2017: Top Moments In Nigerian Sports

As sports lovers across the country evaluate Nigeria’s performances in sporting events – both locally and globally, here are some of the top moments for the year 2017:

World Cup Qualification

The news that the Super Eagles qualified for Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup was arguably the biggest feat the country recorded in the sporting events for the year.

The national football team beat Zambia on October 7 to emerge the first African team to qualify for the tournament and also seal their sixth World Cup ticket after their last appearance in 2014.

Nigeria Beat Zambia To Qualify For 2018 FIFA World Cup

Jubilation over the qualification was tempered for some fans by the World Cup draws. Nigeria was drawn with Argentina, Iceland and Croatia in Group D, which some have called the ‘Group of death’. Russia 2018 will mark the fifth time Nigeria would face Argentina at the World Cup – after meetings in 1994 (USA), 1998 (France), 2002 (Korea-Japan) and 2014 (Brazil).

Fans React To World Cup Draws, Say Nigeria And Argentina Inseparable
Italy’s former defender and Guangzhou Evergrande’s coach Fabio Cannavaro displays the slip of Nigeria during the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup football tournament on December 1, 2017. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

Nigeria Drawn In Group D With Argentina For 2018 World Cup

Expect ‘Difficult’ Argentina In World Cup, Rohr Warns Eagles

Adekuoroye’s Silver Medal

In August, Odunayo Adekuoroye made the nation proud at the World Wrestling Championship event in Paris, France. The 2014 Commonwealth games champion claimed a silver medal and became the first African woman to win a medal at the tournament. Nigeria also recorded another success in August after winning the bid to host the Africa Senior Wrestling Championship.

Nigeria’s Adekuoroye Wins Silver At World Wrestling Championship

Badminton Championships

The hosting of the National Badminton Championships (in Lagos and Katsina states) in November was another success Nigeria recorded in 2017.

D’Tigress Win FIBA Afrobasket

In the basketball world, Nigeria’s senior national women’s basketball team D’Tigress defeated their Senegalese rivals in August to win the 2017 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket. Barely one month after, the men’s senior national team failed to defend their championship title as they lost to Tunisia who claimed the 2017 Men’s Afrobasket title.

D’Tigress Beat Senegal To Win FIBA Women’s Afrobasket

Buhari Receives Victorious D’Tigress

 

 Quadri Wins Polish Open

Meanwhile, table tennis professional Aruna Quadri defied all odds in October to win the Polish Open. The 29-year-old who has been listed among the World Top 20 players defeated Japan’s Kaii Yoshida in a tough contest to become the first African to win an ITTF title outside the continent.

 

File photo: Aruna Quadri

Aruna Quadri Wins Polish Open

Adigun, Onwumere, Omeoga Make History

Another resounding success was recorded by Nigeria Women’s Bobsled team who qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The trio of Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga, wrote their names in the history books in November by becoming the first African team to qualify for the bobsled category, after completing the required five races.

Nigeria Bobsled Team Qualify For 2018 Winter Olympic Games

Thierry Henry Visits Nigeria

Other sporting events that featured in the year include Thierry Henry’s visit to Lagos and the retirement of ex-Super Eagles forward Yakubu Aiyegbeni from professional football among others.

Nigerian Fans Install Thierry Henry As ‘Igwe Of Goals’

Nigerian Fans Install Thierry Henry As ‘Igwe Of Goals’
File photo: Thierry Henry

 

Sports Federations Elections

The sports federations elections were also some of the events that got Nigerians talking in 2017. While some of the polls went smoothly, others were reportedly marred with irregularities and as such, generated various controversies.

The crisis in some of the groups – including the Athletics Federation of Nigeria and the Nigeria Basketball Federation – seemed to have affected the nation’s performances at the London Olympics and FIBA Afrobasket.

Poor Outing At IAAF World Championships

The country, however, had a poor outing during the IAAF World Championships at the London Olympic Stadium in August. The quartet of – Abike Egbeniyi, Patience Okon-George, Glory Nathaniel and Yinka Ajayi – made it to the final of the women’s 4x400m, but finished fifth behind their Great Britain and American rivals among others.

