Vanessa ObiohaWorld Cup opening ceremonies are usually a spectacle to behold. It avails the host country the opportunity to showcase its culture and beauty to the rest of the world. The fanfare is usually similar to a circus show and involved gymnasts, musicians and other side attractions that depict the spirit of the game. Due to the array of activities involved, opening ceremonies are usually lengthy but that was not the case in Russia yesterday when FIFA World Cup 2018 officially kicked off.It was the shortest in the history of world cup tournaments. In thirty minutes, English pop-star Robbie Williams and Russian Soprano artiste Aida Garifullina the thousands of football fans with their songs, the Russian President Vladimir Putin made a speech, national anthems sung, and the game began. So fast-paced were the performances that at one blink, moments were missed.The ceremony began with a pre-recorded video of the violinist Yuri Bashmet and the pianist Daniil Trifonov performing Tchaikovski on a floating platform on the Moscow river. Brazilian football star Ronaldo, a child and Robbie Williams waltzed into the lush green field that accompanied by dancers and other performers. Without much ado, Williams launched into singing ‘Let Me Entertain You’ from his 1997 album ‘Life Thru a Lens’. Just as he was rounding up the performance, the harpist Alexander Boldachev began to play. Aida Garifullina made an impressive entrance by arriving in a firebird. The colourful performers in the pitch played with the firebird’s feathers while Williams returned to perform ‘Feel’, the lead single from his 2002 album Escapology.The performance quickly segued to another hit track of the artist ‘Angels’. He was joined by Garifullina while 32 pairs consisting of a matching man and a woman dressed in the colours of the participating teams took to the field. Meanwhile 211 kids of the â€œFootball for Friendshipâ€ programme waved their flags while spectators held golden stars. Russian model Victoria Lopyreva brought the official ball in. The ball went into space earlier this year, spent some time on the International Space Station and got back on June 3. Ronaldo however performed the symbolic kick by passing the ball to the mascot, Zabivaka. Robbie although not captured on camera performed one last song before Putin took to stage to make his welcome address.In a rousing speech, Putin whose country won the bid to host the World Cup eight years ago welcomed the world to his country and encouraged them to bask in their hospitality.â€œWe have been responsibly preparing to host this wonderful event and we have done our upmost for fans, athletes and experts to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of a splendid football feast, and of course we hope they enjoy their stay in Russia, an open, hospitable and friendly country, and meet new friends â€“ people with whom they share the same values.”His comments seemed placating as fans have expressed doubt on the kind of reception that awaits them after the ugly incident at France two years ago during the European Championship. But Putin is aware of this and renders comfort with his words. He went on to boast about the love of football in the country, describing it as a ‘Love at First Sight’.He continued: â€œLetâ€™s just think of it: we, the devoted fans of football, are so numerous where billions of people on our planet wherever we live, whatever traditions we hold, football brings us together in one single team and we are united by our affection for this spectacular, vibrant, uncompromising game and also players of these teams have a great degree of mutual understanding, a unity which cannot be affected by different language, ideology or faith. It represents the power of football and sport as a whole. The power of its humanistic beginning.â€œOur duty is to preserve this power of humanity for generations to come for the sake of developing sports and strengthening peace and mutual understanding between people. I wish all the teamsâ€™ success and an unforgettable experience for the fans. Welcome to Russia.”Putin’s speech was immediately followed by FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino, who stated that â€œAs of today, for one month, football will conquer Russia and from Russia, football will conquer the world.”With that, the opening ceremony came to a halt.The abruptness of the ceremony denied viewers and fans the exciting pleasure experienced at the last World Cup held in Brazil in 2014. While the host nation Brazil back then had challenges in meeting up with the deadline before the official game began, it nevertheless gave the world an intriguing spectacle that celebrated the splendor and richness of the South American nation.From the beautiful colours of Brazil that were boldly displayed in a giant flower and the dancers attires to the pulsating rhythms of Samba, Brazil did justice to the biggest football show on the planet. It depicted the scenery and nature of its environment by having men wrapped with a wonderful dress of leaves and women dressed in purple with lotus leaves. Their display projected the rich Amazon heritage of Brazil.Russia definitely failed in evoking that familiar feeling of giddiness that followed such occasion as a country that is hosting the World Cup for the first time. Expectations were hardly met but to Russia, this may not pose a worry as they successfully beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening match. A victory Putin relished as he watched the Russian team jubilate after their fifth goal. Perhaps the breathtaking performance Russia denied us in the opening ceremony may be accomplished in its closing ceremony when Will Smith and Nicky Jam will perform the FIFA World Cup 2018 official song â€˜Live It Upâ€™.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram
