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Exciting things to look forward to in football in 2019

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By BBC SPORT
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As 2018 comes to an end, everyone will reflect on an eventful year during which England won a World Cup penalty shootout, Liverpool lost one of the most incident-packed Champions League finals ever, and Manchester City won the title in record-breaking style.

But what do we have to look forward to in 2019?

The most exciting Premier League title race in years

Manchester City’s sky-blue ribbons were already being tied to the Premier League trophy this time last year as Pep Guardiola’s side established a 14-point lead after only 18 games. The race to the tape was a formality.

This is shaping up as the most exciting season in years as Liverpool match, and indeed lead, City while Spurs and Chelsea, albeit in a more understated manner, make claims of their own.

The excitement and anticipation surrounding this season can be illustrated in managers, players and supporters already weighing up the potential long-term damage of dropped points well before the turn of the year.

The season is made even more exciting by the thrilling brand of football on offer from the teams chasing the big prize – from Guardiola’s City to Jurgen Klopp’s vibrant, attacking Liverpool side. Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino and newcomer Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea are also determined to pursue trophies in the most attractive manner, while the animated Unai Emery has been a breath of fresh air at Arsenal.

And while life on the field has been dull at Manchester United, a familiar acrimonious decline into another pre-Christmas dismissal for Jose Mourinho has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the chance to illuminate the ‘Theatre Of Dreams’ once more.

Manchester United's Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates on the pitch after their English Premier League match against Cardiff City at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales on December 22, 2018. Manchester United won t5-1. PHOTO | GEOFF CADDICK |

Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates on the pitch after their English Premier League match against Cardiff City at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales on December 22, 2018. Manchester United won t5-1. PHOTO | GEOFF CADDICK |AFP

The Premier League has seen dramatic finishes in recent seasons, such as when Manchester City pipped Manchester United on goal difference in 2011-12, and when Liverpool stumbled at the finishing line to lose out to City two years later. This season could be just as dramatic.

City won the title by 19 points from Manchester United last season and had a goal difference 33 ahead of their closest rivals in that department – Liverpool. It was a procession – but this could go to the wire.

City’s surprise defeat at home to Crystal Palace just before Christmas – after Liverpool had beaten Wolves the day before – means Guardiola’s men are in the unusual position of playing catch-up, with four points separating the top two.

One of the most vital acts in the drama will be played out when City and Liverpool face each other at Etihad Stadium on 3 January.

The ever-expanding global women’s game gets its greatest showcase once more in France next summer – and expectations have never been higher as its profile continues to rise.

The draw has only added to the anticipation as England, managed by Phil Neville, face Scotland, guided by head coach Shelley Kerr, in their opening game in Nice on 9 June.

Argentina and Japan make up England and Scotland’s group.

The Lionesses are making their fifth World Cup appearance and will be hoping to improve on their 2015 performance, when they lost 2-1 to Japan in the semi-final.

England are fourth in the world rankings behind the United States, Germany and France, with Scotland 20th.

And the SheBelieves Cup, in which England will face Brazil, the United States and Japan in late February and early March, will provide an intriguing measure of their progress under Neville.

The final of the Women’s World Cup will be staged in the Stade de Lyon on 7 July.

A Scottish Premiership thriller?

Celtic have been conducting a procession to the Scottish Premiership title for the past seven seasons – but it is all looking a lot tighter north of the border this season to set up a potentially thrilling 2019.

A combination of ingredients are in the mix to make this a potent cocktail and allow Scotland to throw back some insults at the English about one-sided title races – especially after Manchester City’s stroll to the title last term.

The gap is no longer wider than the Clyde estuary.

Steven Gerrard’s arrival at Rangers was always going to add spice and it has not only raised sunken hopes at Ibrox but also coincided with a perhaps inevitable dip in the standards of a Celtic side that has carried all before them in manager Brendan Rodgers’ first two seasons.

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It would, however, be patronising to simply focus on the Old Firm. Scottish football is offering much more.

Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Kilmarnock have all been top of the table this season – with Steve Clarke’s work at Killie an outstanding piece of management.

Aberdeen and Hibernian have also produced evidence of the ability to challenge and overcome the supposed natural order, and the first Ibrox meeting between Gerrard and his former Liverpool manager on 29 December is heavily loaded with significance.

It is shaping up to be a 2019 to relish in Scotland.

Can England bring home the Uefa Nations League?
England capitalised on reaching their first World Cup semi-final for 28 years by reaching the finals of the inaugural Uefa Nations League with their first win in Spain for 31 years, and by exacting revenge on Croatia with a dramatic late 2-1 win at Wembley.

England's forward Raheem Sterling (right) celebrates with teammate Kieran Trippier after scoring a goal during their Uefa Nations League match against Spain on October 15, 2018 at the Benito Villamarin stadium in Sevilla. PHOTO | CRISTINA QUICLER |

England’s forward Raheem Sterling (right) celebrates with teammate Kieran Trippier after scoring a goal during their Uefa Nations League match against Spain on October 15, 2018 at the Benito Villamarin stadium in Sevilla. PHOTO | CRISTINA QUICLER |AFP

It built on the feel-good factor engendered in Russia, maintained momentum and increased the belief manager Gareth Southgate has a squad offering real optimism for the future.

Now they have a great chance to turn potential into something tangible in Portugal next June.

England face Ronald Koeman’s rejuvenated Netherlands in the semi-final, and Portugal play Switzerland in the other last-four game.

No-one should kid themselves winning this would end the so-called “years of hurt” since the 1966 World Cup, as this tournament – which has been a surprise success and added a new dimension to the international scene – is very much in its infancy and way behind the majors like the World Cup and the Euros.

But success breeds success and it would be a sign of England’s progress and development under Southgate should they be able to win silverware as they re-establish themselves as a serious power in the game.

England’s Under-21s will also be hoping to add to the success of the under-17s and under-20s World Cup winners when they take part in the Euros in Italy and San Marino in June.

This is another tournament that is growing in stature each time, and Aidy Boothroyd’s side will have high hopes with talent such as Manchester City’s Phil Foden, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, and Mason Mount – the Chelsea youngster on loan at Derby County – to potentially call on.

They will face France, Romania and Croatia in their group games and, like England’s seniors, will hope to improve on a bitter semi-final disappointment after losing on penalties to Germany in Tychy, Poland.

This is an exciting time for England at all levels, and 2019 might just provide further evidence of how bright the future might be.

Another Championship fight to the finish?

Is there any division more difficult to get out of than the Championship?

Some of England’s greatest clubs have dropped out of the Premier League then found the return journey so competitive it proves impossible.

If proof is needed, just look at those jockeying for position at the top of the table.

Leeds United, under the guidance of the maverick but wonderfully innovative Marcelo Bielsa, have played some stunning football as they attempt to reclaim the place at the top table which has not been theirs since 2004, while Norwich City have been outstanding under Daniel Farke.

And that is just the start.

West Bromwich Albion have set their sights on instant promotion under Darren Moore while Derby County are making strides as Frank Lampard settles into his first managerial job.

Chris Wilder is proving once more what an outstanding operator he is at his beloved Sheffield United while Middlesbrough’s Tony Pulis – not everyone’s cup of tea – has successfully navigated the Championship’s course and distance before.

And are things stirring at Aston Villa now boyhood fan Dean Smith has succeeded Steve Bruce?

This is the division that produces tension and excitement every year because the price of success is so great and the price of failure can be so expensive.

Expect no different in 2019.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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