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Nigerian Football

Bendel Insurance drop out of Championship race

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

The beautiful run by Bendel Insurance has finally come to an end. With three points, they are out of the race for the championship which they last won in the amateurs years in 1979.

They had played the season and had an unbeaten streak of 21 league matches, a feat Enugu Rangers had across all national competitions from 1973 to 1975 and further extended by the defunct Leventis United of Ibadan who for three seasons were unbeaten and had been the only Nigerian club with three straight title in three different divisions.

But the end came to championship ambition of Bendel Insurance whose hope of continental ticket is now limited to the CAF Confederation Cup.

That is achievable if they could beat Remo Stars on Sunday. But it has to be a massive win of 3-0 to realise that dream.

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The option is to concentrate on picking the CAF Confederation Cup through the winning of Federation Cup against Enugu Rangers on Wednesday 21 June in Asaba.

As for both Sunshine Stars and Lobi Stars, their stars are already dimmed as they can not get to the top three, no matter the result they get in their direct confrontation on Sunday.

The encounter, a dead rubber is no more than losers’ match. Only Lobi Stars have not scored any goal so far. Scoring on Sunday may be an achievement.

Day 5: June 11th

  • Sunshine Stars Vs Lobi Stars – 2pm
  • Remo Stars Vs Bendel Insurance – 4pm
  • Enyimba FC Vs Rivers United – 6pm

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

NFF promises to treat Supersand Eagles like Super Eagles 

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Gusau (middle) with Essien (fourth from left), Yusuf (fourth from right), Ikpeme (third from right), Jideaka (second from left), Yabagi (right), Barde (third from left) and Alizor (left).

President of Nigeria Football Federation, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau on Thursday disclosed that the Federation is committed to ensuring that the Beach Soccer National Team, otherwise known as Supersand Eagles, enjoys the same attention as other National Teams, when restored to international competitions.

The NFF boss made the pledge at the inauguration of the Federation’s Futsal and Beach Soccer Sub-Committee, at the NFF Secretariat, Abuja.

“Nigeria is a big footballing nation, and it will be inappropriate if we continue to stay out of some activities that other African countries are involved in, football-wise. We will do whatever is necessary to restore Nigeria’s presence in futsal and beach soccer.

“I am assuring the committee that whether through financial or other means, futsal and beach soccer will enjoy equal treatment as other National Teams.”

It can be recalled that the Supersand Eagles brought honour to the country at various times in the past, winning the Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations in 2007 and 2009, winning a couple of silver medals at the same competition and also harvesting bronze medals on a couple of occasions. The team also represented Africa at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup on many occasions, including reaching the quarter-finals in Ravenna, Italy in 2011 before losing to Brazil in overtime.

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The NFF decided to pull the team out of international competitions five years ago, after high-score losses at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Paraguay.

A member of the NFF Executive Committee, Otuekong Nse Essien is the committee’s chairman, with Chairman of Chairmen, Alhaji Ahmed Yusuf (Fresh) as vice chairman. Members are Hon. Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande, former NFF Executive Committee member and Chairman, Plateau State FA; Mr. Richard Jideaka, foremost journalist; Alhaji Aminu Mohammed Inuwa; Hajji Liameed Gafaar, Chairman of Lagos State FA and; Yabagi Alhaji Baba, vice chairman of Niger State FA. The secretary is Abubakar D. Umar Barde).

Also present at the inauguration were NFF Deputy General Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme and some directors of the Federation.

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Nigerian Football

An insider’s story on Osimhen-Finidi saga

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BY ADEWALE AJAYI

Many out there saw the Finidi vs Osimhen saga as just another player Vs coach disagreement that will fade away with time. To some, this is the perfect occasion for the NFF to stamp their feet on indiscipline among national team players by coming down hard on Victor Osimhen.

This writer knows Victor Osimhen very well. I worked with him for close to two years as media officer of the Under-20 National team of Nigeria and I don’t really need anyone to tell me about his temperament. We ate together, travelled together and spent the nights gisting after dinner.

