Super Eagles’ Goal Is To Win Next AFCON, Says Peseiro

Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro. [email protected]

 

Super Eagles Head Coach Jose Peseiro has set his sights on winning next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). 

Nigeria last won the competition in 2013 and were one of the favourites heading into the 2021 tournament but surprisingly capitulated to Tunisia in the round of 16. The three-time continental champions also lost the 2022 World Cup ticket to rivals Ghana.

But Peseiro, who took over after the twin disappointments, is optimistic about Nigeria clinching the next edition of the championship.

“Algeria is a good team. Of course, our goal is to win the next AFCON, but for that, we need to create the habit to win, it’s the main point,” the coach said ahead of the friendly tie with the 2019 champions.

“You introduce some younger players, introduce the tactical works, introduce the situation and dynamics, but at the same time, you want to win; you must create the habit to win. Every time, we want to win, to become the best national team in Africa, we must create that habit, and we want to win.”

READ ALSO: Celtics Suspend Coach Ime Udoka For Entire NBA Season

Precautionary Move

The Portuguese also spoke about the injury to Leicester City star Wilfred Ndidi who left the team’s camp on Thursday.

He said: “I think I have a better relationship with our older players and Ndidi, when he came, the fitness coach from Leicester City sent for our fitness coach because we have that connection with them saying that he (Ndid) complained in the last match.

“He (Ndidi) did training, small training because of the condition of the hamstring. I was around yesterday and I said I think it’s better we don’t use them because I don’t want to use an injured player in a friendly match because he can get more injured.”

Ndidi last featured for Nigeria in the AFCON tie against Tunisia. He missed out on the double-legged World Cup playoff with the Black Stars of Ghana.

Nigeria’s game against Algeria will hold on Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 in Oran, Algeria. The time for the match is 8:00 pm (WAT).

‘Respect Everyone’: Koulibaly Slams Napoli Owner Over AFCON Remarks

A photo combination of Kolibaly and Aurelio de Laurentiis.

 

New Chelsea signing Kalidou Koulibaly has insisted he will never let anyone stop him from playing football for Senegal.

The Senegal captain said African nations deserved more respect after the president of his former club, Napoli, said he would only sign African or South American players willing to miss competitions with their national teams.

“Don’t talk to me about Africans anymore,” Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis told business website Wall Street Italia. “I wish them well, but either they sign a waiver for the African Cup or else…Between that tournament and the World Cup qualifiers in South America, these players are never available!”

READ ALSO: Napoli President Wants African Players To Skip Cup Of Nations

But Senegal captain Koulibaly, who led his country to the Africa Cup of Nations title earlier this year before joining Chelsea in a reported £34 million ($41 million) move from Serie A side Napoli was unimpressed.

“Nobody ever told me not to go to AFCON or something like this,” said Koulibaly during a news conference Wednesday.

“Maybe sometimes they try to ask my manager or something like this.

“But me, now as captain of Senegal, when AFCON comes I have to be the first one there, the first one in Senegal.”

Koulibaly, who has signed a four-year contract with Chelsea following the purchase of the club by US businessman Todd Boehly’s consortium, added: “Nobody can tell me not to go to my national team. I have a lot of love for my national team, the team that I play for.

“So, if someone told me to do that, it would be the only time that I can fight with somebody.

“The way we feel all the time with my national team, we are all respectful, we wait for players to come from the Premier League, and everybody is happy to be here.

“Everybody thinks the same as me in the national team. If someone told them not to come they would always fight to come.

“This is the most important thing. Everybody has to give us respect.”

Koulibaly will bolster a defence now without Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen after they each left Stamford Bridge.

He will wear the number 26 shirt made famous by Chelsea great John Terry having sought permission from the Blues legend.

“I called John and at the beginning he didn’t believe it was me, he thought it was a joke,” Koulibaly explained. “So he called the team manager to ask if it was really me.

“I know that it’s a very important number for John, but it’s also a very important number for me too, because I took it at Napoli.

