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How Far Can Stephen Odey Go?




With the Nigerian League yet to get to the half way mark, MFM’s firebrand attacker, Stephen Odey, has already struck a record. His 14 goals as at match day is already a record.
No player had scored such amount of goals before the league got into the home stretch.
In some instances, 14 goals were what some players scored to emerge the top scorers for the entire season. In the days leading to the last friendly match the Super Eagles had in London last month, Odey’s name kept coming up as a domestic league player who should have been employed for the Super Eagles’ assignments.
The former school boy sensation in the GTBank Principals Cup has a big burden on his neck. He will have to prove that unlike the ‘kings’ before him, he will not be a one season sensation.
He will have to rewrite the history of the hotshots of the Nigerian league. In 27 years of the professional league in Nigeria, only one of the 27 top scorers of the season ever established himself in the Super Eagles.
The exception is Ahmed Musa, the then Kano Pillars’ striker whose 18 goals in the 2009/2010 season not only made him the top scorer, it was the first time in 20 years that the 17-goal mark established in 1990 by Ishaya Jatau (Iwuanyanwu Nationale) was surpassed.
The poser therefore is: Why do the Nigerian league top scorers fail to make impact in the national team or even replicate their forms the following seasons?
I may not have an answer. But it is necessary to look into this poser fir the development of the game in our country.
A little scrutiny of the top scorers will reveal a preponderant goal mouth scramble and penalty kick goals. It would appear once a player emerges as a potential top scorer, all penalty kick awards are ceded to him to ensure he come out top at the end of the season.
No fewer than six of Odey’s goals this season have been from the spot, giving one the impression he might go the same way of our past top scorers – one season hot shot with little impact in the national team.
He will need to prove pundits wrong. He can do this, if he is willing and if he takes into consideration what happened to those before him.
Will he be the new Super Eagles’ scoring machine like Rashidi Yekini? It will be recalled that the late Yekini last played for Nigeria on June 28, 1998 in France and last scored on January 22, 1998. Nineteen years on, his 37 goal mark is still unmatched. The closest player to the goal mark is the now national team-retired Aiyegbeni Yakubu who has 20 goals, 17 behind Yekini’s.
With the way Odey is going, most football observers are hoping he would be the next goal scoring machine for the national team as did Rashidi Yekini. But the statistics on ground do not support this.
It prompts one to wonder whether the top scorers of the Nigerian league are under any spell not to perform at higher level. Worse still, they often don’t leave up to their ratings of the previous season.
They have mostly turned out to be “one season hot-shots”. Only Abubakar Babale of Sunshine Stars emerged the 2007/2008 top scorer with 14 goals and was in contention for the top scorer award the following season.
The top scorers often had difficulties breaking into the Super Eagles’ squad. It was only in 2009 that Joseph Akpala, joint top scorer with 12 goals along with Timothy Anjembe in 2005, scored against France in a friendly match. He has since been confined to history in the Super Eagles.
Nigeria is therefore still in search of consistent lethal strikers. Take a look at all the domestic league’s top scorers, especially since the advent of professional football 27 years ago, a pathetic picture is painted.
Pace-setter, Ishaya Jatau who scored 17 goals for Iwuanyanwu Nationale in 1990, was not capped more than five times for the Super Eagles. He scored only once – the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Republic of Benin, in Cotonou on September 30, 1990.
He had earlier been called up to the national team that featured in 1989 ECOWAS Cup after he had performed well with his former club of the season, Highlanders of Jos.
His poor marksmanship at the ECOWAS Cup cost him a place in the team that later featured in the Algeria ’90 Africa Cup of Nations. He returned to the national team and scored a consolatory goal against Benin Republic in an African Nations Cup qualifier.
His many misses in the match did not impress Coach Clemens Westerhof. In 1991, he scored just six goals in the league before travelling to Cote d’Ivoire which was then the transit point for Nigerian players seeking career in Europe.
