Saturday, 20 December 2014

TENNIS:Ref beaten up in rescheduled league tie

Ref beaten up in rescheduled league tie

I received many calls last week after dedicating the column to table tennis sensation, Aruna Quadri. There are many other promising athletes out there but I singled out Quadri because of the incredible feat of moving from 237th to 30th on the world table tennis rankings and he is also in the gunning for the Athlete of the Year in the sport.
Also in table tennis, there is Ojo Onaolapo who is based in Italy and doing very well. He can do better if the ministry of sports moves fast to help now that it is germane.
In tennis, a coach, Godwin Kienka, came out to state that the game was on the rise. He said there was need to develop the youth system to boost the game. Kienka said: “I am happy we are getting there because the young ones are doing very well now. I was at the Dala Hard Court tournament and the standard I saw was very high.
Again, Moses Micheal who won the Governor’s Cup this year just graduated from the junior cadre a year ago while the number two female player in the country, Sarah Adegoke was also a junior player as at early last year.” These talents need exposure now because over the years in tennis, many of such have emerged but they ended up wasting away due to the poor administrative system. Years ago, Clara Udofa came up strong at 13 years to win national meets beating all the senior players yet she did not eventually make the Grand Slam. Too bad.
Blessing Okagbare was in blistering form at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. She went to the African Championships to also clinch the gold for Nigeria. The Olympic Games is a different ball game and it is important to plan with Okagbare now in concrete terms. The Athletic Federation of Nigeria should identify medal prospects for the ministry to give them grants. But the grants should go beyond just athletics it must cut across other sports.
There is also the case of Jonathan Akinyemi, who is the African Champion in Kayaking, a Rowing event. He recently resigned from paid employment in the United Kingdom to enable him to prepare well for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for Nigeria. He also needs assistance to realise his objective of recording a glorious outing in Rio. Wrestling and boxing are traditional sports and today we hear little or nothing about these disciplines. It is absurd.

I advise that the ministry should work towards getting age grade national team athletes in all the sports disciplines. Why not? We have U-13, U-17, U-20 and U- 23 in men and women football. This should be taken to other sports to help in grassroots development and provide a ready pool for national coaches.

My 77-year-old dad still cooks for me – Funke Oshonaike

My 77-year-old dad still cooks for me – Funke Oshonaike

National table tennis star, Funke Oshonaike, takes a memory lane in this compelling story.

When an athlete shows deep emotion after a victory or loss in a competition, not many can comprehend the implication of such reaction. If athletes fail to win in an event, some of them could go as far as crying to ease the inner pains and relieve the heavy burden of coming to terms with the disappointment. It is also a response to not meeting the expectations of so many people looking up to the athlete to excel. The reverse is the case for a victory. The joy of a victorious athlete knows no bound but interestingly some could also go as far as shedding tears but that could be described as tears of joy.

Athletes participate in competitions banking on some motivating factors to enable them to accomplish set goals in their various disciplines. Some of them will listen to music to get inspiration shortly before an event. Many others think about their relatives, coaches or loved ones to excel. For table tennis queen, Funke Oshonaike, it is her father, Mr. Olujuwon Oshonaike, that is the motivating factor. He has been a solid pillar behind the huge successes she recorded over the years. In very dicey situations, she told our correspondent that she looked back at all the efforts of her father in the early years of her career.
She said: “He is such a great man. I call him my number one fan because he is always there for me. If I play 20 matches in Lagos in one day, he will see all. He loves to see me win games and if I lose, it affects him even more than me such that I will be the one consoling him to forget the defeat. “It is always rare to see parents supporting their children to go into sport at a tender age but mine was different. I had the support from both of them with a promise that I will also face my studies. Each time I want to compete, I think of the various ways my father has been motivating me to get results.
“He borrowed money to buy me my first set of kits for the game – the racket (bats), trainers and jerseys.It was tough and I knew it. There was no other option for me than to do well because of the huge support and the confidence reposed in me by my number one fan, my father. I always work hard to make him happy by winning and winning. It gets to him anytime I lose and so it is not an option to lose a match.”Oshonaike’s 30-year-romance with table tennis began in the streets of Somolu, Lagos at the age of 10. She was then a primary six pupil of Community Primary School, now Olaolu Primary School, Somolu.
It was not a deliberate attempt to start a career. It was just one of those pastime children engage in after hours in school. She found herself in the company of boys who loved table tennis so much and she had to join. “They made me to develop love for the game because they attached so much importance to it and taunted one another on a daily basis over results. We made use of any available space. We rarely used boards; we used space in front of houses or long seats just to knock the ball to one another. It was fun because later on, I started beating the guys as well. It became a big issue,” she said.