“And when he said yes I was very happy, because I know what he did for the club and for the supporters here.

“I wanted to tell everybody that I asked him before, because I didn’t want to disrespect a legend of the club.”

AFP

Napoli President Wants African Players To Skip Cup Of Nations

Italian film producer, owner and chairman of Italian football club Napoli Aurelio De Laurentiis attends the ‘130 years of Il Mattino’ Italian daily newspaper event at the Royal Palace in Naples, Southern Italy, on May 25, 2022. (Photo by Eliano Imperato / Controluce via AFP)

 

Napoli will only sign new African or South American players if they agree to skip competitions with their national teams, said the Serie A club’s president Aurelio de Laurentiis.

“I’m not going to have them in the African Cup of Nations or the South American championships,” de Laurentiis said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday night.

Several key Napoli players are African internationals.

Last season they lost Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who has since left for Chelsea, and Cameroonian midfielder Frank Zambo-Anguissa to the African Cup of Nations in January and February.

Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen missed the competition after testing positive for Covid.

“Don’t talk to me about Africans anymore,” de Laurentiis told the business website Wall Street Italia.

“I wish them well, but either they sign a waiver for the African Cup or else…”

“Between that tournament and the World Cup qualifiers in South America, these players are never available!”

“We are the idiots who pay the salaries to send them to play for others.”

READ ALSO: [Respect Everyone] Koulibaly Slams Napoli Owner Over AFCON Remarks

The African Cup of Nations is held every two years in January and February with the next postponed edition taking place in January 2024 in the Ivory Coast, during the European season.

The Copa America is also played every two years with its finals in June and July but World Cup qualifying is held during the European season.

While the 10-team Copa does not have a qualifying tournament, the African Cup of Nations does, increasing the number of games for players.

Clubs are obliged to allow their internationals to join their national teams during official international breaks.

AFP

Ethiopia Beat Salah-Less Egypt In AFCON Qualifier

Egypt were runners at the last AFCON. Photo: CAF

 

Egypt sorely missed injured captain Mohamed Salah as they slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat by Ethiopia on Thursday in 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying.  

A strain ruled out the prolific Liverpool scorer after he defied his club last Sunday and played in a victory over Guinea despite not being fully fit.

Egypt lacked several other injured first choices, but were still expected to secure maximum Group D points in neutral Malawi against opponents 108 places lower in the world rankings.

But the quick Ethiopian forwards repeatedly troubled a slow Egyptian defence in the opening half and goals from Dawa Hotessa and captain Shemeles Bekele gave them a two-goal half-time advantage.

Egypt had more possession in the second half on a pitch badly cut up in places due to torrential pre-match rain.

Ethiopia were forced to play in Lilongwe because, like 16 other countries competing in qualifying, they do not have an international-standard stadium.

Coach Ehab Galal has only been in charge of Egypt for two matches after Portuguese Carlos Queiroz could not agree to terms for an extension of his contract.

Galal, who left Cairo club Pyramids to take over the Pharaohs, will now come under intense pressure as a year filled with disappointments for Egypt continues.

They lost the last Cup of Nations final to Senegal on penalties in February and one month later suffered a similar fate against the same team in a play-off to decide who went to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Egypt needed 87 minutes to score the goal that beat Guinea in the opening round of 2023 Cup of Nations qualifying and the loss to Ethiopia left them bottom of the table.

The only consolation for Galal and his squad is that the other teams in the section — Ethiopia, Malawi, and Guinea — have also won and lost so each side has three points.

READ ALSO: [AFCON 2023] Super Eagles Labour To Beat Sierra Leone In Abuja

Naby Keita Winner

Guinea left it late to beat Malawi 1-0 in Conakry with Naby Keita, a Liverpool teammate of Salah, scoring in added time.

Nigeria ended a five-match winless run by coming from behind to beat Sierra Leone 2-1 in a Group A match played behind closed doors in Abuja because of crowd trouble in a World Cup play-off against Ghana.