Jatau did even better than the others. Subsequent top scorers of the league from 1991 to 1999 couldn’t break into the Super Eagles.
For instance, Olumide Harris, then a young enterprising player of Shooting Stars scored 14 goals to top the chart in the 1994 season. Months later in January 1995, he was a shadow of himself in the Under 20 side, the Flying Eagles that crumbled at the African Youth Championship hosted by Nigeria.
He did not score in a championship he was tipped to be the major attraction.
In a similar vein, Eddie Dombraiye of the then Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland) was a top scorer in 1998 after hitting the net 13 times.
He was drafted to the U21 side featuring in the 1999 World Youth Championship to be the hit man. Like Olumide Harris, Dombraiye did not make much impact in the team and later travelled abroad to Poland and played for LKS Lodz.
The top scorer for the 1998 Season, Hassan Minda of Gombe United was not even capped in the national team.
In 1991, Bendel United’s Richard Ojomo scored 12 goals to emerge the league’s hot shot. He was one of the two players of the season to have scored hat trick when he put in three goals in a 5-2 home win against Ranchers Bees in a Week 22 match.
Gabriel Okolosi of Julius Berger was the other hat trick achiever. Ojomo who was already in the twilight of his career in the 1991 season did not even have a call-up into the national team.
Arthur Moses, a Ghanaian and the first foreigner to win the hot shot award of the Professional League put in 10 goals in 1992 season while featuring for Super Stores.
The following season, he scored just three goals. He later moved to Europe where he featured for different clubs in France – Toulon, Olympic Marseille and Nimes. He got a couple of call-ups into Ghana Black Stars and featured in the 1998 African Nations Cup finals in Burkina Faso.
Tony Nwigwe of Iwuanyanwu Nationale who emerged top scorer with his 13 goals in 1993 also got a couple of call-ups into the Super Eagles. He, however, could not find the net.
It was in this period that Rashidi Yekini was in his deadliest form and easily overshadowed other contending scorers in the national team. The top scorers after him – Olumide Harris (Shooting Stars), Ben Agadah (Gombe United), Peter Anyilobi (Enyimba), Paul Kpougoul (Jasper United/BCC Lions) and Emma Agbo (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), Ibenegbu Okechuku (El Kanemi), Ameh Aruwa (Kaduna United), Abubakar Ibrahim Babale (Wikki Tourists/Sunshine Stars) and Akarandut Orok (Akwa United) – did not earn places in the Super Eagles.
Ben Agadah scored 12 goals for Gombe United to emerge the top scorer in 1995. He had moved into oblivion ever since. First he moved to Cameroun and then returned to Nigeria, likewise Peter Anyilobi, the Enyimba of Aba striker whose nine goals fetched him the highest scorer award in 1996. Interestingly the nine goals were scored in the first stanza of the league before the player opted to further his career in Germany.
Other players could not catch up with him. In Germany, Anyilobi first featured for FC 08 Homburg in 1998/99 season before moving to Pirmasens. Paul Kpoughoul played for two clubs: Jasper United and BCC Lions to emerge top scorer in 1997. His total of 16 was just one behind the record set by Ishaya Jatau in 1990.
Emmanuel Agbo scored 14 goals in 1999 for Iwuanyanwu Nationale and was called up for the Under-23 team preparing for the Sydney Olympics but was not firmly established in the team.
Like other top scorers in the past, he had his eyes in Europe and later joined SW Bregenz of Austria.
The next hot shot to be in the Super Eagles was Peter Ijeh in 2002, featuring for Julius Berger in 2000; he topped the goal chart with his 14 goals. He ventured to Norway and resumed his goal scoring spree. Just one match as a substitute in the Super Eagles’ game against Jamaica in Lagos was enough to dismiss him.
Uche Okereke of Rangers who emerged top scorer with 13 goals in 2001 had just one cap, an away game against Zambia in Chingola and that ended his international career.
In 2002, Victor Ezeji of Dolphins and Ghana’s Joetex Frimpong (El Kanemi) were joint top scorers with 16 goals each. Ezeji was capped only twice for Nigeria.
First, coming as a substitute in an African Nations Cup qualifier against Angola on September 8, 2002 and another LG Cup match against Libya in Tripoli, where he scored his only international goal in a 2-1 loss to the hosts.
What then is wrong with the Nigerian league’s top scorers that they don’t live up to the standard expected of them in subsequent seasons and also in the national team? This is begging for answers!

