Game on!

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The race to represent Africa in the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia is underway with some of the continent’s biggest names going head to head.

Five places are available for Africa at the finals, which will feature 32 teams, but getting there will not be easy after the draw threw up some Titanic battles. For instance, Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon (three of the five African qualifiers for the last World Cup) have been drawn together in Group B – with only the group winner going through. And the fourth team in the group is no pushover either – 2012 African Cup of Nations winners, Zambia.

The next round of fixtures include huge battles such as Nigeria at home to Algeria, Cameroon taking on Zambia, South Africa v Senegal and Morocco facing the Ivory Coast. Egypt also take on Ghana in another giant battle.

The good news, however, is that there could be more places available at future World Cups. New FIFA president Gianni Infantino wants the finals extended to 40 teams by 2026 with seven places set aside for Africa.

Rugby Sevens
Kenya’s rugby sevens stars will be back in action in December as the 2016-17 HSBC Sevens World Series kicks off in Dubai. Kenyan referee Victor Oduor has also been selected by Rugby Africa as an official for the series. Oduor will be the first Kenyan referee to officiate in the prestigious tournament, which takes in 10 venues across five continents. The opener in Dubai takes place 2-3 December and then heads to Cape Town on 10-11 December.

Women’s football
Kenya are set to make their debut in the Africa Women Cup of Nations. The tournament takes place in Cameroon between 19 November and 3 December.

Reigning champions Stanley Biwott and Mary Keitany have confirmed that they will defend their titles at the New York Marathon on 6 November.

Diary dates
3 Cricket
Australia v South Africa, Perth
6 Marathon
New York Marathon
7/13 Football
African World Cup qualifying fixtures
12 Cricket
Australia v South Africa, Hobart
13 Formula 1
Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo
12 Rugby Union
England v South Africa, Twickenham
14-20 Tennis
ATP World Tour Finals, London
17-20 Golf
World Tour Championship, Dubai
19 Women’s Football
Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCN) begins, Cameroon
25-27 Formula 1 
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
24 Cricket
Australia v South Africa, Adelaide
26 Rugby Union
Wales v South Africa

2-3 Rugby Union
Rugby Sevens, Dubai
3 Women’s Football
AWCN Final, Cameroon
10-11 Wrestling
World Championships, Budapest
13-18 Beach Soccer
Africa Cup of Nations, Lagos
26 Cricket
South Africa v Sri Lanka, Port Elizabeth

Five minutes with Kolo Touré

Ivory Coast legend Kolo Touré has added another giant club to his collection by joining Scottish champions Celtic. But having played for Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, what does the 35-year-old defender make of life ‘north of the border’?

Q Was it tough to leave a club like Liverpool, Kolo?
It was tough because I left a great club but I have also joined a great club. Celtic have a great history and, for me, it is a privilege to be able to play for one of the best clubs in the world.

Q You have now been playing for 17 years. What has been the highlight in club football?
I would say winning the league with Arsenal when we went unbeaten for the whole season. That was the pinnacle. It was unbelievable. I’d forgotten what it felt like to lose!

Q What about international football?
Winning the African Cup of Nations in 2015 and playing in three World Cups. You can’t beat the feeling of playing for your country.

Q Are you passing on that experience to Celtic’s young players?
I hope so! I want to help the young players to help themselves as well, to give them advice. Any way I can help I will be ready for that because of my experience.