Archive for October, 2014

Brother and Sister Playing For Nigeria

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The Nigerian football team has a long and proud history. The men’s team has produced some sensational talents since its inception including such world stars as Kanu and JayJay Okocha. But now the “Super Eagles”, as the Nigerian team have been named by their fans, have something else to celebrate and be proud of – the national women’s team has been reaching new heights as a competitive force on the international scene. Furthermore, what links this proud family in more ways than one are Bright and Courtney Dike, both fierce supporters of the national game in Nigeria,  both playing professionally, both representing their country at international level, and what’s more, both brother and sister.

Tunde FolawiyoKnown as “The Falconets”, Nigeria’s under 20′s all-female team achieved a magnificent milestone in reaching the 2014 Under 20′s World Cup Final after beating North Korea 6-2 in their semi-final match. It was there that Courtney Dike graced the world stage at its highest level in front of a packed crowd in Canada. Having the entire country behind the Nigerian team might have been enough to put pressure on the players, but playing in front of a brother who has also played for Nigeria equally could have been nerve-wracking. Her brother, Bright Dike, plays in Canada and has done for most of his career. Since 2012, he has had two capped appearances and a goal to his name, but there was no sibling rivalry on display during the cup final, and no visible nerves on the pitch. Bright Dike turned up to cheer on his sister, hoping that she and the rest of the under 20′s Nigerian team could defeat a resolute Germany side, as did ordinary Nigerian football fans such as Tunde Folawiyo.

Unfortunately it was not to be, and Nigeria was defeated by Germany, losing to a 98th minute goal in extra time from the opposition’s Petermann. Despite this, Bright Dike feels that the achievement of reaching a World Cup final and matching one of the world’s most famous footballing nations shows how much the game has grown in Nigeria, and how much there is to look forward to over the next few years for fans of the Falconets. It appears that this has been embraced by the fan-base, as interest in Nigeria’s national men’s and women’s teams continues to grow, illustrated by the volume of online activity on social media and other websites as fans post videos about their homeland and football, such as those seen on Tunde Folawiyo’s Youtube channel.

For an African nation to reach such heady heights, and show the skill and determination to compete with the best, is something which many will feel all fans of African football can be proud of. For Courtney Dike and the other Falconets it is just the beginning, and in the years to come they will have a great chance to better their runner-up position in 2014 in future competitions if they build on this positive experience.

The Greatest Nigerian Footballer of All Time

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Nigeria has produced a number of world class footballers who have all shone on the international stage by representing the national team. Also known as the “Super Eagles”, the Nigerian national team has continued to be one of the most successful African teams in both the African Cups of Nations and at the World Cup which is held every four years. With such an embarrassment of riches at their disposal, and aTunde Folawiyo long illustrious footballing pedigree, fans such as Nigerian football enthusiast Tunde Folawiyo and others continue to debate over who is the greatest Nigerian footballer of all time.

Regardless of the opinion held by different fans, many tend to mention the same names: Nwankwo Kanu, Jay-Jay Okocha, Rashidi Yekini, Taribo West, and Segun Odegbami to name but a few. All of these players, and several others who are often thrown into the mix, have all represented the Nigerian national team many times, showing their world class skills off to the footballing world. Deciding which player deserves to be crowned “the greatest” is one which continues to be fiercely contested by football enthusiasts.

Perhaps the most famous player amongst them is certainly Nwankwo Kanu. Playing for Arsenal in the most competitive football environment in the world, the English Premiere League, Kanu established himself as a firm fan favourite at the London club and an integral part of the successes which that particular Arsenal vintage achieved.  Following on from winning the Dutch league and Champions League with Ajax, Kanu secured two back to back titles for Arsenal, cementing his reputation as a Nigerian great.

Other players such as Segun Odegbami also achieved much, establishing a reputation as a wonderful talent. With 46 caps and 23 goals for the Nigerian national team, he became a firm fan favourite by being a member of the first ever Super Eagles team to win the Africa Cup of Nations in 1980. That win symbolised the true beginning of Nigeria as an international force to be reckoned with, and acted as the foundation for the country’s later successes.

It appears that Nigeria has such a long and important history of producing world class talent that it is almost impossible to choose one player as “the best”. Football fans, such as Tunde Folawiyo, continue to support the team and its future players regardless of who is deemed most talented, while being committed towards other African sporting initiatives such as those seen at the Polo International Tournament. This all-encompassing support of Nigerian sport is perhaps the biggest asset which the game of football has in the country.

In their more recent achievements, including winning the 2013 African Cup of Nations, the most recent crop of players may one day enter onto the lists of Nigerian fans’ favourites. This passion for supporting home grown talent is sure to fuel the continued production of world class footballers and other athletes, making it even more difficult to select one “best” footballer in the future—a problem which Nigerian football fans will welcome.

How will Nigeria fare at the World Cup?

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Tunde FolawiyoWith the World Cup upon us, fans of Nigeria’s Super Eagles like Tunde Folawiyo are no doubt wondering how well the team will perform at the tournament. A number of players and NFF officials have voiced their opinions on the subject; Vincent Enyeama, the Eagles’ goalkeeper, is optimistic about their chances, and has publically stated that he believes they will reach the semi-finals. However, he was quick to add that he and his teammates will be taking it step by step, and for now will only be focusing on reaching the second round.