Global Events

Far from the sporting events in Nigeria, here are some of the notable happenings in the global world of sports.

BOXING

Mayweather vs Mcgregor Bout

US’ Floyd Mayweather extended his perfect career record to 50 fights unbeaten in August following his victory over mixed martial arts champion Conor Mcgregor in the much-anticipated crossover bout in the 10th round.

Mayweather Stops Mcgregor In 10th Round

According to reports, the cross-combat super fight is the second richest boxing bout in history, after generating 4.3 million pay-per-view buys in North America. Only one other fight — Mayweather’s 2015 bout with Manny Pacquiao — more by racking up 4.6 million buys to earn around $600 million.

Mayweather Stops Mcgregor In 10th Round

Klitschko vs AJ

WBA and IBO champion Anthony Joshua (AJ) knocked out experienced Wladimir Klitschko to win the World Heavyweight title in April. The 28-year-old waited till the 11th round to earn the victory in what was a highly combative fight.

File photo: AJ and Klitschko

Anthony Joshua Knocks Klitschko Out

Horn vs Pacquiao

Filipino senator and boxer Manny Pacquiao suffered a shock defeat to Australia’s Jeff Horn in a bloody Brisbane battle in July.

Pacquiao who is one of the finest boxers of his generation paid the price for a slow start while Horn claimed a unanimous 12-round decision to win the WBO world welterweight title in front of 50,000 fans

Jeff Horn Lifts WBO Belt After Beating Pacquiao

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TENNIS

US Open

Rafael Nadal won his third US Open title and 16th Grand Slam crown in September with a rout of South African giant Kevin Anderson, while 11-month sidelined Sloane Stephens clinched her first Grand Slam title after trashing fellow American Madison Keys.

Rafael Nadal Wins Third U.S. Open

US Open: Sloane Stephens Beats Keys To Win First Grand Slam

Wimbledon Open

Swiss maestro Roger Federer thrashed Croat Marin Cilic to become the first man to win eight Wimbledon singles title in July, just as brave Garbine Muguruza stunned experienced Venus Williams to claim her maiden Wimbledon crown.

Federer Wins Record 8th Wimbledon Title

Muguruza Stuns Venus To Win First Wimbledon Title

French Open

Rafael Nadal defeated Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to claim his 10th French Open title in June while Jelena Ostapenko defeated Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the women’s final.

Rafael Nadal Wins 10th French Open Title

FOOTBALL

World Cup: there were intriguing events this year as it relates to the qualification and draws for the Russia 2018 World Cup. Nigeria and Argentina were drawn in the same group for a record fifth time while Italy and Netherlands missed out of the tournament.

File photo: Argentina’s Cristian Pavon (L) and Nigeria’s Alexander Iwobi vie for the ball Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

 

In Africa, the Pharaohs of Egypt qualified for World Cup in October since 1990 while Morocco also qualified for the first time since 19 years ago in November. However, African giants such as Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon were unable to seal their spots at the tournament.

Retirements: 2017 was a great year for some players who believed it was time to sit back and get some rest after several years of hard work. The duo of Argen Robben (Netherlands) and Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) quit international duties in October and November respectively, following their countries’ failure to qualify for World Cup.

Tearful Buffon Retires From International Football

Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Italy and Sweden, on November 13, 2017, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Those who bowed out of professional football are Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso (Bayern Munich, March); Italy’s Francesco Totti (AS Roma, May); German defender Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich, May); and Ballon d’Or winner Kaka (Orlando City, December).

Awards

The highpoints of football awards in 2017 cut across the FIFA awards and the Ballon d’Or honours. Portugal and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo won the Best FIFA Men’s Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or awards in October and December respectively.

Cristiano Ronaldo Wins FIFA World Player Of The Year

Real boss Zinedine Zidane also beat Chelsea’s Antonio Conte and Juventus’s Massimiliano Allegri to claim the corresponding Manager of the Year award, while Barcelona’s Lieke Martens won the Best FIFA Women’s Player of the Year title.

