Friday, June 10, 2016

Hollande warns unions against disrupting tournament

French President Francois Hollande has warned against attempts to disrupt Euro 2016 with strike action, as the football tournament gets under way. France has been in the grip of industrial action, mainly over reforms to labour law. Train drivers are threatening to strike on a line serving the Stade de France in St Denis just outside Paris, where France play Romania in the first match. Meanwhile, a brawl in Marseille led to two England fans being arrested.

Tear gas was fired and police in riot gear were on the streets after the incident outside a pub shortly before midnight on Thursday. England play Russia in the city on Saturday. Football fans arriving in Paris and several other cities this week have been greeted by the sight and smell of uncollected rubbish sacks as trade unionists blockade incinerators. The country is also on high alert since the jihadist attacks on Paris in November - one of them at the Stade de France - and is recovering from flood damage in central and northern regions. Mr Hollande said everyone had a duty to ensure that the competition was allowed to proceed without incident.

"I appeal to everyone's sense of responsibility because if the state must do its duty - and it will, it will take all the measures that are necessary," he said on Thursday. "At the same time, it is also necessary that those who are taking part in actions, or who are organising them should also shoulder their responsibility... so that this great event can be a shared popular festival." Transport Minister Alain Vidalies told Europe 1 radio that if the government had to "issue orders" for trains to be driven to get fans to the opening match, "we will do so"

Sports Minister Thierry Braillard appealed to the unions to think about the football fans. "While there are times when strikes can take place, we are now on the eve of an event during which they are going to prevent some fans from getting to the stadium," he said. "That's just not normal."

But train driver Berenger Cernon, secretary general of the CGT union at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, was unapologetic.

Euro 2016 security

  • 90,000 police and other security officials to patrol fan zones and stadiums
  • Paris to have security force of at least 13,000 to patrol two zones and two stadiums
  • Seven million people expected to visit 10 French cities from Lille in the north to Marseille in the south
  • State of emergency in place after last November's jihadist attacks in Paris in which 130 people died
  • Officials deny a report that Paris prefect Michel Cadot asked for the Eiffel Tower fan zone to be shut
"It's not us who determine the calendar," he said. "We did not decide that the Euro will take place on this date. There is a social movement going on now, the re-organisation [of labour] continues, the labour law continues. "We want the negotiations on the collective agreements be open for everybody. So yes, clearly this will disturb the Euro [tournament] and we will continue the strike."  He added that efforts were under way to try to resolve the situation although so far they only concerned the state rail company (SNCF). 

Nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste have gone uncollected in Paris, according to the authorities. Zahier, a waiter in a restaurant in the Latin Quarter where rubbish spilled out of bins into the narrow, cobbled streets, told AFP news agency: "Customers are looking out at the dustbins, so obviously it's making them lose their appetite."  Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told French TV: "Of course, all the rubbish will be collected... it is already being collected." Another problem is a planned four-day Air France pilots' strike, set to start on Saturday as many football fans fly in. Talks broke down on Thursday but Air France chief executive Frederic Gagey said he expected that 70%-80% of flights would operate on Saturday.

Two England fans arrested after Marseille clash

Two England football fans have been arrested after police used tear gas to disperse a brawl in Marseille ahead of the first Euro 2016 games. Police said one of the fans was arrested for assaulting a barman and the other for violent disorder. One England supporter suffered a head injury after being hit in the face with a wooden chair. Police in riot gear were on the streets after the incident outside a pub shortly before midnight on Thursday. The clash with locals took place outside the Queen Victoria pub in the Old Port district.

Ch Supt Steve Neill, who is a British policeman in charge of England fan security in Marseille,said: "About midnight last night there was confrontation between a group of local youths and some England supporters.  "Local police moved in very quickly and utilised some tear gas to disperse the local youths and close the pub. "The use of tear gas seems quite dramatic to us from England and the United Kingdom because we are not used to seeing it - but in mainland Europe it is a regular tactic and they restored order fairly quickly."

Footage of the incident showed men hurling chairs, a fist fight outside a McDonald's and chanting England fans surrounded by police officers with dogs. Ambulances were seen arriving after police carrying riot shields moved in to separate the crowd and tear gas was used to clear the area. "We need to keep it in context - there are thousands of England supporters who will come here and have a fantastic time," Ch Supt Steve Neill said. "There is a small minority who drink too much and get involved in some anti-social behaviour."

Supporters have travelled to Marseille ahead of England's game with Russia on Saturday. Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters' Federation which runs the fans embassy in Marseille, said: "It's the police's job to prevent a confrontation and they used French methods to do so, which we're not particularly used to. "They used tear gas, which is a little bit indiscriminate for my liking, but it did the job and the problems were over."

Wales not a one-man team, says Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale has dismissed the notion Wales are a one-man team as he prepares to spearhead their Euro 2016 campaign. Wales face Slovakia on Saturday in what will be their first match at a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. Although Bale scored seven of Wales' 11 goals in qualifying for Euro 2016, the Real Madrid forward does not feel under more pressure than his team-mates. "I want to enjoy myself on the football pitch, like you do when you're a kid," he said.

