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Nigerian Football

Rivers United’s Ayo Saka Wins Maiden VAT Wonder Goal Award

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Ayo Saka’s 39th minute goal for Rivers United has been voted the VAT Wonder Goal in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Match Day 20.
Saka beat off a still challenge from Enyimba’s Ugochukwu Leonard to emerge with the popular votes cast by fans in the poll conducted on the NPFL twitter handle @lmcnpfl and the official website of the league, www.npfl.ng.
Ugochukwu beat Saka in the twitter polls, earning 47% of the votes while Saka had 38% and Afolabi Abdulwaheed picked 15%.
However, Saka who recently joined Rivers United from Sunshine Stars edged Ugochukwu by a cumulative vote of 89.5% after he picked up 51.5% of the votes cast by fans on the website with Ugochukwu winning 37.9% to end on a total of 84.9%. Abdulwaheed of Gombe United finished third with 25.6%.
In the match against Nasarawa United, Saka had perfectly controlled a pass from Zoumana Doumbia on the left flank and with his second touch of the ball, drove into the 18 yard box past two Nasarawa United defenders before unleashing a left hook from 12 yards to the roof of the net for the only goal of the fixture.
Voters favoured his effort ahead of the long range strike from over 35 yards by Ugochukwu against Remo Stars at the Sagamu Stadium.
Saka thus emerges the winner of the inaugural VAT Wonder Goal, an initiative of the League Management Company (LMC) to enhance club-community engagement and also support the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) mass campaign on tax education.
Saka will receive N150, 000 from which he will donate 50% to a charity of his choice in Rivers State where his club is based.
The prize will be presented at the next home fixture of Rivers United after their continental engagement in Uganda this weekend.

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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Nigerian Football

Nigeria face tough defence as Burkina Faso lie in wait at U17 WAFU B AFCON qualifiers

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Defending champions Nigeria have been handed a difficult path to the 2025 U17 Africa Cup of Nations finals after being drawn in the same group as Burkina Faso for next month’s WAFU B qualifying tournament in Ghana.

The Golden Eaglets, who won the last edition of the regional championship in 2022, will also face Togo and Niger in Group B of the competition which runs from 15-28 May.

Hosts Ghana find themselves in Group A alongside Cote d’Ivoire and Benin in a tough-looking section of the competition to be played in Accra.

The draw was conducted by 1970s Ivorian football legends Kobenan Kouman and Die Foneye at the Ivorian FA headquarters in Abidjan on Friday.

Nigeria claimed their WAFU B U17 AFCON title by defeating Burkina Faso 2-1 in the regional final in Ghana two years ago.

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However, they will need to overcome some familiar foes if they are to defend their crown and with the Burkina Faso finishing third at the last TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations, some exciting matches are expected.

Arch-rivals Nigeria and Ghana are among the two favourites and could meet in the final in Accra on 28 May, should they top their respective groups and make it through the semi-finals.

Ghana also have pedigree at this level, having the World Cup in 1991 and 1995 as they bid to reach the U17 AFCON finals on home soil.

The top two teams from the WAFU B tournament will qualify for next year’s  U17 Africa Cup of Nations.

Groups:

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Group A: Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin

Group B: Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Togo, Niger.

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Nigerian Football

Former Nigeria international, Onye recommends  Amuneke-Siasia combo for Super Eagles

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Kingsley Onye, the left sided defender who was a member of the first Flying Eagles side to have a podium finish at the U-20 World Cup has suggested the employment of Emmanuel Amuneke as the coach of the Super Eagles.

He wants him to be assisted by Samson Siasia when the ban on the latter lapses in August. Alternatively, Onye pointed to Sylvanus Okpala as alternative to Siasia.

The Super Eagles are in dare need for a head coach as the clock ticks down to the Match day 4 and 5 of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers in which the team is trailing at the third position.

The two matches in early June are crucial for the Super Eagles to bounce back into reckoning as the team can not afford to drop any of the available six points in the duels with South Africa at home and away to Benin.

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From this Monday, it is 41 days to the potentially challenging tie with South Africa, but the Nigerian national  team has been without a coach since the expiration of the contract of Portugal’s Jose Peseiro shortly after the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire.

Without mincing words, Onye remarked: Emmanuel Amuneke is the right man for the job of the coach of Super Eagles. He has been there before.

“He tasted it and had been fantastic with the Nigeria youth team, the U-17 by assisting Manu Garba to win the U17 World Cup in 2013 and as head coach, led the Golden Eaglets to win the cup again in 2015.”

Onye who played for the Enugu Rangers in Nigeria before venturing to the UK but had his career scuppered by freak injury  pointed out that the solution to Super Eagles’ technical deficiency is the appointment of an indigenous coach and that Amuneke is the man.

In buttressing his assertion, he declared: “As a senior team coach, Amuneke qualified a long standing absentee team, Tanzania  for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

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“His record as a player is also very impressive. He played and won with the Super Eagles, the AFCON 1994. He played at the Olympic Games and was also the first Nigerian to score two goals at the World Cup.

“He has played at the African Games and also for top clubs in the continent as he was a member of the Egyptian giants, Zamalek. In Europe, he played for Sporting Clube de Portugal and then Barcelona before injury ended his playing career.”

Onye also looked at the personality of Amuneke in recommending him for the Super Eagles job.

His record as a player is also very impressive. He played and won with the Super Eagles, the AFCON 1994. He played at the Olympic Games and was also the first Nigerian to score two goals at the World Cup.

He has played at the African Games and also for top clubs in the continent as he was a member of the Egyptian giants, Zamalek. In Europe, he played for Sporting Clube de Portugal and then Barcelona before injury ended his playing career.

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GTI enlarges coast…spreads from League fund-raising to Federation Cup

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Strategic partners of the Nigeria Football Federation, GTI Asset Management and Trust Ltd has expanded their scope of operations from fund sourcing for the Nigeria Premier League to adding the responsibility of getting the national cup competition back into its glamorous days.

The MD of the company, Abubakar Lawal at the unveiling a revamped Federation Cup which has been renamed President Federation Cup remarked that his company decided to take a bold step to support the national cup.

“I am the happiest man today, he said in the opening remark of the rebranding of the national cup through signing of Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Sports and the NFF.

“Our company is also strategically involved in ensuring that the President Federation Cup is given necessary attention to thrive using The Nigeria Football Fund (TNFF) as our vehicle to actualise this dream.

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“Therefore, it is our vision that the oldest domestic football event becomes one of the best organised football events in the world in no distant future.”

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