Like Enyeama, Victor Moses is hoping that Nigeria will secure a spot at the semi-finals. Moses, who currently serves as a winger for Chelsea, is cautiously optimistic about the team’s ability to get ahead at the tournament, although he noted that this could only be achieved if they are willing to listen to the advice of their coach, Stephen Keshi. He finished by saying that there is a great deal of camaraderie between the players, and that this will be helpful when it comes to attempting to realise their ambitions at the event.

Gustavo Dzugala, who was recently appointed as Nigeria’s Argentina Ambassador, refused to comment on which team would emerge as the ultimate winner of the tournament; however, he did name Nigeria and Argentina as favourites in Group F. He predicted that these two clubs would manage to defeat Iran and Bosnia.

In terms of individual players, Peter Osaze Odemwingie has been named as someone who is likely to outshine his teammates at the tournament. Emmanuel Babayaro, who once served as Nigeria’s goalkeeper, noted that Odemwingie has a number of qualities that will help the Eagles to succeed in Brazil. He described the forward as dedicated, experienced and confident.

Odemwingie’s recall to the squad after a two-year absence is likely to have come as a surprise to Tunde Folawiyo, and other Eagles supporters. The forward has clashed not only with Keshi, but also with other Eagles coaches over the years. However, Odemwingie seems eager to put these tiffs behind him, and has spoken on Twitter of how happy he is to be back with the team. While some remain sceptical of Odemwingie’s humble words, and have argued that he is merely putting on a front in order to get a place in the World Cup squad, there’s no denying that he will be a valuable asset on the pitch.

The Super Eagles’ chances of success at the World Cup

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Tunde FolawiyoWhile supporters of Nigeria’s Super Eagles, like Tunde Folawiyo, are probably looking forward to the team’s participation in the World Cup, some say that they are simply not ready for what lies ahead. Adokiye Amiesimaka, a former player who was a member of the team during the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations, has argued that the NFF and the club’s coaches should have been focusing more on the technical crew, and less on the squad list.

Samson Siasia, a former coach of the team, has also expressed his views on Nigeria’s chances at the World Cup. He contends that in the group stages, Iran are likely to be the Eagles’ most challenging opponents. They will face them in their first game of the tournament. Like Amiesimaka, Siasia noted that the technical crew need to work harder to ensure that Nigeria defeat this team. He suggested that the crew obtain a compilation of Iran’s past matches, in order to formulate the right type of tactical plan.

However, it seems that for most people it is the squad list, rather than the technical crew’s strategies, which has been occupying their minds. As a fan of the club, Tunde Folawiyo may have heard that the NFF are said to have rejected coach Stephen Keshi’s original squad list, on the grounds that he failed to include several key players, notably Peter Osaze Odemwingie and Joseph Yobo. Keshi tried to explain the reasons behind his decision to exclude these men, stating that there were issues regarding their fitness, and their recent injuries. However, the NFF asserted that the experience of these players would make them valuable assets to the team at the tournament.

Joseph Yobo has also assured the public that he will be physically fit for the World Cup, despite having missed out on several matches in recent weeks due to a calf injury. Yobo, who currently serves as a defender for Norwich City, has said that he has returned to full training and will be healthy enough to participate in the tournament.

However, while this announcement may have allayed fears regarding the player’s physical fitness, some still have doubts about his ability to positively contribute to the squad; Kashimawo Laloko, who works as the NFF’s assistant technical director, seems to agree with Keshi’s initial decision to exclude Yobo; he has argued that the defender will weaken the team.

No goals in Eagles’ clash with Greece

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Tunde FolawiyoAs a supporter of Nigeria’s national football team, Tunde Folawiyo was no doubt disappointed when their recent clash with Greece ended with neither side having scored. However, although the Eagles failed to net any goals, they performed well in terms of defending themselves; Greece only had one clear opportunity to score, during the 83rd minute, when Salpingidis’ header resulted in the ball going just over the bar.

Initially, it seemed as though Greece might take the lead when, in the 7th minute, a quick pass from Karagounis to Fetfatzidis went unnoticed by the Eagles. However, Fetfatzidis’s shot was inaccurate, and never made it into the net. Three minutes later, things seemed to be looking up for Nigeria, when they were awarded a free kick, that was taken by Emenike, but a weak shot by the striker meant that the team failed to gain the upper hand.

The remainder of the match was filled with missed opportunities, as both sides struggled to break down their opponents’ defensive line. Towards the end, Nigeria resorted to taking shots from long range, rather than attempting to get closer to the goal post, but this approach proved fruitless. Things went from bad to worse after Echiejile suffered an injury on the pitch and had to sit out the rest of the game.