Top scorers who failed to make impact in Super Eagles
1990-Ishaya Jatau (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 17 goals
1991-Richard Ojomo (Bendel United), 12 goals
1992-Arthur Moses (Super Stores), 10 goals
1993-Tony Nwigwe (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 13 goals
1994-Olumide Harris (Shooting Stars), 14 goals
1995-Ben Agadah (Gombe United), 12 goals
1996-Peter Anyiolobi (Enyimba), 9 goals
1997-Paul Kpoughoul (Jasper United/BCC Lions), 16 goals
1998-Hassan Minda (Gombe United), 14goals
1999-Emmanuel Agbo (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 14 goals
2000-Peter Ijeh (Julius Berger), 14 goals
2001-Uche Okereke (Enugu Rangers), 13 goals
2002-Joetex Frimpong (El-Kanemi), Victor Ezeji (Dolphins), 16 goals
2003-Chibuzor Ozurumba (Iwuanyanwu), Endurance Idahor (Julius Berger) 12 goals each
2004-Kabiru Alausa (Berger), 13 goals
2005-Timothy Anjembe (Lobi Stars), Joseph Akpala (Insurance), Charles Omokaro (Sharks), 12 goals each
2006 -Ibenebu Ikechukwu (El Kanemi), 10 goals
2007 – Ameh Aruwa (Kaduna United), 10 goals
2007/2008 – Abubakar Babale (Wikki Tourist/Sunshine Stars), 14 goals
2008/2009 – Akarandut Orok (Akwa United), 17 goals
2009/2010 – Ahmed Musa (Kano Pillars), 18 goals.
2010/2011 – Jude Aneke (Kaduna United), 20 goals
2011/2012 – Sibi Gwar (Niger United), 17 goals.
2012/2013 – Victor Namo (Nasarawa United) 18 goals.
2013/2014 – Mfoh Udoh ( Enyimba) 23 goals

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Expectedly, Nigeria’s Super Falcons are African champions for the ninth time in 11 editions of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. Winning continental honours with over 81% success indicates that the Super Falcons are the dominant forces in Africa.

But the bare statistics speak little about the increasing decline in the status of the team. The gulf that existed between the pedigree of the Super Falcons and that of the rest of the Africa is increasingly narrowing.

In essence, the rest are catching up, while the standard in Nigeria is at best stagnant if not declining. In the just concluded tournament in Ghana, the Super Falcons played 330 minutes of matches without scoring in the open play.

The statistics consist of the blank shots in the 90 minutes of the opening encounter with South Africa, and the 120 minutes played with each of Cameroon and South Africa in the final stages. It is the lottery of penalty shootout that earned the team both the World Cup ticket and the continental title.

Goals, almost in torrents, were scored against only the punching bags of Group B – Zambia and Equatorial Guinea. It should be noted that the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year will not feature such weaklings.


At the best of forms, the Super Falcons had never found their feet at the global level, even though the dominance in Africa earned the team the honour of being one of the only seven to have attended all the past seven editions of the tournament since the inaugural edition in 1991.

Yet of the seven that comprise of USA, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Norway and Sweden, the Super Falcons are the only one not has ever become one of the third-place finishers. Next year, it will be exactly 20 years since they had their best outing, a quarter-final finish at USA ’99.

Shall they continue to live in past glory? That is why a lot more have to be done. The Super Falcons appear to be the only one of Nigeria’s national teams that commands little or no attention. The only significant preparation in the form of friendly match was the one played against France earlier in the year.

Of course, the results speak volumes on the gap between our team and those of the ambassador class, the medium but rare and those still learning the hard way as the FIFA Technical Report of China 1991 espoused on the three-tiered participants.

