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Nigerian Football

See Stephen Odey in Action: The GTBank Seed That Has Grown

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

 

 

As the 2016/17 Nigeria Professional League comes to a close this weekend, a certain player easily towers above his peers.

Every season the Nigerian Professional football League (NPFL) throws up a new star. In 2017 the man of the moment is Stephen Odey of MFM FC. His striking form has left opposing teams in tears and sorrow.

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It is this form that has placed MFM FC as a major contender among the possible league leaders and has earned them a continental ticket next year.

 

The sudden resurgence of the club appeared to be tied to the magical boots of Stephen Odey whose goal count hit 18. This striker did not just drop from the moon, he is a product of the grass root football development programme of Guaranty Trust Bank.

 

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Steven played in the second edition of GTBank-Lagos State Principals Cup where he was the captain of the winning Dairy Farm Senior Secondary School, Agege. He also topped the list of the GTBank 13-man All Star Team of the Year. It is therefore not a surprise that the little mustard seed is fast growing into an oak.

 

In January 2017, he received the NPFL Bloggers’ Award as the most valuable player of the month. Also, in the current season, he was the first player to score a hat trick among over 200 players in the league.

 

He scored five goals for the MFM FC in the 2015 season of the Nigeria National League, helping the club to gain promotion into the elite Nigeria Professional Football League.In the Season 2015/16, he scored 9 goals to become his club’s top scorer, inthe current season he has scored a total of 18 goals during the season.

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In some instances, 14 goals was what some players scored to emerge the top scorers for the entire season. In the days leading to the last friendly match the Super Eagles had in London in March this year, Odey’s name kept coming up as a domestic league player who should have been employed for the Super Eagles’ assignments. However, his exploit led to his invitation to the Super Eagles CHAN Team double header qualifiers against Benin Republic in August.

The former school boy sensation in the GTBank Principals Cup has a big burden on his neck. He will have to prove that unlike the ‘kings’ before him, he will not be a one season sensation.

 

Stephen’s impressive performance has now led him to signing a four year contract with Swiss club-FC Zurich, this may not be a big surprise considering the GTBank football tournaments growing profile of football future stars.

 

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The 18-goal mark he set in 36 matches is even higher than what most of his predecessors scored in the entire 38-match seasons in the past. Consider the goal-chart below:

 

Past Top Scorers of Nigerian League

  • 1990-Ishaya Jatau (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 17 goals
  • 1991-Richard Ojomo (Bendel United), 12 goals
  • 1992-Arthur Moses (Super Stores), 10 goals
  • 1993-Tony Nwigwe (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 13 goals
  • 1994-Olumide Harris (Shooting Stars), 14 goals
  • 1995-Ben Agadah (Gombe United), 12 goals
  • 1996-Peter Anyiolobi (Enyimba), 9 goals
  • 1997-Paul Kpoughoul (Jasper United/BCC Lions), 16 goals
  • 1998-Hassan Minda (Gombe United), 14goals
  • 1999-Emmanuel Agbo (Iwuanyanwu Nationale), 14 goals
  • 2000-Peter Ijeh (Julius Berger), 14 goals
  • 2001-Uche Okereke (Enugu Rangers), 13 goals
  • 2002-Joetex Frimpong (El-Kanemi), Victor Ezeji (Dolphins), 16 goals
  • 2003-Chibuzor Ozurumba (Iwuanyanwu), Endurance Idahor (Julius Berger) 12 goals each
  • 2004-Kabiru Alausa (Berger), 13 goals
  • 2005-Timothy Anjembe (Lobi Stars), Joseph Akpala (Insurance), Charles Omokaro (Sharks), 12 goals each
  • 2006 -Ibenebu Ikechukwu (El Kanemi), 10 goals
  • 2007 – Ameh Aruwa (Kaduna United), 10 goals
  • 2007/2008 – Abubakar Babale (Wikki Tourist/Sunshine Stars), 14 goals
  • 2008/2009 – Akarandut Orok (Akwa United), 17 goals
  • 2009/2010 – Ahmed Musa (Kano Pillars), 18 goals.
  • 2010/2011 – Jude Aneke (Kaduna United), 20 goals
  • 2011/2012 – Sibi Gwar (Niger United), 17 goals.
  • 2012/2013 – Victor Namo (Nasarawa United) 18 goals.
  • 2013/2014 – Mfoh Udoh ( Enyimba) 23 goals

