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Nigerian Football

Akwa Utd’s Ubong Wins VAT Wonder Goal Award

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BY MFON PATRICK

Ubong Friday’s long range strike for Akwa United against ABS on Match day 21 was the toast of voters in the VAT Wonder Goal poll conducted from Thursday, June 1 to Sunday, June 4.
The Akwa United forward’s goal shook off a stiff competition from that of Godwin Obaje of FC Ifeanyiubah, the popular choice for voters on the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Twitter poll.
While 47 percent of the voters on the Twitter platform preferred Obaje’s goal in FC IfeanyiUbah’s defeat of Kano Pillars, Ubong secured 41 percent of the votes cast and Wilfred Ammeh of Niger Tornadoes had the remaining 12 percent.
However, a whopping 81.1 percent of the voters on the NPFL website (www.npfl.ng) favoured Ubong’s goal, Obaje had 12.4 percent of the voters while Ammeh had 6.5 percent.
A total of 337 voters participated through the NPFL Twitter handle while 635 voted on the website poll. The three goals were shortlisted from a total of 23 scored on the match day.
Obaje was the league’s leading scorer last season. Last season’s top scorer has scored nine league goals since joining FC Ifeanyiubah in a near deadline transfer at the start of the season.
Ubong’s goal shook the top end of the net and has been described as an effort in bravery and confidence.
He had seized the opportunity of his side’s sustained raid on the stubborn ABS defence, to caress the ball, setting it up for a thunderous rising right-footed attempt from over 30 metres that threw high the back end of the roof of the net.
For the player, the award will surely be a fillip to continue his rediscovery after being plagued by injury that sidelined him for most of the first stanza of the season.
The winner will receive N150, 000 half of which he is expected to contribute to a charity of his choice within the city where the club is based.
The VAT Wonder Goal Award is supported by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) which is collaborating with the LMC to use matches of the NPFL to create awareness for the importance of regular tax payment by citizens.

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

Manu Garba, U17 World Cup winner, returns as Golden Eaglets’ Head Coach

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The Board of Nigeria Football Federation has appointed former U17 World Cup winner Manu Garba as Head Coach of the Nigeria U17 boys, Golden Eaglets.

Garba had, in the same role, led the Golden Eaglets to win the FIFA U17 World Cup for Nigeria in the United Arab Emirates in 2013 – Nigeria’s fourth triumph at that stage.

Garba’s world-conquering squad in 2013 included Kelechi Iheanacho, Taiwo Awoniyi, Isaac Success, Musa Mohammed, Chidiebere Nwakali and goalkeeper Dele Alampasu.

The squad, which finished as runners-up at the African U17 Championship in Morocco after a penalty shootout defeat by Cote d’Ivoire, defeated Mexico 6-1 in their opening game, drew 3-3 with Sweden and hammered Iraq 5-0. In the Round of 16, they ran Iran ragged 4-1, dispatched Uruguay 2-0 in the quarter-finals and trounced Sweden 3-0 in the semi-finals, before they dislodged Mexico by the same margin in the final to lift the trophy.

The former Nigeria international will now immediately resume the role and take charge of the team’s preparations for next month’s WAFU B U17 Championship, taking place in Ghana.

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Nigerian Football

Kano Pillars on  the verge of relegation again?

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BY NURA GARBA SABONSARA

As the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) 2023/2024 season enters the home stretch, Kano Pillars find themselves in a precarious situation, despite being in the 8th on the league table.

They have 41 points in a close-packed league in which no situation below the top eight can be regarded as safe now.

On the surface, the eighth position occupied by Kano Pillars might seem a decent position, but beneath lies a series of crises that is threatening the club’s stability.

Kano Pillars, a team deeply entrenched in the hearts of the people of Kano, holds a unique status in Nigerian football. Yet, recent events have cast doubts on their future in the league.

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Despite a promising start to the season where they occupied the third position, the team has encountered a harsh reality check.

For the first time in its history since establishment in 1990, Kano Pillars faced back-to-back home losses in a single season, a stunning defeat against Abia Warriors followed by a recent upset against Shooting Stars of Ibadan on Monday, 8th April, 2024.

These losses, coupled with a humiliating 5-0 defeat by Enyimba, paint a troubling picture.

While some attribute these setbacks to the challenges of Ramadan fasting affecting the players, others argue that this explanation falls short because the team has been playing in this situation for many years.

Why now?. The root of Pillars’ problems lies deeper, starting from the inability to secure key signings and a lack of strong financial backing.

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Recruitment primarily from local talent pools received mixed reactions.

While some praised the emphasis on nurturing grassroots talent, others feared the consequences of inexperience, a concern that seems to be materializing now.

Moreover, the team’s financial woes, compounded by fines imposed due to fan misconduct, further exacerbate the situation.

Similarly, some close government allies and individuals are forcing the technical crew to recruit their players irrespective of whether they are competent or not, a development that has angered many fans of the club.

Many players seem motivated solely by personal career advancement rather than team success, raising questions about commitment and morale.

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Additionally, scheduling matches during Ramadan, though a long standing practice, has never before yielded such dismal results.

With relegation looming just eight points away, urgent action is imperative.

The government, alongside club officials, must step in decisively to address these issues. Ignoring the plight of Kano Pillars risks tarnishing the state’s football legacy irreparably.

In conclusion, Kano Pillars stand at a critical juncture. Without swift intervention and a concerted effort to rectify underlying problems, the club faces the grim prospect of relegation once again.

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Nigerian Football

Shooting Stars rally from behind to clinch a rare victory in Kano

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Shooting Stars continue to press for the top three slot in the Nigeria Premier League as they clinched a rare 2-1  victory in Kano on Monday evening.

Before now, they have always been battered with basketful of goals in their away duels with Kano Pillars.

In some instances, the score lines were as wide as 6-0. But on Monday, Shooting Stars continued their chase of the frontrunners. It initially looked a continuation of the past when in the opening two minutes, Shooting Stars were already a goal down.

Rabiu Ali shot the hosts ahead and held on till half time. Three minutes into the second half, Taiye Murtala levelled up for Shooting Stars before serial scorer, Christian Pyagbara scored the winner in the fourth minute of the added time.

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