2017 FIFA Awards Ceremony In Photos
Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane (R) stands with his trophy for winning The Best FIFA Men’s Coach of 2017 Award alongside Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo, with his trophy for winning The Best FIFA Men’s Player of 2017 Award during The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony, on October 23, 2017 in London. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Transfers: Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) shock the football world in August with the signing of Neymar from Barcelona. PSG signed the Brazilian forward for a record fee of €222million and also signed Kylian Mbappe for €180million.

PSG Confirm World Record Neymar Signing

Other signings in the year include Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund (August), Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku from Everton (July), Liverpool’s Salah from Roma (June), and Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon (July).

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Notable Events/ moments: 2017 is a year that Real Madrid and their fans will not forget so soon when they won the UEFA Champions League back-to-back. While Zinedine Zidane also became one of the first club managers to win the title as a player and a coach, Ronaldo became the first player to ever score in all six Champions League group games in one season in December.

Mission Accomplished! Real Madrid Beat Juventus To Break Champions League Curse

In December, Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane broke Alan Shearer’s 22-year-old record for most goals in a calendar year with his 37th goal when his side trash Southampton 5-2 in December. Slovakian Marek Hamsik also overtook Diego Maradona as Napoli’s all-time record goalscorer with his 116th goal in all competitions on December 23.

'Great Feeling' To Beat Shearer's Record – Kane
File photo: Ian KINGTON / IKIMAGES / AFP

55 Years Of Sports: Onyali, Odegbami Score Nigeria Low

OdegbamiFormer national 100 metres champion, Mary Onyali, has likened 55 years of sports in Nigeria to a sleeping giant that needs to wake up and start winning again.

Onyali, who was a guest on the Friday edition of Channels Television’s ‘Sports This Morning’ reiterated the importance of investing in talent discovery and development through productive school sports programmes.

The Atlanta 1996 Olympics bronze medallist explained that the athletics did well in the 80s and 90s because the country gave good attention to home-grown talents and infrastructure development.

Meanwhile, 1980 African Nations’ Cup winner, Segun Odegbami, also believes football in Nigeria has performed below its potentials in the 55 years of Nigeria’s existence.

Odegbami credited the success of the game in the 80s to result-oriented grassroots development programmes.

The ex-international explained that the league was also good and most of the talents in the country emerged from the academicals which gave their career a longer lifespan.

Both Nigerian sport legends agreed that Nigeria would only regain its lost glory by reinvesting in grassroots development and schools sports.

African Games: Buhari Congratulates Team Nigeria

Mhammadu-Buhari-Nigeria-presidentNigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has commended the performance of Team Nigeria at the just concluded All African Games (AAG) in Congo-Brazzaville.

Buhari believes that the performance of the country’s athletes has again highlighted the massive potential of Nigerian sportsmen and women to excel in their chosen areas, against all odds.

He implored the athletes to do all they can to ensure that Nigeria regains its number one position in Africa and the world at large.

Team Nigeria finished second on the overall standings with 47 gold, 55 sliver and 42 bronze medals.

Africa Will Miss Nigeria In Equatorial Guinea – Issa Hayatou

NigeriaThe Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Issa Hayatou, says Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations has not diminished the country’s importance to the structure of African football.

Hayatou told Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Amaju Pinnick, that the entire African football family would feel the absence of the Super Eagles at next year’s finals.

“The whole of Africa will miss Nigeria in Equatorial Guinea. But the absence will not in any way diminish your stature as a very big and influential nation in the African game,” Hayatou was quoted as saying in an NFF statement.

“It would have been good to have the defending champions in Equatorial Guinea.

“Nigeria brings so much value to the Africa Cup of Nations. However, we know that you will come back much stronger, as you did in winning the Cup in South Africa last year after missing out on the 2012 championship.”

Reigning champions Nigeria will not defend their title in Equatorial Guinea after they finished outside of their group’s top two automatic qualification spots.

The Super Eagles ended the qualifying campaign with eight points – a total not good enough for the best third-placed team.

Nigeria suffered a troubled qualification campaign where they not only struggled with form on the pitch but were also affected by deep divisions in the NFF.

Coach Stephen Keshi’s position was also unstable, and he was frequently in and out of the job.

Meanwhile, officials have reiterated that Nigeria will host Brazil in a prestigious friendly in March 2015.

The two sides have only ever met once in the past and that was a friendly in 2003 in Abuja with Brazil emerging 3-0 winners.