After the match, Eagles coach Stephen Keshi expressed some disappointment with the team’s performance, noting that his players would have to improve very quickly if they wished to succeed at the World Cup. He acknowledged that every team has bad matches now and again, and added that perhaps this less-than-perfect game would motivate the players to work harder during the tournament. He finished by saying that the purpose of a friendly is to help a team unearth its weaknesses, and this is precisely what happened during the Eagles’ battle against Greece.

Despite his words, Keshi might be regretting his choice of squad members, given their performance in this match. Eagles fans such as Tunde Folawiyo were probably quite surprised at the manager’s decision to exclude midfielders Joel Obi and Nosa Igiebor, as well as Sunday Mba, who played extraordinarily well during the African Nations Cup. However, Keshi explained that he could not be sentimental when making his choices, and had to base his decisions on players’ recent performances.

The Nigerian National Team Takes Flight

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Known as “The Super Eagles”, the Nigerian football team has been one of Africa’s most successful over the past few decades. With a rich history of world class footballers, such as Patrick “Segun” Odegbemi, JayJay Okocha, and Kanu Nwankwo, combined with a number of exciting young players on the horizon, the impact which the Nigerian team has had on football in Africa and beyond should continue for many years to come.

Formed in 1949, the Nigerian football team had already been in existence unofficially since the 1930s. The development of the game in Nigeria finally bore fruit in 1976 and 1978[2] when the national team finished third out of all teams competing in the renowned African Cup of Nations. In 1980 the Nigerian national football team which was comprised of such legendary players as Tunji Banjo, Christian Chukwu, and Muda Lawal, went on to win the competition out right, cementing themselves in football history.

Tunde FolawiyoThese successes were added to in 1994 when the team first reached the World Cup. The Super Eagles made an explosive immediate impact on the international game immediately, by topping their initial group which included well-known and established international football teams such as Argentina, Bulgaria, and Greece. They went on to the next round where they led a famous Italian side by 1-0 until the last two minutes of the game when Roberto Baggio scored a goal to take the game to extra time, scoring another via a penalty kick during extra time which ended Nigeria’s excellent and impressive run in the competition that year. This accomplishment was equalled in the next World Cup in 1998 when the team reached the second round of the competition, doing the same again in 2014. In the years between, the Nigerian national football team also qualified for the 2002 and 2010 World Cup competitions, further solidifying their reputation as a successful and admired international football team.

Building on the achievements of previous players, Nigeria continues to produce young footballers ready to make their mark on the international stage. In 2014 the Nigerian under 17s team won the FIFA World Cup for their age category for a staggering 4th time. Their coach, Many Garba, continues to develop these players attracting attention from some of the world’s most prestigious football clubs including Arsenal. This most recent victory, which took place over a highly skilled Mexico team, is the latest example of why the Nigerian football team will continue to contribute to the football community in a positive way, as it has done over the past few decades.

With a number of high profile supporters such as Tunde Folawiyo (for more information read this blog article on Tunde Folawiyo), the Nigerian football team will continue its high profile work as one of Africa’s most successful footballing nations.

Are there changes in store for the Super Eagles squad?

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

After several weeks of negotiating, Stephen Keshi has officially agreed to continue serving as the coach of the Super Eagles. He sent his formal letter of acceptance to the Nigerian Football Federation last week. The news of the coach’s contract renewal will no doubt come as a relief to Tunde Folawiyo, and other Super Eagles fans, as it means that the team now have the leadership they need to prepare for the first of their AFCON qualifying matches, which is to be held on the 7th of September.

The team are set to face Rwanda, Sudan and South Africa in the Group A matches next month. Rwanda was named as one of their opponents after their outstanding penalty shootout against Congo resulted in a 4-3 victory. They will be travelling to Nigeria to play the Eagles. Although the Wasps performance against Congo was impressive, Eagles’ fans like Tunde Folawiyo are probably not too concerned, given how well their team played at AFCON last year.

More upheaval may be on the cards for the Super Eagles in the near future, as Sammy Amoebi, who currently plays for Newcastle, has expressed a desire to devote his senior career to Nigeria, much like his brother Shola has. In an interview, Sammy said that it would be a great honour to join the Eagles, adding that after seeing how happy his older sibling was with the club, he is sure that he too, would fit in well.

Tunde FolawiyoThere have also been rumours that Kelechi Iheanacho, a player who rose to fame during his time with the ‘Super Eaglets’ last year, might be joining Nigeria’s senior team in the very near future. His performance at the U-17 World Cup 2013 was outstanding; the seven assists and six goals which he provided were instrumental in helping his team to win this title. His efforts did not go unnoticed, with the committee awarding him both the Golden Ball and the Silver Boot for his hard work on the pitch. During the same year, he was given the title of ‘Most Promising Youngster’ by the CAF.

However, opinions are divided on whether Iheanacho would do well if he joined the Super Eagles. Sports journalist Solace Chukwu contends that integrating into the senior Nigerian team might be too overwhelming for the young man, but James Ezimoha believes that the Eagles need some fresh faces, and that Iheanacho could provide the commitment, passion and zeal that the existing squad so desperately need.

Although football is something which interests Folawiyo greatly, he also has many other passions, including entrepreneurialism. Those who want to learn more can read about the Tunde Folawiyo success story on Frontiers.