All the goals came before half-time with Jonathan Morsay nodding the Leone Stars into an early lead, Alex Iwobi levelling and Victor Osimhen scoring what proved the match winner on 41 minutes.

Guinea-Bissau lead Nigeria on goal difference after hammering Sao Tome e Principe 5-1 in the Moroccan city of Agadir with Belgium-based Zinho Gano bagging a brace within eight minutes.

The brilliance of South Africa captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams could not prevent Qatar-bound Morocco winning a high-profile Group K clash 2-1 in Rabat.

It was the first match for both teams in a group reduced to three teams by the banning of Zimbabwe over government interference and Ayoub el Kaabi won it with a superb 87th-minute volley.

Fellow World Cup qualifiers Cameroon were also narrow winners, edging plucky minnows Burundi 1-0 in Tanzania though a goal from Karl Toko Ekambi.

Minnows Lesotho exceeded expectations by holding an Ivory Coast side stacked with Europe-based stars 0-0 in cold Soweto.

The Ivorians qualify automatically as 2023 hosts but are competing in Group H to gain competitive match practice.

This leaves rivals the Comoros, Lesotho and Zambia fighting for just one place at the finals and the Zambian Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) lie second on head-to head records.

Mali scored twice in added time with 10 men to defeat South Sudan 3-1 and build a three-point lead over Congo Brazzaville and the Gambia in Group G.

AFP

AFCON 2023: Super Eagles Labour To Beat Sierra Leone In Abuja

The Super Eagles did not qualify for the 2022 World Cup. [email protected]

 

Nigeria’s Super Eagles on Thursday achieved a 2-1 victory over Sierra Leone in a Day 1 encounter of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualification series at the MKO Abiola Stadium on Thursday.

The Leone Stars, who fought gallantly to come back from four goals down to tie the match 4-4 in an AFCON qualifier against Nigeria in Benin City in November 2021, showed they mean business as early as the 4th minute when a rasping shot from Mohamed Turay was tipped over the bar by Francis Uzoho.

Two minutes later, a good pass by Aribo was followed by a teasing cross from Calvin Bassey but Victor Osimhen’s header failed to find the target.  In the 10th minute, a brilliant pass from Sadiq Umar found Osimhen, whose shot drifted away.

READ ALSO: Lewandowski And Mane Headline Transfer Window Movers To Watch

At the other end, just a minute after, Jonathan Morsay scored a stunning goal with a diving header from a beautiful cross by Musa Kamara.

Four minutes later, the advantage could have been stretched for the visitors when they hit the upright on another counter-attack.

However, in the 16th minute, Nigeria were level when an exchange of passes between Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon ended with the former emphatically finding the far corner of goalkeeper Mohamed Kamara’s post.

Three minutes later, Kamara saved a strong Moses Simon header, and in the 35th minute, Musa Kamara came close with a stinging grounder as the visitors swarmed forward once more.

Four minutes before halftime, Osimhen scored Nigeria’s second when he drove the ball into the roof of the net from a Simon header off Ola Aina’s cross from the right.

In the second half, the game flowed from one end to the other, but Nigeria should have made it 3-1 in the 58th minute when Iwobi ansd Osimhen carved open the visitors’ defence, only for Samuel Chukwueze to get too much purchase on his shot and drag it wide.

Aribo, Osimhen and substitute Ademola Lookman all missed chances as Nigeria pushed for another goal, but in added time, it took Aribo’s last-second intervention to deny the Leone Stars.

The Eagles pocket three points and are top of Group A, as they head to Agadir, Morocco for their Day 2 encounter against the ‘The Falcons and True Parrots’of São Tomé and Príncipe on Monday evening.

Senegal Coach Wants AFCON Games Delayed To Boost World Cup Build-Up

Senegal’s head coach Aliou Cisse holds a Senegalese flag as he celebrates after winning the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 final football match between Senegal and Egypt at Stade d’Olembe in Yaounde on February 6, 2022.
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

 

 

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse wants the September Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers postponed to allow the five countries representing the continent at the World Cup to play friendly matches.  

Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia have qualified for the November 21-December 18 Qatar tournament and the African sides have only a September 19-27 window and one week before the World Cup kick-off to prepare.

The withdrawal of Zimbabwe from Group K means Morocco are free to play warm-up games in September, but the other four teams face two African qualifiers each.

Cameroon are scheduled to play Namibia, Ghana to meet Angola, Senegal to tackle Mozambique and Tunisia to face Libya home and away.

Speaking to the media in Dakar after Senegal snatched a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Rwanda on Tuesday, Cisse called on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to delay the next two rounds of qualifying.

“The best thing (to) help the five (African) selections that have qualified (for the World Cup) is to stop the (qualifiers) in September,” said the former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder-cum-defender.

“(This would) give the opportunity to the countries qualified (for the World Cup) to do their preparations. I think we can find a solution to postpone the (qualifiers) scheduled for September.”

The challenge for CAF will be to find new dates if they postpone the 44 September fixtures as there is only one other window, next March, before the June-July 2023 finals in the Ivory Coast.

CAF plan to stage matchdays five and six of Cup of Nations qualifying between March 20-28, with the finals set for June and July 2023.

What the Cairo-based body may consider is cancelling only the eight September matches involving the World Cup qualifiers and asking them to play catch-up during the World Cup window once eliminated.

African pundits are extremely pessimistic about the chances of the five, giving only Senegal, who face the Netherlands, Qatar and Ecuador in Group A, a realistic chance of reaching the second round.

– Algeria take control -Tunisia are in Group D with defending champions France, Denmark and Australia or Peru and Morocco in Group F beside Belgium, Canada and Croatia.

Cameroon face Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland in Group G and Ghana meet Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea in Group H.

Meanwhile, there were six Cup of Nations qualifiers on Wednesday and fallen African giants Algeria took control of Group F after an impressive 2-0 victory in Tanzania.

A clever free-kick drill late in the first half culminated in centre-back Ramy Bensebaini nodding the Desert Foxes ahead.

Tanzania rarely threatened to equalise before substitute Mohamed Amoura sealed success with a thunderous close-range shot a minute from time.

Algeria boasted a 35-match unbeaten record before the wheels came off this year in a Cup of Nations title defence and World Cup play-off.

After drawing with Sierra Leone in the African tournament, they fell to Equatorial Guinea and the Ivory Coast to make a stunning first-round exit having travelled to Cameroon as one of the title favourites.

Algeria then won away to Cameroon in a World Cup play-off only to concede late in extra time at home and lose on away goals.

The win in Tanzania, coupled with second seeds Uganda draw 1-1 at home to Niger, means the two-time African champions have a four-point lead after just two rounds.

Congo Brazzaville put a four-goal Group G mauling in Mali behind them by edging 2021-2022 Cup of Nations giant-killers the Gambia 1-0 in Brazzaville through an Antoine Makoumbou goal.

WAFU B Tournament: Nigeria Reaches Final, Qualify For 2023 U20 AFCON

A file photo of the Flying Eagles after a training session. [email protected]

 

Nigeria’s Flying Eagles displayed good character to overcome a determined Cote d’Ivoire 2-1 in an explosive semi-final match to reach the final of the ongoing WAFU B U20 Championship in Niamey.

Reaching the final also means the Nigerian team have qualified for the  Africa U20 Cup of Nations taking place in Egypt next year.

Productive midfielder Daniel Daga put Nigeria in front after only five minutes when he cleverly escaped the attention of the Ivorian defenders to nod in from a well-weighted pull-out.

The seven-time African champions then launched onslaught after onslaught on the Ivorian goal but failed to add to the tally, before the Ivorians equalized just before halftime from an intelligently-taken free-kick at the edge of Nigeria’s eighteen-yard box.

Neither team could find another goal to gain upper hand before the end of regulation time inside the Stade General Seyni Kountché, and the game went into extra time.

Forward Ibrahim Yahaya got the winner for Nigeria in the 111th minute of play when he converted a penalty spot to make it 2-1.