At the global level, Nigeria still remains at the third tier, even 27 years after. It calls for urgent concern. Virtually all the squad members of the current Super Falcons are based abroad; an indication of the paucity of talents at home. In the early days of 1990s, women clubs established by spirited enthusiasts dotted virtually all parts of the country.


These days, the clubs have thinned out leaving the Rivers Angels, Bayelsa Queens, Delta Queens and Pelican Stars as some of the few existing ones and without vibrant domestic competitions to sustain, let alone multiply talents.

Except urgent steps are taken by the Nigeria Football Federation, the end of Nigeria’s dominance in this category of football is imminent. Even as we draw most of the Super Falcons’ players abroad, a time will come when there will be none to export to be refined for later-day importation into the Super Falcons.

Probably to increase the interest in women’s football, the clubs in the NPFL could be encouraged to have teams of opposite sex. Considering that women’s clubs attract no gate fees which is the barest to sustain the clubs in competitions, the ones attached to NPFL clubs can play curtain raiser matches ahead of the main menu especially if the opposing clubs are in the neighbourhood.

For instance, a fixture of Enugu Rangers and Enyimba can be preceded as a curtain raiser by the women’s teams attached to the two clubs. That way, those who ordinarily will not go out to watch women’s football will have the opportunities.

The ladies get exposed to more competitions and in crowd attended environments. The result will be multiplication of talents and the raising of women football to the next level.

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It is no longer news that Plateau United are the Nigerian Professional Football League Champions. They topped the log very early in the recently concluded season and kept the top position away from the rest of the pack until the final day of the season.

Fidelis Ilechukwu, Gbenga Ogunbote and Abdul Maikaba’s charges variously huffed and puffed all season. The Jos-based team was however determined to achieve the feat last accomplished by a Plateau team through the Mighty Jets squad of old.
Fast forward to today. After losing out on a possible double in a two-legged battle against Niger Tornadoes in the Aiteo Cup, all appears to be at a standstill concerning the Jos-based side.

The team has not been honoured by the government of the state. To add to the worrisome situation, there has not been any significant preparations for either the forthcoming league season or the CAF continental competition they qualified for by virtue of winning the league title.
A bunch of players who aren’t hosted by their sponsors for winning the league title after a gruelling season in such fashion as they did are less likely to be motivated to do anything significant on the continent.

Added to this is the allegation that the League Management Company is yet to pay the club the cash prize for winning the title as at last weekend.


With the State government not currently looking the way of the champions and the delay in receiving their prize money from the league organizers, it is no surprise that the Ahlan tournament currently taking place in Kano is the very first major training session the team has been engaged in since they were knocked out of the Aiteo Cup.
Unlike other teams competing for honours on the national and continental stage like Enyimba FC, which camped in Ado Ekiti before travelling to Kano, or El Kanemi, which had been on a road trip playing teams across the country, or other teams which played in the Gold Cup, Plateau United had not had any serious tune-up game before coming to Kano for the double preseason tournaments in the Pyramid City.

To make it to Kano, a lump sum, running into a few million naira, had to be borrowed from private sources in order to fund the team’s departure for the competition.
A short while ago, the media was awash with a news article where the Plateau United General Manager, Pius Henwan was said to have announced that Plateau United were to sign 50 players ahead of their 2017/2018 football season in order to strengthen the team for its CAF Champions League, Nigeria Professional Football League and the Aiteo Cup engagements.

He went on to assert that some new players have been recruited to replace the 12 players released last season and to fortify the team before the commencement of the 2017/2018 NPFL season.
In the statement, he promised that efforts were on for the team to embark on a close camping outside the country where the team is expected to map out plans for their continental campaign.