In the Apata area of Somolu, Oshonaike became so popular with her table tennis exploits such that people placed bets on her to win games. Not only that, people also gathered round to watch her display her skills to the delight of lovers of the sport. “Huge crowd do gather to watch me in Somolu. I was so small then, I was in the last year of my primary school education. I played against male adults and beat them. Some of them will bet on me to win. I knew nothing about the betting. For me, it was fun. I was enjoying the fame. “People would point at me in our area as the girl with the big heart.
I guess the crowd that used to watch me play then and the early exposure to playing against boys helped me later because I usually played my game without intimidation.” Because of the talent she exhibited in Somolu, a man took Oshonaike to Rowe Park (a sports centre in Lagos) where it was believed she could be nurtured into a star. A female coach in Lagos State known simply as Toun started the basics for her in the game. It was another experience entirely as she had to learn the proper way to hold the bat, how to toss the ball and how to apply the various technicalities of the game in concrete terms.
When coach Toun saw the potential in Oshonaike, she took her to another coach also in Rowe Park, Dele Olasumbo, popularly known as Malawi. The coach, a stern disciplinarian, took over the grooming of the 11-year-old girl. “It was tough working with Malawi. He was very strict and will not take ‘almost’ from any player; he wanted you to get it right 100 per cent. I was ready to work hard and gradually I understood him. I thought he was wicked but later realised he wanted the best for me. He made me what I am today because foundation is crucial in any sport discipline.
What I learnt from ‘Malawi’ is still helping me till date,” she noted. Our correspondent visited the Apata Street house where Oshonaike grew up. Of course people there could still recollect her exploits and they are still following her progress in the sport. The landlord of the house, Mr. Dele Onabule, spoke highly of the national athlete. Onabule said: “Nobody believed she would become such a great star. She started by playing with boys sometimes when they were trying to stop her from playing, she will quarrel with the boys. She was well-behaved and a role model. Despite the little difficulties experienced by the parents at the time, she made sure she was satisfied with what her parents provided. She concentrated on her studies and sport.

When she started making money, she invested a lot in the parents and the junior ones. She sends money to me through the father who still comes around once in a while. We all love her because she remains humble.” Saturday New Telegraph also spoke to Titi Koiki, who called himself an ‘area brother’ of Oshonaike. He said: “I was among the few people that started teaching her how to play the ball. She started by picking balls for people and later started playing on the pavement. Later, we created a small table and she grew in confidence. She is very humble and has really made us proud in this area.”
Osonaike later attended Igbobi Girls High School from where she moved to the University of Lagos.

 Interestingly, she did not really enjoy her youth because of her brilliance. She joined the national table tennis team at the age of 14. Till date, she is still a national team athlete. As a junior athlete and a secondary school student, Oshonaike was beating the senior players. She was one of the junior players who sent the old ones packing early from the scene. In the early 90s, she opted to take part in a national competition sponsored by Coca-Cola instead of the National Sports Festival.
“I could have won the gold at the festival but decided to test my skills with the senior players. I did not win but was in the semifinal after beating three top-rated players then. That was my turning point and I was promoted to the senior cadre of the national team,” she said. So far, she has spent 26 years in the national team and Oshonaike has lost count of the number of events she had attended and medals won but she has represented Nigeria at five Olympic Games. She was number one in Africa for about six years. In the African Top 16 tournament held in Lagos earlier in the year, the Germany-based ping ponger won the silver medal.
The 2003 All Africa Games will always be in her mind with fond memories. She was a nursing mother and she won four gold and two silver medals to emerge the best Team Nigeria athlete at the event, helping the country to clinch overall first position for the very first time in the continental multi-sports event. The table tennis queen is the third in the family of 10. The mother, Mrs Olayinka Oshonaike, gave birth to a set of twins twice. “I am very close to my mother but somehow my dad is equally close because he does special things in his own way,” she said. Mr. Oshonaike is 77 years old but he still finds time to show care to all his children.

The attachment to Funke is because of his love for sport. “I love sports and I am impressed that Funke listens to me. She is also very humble despite her fame. Such a daughter is worth everything you can do for her,” he said. Interestingly, the man still enjoys cooking for the daughter anytime she is in Nigeria. Her favourite food is “Ikokore,” a delicacy from the western part of Nigeria, Ijebu- Ode, Ogun State. Oshonaike added: “My father still cooks my favourite food for me. He is a good cook. Without telling me, he will just prepare the meal to surprise me.
Each time I travel to Nigeria, he will welcome me at the airport with a bowl of “Ikokore”cooked by him. At 77, that’s astounding. I don’t know where he gets his strength from. If am travelling out of Nigeria he will still follow me to the airport. I cherish those special things he does for me. “He is simply amazing. He understands me but sometimes we do quarrel and it’s always heated because we are both stubborn.” The Sports Club Poppenbuttel of Hamburg player met her husband, Kevin Irabor, in 2002 in Germany and they got married two years later traditionally.

Later a white wedding took place in Germany. The union is blessed with two kids-Divine (12) and Unique (8). She quantified combining her duty as a wife, mother and an international athlete that travels sometime away from the family for two months or more. “It has been God helping me to balance it. I cannot say it is easy but my boys understand me such that when I return I try to make up for the period I was away.” Oshonaike is looking forward to returning to Nigeria after 20 years in Europe. Her first point of call was Italy, where she spent four years playing for two clubs before moving to Hamburg, Germany. “I want to return home for one full year and if things work out, I will permanently relocate to Nigeria with my family,” she said.