Nigeria will take on the Benin Republic in Saturday’s final.

FIRST 11: Serena Williams’ Chelsea Ownership Push+Top Sports Stories This Week

 

With the sanctions on Russian businesses biting harder, the quest for a new Chelsea owner has been ramped up. This time, tennis icon Serena Williams and F1 great Lewis Hamilton, are the ones pushing to own a stake in the Premier League club.  

The Super Eagles also knew their opponents for the 2023 AFCON qualifiers just as the team’s former coach Gernot Rohr awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack.  These and more are some of the top sports stories covered in First 11 this week.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Bidders Set To Discover Their Fate

Condolences Pour As Ronaldo Loses Baby

We kick off from England where torrents of condolence messages have been poured in for Cristiano Ronaldo following his son’s death. The former Real Madrid star and wife confirmed their baby boy’s demise in a social media post.

Manchester United, his former clubs, players, and fans thronged social media to comfort the multiple Champions League winner over the sad incident.

The Portuguese star was excused from United’s tie with Liverpool earlier in the week. He, however, was available for selection as the Red Devils lost to Arsenal on Saturday.

Maguire Gets Bomb Threat

Still in Manchester United. Team captain Harry Maguire received a bomb threat but it was unknown who was behind it.

Cheshire Constabulary swept the 29-year-old’s home to ensure his safety. Maguire was up for selection against the Gunners.

The English defender, who stays with his fiancee and two kids, is having a turbulent campaign and has been the subject of stinging criticism from pundits and jeers from fans.

Man United Name Coach

Meanwhile, Manchester United has appointed Erik ten Hag as their manager next season.

The 52-year-old, who has signed a three-year contract, faces a huge task to revive the Red Devils’ fortunes after a fifth consecutive trophyless season. The Dutchman becomes the fifth permanent manager at Old Trafford since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 sent the 20-time English champions into decline.

Drogba, Others Inducted Into EPL Hall of Fame

Equally, Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes was in the news this week. The Englishman joined Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero as the latest inductee into the EPL Hall of Fame.

Vincent Kompany, Ian Wright, and Peter Schmeichel alongside Wayne Rooney and Patrick Vieira are also in the “Class of 2022” inductees.

Serena, Hamilton Join Chelsea Bid

For Man United’s rivals, Chelsea, the sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich over Russia’s war with Ukraine are set to cause major changes in the team. The club has been up for sale and tennis icon Serena Williams as well as Formula 1 legend Lewis Hamilton have expressed interest in having a stake in the London side.

They will be investing about £20m into a consortium to buy Chelsea and both are part of a group of investors backing the European champions’ takeover offer spearheaded by Sir Martin Broughton.

Serena and Hamilton have each pledged £10m to the bid. Lord Coe is believed to be part of the British-led consortium.

Russia, Belarussian Players Banned From Wimbledon

Aside from football, the Russian-Ukraine war is creating ripples in other sports. Earlier in the week, Russian players were barred from Wimbledon. Belarussian players were also affected, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) said.

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev; Aryna Sabalenka, and women’s four Victoria Azarenka are some of the top players affected. The move drew wide criticism from players, fans, and others stakeholders in the tennis world.

But Russian officials have rejected the ban, describing it as “unacceptable”.

Nigeria Paired For AFCON Qualifiers

In Nigeria, the Super Eagles were paired with Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and either Sao Tome or Mauritius in the qualifiers for next year’s AFCON. The draws were held in Jo’burg, South Africa, and qualifications for the tournament will start in May.

The Super Eagles, who failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, will also be aiming to make amends for their early exit at the last AFCON. The Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2015 and 2017 editions and won bronze in Egypt in 2019.

Rohr Awaits FIFA Verdict

The development came as a former coach of the team, Gernot Rohr, awaits FIFA’s verdict over his sack. Rohr had reported the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to the football body for breaching contractual terms.

