Team jets out to Ghana tomorrow
The long awaited Qatar 2022 playoff between Black Stars and the Super Eagles in Kumasi is barely two days away, but some of the Nigerian players are yet to arrive the team’s camp in Abuja. The situation is not going down well with some football-loving Nigerians.
The international window, which allowed the players to team up with their various national teams opened on Sunday, March 20, 2022.
While the camp of the Black Stars recorded nearly a full house (16 players) on Monday, the situation was different in Abuja, where only five players showed up in Eagles’ camp.
On Tuesday (yesterday) morning, five key players, who are expected to make coach Augustine Eguavoen’s starting list in the first leg tie on Friday, were yet to show up in Abuja. They are Zaidu Sanusi, Akinkunmi Amoo, Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Osimhen and Sadiq Umar. They were still being expected in the team’s camp as at yesterday evening.
Leicester City strongman, Ademola Lookman, did not show up yesterday. He is expected in Abuja later today alongside Enyimba FC goalkeeper, John Noble, who was drafted into the squad following the withdrawal of ‘first choice’ goalie, Maduka Okoye. The Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper, who is on loan from Watford, was said to have tested positive to COVID-19 and could not travel out of The Netherland to Nigeria.
Some Nigerians feel Okoye ‘deliberately’ chickened out of the squad following the criticism and threat he received after conceding a ‘cheap’ goal against Tunisia in the round of 16 at the recently concluded AFCON tournament in Cameroun.
The fans, who spoke on a radio programme, monitored in Lagos, yesterday, tongue-lashed the players for their bad attitude, which could work against the country’s quest to qualify for the World Cup.
“This is a crucial World Cup qualifying match and I expected all our players to show some level of seriousness by reporting to camp early,” one sports analyst, who gave his name as Mustapha said.
Another analyst, Sule, said: “I expected coach Eguavoen to tackle this problem of late response to camp by our players. I pray we don’t lose this match to Ghana. The Super Eagles would jet out to Ghana tomorrow morning to enable them have a feel of the playing turf in Kumasi. Yet, some of the players are still being expected in the camp today. So, when will the team train together? This is not good for our football.”
To Sabinus Ikewuaku, the decision to invite John Noble as Maduka’s replacement is one of the things wrong with Nigeria.
According to the sports lawyer, “Noble is Enyimba’s second choice goalkeeper. Ojo Olorunleke is number one in Enyimba, yet his deputy constantly gets invited to the Super Eagles.
“That was the same practice some years ago when Theophilus Afelokhai and Ikechukwu Ezenwa were together in Enyimba. Ezenwa was a regular name in the Eagles team and even went to Russia 2018 World Cup and the Egypt 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, while Afelokhai, who was Enyimba’s number one goalkeeper, was ignored.
“This shows that there is more going on in that goalkeeping department than meets the eye. It is pure corruption, which is detrimental to Nigerians’ collective interest.”
At lunchtime yesterday, 19 of the 25 invited players had arrived at Eagles’ The Wells Carlton Hotel and Apartments.
Friday’s encounter in Kumasi will be the 58th clash between the two countries’ senior teams, with 18 of those matches having ended in draws. The first encounter was on 20th October 1951, which Nigeria won 5-0.
The last time both teams were involved in a FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture was in 2001, with both sides seeking a spot at the Korea/Japan 2002 finals. The opening leg at the Accra Sports Stadium was stalemated 0-0, before Nigeria won the return 3-0 inside the Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt on July 29, 2001.