Uyo Stadium To Formally Open on 6th November

Super-Eagles-celebrate-after-scoring-against-scotlandThe Nigeria Football Federation has announced that Super Eagles players selected from the domestic league will play a friendly game in Uyo, Akwa Ibom on 6th November 2014 to formally open the new Akwa Ibom International Stadium.

Officials of the Nigeria Football Federation disclosed in Abuja that the friendly encounter,which will be sponsored by the Akwa Ibom State Government, will feature the Super Eagles tackle a North African team that will be confirmed this week.

Caretaker Coach, Amodu Shaibu is already planning to use the opportunity of this international friendly to begin preparations for Nigeria’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations campaigns in November.

“22 players will be called up to camp in Uyo from Sunday,November 2 ahead of the friendly and that game will afford us a wonderful opportunity to see some of our best legs in the domestic league more closely,” Shaibu opened up.

“We will have the opportunity of working with them for about three days before the friendly.

“Some of those who show the quality we are looking for will then join the main squad for the qualifiers.

“We must seize every opportunity we have to get a strong squad ready for the challenges ahead and we really appreciate the Akwa Ibom State Government as well as the Nigeria Football Federation for putting this programme together,” Shaibu said.

The new 30,000 capacity Akwa Ibom Stadium in Uyo has also been chosen as match venue for Nigeria’s final 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa on November 19,2014.

NFF Election: Babayaro Urges Delegates Not To Sell Votes

Emmanuel BabayaroAhead of the elective congress of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, former international player, Emmanuel Babayaro, has appealed to delegates to avoid selling their votes but vote according to the manifesto of individual aspirants, noting that there is an urgent need to revamp the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s football.

Addressing a news conference in Abuja, Babayaro said that the rot in the nations football is a culmination of the decay of many years which can be corrected with the right leadership in place.

Babayaro expressed disappointment over the performance of the Super Eagles at the Brazil World Cup and decried the present position of the Super Eagles as the African Champions are struggling to qualify for the next African Nations Cup.

The congress of the Nigeria Football Federation is expected to gather in Warri, on Monday night, at the Hotel de Excel where the seven men jostling to chair the NFF would be engaged in a debate.

It is expected that the candidates would make known their visions for the federation and get quizzed by selected members of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN.

The contestants include Pin­nick Amaju Melvin, who heads the administration of football in Delta State; Taiwo Ogunjobi, a former General Secretary and later member of the executive committee in the era of Sani Lulu Abdulahi; Abba Yola of Kano State and Chief Mike Umeh, the current first Vice President; Amanze Uchegbulam and Domi­nic Iorfa, who like Ogun­jobi, served in the execu­tive committee headed by Sani Lulu Abdulahi and Shehu Dikko.

Suarez Bite Match Referee To Handle Brazil-Germany Semi Final

Marco-Antonio-RodriguezFIFA has announced the referee for match 61 of the FIFA World Cup™, the first semi-final between Brazil and Germany. It will be Marco Rodríguez, the Mexican referee who officiated in the match that saw Uruguay striker, Luis Suarez bite Italian Giorgio Chiellini.

Rodriguez, who did not see the incident involving Suarez and Chiellini during the match, which led to the Uruguay star being thrown out of the tournament and banned from football for four months, now has the task of keeping order in Sao Paulo for Tuesday’s game.

The 40 year old, who sent off Italy’s Claudio Marchisio in the same Group D fixture, during this tournament, also officiated in the group-stage match – Belgium v. Algeria.

Brazil 2014 is the third FIFA World Cup™ for Rodríguez and he refereed two games at each of the last two editions but has never officiated in a knockout stage match. In 2010, one of his matches was Germany’s 4-0 victory over Australia.

During his career, Rodríguez has been selected for several international tournaments, including five editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013), the Copa América 2004, the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009 and three FIFA U-17 World Cups (2003, 2005 and 2013).

At club level, he has refereed three CONCACAF Champions League finals, and his most prestigious assignment was the final of the FIFA Club World Cup 2007 between Boca Juniors and AC Milan. He later oversaw Al Ahly v. Corinthians in the 2012 semi-finals of the same competition.

