Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Match Day 1 recap- NPFLInvitational17

Plateau United and Enyimba exchange pleasantries.

Match Day 1 of the 2017 NPFL Invitational Tournament was one of stalemates as th the two games on the day both ended in draws.

Plateau United had to come from behind to earn a point against Enyimba. Chinedu Udeagha got their goal before a late Tosin Omoyele spot kick earned a share of the spoils for the reigning champions.

MFM went ahead in their game against Akwa United through Adegboyega Adekunle before Ajibola Otegbeye equalized for the Uyo side.

Tuesday will be a rest day as Wednesday will see Kano Pillars take on Akwa United while the CHAN Eagles will take on Plateau United.

Enjoy the pictures from Kano

Enyimba captain, Mfon Udoh waves to the camera

Plateau United
 The stadium wasn't exactly full but is is expected that as the competition goes on it will get better especially on the days the home side Kano Pillars play.

Enyimba FC

Feeling fly

With a fan.

Akwa Utd and MFM exchange pleasantries

MFM line up v Akwa

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Salisu calls up 30 for NPFL Invitational

 So after a long wait, Salisu Yusuf has decided to bless us with the list off players he wants to use to prosecute the NPFL Invitational Tournament scheduled to hold from 11-17 December 2017.

Possibly the squad for the 2018 CHAN will be picked from the bulk of the players in Kano.

There are a few surprises in the squad as a relatively unknown Timothy Danladi made the cut. Ibrahim Mustapha, who once played for Kogi United is also in, while Abdulkadir Zango, creative midfielder Douglas Achiv, Sunday Faleye and the impressive Victor Mbaoma complete the list of newbies in the team.

Making a return to the team are Kalu Orji, Dayo Ojo, Austine Oladapo, Joe Osadiaye and Ifeanyi Nweke who have one time or the other been called up to the home based Eagles.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

World Cup pairing: Naija journos have their say.

The World Cup draws have come and gone but reactions have kept the conversation going throughout into the new week.

It is no longer news that Nigeria’s romance with Argentina has continued as the Super Eagles for the fifth time (in six World Cup appearances) will face the Albiceleste in Group D of the tournament to be held in Russia next summer.

Croatia and Iceland are the other two teams in a group that will surely serve up some interesting matches.

I think Nigeria can get out of the group but the game against Croatia-our first game will be crucial.

We have to get something out of that game and then Iceland, despite their heroics at Euro 2016 is no longer a hidden force with the added dimension that this will be their first ever World Cup appearance, we should be able to sail past their glaciers.

The permutation here is that by the time we meet Argentina in the final group game, they would have already qualified for the next stage and won’t be at full throttle against Nigeria (I hope they won’t have revenge in their mind considering we beat them 4-2 a few weeks ago).

Those are my thoughts but I decided to pick the brains of a few pundits on their thoughts.
Here we go:

Morakinyo Abodurin (The Nation)

Russia 2018 is about the Super Eagles on one part as well as a true test for coach Gernot Rohr. Qualification was achieved with an uncommon style despite opposition from three strong soccer playing countries on the continent; but the Super Eagles trumped Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia to book their sixth World Cup ticket.

Now grouped in Group D alongside perennial World Cup rivals in  Argentina; Croatia and Iceland, the Super Eagles work are well cut out. On paper, Nigeria should progress to the knock-out stages but they are not going to achieve that on a platter of Gold. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Akabueze in fine form for Boluspor

Former Flying Eagles star Chukwuma Akabueze was in fine form for his Turkish Lig 1 side Boluspor in their 1-0 away win at Elazigspor on Saturday.

Bentley, as he is popularly called, was on for the entire duration of the game and was one of his sides shining lights leading in a keenly contested game.

Andre Santos scored the only goal of the game in the for the away side to give them a second successive away win and three points on the road as the Nigeria lasted the entirety of the game.

“The game against again Elazigspor was a good match for me according to what my coach told me after the game,” Bentley told 9jafooty after the game.

“We didn’t start well this season, but thank God we are picking up and getting good results and my performances have been improving too.

“So far I’ve started 12 games out of 13 games we have played this season scoring a goal an providing three assists. The game against Elazigspor was one of my best I must say. The other game I didn't start was due to a little injury.

“I’m keen on working on my game so as to help my team gain promotion back to the top-flight of Turkish football as well as getting the attention of the national team selectors.