Reports suggest that FIFA had concluded their investigations and are set to deliver judgment on the $1m claims being made by former Niger Republic gaffer. The Franco-German had met all conditions in his contract but was sacked with one year left in the deal. While the NFF said it would pay Rohr his salary until the end of his contract, the ex-Niger boss took the NFF to FIFA. He is seeking compensation for his ‘unfair’ dismissal.

Kano Pillars Sanctioned, Banished

On the local scene, Kano Pillars were sanctioned for fans’ hooliganism. The former Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champions were fined N9m and banished to Abuja for the rest of the season following the incident which took place last weekend. The club’s fans have, however, condemned the attack which led to the destruction of the visiting team’s bus.

Pele Hospitalised Again

Away from Nigeria, football great Pele was hospitalized in Sao Paulo as part of his treatment for colon cancer.

But the clinical condition of Edson Arantes do Nascimento is “good and stable, and he should be discharged from hospital in the next few days,” the Albert Einstein Hospital said on Tuesday.

Before his diagnosis of colon cancer, which led to Pele being hospitalized for a month last year, the former star of Santos and the Brazilian team was hospitalized in Paris in 2019 and transferred to Sao Paulo to have a kidney stone removed.

Five years before then, he was in intensive care due to a urinary tract infection that forced him to undergo dialysis on his left kidney. The right one was removed in the 1970s due to an injury when he was still a player.

Maradona Shirt Auction Opens

The auction for the jersey worn by Pele’s late friend, Diego Maradona, when he scored twice against England in the 1986 World Cup, including the infamous “hand of God” goal, kicked off with a bid of over $5 million.

Sotheby’s is selling the blue number 10 Argentina shirt in an online sale that runs until May 4. Hours after bidding opened, the site showed that the first offer of £4 million ($5.2 million) — matching the low end of the auction house’s pre-sale estimate — had been registered. That would set a new record price for a football jersey at auction.

The record for a game-worn shirt from any sport is $5.6 million, set in 2019 for a jersey Babe Ruth wore while on the New York Yankees.

Contract Termination: Huesca Threaten Legal Action, Says Nwakali’s Claims Lack ‘Veracity’

Nwakali is a former Nigerian youth international. [email protected]

 

Spanish side Huesca have threatened legal action against Super Eagles midfielder Kelechi Nwakali over his claims that the club terminated his contract for representing Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) earlier in the year. 

The club terminated his contract on Tuesday, claiming the player reported 10 days late after the competition and gave “incredible stories” for his lateness.

Although Nwakali broke silence over the matter on Wednesday, accusing Huesca of intimidation, the Segunda side have dismissed the claims, describing them as lacking “veracity”.

“On the statements made by Kelechi Nwakali earlier today after [a] premature termination of the contract that bound him and SD Huesca, the club wishes to express its total repudiation given their complete lack of veracity,” Huesca said in a statement issued on their website, hours after Nwakali’s outburst.

“All of this is done in the conviction that the club has acted at all times with the utmost respect for the player.

“Nevertheless, in view of the seriousness of certain statements referred to in his notice, this club reserves for itself the right to take the appropriate legal action to defend its rights to protect their legitimate interests.”

READ ALSO: Nwakali Accuses Huesca Of Contract Termination For Representing Nigeria At AFCON

‘I Will Never Regret My Decision’

Nigeria won all group stage game at the AFCON. [email protected]

 

Before Huesca’s comment, the Spanish Soccer Players Association (AFE) had vowed to challenge the contract termination, arguing that the move violated labour rights.

“In the face of the numerous information that is appearing, some erroneous, AFE wants to clarify that the dismissal will be challenged – as it cannot be otherwise – before the courts of the city of Huesca with the aim of continuing to safeguard the labor rights of the footballer,” the association said in a statement.

“AFE understands that, with this unilateral resolution adopted by the club, the labor rights of Kelechi Nwakali have clearly been violated.”

Despite the debacle, Nwakali insists he does not regret representing Nigeria at Africa’s premier football competition.