“During the camping the team will play some quality friendly matches with some foreign clubs,” he said.
However, in a conversation with Coach Kennedy Boboye who manages the league outfit over the weekend, he is worried about the impression that news item would project to the public as up till they departed for the Ahlan tournament; there had been very little support from the sponsors as regards the team’s preparations for the forthcoming season.
He went on to say that although he is blooding a few young players as well as trialists in the team, he is yet to make any signings ahead of the new season as he has to see them for a while in training at a closed camping exercise.

He lamented that although the Kano tournament is a welcome idea and gives him an opportunity to see some of these trialists in action, he may be unable to teach his team core tactics and strategy in such an open place away from home, where there is no guarantee that his tactics may be spied upon.
All these bring the Imama Amapakabo episode of the 2016/2017 season to mind only too uncomfortably. On that occasion, not too long before he was disengaged, Imama had explained in the media, using an allegory of a worn transport vehicle that received human augmentation upon reaching the home stretch of a marathon with victory in sight.


The Super Eagles Assistant Coach, in his allegory in that period, had bemoaned the lack of mechanical overhaul and refurbishing of the old and worn automobile ahead of its return marathon trip despite the evidently poor state.
Apparently, few administrators in ‘042,’ as Enugu is fondly described, got that message.

In the middle of the frenzy, pomp, pageantry (even though the road show left more to be desired!) and razzmatazz that followed the remarkable 32-year broken jinx, little was done to beef up the team and plug obvious leakages and grease necessary bearings.

It crash-landed only too soon the following league season and while the then-defending champions flirted dangerously with relegation for way too long, the celebrated coach was excused under a hail of dust.
It was so acrimonious that Amapakabo was briefly detained supposedly under the orders of some Rangers bigwigs.

By the time the dust settled, the entire leadership of Rangers International football club were shown the door at the end of the league season with continued top flight status secured, at least for one more season.
That same foreboding is what recent revelations from the camp of Plateau United suggests. This is despite the fact that the team captain, Golbe Elisha had recently suggested that his team was ’rearing to go.’

The question then is “Rearing to go to where?” Somewhere even better than their previous achievements or somewhere better imagined than experienced?
Plateau United must be encouraged not to fail us all on the continent, just like MFM, Enyimba and Akwa United.


It isn’t just about these teams and their sponsoring state governments. It is about Nigeria and her public image.

More than the public image of Nigeria however, it is about the coefficient rankings of Nigerian club outfits by CAF that can further plummet if the Nigerian charges fail to reach the latter stages of the CAF engagements this year.

The implication is that Nigeria may have her continental slots reduced, and that would be a huge reversal of opportunities to exhibit the Nigerian potentials and talents on the continental and global scene.

Tunde Akinbinu (Dr Tee) is a practising Medical doctor as well as a registered Sports Journalist. He writes from Kano._




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Day of Long Knives Beckons





The die is cast, the moment of decision is nigh and in just one year or so from now, the drummer boys will gather, ready to beat the drums of war ahead of what promises to be the fiercest and toughest  NFF presidential elections ever.

It promises lots of fireworks, the daggers will be out full length and this time, no one will be spared according to a top inside source.

From the North East, to the North West and North Central, the familiarity visits have begun.  The scheming game has intensified as meetings have started stretching into the dark.


It all began on the first day of the league season, when over 23 State FA chairmen converged in Kano State.

After that match between the hosts Kano Pillars and FC Ifeanyi Ubah, which ended rather abruptly, a congregation of FA chairmen from the North, spiced up by the presence of Nigeria Referees Association president, Tade Azeez and Chairman of Association of professional footballers of Nigeria APFON, Dahiru Sadi, met with the Kano State governor and the agenda on the day was how to return football administration to the North.

The North can boast of at least 22 votes from the 44 available and for now.  Two men are the hottest delegates in town, Alhaji Mohammed Alkali and Chidi Okenwa.  As FA chairmen of Nasarawa and Enugu states and also Chairmen of the Nigeria Nationwide and National Leagues respectively,

Both are proud owners of two votes each, out of the 44 available and as we speak  both are courted by all and sundry like beautiful brides in their prime, all, in their desperate bid to sway them over to their sides in good time ahead of the elections.



