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International Football

Like Jattau, Goal Poacher, Odey May Debut With Benin Duel

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
So near, yet very far. Nigeria’s Coach Salisu Yusuf has picked a 20-man squad to face the country’s western neighbours, Benin Republic in a rare fixture of both countries despite their proximity. It is slightly over seven years since both Nigeria and Benin Republic were engaged in a national team fixture.
Before Sunday’s scheduled Africa Cup of Nations qualifying duel, both last met on January 16, 2010 in the Africa Cup of Nations group match in Angola.
Symbolically, it was the first Africa Nations Cup match that former captain, Joseph Yobo was first substituted after having played in every minute of Nigeria’s previous matches since Mali 2002.
Sunday’s match will be Nigeria’s first in Cotonou since the scrappy 1-0 defeat of Benin Squirrels on September 30, 1991 Africa Cup of Nations’ qualifier. It was in that match that pace-setter in goal scoring in the Nigerian professional league, Ishaya Jatau, then with a 17-goal mark, scored his debut and only international goal for Nigeria.
Will Stephen Odey, current league top scorer with 18 goals also use Benin Republic to score his debut international goal? If he does, may it also be the only one for Nigeria.
Also in the squad for the Cotonou assignment are Ikechukwu Ezenwa, defenders Orji Kalu and Osas Okoro, midfielders Alhassan Ibrahim and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi.
FC IfeanyiUbah’s Ezenwa who has been handed the skipper’s armband will undoubtedly want to use the match as well as the return leg to register his relevance to the claim of the mainstream Super Eagles in the next competitive fixtures, especially the back-to-back clashes with eastern neighbours, Cameroon.
Other players picked by Coach Salisu are goalkeepers Dele Ajiboye and Theophilus Afelokhai, defender Chima Akas, midfielder Rabiu Ali and forward Thomas Zenke. According to a press release from the Media Department of the NFF, the other players are: Ifeanyi George, defenders Ariwachukwu Emmanuel, Stephen Eze and Nasiru Sani.
The list also has midfielders Hafiz Aremu, Raphael Ayagwa and Samuel Mathias and forwards Sikiru Olatubosun and Kingsley Eduwo. The team will fly from Kano to Lagos on Friday and then make the short trip to Cotonou by road same day.
The Confederation of African Football has appointed Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal to take charge of proceedings at the Stade de l’Amitie on Sunday, starting from 4pm. He will be assisted by compatriots Mokrane Gourari (Assistant Referee 1), Mohammed Serradj (Assistant Referee 2) and Said Aquina (Reserve Referee).
After Nigeria failed to reach the finals of the first two editions of the competition exclusively reserved for footballers plying their trade in their countries’ domestic Leagues, the Super Eagles won the bronze medals at the third edition in 2014. They however could not make the knock –out stage at the fourth edition in Rwanda early last year. The return leg will hold at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano on Saturday, 19th August, with the winner qualifying for the 5th African Nations Championship scheduled for Kenya early next year.

20 EAGLES FOR COTONOU

Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (FC IfeanyiUbah); Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC); Dele Ajiboye (Plateau United)

Defenders: Orji Kalu (Rangers International); Stephen Eze (FC IfeanyiUbah); Ariwachukwu Emmanuel (Akwa United); Chima Akas (Enyimba FC); Nasiru Sani (Katsina United); Osas Okoro (Rangers International)

Midfielders: Hafiz Aremu (Akwa United); Raphael Ayagwa (Lobi Stars); Ifeanyi Ifeanyi (Akwa United); Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars); Samuel Mathias (El-Kanemi Warriors); Alhassan Ibrahim (Akwa United)

Forwards: Sikiru Olatubosun (MFM FC); Thomas Zenke (Nasarawa United); Stephen Odey (MFM FC); Kingsley Eduwo (Lobi Stars); Ifeanyi George (Rangers International)

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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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International Football

New twist in Cameroon football coach crisis

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

The coaching crisis in Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions has taken a new dimension as the football federation, FECAFOOT, led by former international, Samuel Eto’o goes in direct confrontation with the coaching crew appointed by the sports ministry which also picks the bills.

  According to a Cameroon official who will not like to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, the claims and counter claims of both the sports ministry and the FECAFOOT led by Eto’o had been heard and decided by the conciliation and arbitration chamber of the Cameroonian national Olympic committee, which is a court in charge of sports cases in Cameroon.

  “What is in contention is not the position of the Belgian coach, Marcc Brys, but that of the Cameroonian assistants attached to him.”

  The source explained to Sports Village Square that although the employment of Brys by the sports ministry was initially contested by Eto’o, the former player has come to accept the situation.

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  “In Cameroon, there is always a techenical crew of nine to 11. The foreign coach is allowed to bring in two foreign assistants, while the others are always Cameroonians.

  In this case, the sports ministry approved the list of two foreign assistants by Brys while also announcing another set of local assistants that included former international, François Omam-Biyik, one of the stars of Italia ‘90  and the scorer of the goal that gave Cameroon a 1-0 win over a Diego Maradona-inspired  Argentina.

  “That is where the problem is. FECAFOOT also submitted a list of technical crew that included Brys and his two foreign assistants but dropped the names of the local assistants with new ones.”

  In essence, there are two lists with both having three names as same, but differ on the rest.

 According to the source, the list submitted by the sports ministry was upheld by the tribunal which threw aside that of FECAFOOT.

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  In another twist, FIFA has already removed the name of Marc Brys from the profile of Cameroon on its website. Only the name of national women’s coach, Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is listed.

The removal of Brys’ name is happening a second time as it was first removed at the end of last month before being reinstated.

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Cameroon’s appointment of Brys as manager suspended by sports tribunal

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Marc Brys

Cameroon’s appointment of Belgian Marc Brys as head coach was suspended by the country’s top sports tribunal on Tuesday following the petition of an amateur football club.

The country’s sports ministry stirred controversy last month when it named 61-year-old Brys as manager of the Indomitable Lions without consulting the football federation (FECAFOOT).

The move sparked a dispute between the sports ministry and FECAFOOT, which said the government had made a unilateral decision.

In response, it asked its president Samuel Eto’o to propose a national coach and other management staff for the national side within 72 hours, deepening its standoff with the sports ministry.

Eto’o kept Brys as head coach but named different assistants, technical, medical and administrative staff.

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An amateur club, meanwhile, took the matter to the Arbitration and Conciliation Chamber of the Cameroon National Olympic and Sports Committee.

In a provisional ruling on Tuesday, the court suspended the FECAFOOT appointments while it fully examined the matter. Concerned parties have 24 hours to appeal.

FECAFOOT in response said it “reserves the right to refer these decisions to FIFA, as they hinder the preparation process for the forthcoming sport events.

“The Emergency Committee of FECAFOOT will meet immediately to take appropriate measures,” it said in a statement.

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has strict rules against government interference in national federations and has frequently banned countries when governments get involved in federation affairs.

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The president of the Cameroon Association of Amateur Football Clubs, Balla Ongolo Henri, had previously said Eto’o’s appointments would damage Cameroon’s image and disrupt preparations for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next June.

Brys, 61, penned a contract on May 8 as head coach of the Indomitable Lions following the dismissal of Rigobert Song in February. FECAFOOT did not attend the signing ceremony.

The sports ministry says it has acted in accordance with national and international regulations.

Reuters

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Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals

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African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.

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Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.

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-CAF

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