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The Afghanistan Women’s National Team

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Modern football is a funny thing. Players are brands. Coaches are heads of state. And a club in China is willing to spend $64 million on Oscar. As Dickens said, portending that Oscar transfer specifically… Best of Times. Worst of Times.

Last week, we spoke with Haley Carter, goalkeeping coach and assistant manager for the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team. Carter also happens to be a United States Naval Academy Graduate, two-time Iraq veteran, former NWSL goalkeeper for the Houston Dash, and, as she proudly points out, a mother and wife. While the conversation left us feeling even more inadequate than usual, the story she told was one that drove home our long standing belief that football is often the least important, most important part of life. Or as Haley put it so beautifully, “This little speck of optimism in a really chaotic world.”

After our interview, we produced a short digital video about the Afghanistan WNT, its history, the challenges players face, and the hope it provides for women across that nation. WATCH IT HERE.

As Haley says in the video, “The bottom line here is we’re talking life and death to be able to play this game.”

The team’s players are scattered around the globe with roughly a third coming from Afghanistan itself, a third coming from Europe and a third from North America. Despite what Haley called tremendous support from the Afghanistan Football Federation, funding for the team is tight, and they can rarely afford to get together for training camps. As a result, they rely heavily on funding from outside sources. The team has partnered with Soccer Without Borders in an effort to raise money. CLICK HERE for more on how you can help, and more on the team’s story. #Courage

17 trampled to death by stampeding crowd at Angola soccer stadium

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos expressed condolences to the families of the victims.
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JOHANNESBURG — A crowd stampeded at a football stadium in Angola on Friday, leaving at least 17 people dead and dozens injured.

The accident happened in the northwestern town of Uige when hundreds of people rushed at one of the stadium gates, causing some to fall and be trampled underfoot, according to Angolan and Portuguese media.

Some of the dead were children who suffocated in the stampede, the Portuguese news agency Lusa said. Lusa and Angop, Angola’s state-run news agency, reported a death toll of 17.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (pictured above) expressed condolences to the families of the victims, and instructed officials to assist the injured and open an investigation, Angop reported.

Spectators had gone to the stadium to watch the inaugural game between home team Santa Rita de Cassia and Recreativo de Libolo in the national Girabola competition.

Chelsea’s dominance of Premier League forces bettors to seek out other futures props

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Do not think for a second that Chelsea running away from the pack has dashed all betting potential on the English Premier League futures board.

With their double-digit points lead and two months left in the season, manager Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side is now a -800 betting favorite to win the league, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Only Manchester City (+1200) and Tottenham (+1400) are being given any chance of catching Chelsea.

That will force bettors wagering on how the final weeks play out to look elsewhere, and fortunately soccer is distinct from North American leagues in that regular-season finish means everything.

First off, there is the prospect of relegation, since the three worst teams will be sent to the second-tier Championship for the 2017-18 season. Sunderland is the favorite, in a matter of speaking, to go down at -300 (as well as the +165 favorite to finish bottom, or dead last). Beyond Hull City (-125) and Crystal Palace (-110), that board has some value.

Last season’s Cinderella story, Leicester City (+250), is scrambling for points but also has Champions League games on their plate. Bournemouth (+700) has lost striker Callum Wilson for the season with a ruptured ACL in his left knee and not having his finishing ability could cost them vital points.

The top four finishers qualify to ‘play in Europe’ in the Champions League. The aforementioned Chelsea (-10000), Tottenham (-500) and Man City (-500) are overwhelmingly minus-money favorites, with Arsenal (-110) and Liverpool (-110) at around even-money. Missing out on Champions League would be utterly humiliating for Manchester United (+125) and manager Jose Mourinho, and at this point they offer a decent price.

The real value on that board lies with Everton FC (+5000), which is in seventh place but has much tighter defense this season under new manager Ronald Koeman. Everton also had one of the best records in the EPL during the month of January.

While there is no Leicester grabbing the attention of fans across the world, one lower-profile squad that has endeared itself are Burnley, which was one-and-done in 2014-15, the last time it played in the Premiership. Burnley is listed at +500 to finish in the Top 10 (or top half) of the league, with Stoke City (+120), Watford (+275) and Bournemouth (+350) all having greater than even-money odds.