Meanwhile, Germany midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger, has warned match officials in the semi-final to keep an eye on Brazil’s physical approach.

“Hard challenges definitely are part of their game, it’s something we have to be careful of and the referee too,” Schweinsteiger said.

Wimbledon Open: Nadal Knocked Out by Australian Teeneger, Kyrgios

tennis-wimbledon-nick-kyrgios-wimbledon-r4_3166372Australian teenager, Nick Kyrgios, created a big upset as he defeated Rafael Nadal 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-3  to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

Nadal had no answer for Kyrgios’ booming serve and thunderous ground strokes, the 19-year-old sending down 37 aces and hitting 70 winners during the course of the fourth round contest.

The world number one had lost the first set in each of his first three matches before recovering to win in four, but could not repeat the same feat against a rampant Kyrgios.

Kyrgios, who had being tipped for greatness by the likes of Andy Murray and Pat Cash in recent weeks, only claimed his first top-50 win a week before the victory over Nadal when he saved nine match points to beat Richard Gasquet in the second round.

The Australian teenager, who is world number 144, is the first man outside the top 100 to beat a world number one since 1992.

Nigeria Qualifies For Round Of 16 Despite 3-2 Loss To Argentina

Nig vs ArgentinaNigeria has qualified for the round of 16 in the on going Brazil 2014 FIFA Wold Cup  despite losing gallantly to Argentina by 3-2 in Port Alegre.

Lionel Messi scored in the 3rd minute to give Argentina the lead but Ahmed Musa got a much needed equaliser to level up for the African champions.

Messi then scored a wonderful free kick at the stroke of half time but the Super Eagles never gave up, as Musa scored a perfect goal after a nice run of play from the Nigeria midfield.

Argentina were not done as they got a goal from a corner kick by  Marcos Rojo after a sloppy defending by the Nigerian defence.

Thus, Nigeria became the first African country to qualify for  the 2014 World Cup round of 16 while Joseph Yobo made history as he became the first Nigerian to get 100 caps for the Super Eagles.

In the other group F match, Bosnia-Herzegovina bowed out of the World Cup with a 3-1 win over Iran. Goals from  Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and  Avdija Vrsajevic ensured that they beat the Carlo Quieroz led side who scored a consolation goal by  Reza Ghoochannejhad.

Nigeria will be joined by table-toppers Argentina in the knock out stages while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran will be booking the next flight to their various countries.

 

Arsenal Transfers: Julian Draxler Set To Consider ‘New Challenge’

Julian Draxler has handed Arsenal Football Club a boost in their pursuit of the Schalke star after confessing that he was willing to consider his future if an interested suitor activated his release clause.

The Gunners were widely expected to sign the 20-year-old during the January transfer window but the North London club failed to seal a deal before the transfer day deadline.

The Germany international, who has a €45m (£40m) release clause has scored four goals and made five assists in 20 appearances in all competitions this season, a performance which had alerting the Gunners and other European clubs.

Draxler says he is happy with his current situation which allows him to weigh a new challenge if a club is willing to pay his release clause, whilst guaranteeing Schalke good monetary returns.

Draxler told German newspaper WAZ “I prolonged my contract because I feel fine here and the long-term deal shows the appreciation and popularity I enjoy at Schalke.

“It’s no secret that I have a release clause and therefore have the opportunity to consider what is best for my development every year.

“Of course, the clause leaves a lot of room for speculation, but it is also good for both sides.

“It’s good for Schalke because the club does not have to let go of me on the cheap and, in their worst-case scenario, they would still get a lot of money for me.

“And for me it’s good because I can make my own decision if a club decides to pay 45 million euros for me and I want a new challenge.”

Olajide Starts Preparation For Commonwealth Games

Nigeria table tennis junior champion,  Olajide Omotayo has moved his training base to Italy and Switzerland with  the objectives of winning medals at the 2014  Commonwealth games in Glasgow Scotland.

Omotayo was Nigeria’s best player at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF)-organised World Junior Championships which took place in Rabat, Morocco. He won the Asoju-oba Table Tennis Championship in November and also emerged the junior champion at the Lagos International Table Tennis Classics.