But who wants Amaju’s seat?


The incumbent, Melvin Amaju Pinnick (MAP) could become the first man in history to return for a second term in office.

Amaju describes himself as the anointed one. I am God’s anointed and the chosen one he said after dusting Mucharafou Anjorin of Benin Republic to the CAF executive committee seat.

Amaju has become very powerful in only a matter of months after emerging as a member of the exalted FIFA organising committee, CAF executive committee and now, chairman of CAF organising and media committees, two of the most respected committees in CAF.


He emerged NFF president in September 2014, and has done so well to keep his team intact and very united. He recently embarked on rigorous marketing drive to make the NFF buoyant again with the recent signing of the 2.5 billion naira Aiteo deal.

However, he still has a case at the Supreme Court to contend with as the Chris Giwa faction all turned up in court last week only to see the judge adjourn their plea to relist a case that have dragged on for over two years.

By December when the case will come up again, the World Cup ticket must have been secured and the pressure certainly will reduce on the shoulders of a man who has battled with forces far and near to get to the very pinnacle of world football politics.

He believes he has his soldiers fully behind him but daily; there are cracks in the walls as new groups have begun to emerge.

Still his strongest ally and supporter, is Chairman of the League Management Company, Shehu Dikko, a man who has refused to join forces with the opposition to fight a friend he has grown to love and accept.


The North sees Shehu as the ideal candidate to wrestle powers from Pinnick but his continued reluctance is gradually forcing them to change strategy and think of a plan B.

What is the plan B? For now, three options are available.

The first is for the North to align with a strong political warhorse from the South West who has told everyone that cares to listen that he will emerge the next NFF president.

This former NFF General Secretary is a silent planner but also a very intelligent politician. He contested against Pinnick in the September 2014 elections and has embarked on a constant pilgrimage to the North in the last two months in his bid to fraternise with the power blocks and get them support his presidential ambition.



The Option Two: A few of the Northerners are also dancing with a strong billionaire from the East who is fast emerging as one of the most powerful football administrators in Africa.

He has a club, he is building a sports village in his home town in Anambra state and he has a football club and remains one of just two private clubs owners in the NPFL.

He took over ten FA chairmen to London last year in continuation of his companies’ partnership pact with West Ham United football club.

He has kept very close ties with the real power blocks in the North and he is gradually infiltrating the rank and files among them in a bid to finally getting them to support his presidential ambition.

He is a man who goes for whatever he wants and gets it, so his influence and power as an emerging APC stalwart can never be under estimated.


Already, one very strong NFF executive committee member is being positioned to run with him as his vice president and he has vowed to drag twenty or more delegates along in this fresh adventure.



The third option is looking like the most workable even though the pilot flying this plane has continued to deny interest or acceptance. He is described by many as the ‘Jagaban’ of Nigeria football. A friend of many and enemy to none.

He smiles at every joke and offers a handshake when necessary.  He is loved by the media, worshipped by his very close associates and respected by all.


Across board, this man is gradually building an empire that will in no time catapult him to the very top of the ladder.

He tells one anytime he is asked that he has no ambition ofbecoming the NFF president and that he is more comfortable as a king maker.

Indeed he is a kingmaker because he attends every function from naming ceremony to birthdays, to graduation and marriages ceremonies. He doles out money to the rich and poor and carries all the northern FA chairmen along in this his emerging football empire.

He is a threat to anyone if only he decides to run for the NFF presidential seat.



Other Options…


There is the unseen hand from the presidency that could change everything and pick a candidate loyal to the ruling party as NFF president.

There is also the story of an emerging strong ally between some members of the present board who already smell foul play and members of the Giwa team to truncate the process before the 2018 World Cup.

We also hear that a group is compiling documents to get the EFCC to disrupt the process and put a few people behind bars few weeks to the election.


All these options are open for consideration as the 2018 NFF elections draws closer.

For now though, everyone prefers to stay quiet as if all is well as they go about their scheming and politicking in the dark.


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