I really don’t need anyone to lecture me about his temperament, he is a warrior, fighter and above all, he is the most patriotic footballer I have ever seen or known. His passion in the green white green jersey is second to none. His hunger for success is unbelievable and he has got a big heart.

I remember that Under 20 qualifier against Burundi in Bujumbura and the victory against Sudan in Omdurman. On both occasions, Osimhen rose to the occasion even though he was nursing a knee injury and had to play in pains.

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That tells you how passionate this young man is when dressed in Green White Green. So you will understand why he felt betrayed by comments allegedly made by Coach Finidi George, describing him as unpatriotic.

Such comments will hurt any true patriot especially when you remember the sacrifices. Let’s not forget too that he claimed he called to inform the coach of his injury after visiting his doctor in Wolfsburg and also pleaded with the coach that he will like to be in camp to offer moral support to the boys at the detriment of his own comfort, which coach Finidi turned down

Nevertheless, there is always the need to apply caution and maintain a calm, cool and coordinated approach at all time especially when you find yourself in that position where many now see you as their role model, mentor or icon. As current African footballer of the year, Osimhen ticks these boxes perfectly and has even a grown to be classified as an idol to so many young footballers on the continent.

In an attempt to unravel all the miseries surrounding that accusation purportedly made by Finidi that Osimhen and a few others pick the games that suits them and that majority of these players are not patriotic, this writer has taken time to dig deep to find out what transpired at that meeting that was held inside the conference room of the honourable Minister of Youth and sports.

Now, what you are about to read below, are highpoint of the meeting as narrated by two persons who were privileged to be part of the meeting and have agreed to talk only on condition of anonymity.

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The Meeting That Matters

The NFF delegation to that meeting held at the office of the Honourable sports minister, was led by NFF president, Ibrahim Gusau. Also on the entourage are the NFF 1st Vice president, Anyansi Agwu, General Secretary Sanusi Mohammed, team secretary and director of competitions Dayo Enebi with NFF technical director Augustine Eguaveon completing the list.

The Sports minister Senator John Enoh has invited the NFF and FInidi to come explain Nigeria’s dismal performances in those two World Cup qualifying games against South Africa and Benin Republic and proffer solutions on the way forward. At some point during the deliberation, Super Eagles head coach, Finidi George was asked to speak and he poured out his mind,  without holding back.

What Finidi said

According to my source, Finidi heaped the blames on his players. He was furious with the way the players responded to National call-ups which some of us complained about in the build-up to these matches.

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My source said Finidi then went on to assure the minister and his employers, the Nigeria football federation, that he has absolute confidence that the Super Eagles can still qualify for the World Cup if all hands are on deck.

He said, that he is surprised that a few players in the team have Godfathers in the NFF. According to him, if he tries to stamp his feet on certain behaviors in the team, some persons will remind him that the players in question, belong to either a board member or a top official of the NFF.

It was at this point that the NFF Technical director, Augustine Eguavoen cuts in and told Finidi, that to succeed as head coach, he needs to stamp his authority, be decisive and be brutal if need be. Eguaveon gave an example of how he banished Yakubu Aiyegbeni to the bench because the former Portsmouth striker who at the time was doing so well in the Premier league, thought he deserves an automatic jersey whenever he comes to camp.

Finidi then responded by saying he was going to change his approach henceforth. He said he will no longer tolerate these unpatriotic players in the National team. This was when he now said a player like Osimhen could have taken the risk and come play for Nigeria if he really wants to do so. This is according to my my sources.

However, I am not sure that Finidi made this comment to indict Osimhen. As at the time he dropped that line, he was trying so hard to keep his job and make his employers see him as a man that can wield the big stick when it really matters. He was also just looking for a name to use to balance his thoughts and anger and Osimhen unfortunately, became the scapegoat.  