Says: Matches not won on football pitches alone
–Exclusive Interview By David Meshioye
Nigerian football seems to be on it’s knees once again with Super Eagles missing out of AFCON 2015. Did that come to you as a rude shock?
Honestly, I was not surprised about the outcome of the qualifiers; I saw it coming long ago. I knew it all along that Nigeria may not qualify for the next AFCON after all the imbroglio that surrounded Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) when the qualifiers got underway against Congo in Calabar. There were several factors that came into play; firstly we had the Giwa group who wanted Aminu Maigari out of office at all cost and this did not allow the team and coaching crew settle down well. I believe football is not played on the pitch as people think, a lot must have been put right behind the scenes before coming out victorious on the field of play. Alas! That never happened on the side of Nigeria and to me I have always warned that our football would suffer for it.
You mean the in-house fighting  at the Glass House should be solely blamed for the recent setbacks in Nigerian  football? Are you saying the country was sitting on a keg of gun powder, whose  explosion was just a matter of time?
Yes!  I warned them to put their house in order at that time, but you all saw what happened; we lost 3-2 at home to Congo and that was where we lost our AFCON ticket.
But some school of thought argued that the players never showed enough commitment towards  the cause? What is your take on this?
I disagree on this. The players were committed to a large extent but people need to realize that football is not only won on the pitch, it is how well you perfect your plan behind the scenes that determines  if you are going to win or not. We did not  do enough behind the scenes  simply because of several distractions emanating from  the rift in the Glass House. Besides, this weakens players’ hunger since there was no pressure to win from the FA. The Giwa ,Maigari problems  easily swallowed  the players and before we started getting it right,  it was too late.
Tongues have been wagging over Keshi’s future,  with ex-coaches asking the former Togo boss to walk away from the job. Do you think Nigeria should get a foreign manager?
Amaju  Pinnick and his board already did away with Stephen Keshi until that Presidential order asking them to re-instate him. Who are you to disobey the President of the country when such order comes? I think NFF cannot do anything with Keshi at the moment until the Presidency tells them to do so.
Soccer pundits feel  missing AFCON 2015 might turn out to be a blessing in disguise just like it was three years ago when Nigeria missed out of 2012 AFCON. Do agree with this?
Of course I agree. We now have our chance of settling down to serious business if really we want to develop and reshape our football. Those two years should be used to prepare for the next one and more importantly restructure our football. Samson Siasia is doing well with the Olympic team and I have seen them play. Besides,  there should be a forum where club coaches and managers can rub minds and help Super Eagles coaches with players scouting. We have one of the best players in the Nigerian league but today, I am surprised  he is not in the Olympic team. As regards the Super Eagles, we cannot do away with everybody in the team but it is time to give other young players a chance to prove their mettle. Super Eagles need  some young fresh legs. We must not sit back and cry over spilt milk, rather it is an opportunity to plan and come out with a stronger team.
Talking about fresh legs in Super Eagles, which department of the team needs surgical operation?
I think Super Eagles lack a playmaker. That is one area the team is lacking and that has really affected how our strikers play so far. Emmanuel Emenike is not having that same bite, he was known for last year, Ahmed Musa is doing his bit but you can see he is not a full-fledged striker yet, he is just coming up. Our coaches need to comb all nooks and crannies for a playmaker. A playmaker opens up the defense and that will in-turn help the strikers.
Why is it taking Nigeria more than a decade to discover another Tijani Babangida , Austin  Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu  of this world?
I think the tide has changed. In our time,  you could  confidently call twelve  Nigerian players from top European clubs like Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Ajax etc but today we longer have that. That was a generation of top players. Today, aside from Mikel who plays for Chelsea; I don’t think we have players in top European clubs anymore. It tells you how the standard has dropped drastically. We just have to check that trend and develop top players again.
The big problem that people are afraid to talk about is the issue of Super Eagles technical crew. A lot of people are so afraid to discuss this matter. Unitil Nigeria Football Federation sit down and address this issue I don’t think Nigeria football will be moving forward. Do they want to keep Keshi? Then they should  give him a new contract and that will give him the leverage to settle down and draw out his plans for the team. Do they want him fired? Let the NFF make up their minds  and get someone better than him to continue where he stops. It is high time they decide on Keshi’s future. Thank you.

Utaka, Chrisantus Lead Sivasspor Against Basaksehir

John Utaka

The duo of Nigerian internationals and Sivasspor of Turkey stars, John Utaka and Macauley Chrisantus will today continue their battle to help their side climb away from the drop zone when they play host to Istanbul Basaksehir at their 14,998-capacity 4.Eylul Stadium in Sivas.
It will be a tough game for the homers currently sitting in the 16th place on the league table with just 10 points after 13 matches especially with today’s opponent, Basaksehir boasting a much higher credentials which places them 4th on the log with 21 points.
Sivasspor has managed only one draw in their last five outings both in Cup and League games and coach Roberto Carlos would be hoping his Nigerian strikers would rediscover their scoring boots against their opponents – but that is if the defence line who has conceeded 22 goals in 13 games would be able to keep Basaksehis forwardline ably led by Senturk in check for 90 minutes.
Utaka has scored 2 goals for Sivasspor this season while Chrisantus have 1 goal to his credit. Basaksehir also have another Nigerian in their rank – Michael Eneramo who has only played 3 games for the side this season and is unlikely to feature in today’s tie against his compatriots.

