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Guinean footballer Momo Yansane on coping with racism and playing during Covid



Guinean Momo Yansane has endured tough times in both Morocco and Belarus

Guinean footballer Momo Yansane has endured his share of struggles in recent years including racism and playing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 23-year-old is now playing for Isloch Minsk Raion in Belarus after leaving Moroccan side FUS Rabat last year, initially on loan.

Yansane left Morocco under something of a cloud after getting little playing time, enduring a strained relationship with the then coach Walid Regragui and battling racism.

“There was a lot of racism, even some from my fellow teammates,” the striker told BBC Sport Africa.

“The more you train together, the more you are together, the more you can discover. Some of the Moroccan population is racist as well.

“Sometimes, when you went for a walk or you spoke to someone they treated you in a racist way.”

He recounts that he was sometimes the target of the very worst of racial insults while in Morocco.

Hopes of an easier life in Europe after his loan move were short-lived as he had to adapt to his new club environment, the cold climate and navigate a language barrier with the help of his mobile phone.

On the pitch however the youngster quickly settled down as he scored fifteen goals in all competitions in his first season.

Despite signing a permanent deal with Isloch Minsk, 2020 has proved to be another daunting campaign for Yansane.

Playing during Covid

In March, the Belarusian top flight captured the international headlines when the league defied the game’s global shutdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Belarusian Premier League continued to play and fans were still welcome to attend matches as the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko said that concerns about the coronavirus pandemic were “psychosis”.

Yansane acquiesced to the decision of the local authorities and sporting governing body, but not without concerns.

“It was very difficult to remain indifferent given that other countries were fighting the coronavirus,” recalls Yansane.

“I felt forced to play, but it wasn’t my decision. I asked the club to test the players every week because it is an infectious disease.

“It contaminates and it can go very fast. If the club had refused, I would also have refused to train. When you conduct the tests weekly, that is encouraging.”

At Isloch Minsk, Yansane and the other players wore masks and gloves and used disinfectant as part of the club’s protective measures against the coronavirus.

Even so, a number of Yansane’s colleagues returned positive tests in May and were placed in quarantine.

Individual and collective training sessions were however never interrupted and after practice Yansane stayed at home even if Belarus never imposed a lockdown.

Momo Yansane in action
Momo Yansane had concerns about continuing to play football in Belarus during the global coronavirus pandemic

“When you see that your colleagues with whom you train contract it, you are worried,” says Yansane.

“My mom, my brother, my sister called me to know how I was doing and how my health was.

“Everyone was worried, you know, but it is my work and I couldn’t abandon it. Today, one doesn’t talk too much about the coronavirus.

“At my club, there have been no more positive cases. Everyone is doing well, but what remains clear is that we haven’t forgotten coronavirus still exists. We take care.”

Personal tragedy

Just as Yansane was accepting his ‘new normal’, his mother passed away from cancer on 27 July, two days before his 23rd birthday.

The passing left him sad, shaken and alone in Minsk, where he has no friends.

“My mum is everything to me,” explains Yansane.

“I loved her so much. I work and fight for my family and her and now when my mother and my father are no longer there, I asked myself what I am going to do with my life?”

Things were made worse when his club told him he could not return home for the funeral to reunite with his sisters and pay his final respects to his mother.

Yansane said he did not want to discuss the reasons behind the club’s refusal to allow him to attend the funeral.

“The club wasn’t really professional,” says Yansane.

“That hurt me, that hurt me a lot. They didn’t help, psychologically and mentally. I told myself – I am in a very complicated situation, but I will lift my own spirits.”

Instead he drew strength from conversations with Ibrahima Fofana, a Guinean who plies his trade at another club in Belarus, FC Belshina Babrousk.

He added that there was good advice from his coach Vitaly Zhukovsky and his three Nigerian club colleagues.

Political tension in Belarus

His weeks of intense grief coincided with nationwide protests against Lukashenko, who is often referred to as ‘Europe’s last dictator’.

After an 80% landslide for the incumbent president in the elections on 9 August, Belarusians took to the streets.

From his apartment in the capital Minsk, Yansane witnessed how the city became the epicenter of the demonstrations.

“When I do groceries, I have seen people protesting,” says Yansane.

“The people are against the president because he has been in power for 26 years. They want change, 100%. It depends on them.”

Despite the social unrest, social isolation, Covid-19 and his mother’s death, Yansane is determined to make the most of his time in Belarus.

Before the international break, he scored a decisive brace in a 2-1 win against Dnepr in the domestic cup.

He wants to grow at club level and get a recall from coach Didier Six for the national team as well.

“I have to reach my goals,” concludes Yansané.

“That is to go as far as possible, to reach my dreams and my dream league.”

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‘Almost 180-degree turnaround’: More Black Americans open to jabs | Coronavirus pandemic News




More Black people in the United States say they are open to receiving coronavirus vaccines, a new survey shows, an encouraging sign that one community leader described as “almost a 180-degree turnaround” from earlier in the pandemic.

According to the late March poll by the Associated Press news agency and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about 24 percent of Black people said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated.

That is down from 41 percent in January, and is similar to the proportion of white people (26 percent) and Hispanic Americans (22 percent) who also say they do not plan to get jabs.

The findings come as US President Joe Biden’s administration works to speed up inoculations to try to outpace a recent rise in infections, after he promised that all adults would be eligible for a jab by April 19.

Public health experts had raised concerns about the need to ensure that Black and other communities of colour in the US, which have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, had equitable access to vaccines.

Local leaders said vaccine hesitancy was fuelled in part by decades of institutional discrimination in healthcare and other public services.

Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told AP that attitudes among Black people have taken “almost a 180-degree turnaround” as outreach campaigns have worked to combat misinformation.