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At that meeting, the NFF didn’t tell Finidi in the presence of the Sports minister that they had plans to engage a foreign technical adviser. However, he might have offended the gods by revealing during that meeting with the minister that some top guns in the federation, are Godfathers to players of in the Super Eagles and that explains why they are seen as the untouchables.  

Little wonder, a decision was taken behind him, to employ a foreign technical adviser and demote the former Enyimba of Aba head coach to assistant coach. Immediately Finidi got wind of this plan, he quickly tendered his letter of resignation.  

In fact, his first letter that was sent to the NFF, was not signed so he was asked to withdraw and sign before sending it again.

How did Osimhen get to know about what Finidi said?

It will also interest you all to know, that, there are top officials of Nigeria football that are on the payroll of Nigeria footballers. I know of a footballer that once gave an administrator in the previous board a wrist watch worth over €40,000. I am also aware that every Super Eagles team list comes with a price.

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 Before a Super Eagles team list is released, there are lots of interests at stake and most players, except the established names like Osimhen, Lookman, Nwabali and a few others, come to the Super Eagles camp, armed with gifts for their Godfathers.

That is why these Godfathers will do anything to please the players in return. There are also those secretariat staff that have their ears to the ground and push out these information daily to curry favours. So it baffles me, why anyone will be surprised that Osimhen got inside information of what transpired at the meeting. He is too connected and too rich to be left in the dark.

Now that it is established based on available facts that Finidi alleged that Osimhen and a few others are not 100% patriotic to the national cause, it is on that bases we will now judge that Instagram live video posted by Osimhen and pass a judgement thereafter.

Osimhen has no reason to go live the way he did and his choice of words on the day are not acceptable

Victor Osimhen is a superstar of repute. The current African Footballer of the Year, a Nigerian player that is now idolized in Napoli. I remember in one of my recent interviews with him in Abidjan, during the recent AFCON, I saw a few die-hard fans who had travelled all the way from Napoli to Cote d’Iviore, just to support the best footballer after Diego Amando Maradona to have played for the club.

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Putting all these into consideration, Victor Osimhen should know the weight of whatever comments he makes. He must learn to talk at all time to impress his fans and promote his brand no matter his frustrations, obsessions or irritations.

Secondly, for his personality, class and position, he shouldn’t be the one speaking always, he should delegate these responsibilities especially reactions to sensitive issues like this one, to his manager, agents or trusted friends. Your choice of words also matters.

 In all, Osimhen by that singular act, has demoted himself from that exalted seat of an icon in the hearts of his die-hard fans. Attacking your coach the way you did and generalizing the attack to include Nigeria and Nigerians is demeaning to say the least. As a friend who cares and appreciate the talent in you, I am making this passionate appeal to you.

Please go out there and do an apology to coach Finidi and everyone that is effected by your comments and rudeness. Say it for the sake of posterity.  

Trust me, I wouldn’t have bothered to do this if I don’t care about your present and your future. A stitch in time, saves nine.

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Nigerian Football

Beyond reproach: NFF denies banning Victor Osimhen  

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From Victor Moses To Victor Osimhen, Super Eagles Hope For Another Victorious Ending To Afcon Group Stage  -

The Nigeria Football Federation has described as outright falsehood, reports in some online publications on Wednesday that the football-governing body has slammed a ban on Super Eagles’ forward Victor Osimhen from the team, for his social media outburst few days ago.

NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi expressed amazement at the reports, saying the Federation has neither instructed a process nor has a process been concluded to ban the player from the National Team.

“The NFF hereby implores the media to join hands with the body to positively resolve issues and then focus on the big picture all the time, rather than needlessly escalate certain matters.

“There was no official communication from the NFF, yet some persons have gone to town to talk about a ban on Osimhen from the National Team. This is not good at all.

“Our focus presently is to resolve all matters around the Super Eagles and be able to look ahead with confidence to the 2025 AFCON qualifiers and the remaining six matches of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification series.

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“This is not the time to spread falsehood and foul the public space the more.”

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