Imoh Set For Al-Gharafa Tie


–Al-Arabi forward hopes to increase goals tally
One cap Super Eagles and Al Arabi Sports Club striker, Ezeikel Imoh will be hoping to continue his impressive display for his Qatari side when they file out against Al Gharafa today at the 13,000-capacity Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha.
The former Standard Liege of Belgium star currently have six goals to his credit this season but the coach Daniel Carreno led team will be hoping the skillful forward rediscover his scoring touch to help the side move up the Stars League ladder where they currently sit 10th on the log with 15 points in the 14-team table. Despite Imoh’s goals, Al-Arabi have not been impressive of late. They have not won a game in their last 7 outings which has seen them drew 3 and lost 4 league games and will therefore need to dig deeper to make home advantage count in order to earn the maximum points against their visitors today.
Al Gharafa on their part are better placed on the table where they currently sit 4th on the log with 23 points after 14 matches. But a recent drop in form has seen them lost their last two games – something Imoh and his teammates will do well to capitalise on. Imoh`s last goal for his side came in their game against 4-2 home loss to seventh place Al Ahli late last month.

Obi, Onazi In Face Off

Joel Obi2

As Inter play host to Lazio

Two Nigerian internationals could be on the opposing side for their respective clubsides in an Italian Seria a fixture tomorrow.
Super Eagles and Inter milan midfielder, Joel Obi will be available for selection when the Nerazzurris file out against visiting Lazio who are coming to the San Siro Stadium with another Eagles regular Ogenyi Onazi who has find first team football limited of recent with his last game for his side coming against Varese in the Coppa Italia.
Six points currently separate the two sides with Lazio enjoying the better standing courtesy of their 26 points which place them 3rd on the league table while host Inter currently sit 11th on the log with 20 points. Inter therefore face a tough task against a Lazio side who are yet to lose in their last three games.
Obi who is back to full fitness following long injury layoff has been impressive for Inter coinciding with the appointment of Roberto Mancini as the manager of the side.

High Flying Eagles demolish Highlanders 10-0

Nigeria Amateur side, Highlanders FC were the latest team to suffer defeat to the Manu Garba led Flying Eagles, losing 10-0 in a friendly game on Friday.
However, Highlanders had the first attempt on goal through the impressive 14-year-old Ahmed Babayaro who left goalkepper Dele Alampasu sprawling on the floor with a piece of sublime skill only to see his effort skim off the bar.
The chance wasted sprung the Flying Eagles to life and Samuel Mathias was first to a well delivered ball across the box from Musa Mohammed to put them one goal up.
Left-back Mustapha Abdullahi doubled the Flying Eagles lead from what looked like an offside position before Musa Mohammed bent in a spectacular free-kick for the Flying Eagles’ third goal.
Saddam Auta as customary this days scored his side fourth after a through pass from Alfa Abdullahi to keep scores at 4-0 going into the half time break.
Samuel Matthias scored his second and his side’s fifth minutes after the resumption of the second half before substitute Israel Emmanuel added a brace.
Alfa Abdullahi missed a penalty that would have extended the scoreline for his team, but that was after Highlanders missed a penalty as well.
There was no stopping Akinjide Idowu from the spot before Jacob Njoku rounded up scoring for his team to end the game at 10 goals to nothing.

My wife is lucky to ‘hook’ me – Gbolahan Salami

My wife is lucky to ‘hook’ me – Gbolahan Salami

Super Eagles and Warri Wolves striker Gbolahan Salami will be walking down the aisle tomorrow (Sunday) with his fiancee. The striker speaks of his seemingly aggressive style on the pitch, club exploits, dream of moving to Europe in the next transfer window and more in this interview with CHARLES OGUNDIYA. Excerpts