Playing for the three-time AFCON champions is an honour, the former youth international said in a lengthy post in which he accused Huesca of delaying his wages.

“I will never regret my decision to represent Nigeria and all I want to do is get back to playing the sport I love,” he maintained.

“Lastly, I want to thank the fans and my teammates of Huesca who have been amazing during my time here. I have always given 100% for the club, despite my treatment over the past three years.”

Football authorities in Nigeria have not commented on the issue. FIFA and CAF have also not issued any statement on the matter as of the time of publishing this report.

Nwakali Accuses Huesca Of Contract Termination For Representing Nigeria At AFCON

Nwakali is a former Nigerian youth international. [email protected]

 

Super Eagles midfielder Kelechi Nwakali has accused Spanish side Huesca of intimidation, claiming the club terminated his contract for representing Nigeria at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). 

The player made the comment in a post on his Instagram handle, hours after the Segunda Division side confirmed that his contract has been terminated even before it was due to expire in June.

Nwakali, who lamented the ill-treatment from the club, accused them of withholding his wages.

READ ALSONigeria Fail To Qualify For World Cup In Qatar After Ghana Draw

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kelechi Nwakali (@nwakali25)

“It comes with huge regret that I am writing this message after SD Huesca announced the termination of my contract,” the former youth international began in the lengthy post.

“I have kept silent out of respect for the Huesca fans and my teammates, but I will no longer suffer in silence. The time has come for people to know the truth and why these past few months have been awful for me and my family.

“In December 2021, I experienced the biggest honour of my life after I received a full international call up for my beloved Nigeria.

“But the joy of this moment quickly came crashing down when the club’s sporting director, Ruben Garcia, put extreme pressure on me not to go to AFCON due to it ‘not being an important tournament’. He told me that if I go to AFCON I will not play for Huesca again. This behaviour and the lack of respect shown to my country Nigeria was truly heart-breaking and it was just the latest example of the club attempting to bully me into getting their own way.

“For months the club has been abusing its power to bully me into signing a new contract. These tactics have included paying me late on numerous contracts.

“The breakdown in negotiations came when my mother fell ill and I asked Ruben for the wages the club already owed me in order to pay for my mother’s hospital bill and treatment. Ruben Garcia responded to my request by saying: ‘Sign this new contract and we will pay you what’s owed tonight’.

“But despite these actions, I was not going to allow the club to stop me from representing my country at one of the biggest international tournaments in the world and I was honoured to join my teammates in Cameroon.

“Before Nigeria’s last 16 game against Tunisia on 23rd January 2022, I began to feel unwell and was diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection. As a result, I was not fit enough to play in the game against Tunisia. After we were eliminated from the tournament I was unable to return to the club immediately as planned because of my illness following advice from the doctor.

“Throughout this time, Huesca have not paid my wages, yet I have remained silent hoping that a reasonable resolution could be found. But yesterday when I turned up at the training ground, a member of the club tried to force me to sign mutual termination papers which I refused to do. I have a family that depends on me, and no player should have to go through this inhumane treatment.”

An Unregretable Decision

(Top L-R) Nigeria’s goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, defender Kenneth Omeruo, midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, midfielder Joe Aribo, defender William Troost-Ekong, (bottom L-R) forward Kelechi Iheanacho, defender Ola Aina, defender Zaidu Sanusi, forward Samuel Chukwueze and forward Moses Simon pose prior to the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Nigeria and Sudan at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 15, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

Despite the treatment, he maintained that he does not regret playing for Nigeria at the competition.

“I will never regret my decision to represent Nigeria and all I want to do is get back to playing the sport I love,” he wrote.

“Lastly, I want to thank the fans and my teammates of Huesca who have been amazing during my time here. I have always given 100% for the club, despite my treatment over the past three years.”

Meanwhile, the Spanish Players’ Association (AFE) has pledged to wade into the matter and challenge the decision in court.

“In the face of the numerous information that is appearing, some erroneous, AFE wants to clarify that the dismissal will be challenged – as it cannot be otherwise – before the courts of the city of Huesca with the aim of continuing to safeguard the labor rights of the footballer,” the association said in a statement.