“I enjoyed my time with the Flying Eagles and my other cameos and I’m hoping to get another opportunity with the Super Eagles. All I need is the chance to show what I can do,” he added.

Boluspor is eight on the Lig.1 table after 13 round of games and will look upon the left-footed Nigerian to lead their charge for a return back to the Turkish top flight.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Of 21 players, Yobe Desert Stars and open screening.

The football pre-season period in Nigeria is one most football fans in the country look forward to with keen interest as to who will show up through the door to play for their favourite teams

Coaches also make the transition as has been the case this season with a bevy of coaches playing musical chairs across the league.

These movements are a natural occurrence for leagues all over the world but Nigeria (and a few other countries I must admit) have turned this exciting period to a comedy-fest.

I’ve never written about anything like this and I wasn’t convinced to pen something down but like a stubborn goitre, it stuck to my throat and refused to go despite my failed attempts at treating it.

I woke up to the news that newly promoted Yobe Desert Stars had signed up 21 players for the new season. I’ve heard of 11-14 players, but 21? That’s a new record (I stand corrected though).

But 21? Who does that?. I will get back to Babaganaru Mohammed’s and his record-breaking feat but let me face the issue at hand.

Nigerian clubs have a penchant for releasing players en-masse at the end of the season and then ironically, conducting ‘open screening’ sessions to get new players (which hardly works out at the end). 

I have tried as much a possible to see the sense in it to no avail.
Getty Images

Rivers United conducted an open screening session a few weeks back with the aim of recruiting nay discovering new talent for their team and when I thought it won’t get worse Wikki Tourists also joined the gang.

It didn’t stop there.

Katsina United relegated teams ABS and Gombe United all took a bite off the poisoned chalice (emphasis mine). My beloved Rangers International took it a step further by conducting an open screening of players for the main team and then..wait for it.....another open screening.

New coach Gbenga Ogunbote has however called up a few players to Enugu with a view to signing them to fix some problem areas in the squad which apparently the ‘screening’ failed to achieve.

Hopeful players in their hundreds thronged the screening sessions with the hope of getting picked by these teams and realising their football dreams, dreams which usually doesn’t come to fruition as a lot of these exercises are just are just insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Open screening exercises are not entirely bad. Rough diamonds have been unearthed this way but that is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it is a waste of time and limited resources on many fronts.

The time spent on this can be used for more productive things as well as blending new players into their squads.

Professional football clubs should endeavour to have proper scouting departments. A special unit that will be responsible for scouting players from the league and grassroots. The department should be saddled with developing and implementing short-term, mid-term and long-term goals as regards player recruitment. 

This will save cost and time for the coaches and technical staff who will only concentrate on drilling the players during pre-season instead of spending weeks on open screening sessions before the usual ‘invitation for trials’ commences.

I was with Niger Tornadoes coach Abubakar Bala when the Minna-side open the pre-season came. It was straight to trials for ‘invited’ players. Chop and change was the mantra as he went about his business.

From a distance, over a period of one week and a few test games to boot, I could see the core of his squad and say for certain the areas he was looking to plug. It was that straightforward. Even though the system isn’t perfect, it was a diversion from the usual Nigerian template of an all-comers -come and try your luck affair.

Our clubs need to do better, we need to plan better. I’ve always insisted that ‘next season begins when this season starts’. 

The way to go is to gauge your strength and weaknesses as the season goes by with the purpose of making your squad better. The scouting unit is expected to spread their dragnet all over the place to identify players who can do the business for the short term or long term and set out plans to get those players on board during transfer windows.

Scouting did wonders for league champions Plateau United last season. The appointment of Ahmed Ibrahim a.ka Coach Bros was a master-stroke by the Plateau United management team. He was able to reinvigorate the scouting unit and took it upon himself to lead the charge.

Peter Eneji (who has since been capped the Super Eagles), Emeka Umeh and a host of others were brought in and they contributed immensely to United’s first ever league title.

Ibrahim is arguably the go-to man when it comes to grassroots football in North Central Nigeria producing the likes of Moses Simon, Kingsley Madu, Philip Azango and a lot more. He brought his experience to bear at United and they were the better for it.

Nigerian clubs can also do well to take a cue from Enyimba’s recruitment policy which is one of the best in the country.

