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.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Azango inks 3-year deal with AS Trencin

Philip Azango. Pic courtesy trencin.sk
Plateau United winger Philip Elayo Azango has inked a three year deal with Slovak giants AS Trencin for an undisclosed fee.

The 20 year old has been training with the Slovak team for some months now as he awaited his work permit and international clearance which has eventually come through.

He featured for Trencin in their last game against Zilina to follow in the foot steps of Moses Simon, Kinglsey Madu and Maduka Udeh Christopher who all cut their teeth with the team before moving on.

The flying winger was one of Plateau United's best performers before moving to Europe as the Jos based side won the Nigeria Professional Football League title this season.

Another Nigerian, Ejike Okoh, 18, also signed a three year deal with Trencin and will swell the number of Nigerians in the team that includes Hilary Gong and Abdul Zubairu.
Ejike Okoh
Trencin General Manager Róbert Rybníček was delighted with the acquisitions and believes they have all it takes to make it big in Europe.

"We continue in our successful cooperation with the academy we trust. We do believe, that bot h have a potential to play a big European football, but they need some time," he told astrencin.sk

They have their big preferences, but they also have many deficiencies. It only depends on their will to work on themselves. We’ll see, which one will take the route of Simon and Kalu." he added.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Akwa United claim 2017 Aiteo Cup



2015 champions of Nigeria’s oldest and biggest domestic competition, Akwa United FC of Uyo on Sunday reclaimed the title, now named AITEO Cup, on a brilliant and exciting evening at the Agege Stadium, Lagos.

Scoreline at the final whistle was 0-0 but the Promise Keepers prevailed 3-2 after penalty shoot –out to become the first winners of the captivating AITEO trophy.

The colourful final was watched by a glittering array of eminent personalities, including Governors Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger State), CAF President Ahmad, CAF Vice Presidents Kwesi Nyantakyi and Omari Selemani, CAF Emergency Committee members Souleman Waberi and Amaju Melvin Pinnick, Executive Committee members of NFF, chieftains of sponsors AITEO, NFF Management, Members of the Lagos State Executive Council and members of the diplomatic community.
 2015 champions of Nigeria’s oldest and biggest domestic competition, Akwa United FC of Uyo on Sunday reclaimed the title, now named AITEO Cup, on a brilliant and exciting evening at the Agege Stadium, Lagos.

 
Scoreline at the final whistle was 0-0 but the Promise Keepers prevailed 3-2 after penalty shoot –out to become the first winners of the captivating AITEO trophy.

The colourful final was watched by a glittering array of eminent personalities, including Governors Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger State), CAF President Ahmad, CAF Vice Presidents Kwesi Nyantakyi and Omari Selemani, CAF Emergency Committee members Souleman Waberi and Amaju Melvin Pinnick, Executive Committee members of NFF, chieftains of sponsors AITEO, NFF Management, Members of the Lagos State Executive Council and members of the diplomatic community.

Victory handed Akwa United, whose goalkeeper Olorunleke Ojo won both the Best Goalkeeper and Most Valuable Player awards and whose Coach, Abdu Maikaba was adjudged the Best Coach, a ticket to represent Nigeria in the 2018 CAF Confederation Cup competition.

 
Akwa United forward Christian Pyagbara also claimed the Top Scorer’s award with his seven goals in this year’s competition.
Victory handed Akwa United, whose goalkeeper Olorunleke Ojo won both the Best Goalkeeper and Most Valuable Player awards and whose Coach, Abdu Maikaba was adjudged the Best Coach, a ticket to represent Nigeria in the 2018 CAF Confederation Cup competition.

Akwa United forward Christian Pyagbara also claimed the Top Scorer’s award with his seven goals in this year’s competition.

Bala eyes Aiteo Cup trophy






Niger Tornadoes coach Abubakar Bala has revealed that winning the Aiteo Cup will be the best thing to have happened to him in his coaching career and will crown a successful season for him and his players.

Bala has stirred the ‘Ikon Allah’ boys to the final of the Aiteo Cup seeing off top sides like FC Ifeanyi Ubah and Plateau United in the process.

Tornadoes are back to the cup final after a 17-year absence and Bala feels the time is right for the Minna side to win a major laurel.

“We have worked so hard to get to this stage and we are going to do all we can to make sure we lift the title on Sunday against Akwa United.
“I’m already a fulfilled man getting this modest Niger Tornadoes side to the final but I want to top it up with winning the title.

“The motivation for me and my boys is to be the first winners of the Aiteo Cup so we can go back to Minna and present it to the state government who has been our biggest supporters,” Bala added.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ikefe: Aiteo Cup final biggest game of my career

For Niger Tornadoes centre back Andrew Ikefe, the 2017 Aiteo Cup final will be the biggest game of his career even after a stellar season with the Minna based side.

Ikefe has played for Dynamic Sporting Solution, Kaduna United and Katsina United and despite raking nearly ninety games for the three sides, he says none of those games will be as big as the clash with Akwa United at the Agege Stadium on Sunday.
Ikefe, in white nicks the ball off a Gombe United striker
Tornadoes dispatched Nigeria Professional Football League heavyweights like champions Plateau United and FC Ifeanyi Ubah to make it to their first final in 17 years.

Ikefe told 9jafooty.blogspot.com that he is proud to be part of history with Niger Tornadoes and can’t wait for kick-off on Sunday.

“The Aiteo Cup final will be the biggest game of my young career and I believe it will end in victory for me and my team (Niger Tornadoes),” he said.

“We have really worked hard to get to this stage and by God’s grace, we will take the trophy back to Minna with us. The coaches have been working on our game plan and we are adapting well.

Ikefe, in blue strip fights for the ball against MFM
“I have played a number of games in my career but none will be as big as the final on Sunday. If everything goes according to plan, I will win my first major title.

“Akwa United is a very good side as they have shown in the league and the Aiteo Cup. It will be a very difficult game but we are determined to win the cup.

“It will mean a lot to me on a personal level if we get to win the cup. I've always dreamt of winning a domestic title and then heading out to Europe. I pray my dreams come true and I’ll do everything I can on the pitch to make it come true.” Ikefe added.