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Nigerian-born Dele Alli opens up about pill addiction, sexual abuse as child

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Premier League - Everton v Nottingham Forest - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - August 20, 2022 Everton's Dele Alli warms up as a substitute during the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith/File Photo

Nigerian-born Dele Alli who was severally booed five years ago by Nigerian fans during a Super Eagles friendly match with England  has revealed that he was sexually abused as a child and dealt drugs before he was adopted by an “amazing” family who helped him to turn his life around.

Alli, a former England international and Everton midfielder, also said in an interview with Gary Neville on The Overlap that he recently spent six weeks in rehab as a result of an addiction to sleeping pills.

Alli joined Everton on a two-and-a-half-year deal in February last year in a bid to revive his career after seven years at Tottenham Hotspur. He moved to Turkish side Besiktas on loan for the 2022-23 season and came out of rehab last month.

“It’s been going on for a long time without me realising it, I was doing (sleeping pills) to numb the feelings I had – I didn’t realise I was doing it for that purpose,” the 27-year-old said.

“I’ve definitely abused them too much. It got really bad at some points and I didn’t understand how bad it was but I was never dealing with the root of the problem – when I was growing up the traumas I had, the feelings I had and I tried to deal with it all by myself. I lost myself for a few years.”

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Alli, who was part of the England team that reached the 2018 World Cup semi-final in Russia, was born in Milton Keynes in central England to a Nigerian father and an English mother. His father left shortly after his birth.

He spent two years in Nigeria with his father as a child before returning to England. At the age of 13, he was taken in by Alan and Sally Hickford.

In the interview, he spoke emotionally about his troubled childhood. He said he was sexually abused by a friend of his mother when he was six-years-old and was dealing drugs by the age of eight.

“At six, I was molested,” he said. “I was sent to Africa to learn discipline. Then I was sent back. Seven, I started smoking. Eight I started dealing drugs.

“Eleven, I was hung off a bridge by a guy from the next estate.

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“At 12, I was adopted. And from then, I was adopted by an amazing family, I couldn’t have asked for better people to do what they’ve done for me.”

Everton said they had offered Alli their full support.

“The club has been supporting Dele in both his return to fitness and overcoming the personal challenges highlighted in his interview,” the club said in a statement.

“Everyone at Everton respects and applauds Dele’s bravery to speak about the difficulties he has faced, as well as seek the help required.”

Alli, who twice won the PFA Young Player of the Year award while at Tottenham, is injured at present but could feature next season for Sean Dyche’s Everton.

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“I’m feeling good in that sense, probably another few weeks (away from returning from injury) and then get back playing and enjoying football which is what I want to do,” he said.

“So, I’m ready for a big season and I’m more prepared to deal with any challenge that comes with it.”

-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

International Football

Two Moroccan football players lost at sea, says club official

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Abdellatif Akhrif, IRT player reported missing off the coast of M'diq this Saturday, July 6, 2024. © COPYRIGHT: IRT

Two Moroccan players from top-flight soccer side Ittihad Tanger have been missing at sea since Saturday after strong currents drifted their small yacht, a club official said on Sunday.

They were in a group of five players from the club who went cruising off the northern city of Tangier when strong currents and heavy winds drifted their yacht away as they were swimming in deep waters, club deputy president Anass Mrabet told Reuters.

“Three players have already been rescued on Saturday, while research is still ongoing for the missing Salman Harraq and Abdellatif Akhrif,” he said.

The players did not have buoys on them when they jumped from the small yacht to swim, he said citing recounts by rescued players.

While Akhrif, 24, is already a full member of the squad, Harraq, 18, was about to move up to the senior team this year, Mrabet added.

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Ittihad Tanger have been in the Moroccan top flight since 2015 and won the league title for the first and only time in their history in the 2017-18 season. However, they have struggled in the lower half of the standings in recent years.

-Reuters

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FIFA launches ‘Football Manager’ World Cup with $100,000 in prize money

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FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development and former soccer manager Arsene Wenger speaks during the 74th FIFA Congress at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

FIFA will host its first ever FIFAe World Cup of Football Manager this year to crown the best virtual manager on the highly-popular video game, world soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

FIFA is partnering with Sports Interactive, the developers of the game that has sold millions of copies and has also been used by several football clubs to scout players and opponents thanks to its extensive database.

Players will compete for $100,000 in prize money in the final event from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.

“This competition requires participants to demonstrate a profound understanding of football strategy and tactics,” said former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is the ambassador for the esports event.

“Success demands not only mastery of game mechanics but also in-depth football knowledge, making this format a fascinating blend.”

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FIFA said in the inaugural year of the event, selected member associations will be invited to be represented at the final event.

Member associations from all six confederations are expected to be invited while players can sign up on FIFA’s website.

-Reuters

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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