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Nigerian Football

HOW EMENALO MISSED MARADONA’S LAST INTERNATIONAL SHIRT

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

 

Man of the moment, Nigeria’s Michael Emenalo whose Monday resignation had been the most trending sports news on twitter, could have also been in possession of what could have been a memorable archival material, the last shirt worn by the legendary Diego Maradona in his very last international match, in fact, and his last competitive match.

Emenalo, a 1985 player of Enugu Rangers,  only played for Nigeria 14 times and was one of the late inclusions to the famed Class of 1994 Super Eagles. That was 13 years before he joined Chelsea as an opposition scout under Avram Grant. He later rose along the ladder to become a member of the football club’s board and one of Roman Abramovich’s most trusted lieutenants.

Sports Village Square recalls a story Emenalo told The Telegraph in UK some years back. He told the story of that June 25, 1994 match in which a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina scored two goals in two successive free kicks by Claudio Caniggia to cancel the earlier lead Nigeria had had through Samson Siasia.

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  • Michael Emenalo tailing the legendary Diego Maradona during a USA ’94 World Cup match played at Foxborough Stadium at the outskirt of Boston.

Argentina won 2-1. Emenalo had not realised at the time, but as he sat on a plastic chair outside the drug testing room in Massachusetts’ Foxborough Stadium – still in his kit, and totally exhausted – Diego Maradona was trying to tell him something.

Both had been randomly selected for the mandatory dope test. Hear Emenalo: “I was sat in the corridor with him and he [Maradona] was making jokes about it”.

“He had his shirt in his hand and he was looking at me. This was Maradona! I was just thinking about how I had a poor game. I was thinking I wasn’t going to play the next game against Greece.

“All the time he was looking at me. It wasn’t until I went home I thought, ‘He wanted to swap shirts’. Later when I got married I told my wife and she laughed. Can you imagine that last Argentina shirt? With Maradona’s sweat on it? I could have had that shirt in my hand!”

Emenalo was one of the Nigerian defenders that made life unbearable for Maradona in the match. While Emenalo passed his test. Maradona failed!

Maradona tested positive for ephedrine, was sent home from the 1994 World Cup finals in disgrace and never played for Argentina again. That sweaty blue and white shirt would have been Maradona’s last national team jersey, and quite a memento.

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The Aba-born player-turned technical director, Sports Village Square gathered, regretted missing the opportunity.

Emenalo had an unusual playing career, which took in stints at the Belgian club now known as FC Brussels; Germany’s Eintracht Trier; Notts County; San Jose Clash; Lleida in Spain and finally Maccabi Tel Aviv where he played under Avram Grant.

He spent 85 days at Notts County in the 1994-1995 season, having been encouraged to play in England by international team-mate John Chiedozie. During that time he worked under Howard Kendall and Steve Nicol.

Emenalo joined County late in his career. “I grew up watching English football. I watched the Match of the Day which we got two weeks late! I always wanted to play in England.”

At Lleida he was managed by Juande Ramos, who approached him about joining him at Tottenham Hotspur in 2007 and Emenalo was close to doing so until Ramos procrastinated and Grant made him an offer to come to Chelsea. He began as a scout and was briefly an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti before becoming technical director in 2011.

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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

Ikenne’s Beyond Limit Football Academy top goal chart as NNL releases vital statistics

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The secretariat of the Nigeria National League has released the match statistics of the four conferences of the 2024 season.

With 198 matches so far played in Conferences A and B, 426 goals were scored, with 125 home wins and 26  away wins, representing 63.1%, & 26% respectively. There were 47 draw matches, representing 23.7% of matches. 299 home goals were scored, and 127 home goals.

Beyond Limit FC scored the highest goals  of 33 goals, with Stormers FC and Ekiti United conceeding the least goals  of 28 goals. Tradesafe and Solution FC scored the least numbers of goals of 11 goals and Osun conceded the least numbers of goals of 8.

In group C & D, 209 goals have been scored in the 106 so far played, with 70 home wins and 14 won away  representing 66. 3% and 13.1% respectively.

 Teams drew 31 matches representing 29.2% of the matches played. Wikki Tourists scored the highest numbers of goals, with 23 goals, while EFCC FC conceded the least numbers of goals. They conceded 18 goals. Nasarawa United’s 8 goals conceded  made them the team that conceded the lowest numbers of goals, while ABS scored the least number of goals of 5 goals.

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Heartland back to their homeland as they host Shooting Stars

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BY TOSIN OMOJOLA, OWERRI

The uncertainty surrounding our Matchday 31 encounter against Heartland FC of Owerri, has been cleared with the game eventually slated to hold at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, the home ground of the host team

The Nigeria Premier League has given the approval to the stadium after an inspection was carried out on Wednesday afternoon.

The Oluyole Warriors have since arrived the Imo State capital and have settled down ahead of Friday’s clash which will be be shown live on cable television.

Meanwhile, the Technical Adviser of the Ibadan soccer lords, Gbenga Ogunbote, while addressing the players on arrival at their hotel, urged them not to be distracted by the development.

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“I want to apologise to you on the change of venue. We got to know about it some hours ago, but be that as it may, I want us to remain focused as and get the desired results we needed”.

In the same vein, the players of the Ibadan soccer lords, said they are not in any way moved by the change of venue, expressing their readiness to get the maximum points, not minding the venue.

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Remo Stars add fuel to the fire as title chase turns East – West battle

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Added time-goal specialists, Remo Stars pulled off one of their now familiar traits, chalking up a valuable point as Skipper Nduka Junior scored in the 90+4 minute to scuttle an impending victory by Doma United on Wednesday evening.

When all-hope seemed over, Remo Stars had scored hope-reviving goals as they did against Lobi Stars, Insurance and a host of others in the Nigeria Premier League.

Getting a valuable point take them from fifth position to fourth their haul to 50, just a point below that of second and third placed Enyimba and Lobi Stars respectively.

The 1-1 scoreline also changed the complexion of the league table as their South West rivals were pushed down from their initial fourth position.

As it is, the struggle for the title is taking regional colouration as the top two- Enugu Rangers and Enyimba are from the South East while fourth and fifth – Remo Stars and Shooting Stars are from the South West.

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Lobi Stars from the middle belt, stand in-between the South East and South West in the power struggle.

 Remo Stars at the fourth position however still have an outstanding home game against Rivers United and that could still change the positions of the top six teams when the match is played.

Attention will now shift to match-day 31 as the league embarks on its home stretch.

 On Friday, relegation-bound Heartland will be hosting rejuvenated Shooting Stars who have suddenly discovered they could return to continental competition next seasons after 25 years.

They have lately been having unbeaten runs. On Saturday, Kwara United will host desperate Akwa United who are struggling to avoid dropping into the lower league.

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On the same day, Abia Warriors will be at home against Bayelsa United.

  On Sunday seven matches are on the card. They are:

Kano Pillars v. Gombe United

Katsina United v. Sporting Lagos

Lobi Stars v. Bendel Insurance

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Niger Tornadoes v Doma United

Plateau United v. Remo Stars

Rivers United v. Enugu Rangers

Sunshine Stars v. Enyimba

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