“AFE understands that, with this unilateral resolution adopted by the club, the labor rights of Kelechi Nwakali have clearly been violated.”

Super Eagles World Cup Disappointment Is ‘A Blessing In Disguise’ – George Abbey

Nigeria will be missing the World Cup for the first time in 16 years. Facebook/William Troost-Ekong.

 

Former Super Eagles defender, George Abbey, has said the team’s failure to make the 2022 World Cup should be a wake-up call to football authorities in Nigeria. 

Abbey said this in reaction to Nigeria’s 1-1 draw with Ghana in the World Cup playoff. The stalemate sent the Black Stars to the competition on the away-goal rule after the first leg ended goalless.

But George believes the development is a reality check on the three-time African champions. According to him, there are cracks in the team, explaining that the players could not pay attention to the “little details” during the double-legged game.

“This is a blessing in disguise because if we had made it to the World Cup, it kind of papers over the crack; it seems like everything is well.

“We need to reset, we need to find a way to plan and put in place a better quality organisation on and off the pitch,” George said on Channels Television’s Sports Tonight, hours after the game.

READ ALSO: Tear Gas Fired As Nigeria Fans Riot Over World Cup Loss

As far as the former Sharks player is concerned, there is a gulf in quality between the present Super Eagles team and other top African nations.

“We would have gone to the World Cup and probably end up losing all our group games and come back with an embarrassing showing at the World Cup,” he argued.

“So, we don’t want that. We want to be better prepared so when we get there, we deserve to be there and we can hold our own against these top teams.”

He also faulted the players for not putting up a fighting spirit during the fixtures.

“When you put on that Super Eagles jersey, the whole nation is expecting you to go to war for us,” George, who played at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, added.

“This is not a time when you want to come and entertain; show skills and dilly-dally on the ball; take your time. Everything has to be crisp. From the start, we need warriors. We need players who are ready to bleed for the nation and I did not see any of that.”

‘He Will Bring Some Value’: Eguavoen Wants Victor Moses Back To Super Eagles

In this file photo, Victor Moses poses with the Nation’s Cup in 2013

 

Super Eagles coach Austine Eguavoen believes Victor Moses has a lot to offer and wants him back to the team. 

The former Chelsea wingback quit international football after the 2013 African champions crashed out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Nearly four years after that and unsuccessful attempts to lure him back to the national team, Eguavoen says he is persuading Moses to come out of retirement.

“Whether we like it or not, Victor Moses will still bring some value,” he told BBC Sports. “But right now he is playing in Russia, we all know the problems with Ukraine and Russia. I am happy to say that my conversation with him is settled.”

The former U-23 Eagles coach said has been in touch with the player, admitting that he admires his style of player. According to him, while Moses is not part of the squad that will face Ghana in a 2022 World Cup play-off, the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) winner is part of his plan.

READ ALSO: [WCQ] Onazi On Standby, Ighalo Returns As Nigeria Name Squad For Ghana Clash

Eguavoen Unveils Squad 

Victor Moses
Victor Moses quit international football in 2018. [email protected] Moses.

Earlier, Eguavoen put midfielder Ogenyi Onazi on standby as Nigeria named their squad, which included Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2022 absentee, Oghenekaro Etebo, for the World Cup play-off later this month.

The long-time absentee was part of the Super Eagles side that won the AFCON in 2013.

Leicester City forward Ademola Lookman was also included in the provisional squad.  Nigeria take on Ghana at the 20,000–capacity Cape Coast Sports Stadium on March 25, with the reverse leg set for Abuja four days later.

The winners from the tie will earn one of Africa’s five tickets to the World Cup finals in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.

Lookman has been cleared by FIFA to play for Nigeria after he represented England at various age-grade levels.

He is one of three uncapped players selected by Nigeria, along with Calvin Bassey of Scottish champions Rangers and FC Copenhagen youngster Akinkunmi Amoo.