 2:00 PM. Amodu and Amagunze will trade tackles by 3:50 PM, the matches will be played at St. John’s Field Agbani.

Others will be played as follows: 22nd Sept.2022, Nomeh Vs Nkerefi by 2:00 PM;
Amurri Vs Mburubu by 3:50 PM both at Community Primary School, Isienu Amagunze.

On 23rd Sept. 2022, Ubahu squares up with Ozalla, as Nara battles Akegbe-Ugwu. Venue is Akpugo Boys’ Secondary School, Akpugo.

September 24, 2022, Oruku will play Umueze by 2:00pm, while it will be Owoh Vs Akpugo by 3:50pm @St. John’s Field Agbani. GMTNews

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Wike Presents 2021/2022 NPFL Trophy to Rivers United FC

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Gov Wike handing trophy to the captain

~Awards team members N1m each

Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has presented Rivers United Football Club with the 2021/2022 Nigeria Professional Football League trophy in Port Harcourt.

The governor made the presentation after the match day 38 clash between Rivers United Football Club and Gombe United at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium on Sunday.

Present at the presentation of the trophy were the Minister of Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare, President, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer League Management Company, Mallam Shehu Dikko and Davidson Owumi.

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It will be recalled that Rivers United were confirmed as winners of the 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on June 26 following Plateau United’s defeat by Akwa United.

Governor Wike had before the presentation of the trophy charged Rivers United, which will be representing the country at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League next season to work assiduously for the continental prize.

The trophy 🏆

The governor assured the Rivers United team and its coaching staff of the resolve of the State government to render every required support that will make the club excel during the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League next season.

Governor Wike disclosed that the State government will ensure that Rivers United players and its management are made comfortable in Port Harcourt.

He announced the reward of One Million Naira for each member of the team for defeating Gombe United. GMTNews

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Prof Bart Nnaji: A Fellow Sportsman in Enugu Governorship Race ~Emmanuel Okala, MON,  ex – Eagles Goalkeeper

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Prof. Bart Nnaji

Like most sportsmen and women in Nigeria, I was excited when it was reported that Professor Bart Okechukwu Nnaji, the globally famous engineering genius, accepted on Sunday, April 3, 2022, to run for the Enugu State gubernatorial race. I am particularly happy for obvious reasons.

Though my parents came from Onitsha in today’s Anambra State, I have been living and working in Enugu since the 1970s, including being the goalkeeper for the Rangers International Football Club which in the 1970s and 1980s set different records in Nigeria’s history.  The second reason for my interest in Professor Nnaji is that he and I participated in the 1975 National Sports Festival at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, as representatives of East Central State which has since been split into today’s Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states.

While I was playing football, Nnaji was a star in the field and track events. He represented East Central State in about four events, including long jump and the 880-metre race where he won prizes. The 1975 National Sports Festival took place five years after the Nigerian Civil War which our heroic Eastern Nigerian people lost. All of us were determined to take our people out of the state of what the popular politician, Dr K. O. Mbadiwe, famously called a state of psychological defeatism to a state of psychological glorification. We fought like wounded lions. We were not interested in monetary benefits, but in the upliftment of our people.

How Professor Nnaji became a sportsman is a fascinating story on its own

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He was a House Captain at St Patrick’s College, Emene, Enugu. During the Inter House Sports, there was no person to represent his House in field and tracks. He felt challenged. So, he opted to enter the race for the heck of it. He surprisingly dusted all his competitors, including those who had achieved statewide fame as sports stars. His victory was considered a fluke in some quarters. A repeat was, therefore, ordered. He once again floored all rivals. Not only in 220 and 440 but also in 880 and even in long jump! This was absolutely incredible. Here was someone who never participated in sports, not even in mere practice or mock or demonstration, defeating state athletes hands down! He was naturally invited to camp to slug it well from students from other schools in the state. He dusted each and every one of them almost effortlessly.

Based on the outstanding performance of young East Central State footballers and athletes, many youngsters secured employment with the State Sports Council in Enugu. Bart Nnaji was one of them; I had already been hired as early as January, 1971. Like many of us, his excellence in sports proved more beneficial than many anticipated. Nnaji secured admission into different American universities, including Columbia, an Ivory League institution in New York, based on both academic and sports excellence, but he chose St John’s University in New York simply because it is an old Catholic institution; he has always been a devout Catholic. It is important to stress the point of Nnaji’s scholarship to study in the United States partly because of his excellence in sports; most reports I have read about his going to the United States in 1977 claim that his scholarship was based solely on his outstanding brilliance, apparently on account of his prodigious attainments in the academia. It is also important to stress that Nnaji’s record in long jump at St John’s University, where he graduated as the best student of the year in 1980 after studying Physics and Mathematics for 30 straight months, remains unbroken to this day. His name is conspicuous in the university Hall of Fame for outstanding scholastic and athletic achievements. 

Young Prof. Bart Nnaji

It is good for sportsmen and women to move into different spheres of life. It is expected that they will remember former sports persons who are now indigent, aged or incapacitated. Many of the stars of yesterday are today living in penury. They can’t afford the basics of life like medicines, food and accommodation. That is why Rangers players of the 1970s and early 1980s will remain grateful to former Governors Peter Obi and Willie Obiano for their great assistance. These two former Anambra governors have a powerful sense of history and made sure that Rangers players, regardless of their states of origin, were paid a stipend every month.

Governor Obiano went a step further as he gave each of us a bag of rice every Christmas. Let the truth be told, if not for him many of us would not have celebrated Christmas in the last few years for our families, despite our huge sacrifices for our people in our youth. Obiano even made me his Senior Special Assistant on Sports. He made sure Rangers players were recognized at every major public function in appreciation of our role to redeem the Igbo people in the wake of the Civil War. On March 9, 2022, he gave me the high award of the Commander of Anambra State at a most impressive ceremony at the newly built and magnificent Anambra International Convention Centre, Awka. 

Of course, no one can forget the efforts of such sports-loving erstwhile governors as Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, the first elected Enugu State governor, who was in the process of rehabilitating Rangers when the General Sani Abacha coup occurred on November 17, 1993. Governor Chimaroke Nnamani made me the Rangers Team Coach. Governor Sullivan Chime appointed me Sports Consultant. Under Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Rangers won both the League championship and the Football Association Cup, after many years. Ugwuanyi, a fantastic sprinter at St Theresa’s College in Nsukka, continues to support Rangers. Needless to state, Governor Jim Nwobodo of the old Anambra State was Rangers Chairman and went out of his way to promote the team. 

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We need sports-friendly governors throughout Nigeria, starting with the Southeast where sports, perhaps more than any other thing, served as an effective instrument to uplift our people after the defeat we suffered as a result of the Civil War. The East Central State Administrator in the early 1970s, Dr Ukpabi Asika, used to tell us that we needed to compete better than the rest of Nigeria not through war but through sports and other nonviolent activities. Dr Asika, a political Science lecturer at the University of Ibadan before the War, used to quote to us a statement by Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher: “Sport is war by other means”. 

We need more Professor Bart Nnajis in politics and other spheres of human life. We need sports persons in leadership positions in Nigeria. We need those who understand that sport is not just about entertainment, as the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the then Chief of Staff at the Supreme Headquarters during the General Olusegun Obasanjo military regime, reminded the nation. General Yar’Adua was speaking in the late late 1970s when Nigeria set a committee to host the first time the Africa Cup of Nations Competition in Lagos. Nigeria won the competition, the first time it ever did. I was a member of the Green Eagles squad.

Emmanuel Okala, MON, is Nigeria’s most famous National Goalkeeper ever. He wrote in from Onitsha, Anambra State

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