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Axe falls again on previously banned Imamu Maliki, referee of Bendel Insurance versus Remo Stars match

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Imamu Maliki Umar of Kano  who refereed the Bendel Insurance versus  Remo Stars on Sunday has been sidelined alongside the assistant referee Sunday Azi from Plateau State.

Both are among the 14 referees that are being sanctioned in the current Nigeria Premier League.

Last year, the NFF banned the same referee for two years, but surprisingly has made a return before the expiration of the ban.

On July 8, 2022, in a match between Niger Tornadoes FC Vs. Lobi Stars FC  the NFF  Committee ruled that Imam Malik Umar was  banned from all football related activities for two  years.

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On Sunday in Benin, back-in-action  Imamu Maliki  belatedly ruled a foul throw that preceded the goal by Remo Stars after his assistant referee Sunday Azi from Plateau State raised his flag after almost five passes of the ball that eventually resulted into the controversially disallowed goal.

Both officials are among the 14 referees that have now been benched.

Their poor performances ruled the media space and apparently prompted the Referee Development Unit of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to act.

In aftermath, the axe has fallen on 14 referees. Incidentally, matches involving Niger Tornadoes had the most recurring controversial refereeing.

In seven matches in which referees were sanctioned,  three involved Niger Tornadoes.

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In their Matchday 2 home match with Rivers United, Referee Bawa Buhari of Gombe has been sanctioned. So also are referee Chukuka Jahlove of Anambra State and Assistant Referee Akinwale Tomiwa of Oyo State, both officials in Niger Tornadoes home game against Bayelsa United on Matchday 4.

Their Matchday 5 duel with Sporting Lagos also had controversial officiating leading to the sanctioning of Assistant Referee II, Zechariah Nde of Delta State.

Also under the hammer are Referee Saeed Abdulaziz of Katsina State and Assistant Referee Jimmy Aimugbonrie of Edo State who handled the Gombe United versus Plateau United Matchday 5 match.

Perhaps the most controversial officiating decision was in the Kwara United home game with Sporting Lagos when a penalty kick was awarded even when the ‘offending’ player had his hands at his back while the ball hit him just above his torso.

The officials sanctioned are Referee Brown Ebenezer of Abia State and Assistant Referee Atuwho Morrison of Delta State.

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In the Matchday 6 of the Sunshine Stars versus Abia Warriors, all unnamed four match officials are sanctioned.

The memo conveying the sanctioning was sent to the Chief Operating Officer of the Nigeria Premier League by the Referee Development Unit of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)

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.

Premier League

Another Nigerian blood replaces Ndidi at Leicester

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Wilfred Ndidi who has just left Leicester City will have another Nigerian blood replacing him.

Leicester has never been without a Nigerian since Ahmed Musa joined in 2016. Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho joined in 2017.

Another Nigerian blood, Caleb Okoli, a centre back, has just been signed from Italian  Serie A side Atalanta on a five-year contract. Born in Itali, Caleb Okoli is Igbo and Yoruba by descent.

The 22-year-old, who spent the last season on loan at Frosinone Calcio, represented Italy at the European Under-21 Championship last year.

“I think now is the right moment (for me) to make a step forward and a very big one. I’m very happy with the choice I made, so I’m very excited to start in the Premier League,” Okoli said in a statement. The clubs did not disclose financial details of the deal.

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Premier League

Ruud van Nistelrooy returns to Man United

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United legend Van Nistelrooy is expected to be announced as one of Erik ten Hag's assistants

Manchester United legend, Ruud van Nistelrooy has been spotted being driven into Carrington, the training ground of Manchester United.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) and Rene Hake arrived at Manchester United’s training ground

Reports have it that the Dutchman is set to be appointed as one of Erik ten Hag’s new assistant coaches.

He played for Manchester United from 2001 to 2006.

Now  48, he reportedly turned down job offer from Burnley to return to his old club, having previously led PSV Eindhoven to second place in the Eredivisie and victory in the Dutch Cup.

He is being joined by Rene Hake, 52, who was persuaded to give up his job as Go Ahead Eagles manager despite leading the Deventer-based club into Europe for only the third time in their history.

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Chelsea make improved offer for Victor Osimhen

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Chelsea have increased their efforts to lure long-term target and Super Eagles striker, Victor Osimhen, to Stamford Bridge.

According to TEAMtalk, Chelsea is prepared to include Romelu Lukaku and Cesare Casadei in a deal with Napoli to reduce the cost of acquiring Osimhen.

In December, the 25-year-old forward extended his contract with Napoli following a stellar season, committing to stay at the Diego Maradona Stadium until 2026.

Despite being linked with potential transfers to Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, and other elite teams, recent events have changed the landscape.

Earlier reports claimed Chelsea withdrew due to concerns about his injury history, PSG failed to attract his interest, and Arsenal was unable to afford his release clause. As a result, the Super Eagles star was expected to remain at Napoli.

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However, recent reports confirm that the Blues are willing to proceed with the deal regardless. Lukaku is interested in a switch to join Antonio Conte at Napoli, while Osimhen is keen on a move to the English Premier League.

While there have been no comments from Osimhen’s camp or Chelsea, this summer transfer window is anticipated to be one of the hottest, with Man United, Chelsea, and Arsenal set to lock horns for Osimhen’s signature.

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