According to the youngster, traveling out of the country would help him improve his skills and play against the best players in the world and also will give him the chance to compete in the inaugural Swiss Premier League, serving off in 2014.

The 2012 National Sports Festival gold medallist said: “I am currently training in Italy while I will be playing the division one league in Switzerland. I would have loved to go to France or Germany instead because they have stronger leagues than the Italian and Switzerland leagues. I chose to play in Switzerland and Italy because I want to start from the scratch, as I may not be able to cope with the players playing in division one in France and Germany for now. Beginning with this will help improve my game so that I can compete very well with top players in major international competitions.”

With his enterprising style of play, coupled with excellent footwork, Omotayo dazzled in Morocco and for him, winning diadems for Nigeria at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games remains one of his priorities in the game.

“I have all it takes to become one of the world’s best because I am still young, having won series of laurels at cadet, junior and senior levels in Nigeria. Even though I would have loved to win more before leaving, I know with God by my side I will make Nigeria proud,” he said.

“I also want to win laurels for Nigeria in events such as Commonwealth, All Africa and Olympics Games. I am also aiming to become the first Nigerian player to win the World Championship and Olympics medals,” he added.

Listing some of the skills he picked up in Morocco, Omotayo said: “I learned a lot of things from the Morocco World Junior Championships, like the different styles and techniques; especially the Asian players because they are so fast, mobile, accurate and strong on the table.”

Omotayo believes that leaving Nigeria for Italy is the best decision he has made this year.

“I feel so happy leaving Nigeria at a tender age and playing abroad for a professional club as this will enable me to be a good player in future because I have all it takes like facilities, equipment as well as a personal coach, which I was lacking while in Nigeria.”

Eagles Need To Plan Well To Qualify For The World Cup- George Aluo

The roving Editor of The Sun Newspaper, Mr. George Aluo on Tuesday warned the Super Eagles of Nigeria to plan well ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers play-off against lowly-rated Ethiopia.

Aluo, who was speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily’ warned that “if you don’t plan well in peace time, you will bleed very heavily in battle”.

He continued by saying that “the only way we cannot go to the World Cup is if we stop ourselves” noting that “the Ethiopians can go back home with their rag tag team, prepare very well and then we sit back here celebrating that we have gotten a cheap team, then we don’t do our homework well” warning that “we need to plan well. That is just the battle”.

He lauded the luck of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, after been handed a supposedly easy draw for the play-offs of the 2014 FIFA World Cup holding in Brazil.

He said that “I couldn’t have asked for any team other than Ethiopia” adding that “on paper, it is the weakest opposition of all the other 10 countries that are in the play-off”.

He said even a census amongst Nigerians will reveal Ethiopia as the preferred opponents against the other eight countries that qualified for the play-offs.

He was however quick to add that “sometimes you have upsets in football and in every other sport” adding that “I don’t rule out any upset” but was quick to warn that “this upset happens when you don’t do your homework well. So the challenge is to do our homework well”.

He wondered why Nigeria, with all its players, talents and pedigree in football, will be “talking about qualifying for the World Cup” noting that “we should be talking about reaching the semi-final of the World Cup”.

He argued that Nigeria has always been lucky with the god of football since the draws for the World Cup qualification started. In his words “if you look at the draws in the first place before this play-off, our group was the weakest. We had the Kenya, Malawi, Namibia draw” adding that “now we have gone into the play-off God has given us another weak opposition in Ethiopia”.

He called on the handlers of the national football team to “do their homework well” and remove encumbrances that will hinder the team’s qualification to the global soccer fiesta. He also advocated a training session in Kenya, where the altitude is the same as what is obtained in Ethiopia.

He further made a call on the players to resume camp as early as possible while insisting that the team’s performance during the game against Malawi in Calabar was not up to standard due to the inability of the players to train as a unit for a long period of time.

He advised the handlers of the team to settle the bonus row which ensued and is yet to be settled insisting that “if you don’t resolve some of this issues, by the time it rears its ugly head, it will be the things that will jeopardize our chances”.

He berated the Nigeria Football Federation’s claim of suffering from lack of funds despite the plethora of endorsements from corporate organisations.