Sporting Director Jude Anyadufu knows his onions as he has been in the business for ages which puts him in a good stead to be emulated. He goes about his business quietly-identifying the loopholes in his team and looking at how to screw the loose areas tight with the right bolt.

Players are identified, their clubs contacted, terms are reached with the target, and he is off to Aba. 

They keep it simple and short.

Back to the issue at Damaturu where Baba Ganaru will try to gel 14 old players and 21 new players (still can’t wrap my head around it) into a team capable of holding their own in the 2017/18 Nigeria Professional Football League.

The 21 players recently signed consist of players who have played in the NPFL and NNL, a few of the veterans in their own right. Former Rangers goalkeeper Akor Itodo, Kano Pillars striker Shagari Mohammed, ex Shooting Stars Philip Asuquo and the experienced Philip Auta are among the players who have linked up with the newly promoted side.

I have no stats as regards how many players were signed after the open screening session by Yobe Desert stars as nothing came from their ends despite my inquiries but it will be a herculean task for the experienced coach.
Yobe Desert Stars coach Baba Ganaru Mohammed. | pic credit @shengolpixs

On the flip side, the postponement of the resumption of the league should be a silver lining for him as he gets ample team to blood the old and new together even though it will be a ‘walk on nails’ season for the former El-Kanemi Warriors coach.

I’m no betting man but if I were to jab a slip, I would say his team will be relegated or at best flirt with relegation. I hope he proves me wrong, I really hope he does.

Might take a long time before our clubs take up the gauntlet and run their race in a professional way but before then, as we say in Nigeria-it is well.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Video; Highlights- Nigeria v Argentina.

It is no longer news we whooped Argentina 4-2 in a very interesting game in Krasnodar. I lot has been said about the game but I will drop my two pence after all the euphoria has died down.

Meanwhile here is a video highlight of the game just in case  you didn't get to watch the game.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Club Owners boss congratulates Fresh on CAF reappointment, awards nomination

Chairman of Club Owners Association, Barrister Isaac Danladi has congratulated Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Executive Member, Ahmed Yusuf Fresh after the Niger State FA chairman was reappointed into Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Standing Committee.

The vice-chairman of the NFF Technical and Development Committee has been appointed into CAF Technical and Development Committee for duration of two years.

Fresh was reappointed into CAF Standing Committee for the third term consecutively. The cycle of the Committee would run from 2017 to 2019.

"I want to congratulate my friend and hardworking football administrator, Alhaji Ahmed Yusuf Fresh for his reappointment into CAF Standing Committee. I join all stakeholders to appreciate the good work Fresh has been doing which got him recognition on the Africa continent," said the Nasarawa United chairman.

"For CAF Executives to considered him for the third term to serve Africa confirmed the administrative quality of Fresh. I am delighted a Nigerian can be consistent with hard work which CAF have recognized. I am wishing him the best on the job," Dalandi said.

Fresh has also been nominated in the inaugural Football Africa Awards for the categories of African Football Executive of the Year and African Football Newsmaker of the Year Awards respectively. The Awards, which is part of the first edition of the Football Africa Forum, will be held in South Africa next month.

"Hard work pays and Mr Fresh is gaining the positives recognition for his investment into football development in Nigeria and Africa. I am wishing him success at the awards night, Fresh deserves to be celebrated.

"I will be in South Africa next month to support my friend and brother in the awards night. Fresh has contributed massively to football with several grassroots tournaments in the North Central, the process to nurture talents from this region has been all hard work put in place by Fresh," Dalandi concluded.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

NPFL stars recount 2016/17 season

The 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football Season was a tough and grueling one that saw Plateau United emerge winners for the first time in their club history.

Weeks of road trips, flights, spectacular goals and great saves culminated in the Jos based side lifting the title and giving Jos fans something to smile about after decades of agony.

For other teams and the principal actors, it was time to take their feet off the pedal to relax, take stock, recharge and get set for the new season that will welcome back Heartland Football Club of Owerri back to the top flight.

Kwara United are also back to the elite class and so also Yobe Desert Stars while Omoku side Go Round FC complete the quartet who will play in the NPFL next season.

As the players wind up their holidays and get set for pre-season training, npfl.ng caught up with a few of them to discuss the past season, their best and toughest games as well as their expectations for next season.