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Nigerian Football

Remembering the mercurial Muda Lawal, 32 years after death

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Muda Lawal in action at the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations final match against Cameroon

BY KUNLE SOLAJA

This Thursday 6 July, it is 32 years since Muda Lawal, one of the best mid-fielders that ever graced the football turfs of Africa passed on.

The mercurial Muda Lawal slumped and died at his Ibadan home on Saturday 6 July 1991. He was a former skipper of Nigeria’s national team.

His national team career spanned from 22 January 1975 in a 1-0 defeat of Cameroon in Lagos to 18 August 1985 when Zambia beat Nigeria 1-0 in Lusaka to terminate Nigeria’s hopes of qualification for the 1986 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Until 14 November 2011 when Joseph Yobo featured in a 2-0 defeat of Zambia in Kaduna, Muda for decades remained the most capped national team player in Nigeria.

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Sports Village Square recalls that as at Muda’s  last game, he had 86 appearances and also the longest on the field as he was only substituted five times in the 86 matches he played for Nigeria.

Since his debut, the first time he was not on the starting line-up was the 30 October  1976 World Cup qualifiers with Sierra Leone when Enugu Rangers’ Christian Madu was chosen ahead of him, making Muda, a second half substitute of the 6-2 defeat of Sierra Leone.

For the records, Sports Village Square recalls that this was the match in which the prolific Segun Odegbami scored the first of his 21 goals for Nigeria.

The other four times Muda was either substituted or came in for other players were in the 10 March 1978 Africa Cup of Nations goalless encounter with Zambia in Accra; the 1-0 defeat of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) in a friendly match on 18 July 18, 1981 – a game that was almost disrupted by protesting athletes over the police killing of Dele Udoh; the 26 September  1981 friendly game with Uganda which Nigeria lost by a lone goal and the 11 February 1984 Olympic Games qualifying match with Morocco in Benin City.

For years since 1976, Muda Lawal was a recurring name in the final competitions of the Africa Cup of Nations till that of Egypt 1986 which Nigeria missed following a last minute goal with which Zambia eliminated Nigeria in Lusaka the previous year. It was his final international match.

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For that accomplishment of playing five consecutive Africa Cup of Nations finals and featuring without ever being substituted in 24 straight games, Muda Lawal was in 2004 posthumously awarded the CAF Order of Merit in Silver.

That added to the two Nigerian national awards that he got in his lifetime. Along with the other members of the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations winning squad, Muda was bestowed with the national award of Member of Order of the Niger (MON).

At the instance of Africa’s First Pillar of Sports, Bashorun MKO Abiola, Muda Lawal on 14 March  1991 became the first Nigerian footballer to be officially designated as Nigeria’s Soccer Ambassador.

He remained the only one that was so ceremonially installed by a President in Office. The honour went with the national award of Order of the Niger (OON).

That also made him the first Nigerian athlete to obtain two national awards. Sadly, he died barely three months after the award. But he is better remembered for his contributions to football in Nigeria.

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With a youthful face always adorned with an appealing smile, Muda was a talented player that switched from striking position to the midfield.

He could also play in the defence as he was made to do in the 27 September 1977 World Cup duel with Tunisia in Tunis.

At the match, Coach Jelisavick Tihomer-Tiko (Father Tiko)  instructed Muda to be the ‘policeman’ for rampaging Tunisian striker, Dhiab Tarek.

This he did perfectly that the hitherto rampaging Tarek was a shadow of him self in the encounter that ended goalless.

When in 1979 he switched to the striking position in the then IICC, he scored 17 goals in the Nigerian National League to be the season’s lead scorer.

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It was that feat that prompted the national coach, Otto Gloria to ask Muda to play a striker role in the final match against Algeria at the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations in Lagos. He scored the final goal in Nigeria’s 3-0 triumph.

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

Osimhen’s outburst was a moment of madness, says Amaju

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Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President and a  FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has expressed shock at last month’s outburst by Super Eagles’ striker, Victor Osimhen against Finidi George.

“It is very unfortunate”, Amaju Pinnick remarked on an Arise Television programme. The former NFF president said he had put a call to Osimhen who was very remorseful while the telephone conversation lasted.

  “I told him he has to apologise, and I am sure he will if he has not yet done so.” Amaju remarked that he could not comprehend what went wrong as Osimhen was the most cool-headed player in the national team.

He went on to remark that Finidi George was not a personality to be disregarded like that. He has won virtually every honour available during his playing days and was a member of the Super Eagles at their peak when Nigeria ranked fifth in the world.

“I believe players should learn to respect their coaches”, said the former NFF boss.

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Nigerian Football

I prefer a foreign coach for the Super Eagles, says Amaju

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Nigeria’s FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has told the world that he has always been an advocate of foreign coaches for the Super Eagles. He spoke on Arise Television while fielding questions with Reuben Abati, Rufai Oseni and Ayo Mairo-Ese. 

His reason for being averse to indigenous  coaches stemmed from lack of respect for them by the players.

“Yes, the Nigerian coaches have the requisite knowledge and the technical ability, but modern football is beyond that in managing players.

“Will the national team players respect the coach? The sad thing is that they don’t”, said Amaju Pinnick.

 He however revealed that he supported the appointment of Finidi George owing to the circumstances that the NFF found itself after the exit of Jose Peseiro.

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 The NFF, he revealed, had no money to hire a foreign coach. The body therefore went for the most available option, Finidi to ensure a smooth transition.

 “Finidi was part of the coaching crew of Peseiro and it was therefore logical to ask him to continue.

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Nigerian Football

NFF to train referees on VAR

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Application of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR)  may soon be introduced into Nigeria’s domestic football competitions.

This is deduced from the statement of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Ibrahim Gusau while addressing the annual general meeting of the Nigeria Premier League.

He also disclosed plans by the federation to train Nigerian referees on the application Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Gusau revealed that  NFF had already secured the communication gadget that the referees will use during matches.

“We have to train the personnel that will manage the VAR now. We have selected some of the referees that we are to start training.

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It is not a training of one day, one month or two months; it is a training that will take a little bit of time. After the training they have to go on practical training on the VAR system by going out while some matches are ongoing to see how they can manage it. But when we are sure we have the personnel that can manage it in the next one or two years, we will start to see how we can use VAR in our system,” Gusau said.

He also said that the federation intends to make the league attractive by discouraging Nigerian players from joining other lesser glamourous African clubs without established football pedigree.

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