For the first time, Ghanaians based in the United Kingdom will get closer to the ”behind the scenes” action at the ongoing AFCON 2013 tournament.In a landmark agreement, two UK based TV stations Voxafrica and Klear tv have agreed to air 10 episodes of the Fans Diaries produced by Oxigen.Fans Diaries, (inspired by Black Stars Diaries from Afcon 2006 in Egypt), is sponsored by energy giants Ghana National Petroleum Corportion (GNPC) and will also be aired on Multi TV.The exciting semi-reality show captures the captivating drama, passion, and raw energy of football fans before, during and after Afcon 2013 matches.In addition to following fans, the programme will also contain unedited scenes from the camp of arguably Ghana’s biggest international brand, the Black Stars.Beyond sponsoring the national team which shares the same core values of team work, excellence and a rich history of successes, GNPC is also keen to extend their partnership with the people and communities by providing the access to the team through television. According to the Executive Producer of Fans Diaries Yaw Ampofo Ankrah, GNPC’s role at this critical stage in the team’s quest for glory is not just timely, it is absolutely priceless.”What is the point of having a national team if only a selected few are allowed to experience the feeling of belonging, joy and unity their own team is supposed to bring to them?Ampofo Ankrah added ”This is why GNPC is fuelling the passion of the nation by supporting the national team with sponsorship and beyond that, making sure as many ordinary Ghanaians as possible share in this special passion”.With support from Ghanaian waste management firm Zoomlion and exclusive decor company Vaniado, the show is set to wow audiences beyond Ghana.The Fans Diaries will also be aired on prime Ghanaian media networks including eTV, Multi TV, TV3 and GTV which means that a potential audience of over 50 million viewers could have access to Fans Diaries in Ghana and globally. A five member Ghanaian production crew has been in South Africa capturing exclusive footage on behalf of GNPC for the programme which is set to be a big hit.With this new partnership between Oxigen World, Voxafrica and Klear tv, Ghanaians and African football lovers in the UK, parts of the middle east and North Africa will get a feel of the Ghanaian and the African way of supporting their football teams.Viewers in Europe can access Voxafrica on channel 218 of the Sky digital platform with Klear tv on Sky channel 232.The Oxigen Fans Diaries is sponsored by Ghana National Petroleum Corporation – GNPC
However, Rennes had cause to complain as Aubameyang should have been flagged offside before the second goal.With VAR not in use for the Europa League unlike the Champions League, there was no recourse for Rennes and the Ligue 1 side will also reflect on missed opportunities after the break as a historic European run for the club came to an end.M’Baye Niang struck the post and Sead Kolasinac’s last-ditch tackle denied Ismaila Sarr before the Bosnian wing-back crossed for Aubameyang to give Arsenal breathing space.Winning the Europa League also offers Arsenal and Chelsea the safety net of Champions League qualification should they fail to make the top four in the Premier League.But Arsenal boss Unai Emery, who won the Europa League three times as Sevilla coach, also wants the glory of a trophy in his first season in charge.“It is not only the possibility to go to Champions League, it is one title and we can feel the possibility to win one title,” said the Spaniard.Giroud scored his first hat-trick for Chelsea © AFP / Sergei SUPINSKYChelsea cruised into the last eight with greater ease as six Premier League sides will take their place in Friday’s quarter-finals draws with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham in the last eight of the Champions League.After a 3-0 victory in last week’s last 16, first leg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were even more dominant in Kiev as Olivier Giroud scored his first hat-trick for the club.“We started very well. We wanted to start in this way,” Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri told BT Sport. “We played a wonderful first half and managed the game in the second half.”Giroud, who is yet to start in the Premier League in 2019 after the signing of Gonzalo Higuain, netted a first-half double, before Marcos Alonso slid home a third on the stroke of half-time.Frenchman Giroud completed his hat-trick before teenage winger Callum Hudson-Odoi rounded off the scoring.– Sevilla shocked by Slavia –Slavia Prague stunned Sevilla with a 4-3 win after extra-time to progress 6-5 on aggregate © AFP / Michal CIZEKFive-time winners Sevilla were beaten 4-3 after extra time to lose a thrilling tie against Slavia Prague 6-5 on aggregate.Twice the Spanish side came from behind to take the tie to extra time thanks to goals from Wissam Ben Yedder and Munir El-Haddadi. However, after Franco Vazquez had given Sevilla a 3-2 lead on the night, Slavia hit back and Ibrahim Traore’s winner a minute from time sealed a famous win for the Czechs.Napoli wrapped up a 4-3 aggregate victory over last season’s semi-finalists Salzburg despite a 3-1 second-leg loss in Austria.Another Serie A giant fell, though, as the highly-rated Luka Jovic scored the only goal of the night and the tie as Eintracht Frankfurt beat Inter Milan at the San Siro.Russian outfit Krasnodar suffered heartbreak as Goncalo Guedes scored a dramatic injury-time equaliser to send Valencia through 3-2 on aggregate after a 1-1 second-leg draw.Spanish sides have dominated this competition in recent years and despite Sevilla’s defeat will have two representatives in the last eight as Villarreal beat Zenit St Petersburg 2-1 to seal a resounding 5-2 aggregate victory.Benfica, runners-up in 2013 and 2014, were also taken to extra-time by Dinamo Zagreb but eventually overturned a 1-0 first leg deficit with a 3-0 win in Lisbon.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as Arsenal progressed to the Europa League quarter-finals with a 3-0 win over Rennes © AFP / Ian KINGTONParis, France, Mar 14 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spearheaded Arsenal’s revival by scoring twice in a 3-0 win over Rennes to reach the Europa League quarter-finals 4-3 on aggregate, as Chelsea and Napoli also booked a last-eight spot on Thursday.The Gunners cancelled out their 3-1 deficit from last week’s first leg in France inside 15 minutes as Aubameyang swept home from close range before teeing up Ainsley Maitland-Niles to head home.