Wedding bells
It is a good thing to have someone very special in your life. I am happy that a thing like this is happening in my life. When someone has a partner it will make things very easy. This is an opportunity for me to say this, I am so happy to be taking a new step in my life. Marriage is another phase of my life and I am glad I have made this move.
The lucky girl
Her name is Opeloyeru Lolade, but seriously like you said, I believe she is a lucky girl. Most ladies will give anything to hook up with a star and for her to be the apple of my eyes, I am sure she is very lucky. For her to give me a chance, I am a lucky guy too. My prayer now to God is for the union to open doors for me because I am planning to take my football career to Europe by January.
League top scorer record
I was in the camp for most of that period. Of course the players in the league couldn’t be expected to wait for me and I was not ready to leave the national team camp for the league. So it was all about priority, and cementing my position in the national team was my priority.
I don’t have any regret at all. I am happy with my output this season, since my days in the Nigerian league I have not had it so good; scoring 17 goals in a season was a big record for me, I am happy.
Warri Wolves
I was able to have my best season in Warri Wolves because of the attitude of the management, the technical crew and my teammates. The encouragement from all of them was awesome. In all the clubs I have played for in the NPFL, Warri Wolves stand out. This is the first club where I will not be sanctioned for quarrelling with anybody and it shows I am enjoying my game. I can say Warri Wolves is my best club ever.
Supposedly aggressive nature
My attitude on the pitch sometimes gives me away, but the truth is I am not a difficult person just that people misunderstand me. I don’t just fight unnecessarily, something must have triggered my annoyance. When you promised me something and you didn’t deliver, of course there will be quarrel.
Comparison with Mario Balotelli
Balotelli is a player I love although I don’t know how the nickname came about, I believe the way I play on the field may have prompted the nickname. I love his style of play and character.
AFCON 2015
As a player I am not happy to miss out from participating in Africa’s greatest showpiece and I know all Nigerians are in the same frame of mind as me. What makes it more painful is the fact that I have never had it so good in the national team. In the past I have been in and out of the team, but since I was invited this year, I have maintained my position and that is a big advantage and a good thing for me as a player.
Prolific season in the league
I was surprised with the output of some of the players in the league this season and this has shown that the league has improved more than what we had in the past. I am looking forward to doing more next season; that is if I am still playing in the league.
Growing up
It was not easy while growing up. I started my career on Lagos Island and my major source of encouragement has been God because without Him, I don’t think I will be where I am today. I wouldn’t say my parents were rich or poor but things were okay in my family as a kid growing up. I enjoyed my family and that is why I am trying to make them happy by working hard to get to the top. My parents gave me the desired support to play football, because they knew that I was destined to become a footballer.
Chances of home-based players in the Eagles
The coach (Stephen Keshi) has been encouraging the home-based players in the national team and that is why the players have been giving their best in the league to get invitations to the national team.
Assessment of the league
I can’t say our league is the best in Africa. We need to put in more effort because it is our game. Most of us play here before thinking of playing in Europe, but it’s not easy for the players in the domestic league. The fact is that if you don’t play well here at home, nobody will invite you to Europe.
CHAN outing
That was the first tournament I played for the Super Eagles and I was so happy that the tournament was hosted by South Africa. I had a contract there that was terminated, so I wanted to prove myself. It was not because I didn’t know how to play football. I was also happy because the club (Sundowns) officials saw my performance and they came to congratulate me. But I felt sad when we lost to Ghana in the semifinals. However, I am happy to still be a part of the national team.
Mamelodi Sundowns’ misadventure

Only God knows what happened. The irony of it all is that people don’t believe my own version of what happened in South Africa. The belief here was that I had problems with the club’s management, but that is not true. The issue I had in South Africa was that of a work permit. Everything went on well but I couldn’t secure a work permit, which I needed before I could play in the South African league. I took everything in good faith because I believe things will be okay. That was why I came back to play in the domestic league once again, to prove myself as a good player and score goals.

By Newtelegraph

President’s Cup victory thrills Ajetunmobi

President’s Cup victory thrills Ajetunmobi

Portugal-based Seun Ajetunmobi has described his victory at the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation organised President’s Cup as a precursor to a greater achievement for him next year. The former national champion came from behind to beat Kazeem Makanjuola 6-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-9, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5 in the final of the tournament on Thursday.
Ajetunmobi admitted that Makanjuola of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps made life difficult for him and that he had to rely on his experience to beat his less illustrious opponent. The Gunca Sports Club of Portugal player said that he was shocked by the improvement in Makanjuola’s game which was an indication of the good work the new NTTF board is doing.

“I am happy for this victory because it was a tough match for me. Kazeem is my boy; I used to advise him on his game and I am very surprised about what I saw here today (Thursday) ,” he said. Janet Effiom beat Atinuke Olaide in the women’s category. Ajetunmobi and Effiom went home with N250,000 each, while the other competitors got N50,000 for their participation.

Golden Eaglets pick 100 from open screening

Golden Eaglets pick 100 from open screening

About 100 budding youngsters have been identified as potential players
for the Golden Eaglets after one week of intensive and rigorous exercise.
With an average of 300 players screened daily, the coaching crew, led by Emmanuel Amuneke, was able to shift the grain from the chaff from what is just the first stage of a tedious process for a place in the squad.
“We thank everyone that had come and the one-week open screening has reinforced our belief that there is abundance of talents in Nigeria,” Amuneke said.
It was gathered that this is only the first stage of the exercise which is squarely based on the innate quality of the players as well as right disposition during the screening.
Officials informed that the players so selected would be further scrutinised to authenticate their document before undergoing the mandatory Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Test.
“The whole idea of this screening is to have a pool of players that can be good additional to the squad even after the African Championship in Niger,” reasoned Amuneke.
“This team is work in progress and by the grace of God, we shall pack the plane successfully after Chile in 2015.”
Meanwhile, the Golden Eaglets would continue their build up towards the continental cadet championship at the NFF/FIFA Goal Project in Abuja on Monday.
According to the team’s administrator, Tayo Egbaiyelo, the team will only break from their routine training session on designated public holidays during the festive period in view of the short time before Niger 2015 slated for February 15 to March 1.
Incidentally, draws for the competition would be held at the CAF Headquarters in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday with the eight qualifiers including defending champions, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger (hosts), Cameroon,
Guinea, Mali, South Africa, Zambia and Nigeria drawn into two halves of four teams each.