 

 

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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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Nigerian Football

Enugu Rangers hold on grimly at the top as Nigerian league gets to home stretch

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Enugu Rangers may have broken loose from the pack following their comprehensive  3-0 victory over Bayelsa United on Sunday.

As if to aid Rangers’ hold of the top position, their closest rivals, Remo Stars who were initially just a point behind fell like  papers blown by the huricane, losing 3-2 to Kwara United. Their loss dealt a big blow on their title aspirations as they are now four points behind Enugu Rangers and had also narrowed their goal difference.

They are now third having been overtaken by Enyimba who have better goal difference even though both are with 56 points.

Shooting Stars who suddenly peaked in the second half of the season are fast pacing up, getting to the fourth position and three points behind Remo Stars.

They were dealt a blow in the added time as Katsina United’s Michael Okoro got an added time goal against to stalemate scores at 2-2.

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Just as Enugu Rangers are at the cusp of the championship, the fates of Gombe United and Heartland appear already decided as the second tier Nigeria National League are already waiting to welcome them next season.

Akwa United may have navigated their ways out of relegation waters following their 2-1 away win over Lobi Stars. Akwa United are now 15th on the log. In Jos, former champions, Plateau and Niger Tornadoes played uninspiring goalless while relegation-troubled Heartland of Owerri spanked Gombe United 3-0 just as Kano Pillars dimmed Doma United 3-1.

All the results:

Sunshine Stars 0-0 Bendel Insurance

Rivers United 4-1 Sporting Lagos

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Lobi Stars 1-2 Akwa United

Kwara United 3-2 Remo Stars

Katsina United 2-2 Shooting Stars

Kano Pillars 3-1 Doma United

Heartland 3-0 Gombe United

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Enugu Rangers 3-0 Bayelsa United

Abia Warriors 0-1 Enyimba

Plateau United 0-0 Niger Tornadoes

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Nigerian Football

Finidi deserves our support, says former international, Kingsley Onye

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NFF Confirms Finidi George

Ahead of the first press parley that Super Eagles’ new manager, Finidi George is going to have on Thursday in Lagos, former Nigeria international, Kingsley Onye has canvassed for full support for the new coach.

 To him, the time of politicking and pushing for a particular candidate was over. “It is time for all of us to back the chosen one, Finidi George”, remarked Onye who was a left rearguard player in the 1985 class of Flying Eagles who against all odds, upstaged hosts,Soviet Union to clinch the third place in the then World Youth Championships that is now called the U-20 World Cup.

  “Although I canvassed for Emmanuel Amuneke’s candidature, am still happy that an equally good Finidi George got the job”, he said in a phone conversation from his base in the United Kingdom.

  “The fact that some players complained after Nigeria’s second friendly match in March shows that Finidi is a man of his class and cannot be influenced by players’ sentiments.

  “I believe he will take Nigeria to an enviable height, the same way Amuneke too would have done.”

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 Continuing, Onye who played for Enugu Rangers while he was in the country in the 1980s also remarked that he was on the same page with Victor Ikpeba who has asked that Finidi’s assistants should always back him in team selection  and tactical formations.

 “We should be more than 100 per cent behind the coach. If we do, he will perform wonders. He has his own philosophy which we must allow to flourish. He did it will Enyimba, leading the club to success last season and was at the brink of repeating the success before his appointment as Super Eagles’ coach.”

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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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