"The Welsh side here now, we're all like brothers. We're friends, we joke around and play together but, when it comes down to serious business, we all fight for each other. "We have fun at the same time. We want to come here and enjoy it and, when you enjoy your football, you play your best." Bale came on for the final half an hour of Wales' 3-0 friendly defeat in Sweden on Sunday, his first international appearance since October.

Wales manager Chris Coleman opted against starting the 26-year-old after he had appeared to struggle with cramp as he played the full 120 minutes of Real Madrid's Champions League final win against rivals Atletico the previous weekend. The listless nature of Wales' performance in Sweden before Bale's introduction prompted the likes of former captain Kevin Ratcliffe to raise concerns about the team's over-reliance on the former Tottenham forward.

However, Bale refutes any suggestions he is the only attacking threat in the Welsh side. "It's never a one-man team. There's 11 men on the pitch for a start," he said. "For us, it's a squad thing. 'Together Stronger' [Wales' motto] is there for a reason. We don't just say it for no reason. "We all work hard as one unit. We attack as one, we defend as one. When we lose the ball, we all fight back together. "People write stories, they can write what they want, but we all know we work very hard on the training pitch every day and, come match-day, we work even harder."

France kick off tournament amid security, strike and weather fears - Euro 2016

Euro 2016 kicks off on Friday when hosts France face Group A opponents Romania at the Stade de France amid an unprecedented security operation.

France remains under a state of emergency after last November's attacks on Paris, when 130 people were killed. More than 90,000 police, soldiers and private guards will be deployed at the tournament, with seven million fans expected to visit the 10 host cities. The US and British governments have both warned fans they could be at risk.
But organisers Uefa and French authorities insist they have done everything possible to keep the 2.5 million spectators expected at the 51 matches safe. 
Paris alone will have a security force of at least 13,000 to patrol two zones and two stadiums, with the country's state of emergency allowing police extra powers to conduct searches and put people under house arrest.
France coach Didier Deschamps, whose side were playing Germany in an international friendly when the Stade de France was targeted by suicide bombers, says November's attacks evoked "very strong emotions".

"We lived through some tragic moments," he said. "So it will remain with us, even if with time we can think about it a little less. "Today to have zero risk doesn't exist, sadly, but we have to go forward and these Euros have to be a festival of football and festival has to be as beautiful as possible." Richard Walton, the Metropolitan Police's former head of counter-terrorism, said the threat to Euro 2016 is "more acute than for any other international sporting event in history". With a reported 500,000 British fans among the seven million supporters in France, the British Foreign Office has warned that stadiums, fan zones and transport hubs are possible targets for attack. 

England goalkeeper Joe Hart insists players will adhere to the advice of security officials at the 24-team championships. "We're a team of footballers, but we're a group," he said. "We work together with the security and press officers. "Everyone's got their various jobs and I'm very confident on everyone completing them."  France's junior minister for sports, Thierry Braillard, said official fan zones are the only outdoor public spaces where screens will be installed, with bar and restaurant owners told not to host large outdoor TV broadcasts. He added: "We can't accept unorganised gatherings because police forces don't have the means to secure them." Paris is just one of nine host cities preparing for the tournament, with games also taking place in Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse. 

Jean-Christophe Bouvier, defence secretary for the Lille region, says 200 security staff will be inside the city's fan zone, with 3,400 police and military forces working each day and hundreds extra on call if needed. President of the Lille region, Damien Castelain, said: "It's a very secure place in the fan zone. "It's easier to secure one place like this one than have people going to several places where it would have been impossible to make people safe." Mat Bastard, Lille's Euro 2016 Ambassador, added: "If France win, it'll be so, so good, but my first victory is everything is well and everyone has fun." 

Nigeria's Former National Soccer Coach, Dies

Super Eagles coach, Christain Chuckwu as described the death of Steven Keshi as the greatest shock he has ever received in his life.
Keshi was reported to have died of cardiac arrest at the early hours of Wednesday.

Chuckwu while reacting to the death of the former Super Eagles captain and coach, noted that Keshi did not deserved to die now as he has done a lot for the country. His death his the greatest shock I have ever received in my life. What I am praying now is that his soul should rest in perfect peace," he said in a telephone interview with our reporter in Lagos.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Nigeria Beat Luxembourg

Super Eagles secured 3-1 victory over the Red Lions of Luxembourg at the Stade Josy Barthel.
Brown Ideye, Kelechi Iheanacho and Odion Ighalo were the goal scorers for Nigeria while Till Vincent netted for the host.
A young and vibrant side prevailed over one of Africa's strongest teams, Mali, at the Stade Robert Diochon in Rouen, France on Friday, with England -based Kelechi Iheanacho scoring the only goal 13 minutes from time.