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Nigerian Football

Riot as Akwa United Crumble Pillars in Kano

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BY MFON PATRICK.

It was one of the most dramatic score line of the season, it also turned bloody as Akwa United beat the fanatically supported Kano Pillars in their Kano fortress.
It was Christian Pyagbara’s 19th minute goal that shaped the score line, giving Paul Bassey’s Akwa United its first away win of the season.
A brilliant exchange of passes by Aremu Afeez and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi following a counter attack by the Akwa United was perfectly received by Alhassan Ibrahim who neatly assisted Pyagbara to score the only goal of the match.
The bulldozer striker was one of the three changes Coach Maikaba made to the starting line up from the team that beat Shooting Stars in Uyo on match day 17 and he quickly made his impact felt in the 19th minute with what was his second goal of the season, silencing the capacity crowd at the Sani Abacha Stadium.
The Promise Keepers dominated play in the midfield as Ifeanyi, Aremu, and Alhassan detected the pace of the game and simply outclassed their host throughout the duration of the game.
Ubong Friday and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi could have doubled their team’s lead in the 23th and 27th minute but their efforts were off target.
A superior performance by Coach Maikaba boys forced Kano Pillars to effect their first substation in the 27th with Nazifi Yahaya replaced by Adamu Muhammad.

The home team had their first real chance to score in the 30th minute but Kabiru Balogun’s shot narrowly missed the target as Akwa United went into the break with a 0-1 lead.
The two teams resumed the second stanza of the game with high hopes, but it was Akwa United that picked up from where they left off, settling in nicely and frustrating all the attacking moves of their hosts.
Goal scorer Christian Pyagbara was a thorn in the flesh for Chinedu Udoji in the heart of Kano Pillars defence. Amaechi Orji and Paterne Counou gave good account of themselves in the left wing and Ubong Friday and Kodjo Dadzie were terrorising Pillars defence at will.
And on the other end, Godspower Igudia and Ariwachukwu Emmanuel formed solid partnership, winning all aerial battles and marshalling a watertight defence.
The home team threw in Bala Zakka and Amos Gyang to replaced Victor Dennis and Ibrahim Ahassan but their introduction amounted to nothing as goalkeeper Emmanuel Iwu was in his right element to deny all of Pillars late charge.
Coach Maikaba made three tactical changes in an attempt to defend his team’s lead. Musa Newman, Gideon Julius and Chigozie Chilekwu were introduced in the second half as replacement for Ubong Friday, Amaechi Orji and Christian Pyagbara respectively.
Referee Omowaiye Segun from Lagos and his assistants were fair and firm in their decisions despite persistent pressure and shouts from the fans who threw missiles into the pitch towards the end of the match. But Akwa United held on to what was their first win against Pillars in Kano and their first away winning of the season.
The defeat was the second home match in a row in which Pillars failed to win and their second defeat in three games, thereby condemning Masu Gida to 11th position on the NPFL table.
The victory moved Akwa United to fifth position on the NPFL table with 26 points from 18 matches and they will next engage Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries MFM of Lagos in Uyo in the last match of the first stanza of the league.
There was however a bitter end to the match. Violence erupted after the final whistle. Players and officials were on the receiving end as angry home fans unleashed missiles unto the pitch denying the players and officials access to the dressing room.
One of the match officials slumped after he was hit on the chest, Akwa United’s goalkeeper trainer Moses Effiong (MON) was hit in the head and two defenders Ofem Inah and Kodjoiv Dadzie were seriously beaten up in the tunnel leading to the dressing room.
Akwa United’s team bus was an object of attack as it was stoned while driving out of the stadium thus forcing the team to seek solace outside the city of Kano.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s broadcast icon, Danladi Bako hails NFF on choice of Finidi George

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Nigerian broadcasting icon, Dr. Nasir Danladi Bako has praised the Nigeria Football Federation for settling for former international and ex-Enyimba FC strategist Finidi George as Head Coach of the Super Eagles.

The Kogunan Sakwatto, 66, who created a plethora of famous TV programmes including Morning RideMastersports and Second Chance, among others, and served as Special Adviser to a number of Sports Ministers many years ago, insisted the NFF leadership struck a bull’s eye with the appointment of the two-time FIFA World Cup star, stating that George oozes class and character, and an iron determination to succeed despite his public carapace of a quiet person.

“Finidi George has that cultured, disciplined mien and personality that makes you want to trust him with a big project. He understands the meaning of constituted authority and right from his playing days, has always displayed the attribute of a team player. He has always had that calm, collected nature even in the face of pressure or danger.

“Above all, he is not someone who thinks he is doing the nation a favour. He is grateful for the opportunity and I believe that he has all it takes to succeed. I am calling on the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, the NFF and Nigerians as a whole to support him to take the Super Eagles to brand-new heights.”

Bako, who holds a doctorate degree in development communication from the Ahmadu Bello University and was Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission between 1999 and 2002, says all hands must now be on deck to ensure victories in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and Benin Republic on 7 June and 11 June respectively.

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“No doubt, the NFF got this one appointment right. Very much on point. Now, they should endeavour to give George all the support he needs to succeed in his task of qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s sports minister, Enoh applauds NFF for ‘buying local material’

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Sports Minister Enoh (left) and NFF President Gusau (right) unveil Finidi.

Nigeria’s Minister of Sports Development, John Owan Enoh on Monday praised the leadership of Nigeria Football Federation for settling for an indigenous Head Coach for the Super Eagles, despite the plethora of foreign tacticians who applied for the job.

Enoh, who spoke at the unveiling ceremony of the Eagles’ new substantive Head Coach, Finidi George at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, charged the NFF to give the former winger all the support to succeed, while also soliciting the support of all Nigerians for the new helmsman.

“As a student of the University of Calabar in those days, I used to go to the UJ Esuene Stadium to watch Calabar Rovers, which included Finidi George. I am excited to see him seated here as the new Head Coach of the Super Eagles.”

President of NFF,  Ibrahim Musa Gusau exuded delight with the ‘new chapter’ the Federation is opening about the Nigeria game, saying the football-governing body is determined to fully support George and his assistants to lead the Super Eagles to new heights.

“When we returned from the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, we began the search for a new Head Coach. There was a plethora of foreign applicants, far more than the indigenous applicants. However, we undertook a thorough process that has produced an indigenous Coach and we are very happy about that. Finidi George was part of the technical crew that came close to winning the AFCON, and we have faith in him that he will lead the team to the title next time.  

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“Our objective now is to ensure the enthronement of excellence at all levels of the National Teams.”

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Nigerian Football

No more bench-warmers in the Super Eagles, says Finidi George

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New man on the managerial saddle of the Super Eagles, Finidi George has stated that  he will invite for international assignments, only players who feature regularly at their clubs either in Nigeria or in the diaspora, and promised that the Super Eagles will remain even more competitive in the years ahead.

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