Benjamin said Black physicians, faith leaders and other organisers have helped get targeted messaging to the community “in a way that wasn’t preachy”.

“They didn’t tell people, ‘You need to get vaccinated because it’s your duty.’ They basically said, ‘Listen, you need to get vaccinated to protect yourself and your family,’” he said.

Mattie Pringle, a 57-year-old Black woman from South Carolina who previously had doubts about taking the vaccine, said she changed her mind after a member of her church urged her to reconsider. She got her first jab last week.

“I had to pray about it, and I felt better after that,” Pringle told AP.

Medical and public health experts have continued to urge people in the US to get vaccinated in an effort to slow the spread of the disease, which has killed more than 561,000 people across the country – the highest death rate in the world.

The US, which has reported over 31 million cases to date, has authorised three vaccines for emergency use: the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs.

So far, more than 178.8 million vaccine doses have been administered countrywide, while 68.2 million people are considered fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recent surveys have shown that more Americans in general say they intend to get vaccinated than previously did.

The Pew Research Center reported in early March that 19 percent of US adults said they had already received at least one dose, while another 50 percent said they probably or definitely would get vaccinated.

“Taken together, 69 percent of the public intends to get a vaccine – or already has – up significantly from 60 percent who said they planned to get vaccinated in November,” it said.

Other recent surveys show that attitudes towards vaccines are split along political lines. A survey at Monmouth University released last month found that 36 percent of Republicans said they would avoid the vaccine compared with just six percent of Democrats.

That prompted top US infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, to call on former President Donald Trump to encourage his supporters to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, experts are urging Americans to take whichever vaccine is available to protect themselves and avoid delays.

“When people come in, I always advise them to get the vaccine that’s available because you never know what vaccine is going to be available the next time,” Reham Awad, a pharmacy intern in the Chicago area, told Al Jazeera this week.

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Erdogan urges end to Ukraine tension, offers Turkey’s support | Conflict News




Turkish president says tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over Donbass conflict have to be resolved through dialogue.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support.

Erdogan and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks in Istanbul on Saturday amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the long-running conflict in Donbass.

Speaking at a news conference alongside Zelenskyy, Erdogan said he hoped the conflict would be resolved peacefully, through dialogue based on diplomatic customs, in line with international laws and Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“Our main goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility and cooperation,” Erdogan said.

Zelenskyy said the views of Kyiv and Ankara coincided regarding the threats in the region and as well as responses to those threats.

Erdogan stressed that Turkey’s cooperation with Ukraine in the defence industry, which was the main item on the meeting’s agenda, was not a move against any third countries.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said Ukraine was purchasing Turkey’s military drones.

She also said that “new generation drones will be equipped with the Ukrainian engines”.

Regional tensions

Zelenskyy’s visit to Turkey comes amid renewed tensions in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

In a visit to troops there this week, Zelenskyy said breaches of a July truce were increasing.

Separatist authorities have also accused Ukrainian forces of violating the ceasefire.

Russia has reinforced its troops along the border and warned Ukraine against trying to retake control of the separatist-controlled territory.

Kyiv rejects that it is preparing for an offensive. The Russian military buildup has raised concerns in the United States and Europe.

The Turkish and Russian presidents spoke on the phone on Friday. Among the issues discussed was Ukraine.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin expressed concern that Ukraine “recently resumed dangerous provocations on the contact line”.

Turkey is a NATO member. But Erdogan and Putin have forged a close personal relationship, sealing energy and trade deals.

They have also negotiated for opposing sides in conflicts, including Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Erdogan’s office also said he would discuss with Zelenskyy the living conditions of Crimean Tatars, who have ethnic links to Turks. Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

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Libya kicks off delayed COVID-19 vaccination drive | Coronavirus pandemic News




Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah receives shot on live television, urges Libyans to register online for their own vaccinations.

Libya has launched its delayed COVID-19 vaccination drive, with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, prime minister of the country’s new unity government, getting his shot on live television.

Officially, Libya has registered a total of about 167,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 2,800 deaths, out of a population of seven million. Its healthcare system has struggled to cope during the pandemic, strained by years of political turmoil and violence.

After the vaccination of Dbeibah on Saturday at the headquarters of Libya’s Centre for Disease Control on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli, Health Minister Ali al-Zenati was next to receive a jab.

Libya has so far received 200,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, alongside more than 57,600 AstraZeneca shots, the latter delivered through the COVAX programme for lower and middle-income countries.

Dbeibah urged fellow citizens to register online for their own vaccinations. He has earmarked the vaccination campaign as a policy priority, alleging that the delivery of the shots was hindered by outgoing authorities.

“The arrival of vaccines has been delayed by political, not financial, considerations,” he said.

Dbeibah’s interim Government of National Unity was sworn in last month [Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

Dbeibah was selected earlier this year through a United Nations-sponsored Libyan dialogue to lead the country to national elections in December.

His government replaces two warring administrations based in Tripoli and the country’s east, the latter loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Hafar. The rival authorities have given their backing to the new administration, adding to tentative hopes that Libya can exit a decade of crisis.

‘Better late than never’

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that two new variants of the coronavirus are present in Libya, which has lately been detecting about 1,000 new daily infections.

No lockdown measures are currently in place, and while masks are obligatory in public places, the measure is widely flouted.

“I feel sorry that the vaccine arrived late in Libya after thousands were infected. But better late than never,” shop owner Ali al-Hadi told Reuters news agency, adding that his wife had been sick with COVID-19 and recovered.

Many Libyans fear the vaccination campaign could be marred by political infighting or favouritism after years of unrest.

“We hope the health ministry will steer away from political conflicts so that services can reach patients,” said housewife Khawla Muhammad, 33.

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