HAPPY MAN: FIFA clears Ukoh to play for Nigeria

Steven Ukoh

The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) on Thursday, cleared former Swiss Under-20 international, Steven Ukoh to represent Nigeria at senior level.
A statement issued in Abuja by Ademola Olajire, Assistant Director, Communications, Nigeria Football Association (NFA) said the decision was made by the FIFA Players’ Status Committee’s judge on Dec. 4.
 “His father, Archibong Ukoh and mother Helene, hail from Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom’’, the statement reads.“Ukoh was cleared to switch his nationality from Switzerland to Nigeria.
“The versatile midfielder, born on June19, 1991 to Nigerian parents in Berne, Switzerland, currently plays for Biel-Bienne FC in the European country.
It further said that Ukoh represented Switzerland at Under-16, 17, 18, 19 and Under-20 levels between 2006 and 2010 but changed his mind to play for Nigeria at the senior level.
Also, Arsenal FC of England’s Chuba Akpom, and Semi Ajayi, have expressed interest in being part of Super Eagles’ international friendly matches against Cote d’Ivoire and Mali in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The statement said Ajayi and Akpom could be called up by Coach Daniel Amokachi for the trip, alongside Steven Ukoh.
The Super Eagles will play Africa Cup of Nations -bound teams: Elephants of Cote d’ Ivoire and Mali’s Les Aiglons on Jan. 9 and Jan. 13 before the kickoff of the Nations Cup.

Tide turns against Keshi

The tide appears to have been turned against out-of-contract Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi, who not only has lost the support of his coaches fraternity but now seems to be enmeshed in an endless waiting game for the NFF to offer him a new deal as reportedly directed by the Presidency.
But the NFF only yesterday said that it was still fine tuning certain aspects of the contract.
According to the President of the NFF, Amaju Pinnick, “contracts are not signed overnight and there are factors to be sorted out before you sign.
“We are talking with Keshi but I am not under pressure to employ Keshi, we just want to do the right things to work in harmony,” said Pinnick.
Pinnick indicated that the relationship between Keshi and the Nigeria Football Federation has not been strained but added that it would be in nobody’s best interests to make a rushed decision.
“We changed our resolve to re-engage Keshi but there are issues to be tidied up in a contract between the two parties.
“We have to look at so many issues like our budget, whether we can accommodate his demands and whether he can work with our technical study group,” he added.
As if this was not bad news enough for Keshi, his fellow coaches are not letting up in their push for his disengagement by the NFF.
After attacking the former Eagles captain during the week, Technical Director of the NFF) Amodu Shuaibu yesterday delivered another cut to the head of Keshi, by insisting that the former Eagles captain has taken Nigerian football to ground zero and says there is no team at the moment.
“I’m not sure we have a current Super Eagles after we failed to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. I think we are back to ground zero. I’m not even sure I’m in the right position to speak on this issue because it concerns the management of football in Nigeria, which is the board of the Nigeria Football Federation,” Amodu said.
And adding his voice to the trending issue, Adegboye Onigbinde, has revealed that he personally advised Keshi, to walk away about two months back.
“On the very day the presidency asked him to return to his job, I personally sent him an text message to politely thank Mr. President for the offer and bow out honourably and quietly, too.
“Keshi respectfully replied the text message thanking me and that was it. He went ahead with the two remaining 2015 Nations Cup qualifying matches against Congo and South Africa, I’m sure the rest is history.
“I volunteered the advice to Keshi because I understand that he won’t work with the presidency but a different set of people as well as an entirely different environment,”said Onigbinde.

2015: Yobo endorses Jonathan for second term

Skipper of Nigerian football team Joseph Yobo (C) holding the Africa Cup of Nations trophy arrives at the airport in Abuja, on February 12, 2013. The newly crowned African champions Nigerian Super Eagles arrives in Abuja to a warm reception by fans and government officials after defeating Burkina Faso to win the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa. AFP PHOTO


Former captain of the Super Eagles, Joseph Yobo, on Friday led a group known as PDP Ward 2 Ward Initiative to the Presidential Villa Abuja to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan for second term.
Addressing State House correspondents after a closed-door meeting with the president, Yobo said Jonathan deserved a second term to continue the “good work” he had started.
The ex-international, who is the group’s brand ambassador, said the president had done so well for the youth and called on them to re-elect him in 2015.
He stated that his organisation had a short, medium and long-term plan to partner the president on his transformation agenda.
“I’m here to endorse His Excellency, the president of our great nation, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, for his re-election. He has done so well.
“I stand here as a youth to say that he deserves a second term to push forward the good work he has started.
“I do believe in the legacy of the transformation agenda, and that’s why this Ward 2 Ward Initiative is building on that legacy.
“The president has done so well. The youth now have their own power, they have their own beliefs and they should understand that they have their rights in their own hands. They should follow what Mr President has started.
“The youth should come forward and believe in Mr President. Everybody should come out to vote for him.
“It’s your choice, but as an individual and as a face of the youth, I recognise what he has done.
“The future is for the youth. We need to stand up and look into the future, not just now.
“If we don’t settle down and take responsibility as youths and be able to follow what Mr President has done, then what does out future hold?”
The national Coordinator PDP Ward 2 Ward Initiative, Mr Shekulomaso Karka, said the group was a grassroots political organisation and an NGO involved in youth development at the grassroots.
Karka explained that the group was involved in the propagation of government’s developmental policies and programmes in rural areas.

