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Nigerian Football

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING, SAYS PINNICK

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President of Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Melvin Pinnick has assured that the football –governing body is fully committed to bringing innovations and improved packages to the organization of the AITEO Cup competition, following Sunday’s show –stopper at the Agege Stadium.

The football may not have enraptured, but the organization and the general razzmatazz did, leading to CAF President Ahmad describing the experience as ‘exciting.’

Pinnick told thenff on Tuesday: “What we did on Sunday is the beginning of the new level to which we want to take this important competition. When we announced Agege Stadium, several people went public with condemnation of the idea. But we knew what we wanted to achieve and we went for it.

“People berated Agege and the environment and said it would not work. But we set out on an objective and we achieved our goal. We looked at the noted deficiencies and we worked on them.

“The message is that there is nothing that cannot be fixed if there is genuine intention and focus, and with dedication and hard work.”

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For the first time in history, the leadership of African football was present right there at the finale of Nigeria’s oldest and most glamorous competition, and in their numbers too.

CAF President Ahmad, CAF Vice Presidents Kwesi Nyantakyi and Omari Selemani, CAF Emergency Committee member Souleiman Waberi were enthralled, alongside Governors Ambode (Lagos), Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Bello (Niger), as well as Pinnick himself, NFF Vice Presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, a representative of the Youth and Sports Minister (Nansel Nimyel), the top echelon of sponsors AITEO group, NFF Executive Committee members, members of NFF Management and members of the Lagos State Executive Council.

“I give kudos to the Organizing Committee headed by the NFF 1st Vice President (Sheyi Akinwunmi), with the General Secretary (Dr. Sanusi) as secretary. They did a great job all through the competition and at the finale on Sunday. Come next year, we will bring a few more innovations and even improved packages to make the competition more glorious than ever,” Pinnick added.

Fires hoots from the ground heralded the players of Niger Tornadoes and Akwa United onto the pitch of Agege Stadium for the final, and elaborate fireworks brought a captivating night to a close on mainland Lagos.

Despite the compact nature of the arena, a large VIP tent, conveniences for men and women and adequate security put dignitaries and spectators alike at ease, and though both teams failed to put enough spark into things under floodlight, no one missed the comic relief of a yo-yo penalty shoot –out.

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Champions Akwa United pocketed the sum of N25 million, with runners –up Niger Tornadoes going home with N10 million. AITEO also procured a brand new trophy for the champion team.

On Wednesday in Jos, the winner of the women’s competition, between Cup holders Rivers Angels and ambitious Ibom Angels, will smile to the bank with N10 million, leaving the runners –up with N5 million. There will also be a brand new trophy for the champion team to go home with.

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

Enugu Rangers hold on grimly at the top as Nigerian league gets to home stretch

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Enugu Rangers may have broken loose from the pack following their comprehensive  3-0 victory over Bayelsa United on Sunday.

As if to aid Rangers’ hold of the top position, their closest rivals, Remo Stars who were initially just a point behind fell like  papers blown by the huricane, losing 3-2 to Kwara United. Their loss dealt a big blow on their title aspirations as they are now four points behind Enugu Rangers and had also narrowed their goal difference.

They are now third having been overtaken by Enyimba who have better goal difference even though both are with 56 points.

Shooting Stars who suddenly peaked in the second half of the season are fast pacing up, getting to the fourth position and three points behind Remo Stars.

They were dealt a blow in the added time as Katsina United’s Michael Okoro got an added time goal against to stalemate scores at 2-2.

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Just as Enugu Rangers are at the cusp of the championship, the fates of Gombe United and Heartland appear already decided as the second tier Nigeria National League are already waiting to welcome them next season.

Akwa United may have navigated their ways out of relegation waters following their 2-1 away win over Lobi Stars. Akwa United are now 15th on the log. In Jos, former champions, Plateau and Niger Tornadoes played uninspiring goalless while relegation-troubled Heartland of Owerri spanked Gombe United 3-0 just as Kano Pillars dimmed Doma United 3-1.

All the results:

Sunshine Stars 0-0 Bendel Insurance

Rivers United 4-1 Sporting Lagos

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Lobi Stars 1-2 Akwa United

Kwara United 3-2 Remo Stars

Katsina United 2-2 Shooting Stars

Kano Pillars 3-1 Doma United

Heartland 3-0 Gombe United

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Enugu Rangers 3-0 Bayelsa United

Abia Warriors 0-1 Enyimba

Plateau United 0-0 Niger Tornadoes

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Finidi deserves our support, says former international, Kingsley Onye

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NFF Confirms Finidi George

Ahead of the first press parley that Super Eagles’ new manager, Finidi George is going to have on Thursday in Lagos, former Nigeria international, Kingsley Onye has canvassed for full support for the new coach.

 To him, the time of politicking and pushing for a particular candidate was over. “It is time for all of us to back the chosen one, Finidi George”, remarked Onye who was a left rearguard player in the 1985 class of Flying Eagles who against all odds, upstaged hosts,Soviet Union to clinch the third place in the then World Youth Championships that is now called the U-20 World Cup.

  “Although I canvassed for Emmanuel Amuneke’s candidature, am still happy that an equally good Finidi George got the job”, he said in a phone conversation from his base in the United Kingdom.

  “The fact that some players complained after Nigeria’s second friendly match in March shows that Finidi is a man of his class and cannot be influenced by players’ sentiments.

  “I believe he will take Nigeria to an enviable height, the same way Amuneke too would have done.”

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 Continuing, Onye who played for Enugu Rangers while he was in the country in the 1980s also remarked that he was on the same page with Victor Ikpeba who has asked that Finidi’s assistants should always back him in team selection  and tactical formations.

 “We should be more than 100 per cent behind the coach. If we do, he will perform wonders. He has his own philosophy which we must allow to flourish. He did it will Enyimba, leading the club to success last season and was at the brink of repeating the success before his appointment as Super Eagles’ coach.”

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s broadcast icon, Danladi Bako hails NFF on choice of Finidi George

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Nigerian broadcasting icon, Dr. Nasir Danladi Bako has praised the Nigeria Football Federation for settling for former international and ex-Enyimba FC strategist Finidi George as Head Coach of the Super Eagles.

The Kogunan Sakwatto, 66, who created a plethora of famous TV programmes including Morning RideMastersports and Second Chance, among others, and served as Special Adviser to a number of Sports Ministers many years ago, insisted the NFF leadership struck a bull’s eye with the appointment of the two-time FIFA World Cup star, stating that George oozes class and character, and an iron determination to succeed despite his public carapace of a quiet person.

“Finidi George has that cultured, disciplined mien and personality that makes you want to trust him with a big project. He understands the meaning of constituted authority and right from his playing days, has always displayed the attribute of a team player. He has always had that calm, collected nature even in the face of pressure or danger.

“Above all, he is not someone who thinks he is doing the nation a favour. He is grateful for the opportunity and I believe that he has all it takes to succeed. I am calling on the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, the NFF and Nigerians as a whole to support him to take the Super Eagles to brand-new heights.”

Bako, who holds a doctorate degree in development communication from the Ahmadu Bello University and was Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission between 1999 and 2002, says all hands must now be on deck to ensure victories in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and Benin Republic on 7 June and 11 June respectively.

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“No doubt, the NFF got this one appointment right. Very much on point. Now, they should endeavour to give George all the support he needs to succeed in his task of qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

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