LMC Preaches Pension Fund for League Players

The League Management Company (LMC) launched a communications campaign promoting the institution of of a Contributory Pension Fund for Players by the 20 Glo Premier League Clubs.
The audio-visual campaign which has been posted on the new Nigeria Professional League website ( depicts two retired players who are having opposite post-career experiences.
In the video, one of the players who was smart to have subscribed to a pension scheme while in active football was shown to be flourishing and living a good life while the other player who had no pension plan was in poverty, riding on commercial buses and calling his friend for a loan.
Commenting on the campaign, Chairman of the LMC, Hon. Nduka Irabor said, “Players are the most valuable assets of the League and the League Management Company (LMC) is very interested in their welfare not just during their active career years but also in their post career well-being. ”
He said the government of Nigeria recognises the importance of compulsory pension savings and has encouraged both the private and public sectors to embrace pension scheme for the workforce.

Irabor concluded by saying, “The LMC strongly recommends the immediate adoption of the Contributory Bridging Pension scheme by Clubs for their players and other employees. It is the Law-Pension Reform Act, 2014.Let us work together today to safeguard the future of our footballers.

TRAGEDY: Lobi Stars’ striker dies in car crash

Sarki Audu of Lobi Stars
Sarki Audu of Lobi Stars

Lobi Stars Football Club striker, Sarki Audu, has lost his life following an auto-crash on Saturday.
The striker was travelling in the company of his wife and daughter in his car to Bauchi from his home town in Yobe when the accident occurred.
A Lobi Stars club official, Ganiyu Adeleke, confirmed the passing of the striker to
“We received the unfortunate news this morning of the death of Seriki Audu. He was driving from Yobe State, his base, with his family, wife and daughter.
“But he died from the accident while his wife is at present at the intensive care unit of a hospital where she was taken to and the daughter suffered a fracture.
“It is a very sad news at this time for Lobi Stars because Seriki was one of our top strikers, and had a life full of promise in the future ahead of him,” said Adeleke on Saturday.
Audu scored one league goal for Lobi Stars in last season’s Glo Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). The solitary goal was in Lobi’s 2-0 win against Bayelsa United.

The Makurdi-based club finished sixth position on the Nigeria topflight on 59 points.

FIFA rankings: Super Falcons end year with climb to 32nd spot

Nigeria Super Falcons
Nigeria’s Super Falcons have ended the year as the 32nd ranked national team in the world following Friday’s release of the latest FIFA Women’s World Rankings.
The Super Falcons defeated Cameroon 2-0 in the final of the 2014 African Women’s Championship in Namibia to clinch the title for a record nine times.
The reigning African champions were previously ranked 35th in the world but have now climbed three spots in the rankings and remain as the highest ranked team in Africa
Nigeria are the least-ranked side in World Cup 2015 Group D compared to USA (2nd), Sweden (5th) and Australia (10th) ahead of the tournament which holds from June 6 to July 5.
The Super Falcons garnered a total of 1633 points from the month of September till date and remained the best in Africa ahead of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The Black Queens of Ghana remain unmoved as second best African team with 1459 points at 50th spot. Cameroon are now ranked third in Africa and 52nd in the world, followed by Equatorial Guinea (54th), South Africa (60th), Cote d’Ivoire (65th), Algeria (77th), Morocco (78th), Tunisia (79th) and Egypt (87th).
Meanwhile, Germany displaced USA, who dropped a place at the summit of the World Ranking while France, Japan and Sweden complete the top five countries.

The next Fifa ranking for women will be published on 19 March, 2015.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Choupo-Moting leads German Africans

Cameroon's Eric Choupo-Moting is leading the way for Africans in Germany.
The striker scored his ninth goal of the season for Schalke as they came from behind to beat hosts Paderborn 2-1 in the Bundesliga.
Gabon's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang,whose Dortmund are generally not doing well, scored his fifth goal this season as BVB drew 2-2 at home with Wolfsburg.
But the point did not do much, as Dortmund only moved to 16th. They are still in the relegation dogfight.
Tunisia's Anis Ben-Hatira scored once, setting up two others for Hertha Berlin in a 4-4 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt. It was the 26-year-old's third goal of the season.
Senegal's Salif Sane got his second goal of the season for Hannover on Tuesday.

Date for Caf interclub draw revealed

The draw of the preliminary stages of Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup will take place on December 22 in Cairo, can confirm.
Algerian side, ES Setif, won the last edition of Caf Champions League against AS Vita club of DR Congo while Egyptian side, Al Ahly, won the Confederation Cup against Sewe Sport.
Sources in Caf revealed to that the draw will take place at the Caf headquarters in 6th city in Cairo on December 22.
The matches of both tournaments will start after Caf Super Cup between ES Setif and Al Ahly in February.

Caf Super Cup gets date

Caf has picked February 21 as date for the Super Cup clash between ES Setif of Algeria and Egyptian side Al Ahly, has been informed.
ES Setif won the Caf Champions League while Al Ahly claimed the Confederation Cup to set up the clash of champions on the continent.
Sources at Caf revealed to that the game will be played on February 21 at the Stade Mustapha Tchaker stadium in Blida city, Algeria.
The Algerian side asked Caf to schedule the game in Constantine near Sétif, but the African football governing body refused the request.
Caf stuck to the choice of Blida, a city just 45 kilometres south-west of the Algerian capital, Algiers.

NNL LATEST: Bees, Kwara Utd match abandoned again

The replay of the NNL match between Ranchers Bees and Kwara United on Friday was again abandoned due to crowd trouble, can report.
The NFF appeals committee had ordered that only the remaining 28 minute of the encounter be played on Friday at the Fifa Goal Project in Abuja.
Kwara United started the match with a lot of finesse knowing fully well that they must win the encounter to have the chance of getting the promotion ticket.
Ranchers Bees, on the other hand, were defensive since a draw would do them a lot of good.
Pandemonium then occurred at the death of the game when the centre referee, C. Ozigbo, awarded a penalty to Kwara United, but the referee was later beaten by angry fans, who invaded the pitch.
The encounter was still 2-2 apiece before the mayhem occurred on Friday at in Abuja.
A source, who was at the stadium, revealed to that Ranchers Bees' players and officials were the ones who first attacked the referee before hell was let loose.
The centre referee was later rushed to a nearby hospital where he is currently receiving emergency treatment.
Meanwhile, the match commissioner's report of the match would now determine the next step that would be taken by the highest football authority in Nigeria.

Enyimba, Heartland in race to sign Ogbonnaya

Federation Cup holders Enyimba and their southeast rivals Heartland are the latest NPFL clubs to show interest in centre-back Reuben Ogbonnaya.
Enyimba are looking to shore up the heart of their defence ahead of the New Year as they will take part in the Caf Champions League, the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) and the Federation Cup.
Word emerged from the camp of the People's Elephant that Ogbonnaya has been made one of the club's prime targets in this off-season transfer window.
"Reuben is a target for us. But right now nothing concrete has been achieved as we look to fortify our team, especially in the area of defending the Champions League," an official of Enyimba said to
But the two-time African champions face a competition for the centre-back, who featured prominently for El-Kanemi Warriors last season in the country's top flight.
Heartland have also thrown their hat in the ring. A top official of the Naze Millionaires have put a call through to the defender, has been informed.
The Heartland official said: "He (Ogbonnaya) was massive for his team when they came to Owerri in April and even in September when his team won 2-1. So he is being sought after. Talks are ongoing with his people and himself."
However, the two southeast clubs will have to fend off champions Kano Pillars, who have indicated interest in the centre half all season.

Iwu ready to wait for Nigeria call

Heartland young goalkeeper Emmanuel Iwu has told that he is ready to wait for the chance to play for Nigeria at under-20 level.
Iwu explained that if the chance to play for Nigeria's under-20s does not materialise he will focus his energy on working his way into any of the men's national teams - whether the under-23s or seniors.
"I am not disturbed about not being in the camp with the under-20 national team. I have been asked about this by most people, but I think the coaches know better and I do not think they should be pressured into selecting players against their will or plan.
"Nigeria is a big country with plenty of talent and I am just one. So I am always ready to wait for my turn. But if it doesn't come at the under-20 level, maybe I will have to work and focus harder with my club and ensure that I am called up for maybe the under-23 or even the Super Eagles, who knows? In football anything can happen," Iwu told this week in Lagos after he was named Best New Goalkeeper in the NPFL at the 2014 League Bloggers Awards (LBA).
However, Iwu's focus is now on the upcoming NPFL season with Heartland.
Heartland finished in ninth place last term and 10 points behind Nigerian champions Kano Pillars. Iwu hopes the Naze Millionaires can challenge for the title next season.
"The season started slowly for us but I am hoping that we can start and end next season strongly and challenge for the title," he said.
Iwu made his NPFL debut with Heartland in the southeast derby against Enyimba in April this year. He kept a clean sheet in his team's 1-0 win after coming off the bench for Ebere Obi.

Ebimobowei named OWU brand ambassador

Peter Ebimobowei scored hat-trick for Bayelsa United during the 2013/14 NPFL season
Peter Ebimobowei scored hat-trick for Bayelsa United during the 2013/14 NPFL season

Peter Ebimobowei, Bayelsa United striker has now become an ambassador of Nigeria’s leading indigenous sportswear producer, OWU.
Ebimobowei, who was nominated for League Bloggers Award (LBA) Player of the season, has now been announced by OWU as its first-ever brand ambassador.
Tunji Brown, CEO of OWU, revealed this during the official inauguration of its first-ever retail outlet on Thursday.
Brown applauded Ebimobowei for scoring 18 goals without a penalty and described the partnership as “a perfect fit,” at a time the brand is expanding its frontiers.
“We’re excited to open our outlet and begin a relationship with a brilliant striker like Ebimobowei, who finished among the best four players. Ebimobowei is as active as our brand.
“Innovation is the key word at OWU and we are expanding into other parts of the country. We service clients in 13 states and no fewer than two Premier League teams will join us soon,” Brown told
“OWU produces kits for other sports like volleyball, basketball as well as rugby and have just added ready-to-wear T-shirts. Anyone can walk into our outlet in Ikeja to purchase these products.”
OWU was the official kit for Lobi Stars, Stationery Stores, FRSC, Supreme Court, Kogi United, MFM, Prime and Confluence Queens, a women’s team, during the 2013/14 season.

The Brand Ambassador, Ebimobowei, entered the history books as the one of two players to score double hat-tricks during the just-concluded Glo NPFL season in two different matches against Kaduna United as well as Lobi Stars.

Chi Adz

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