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Nigerian Football

Last season’s top three begin quest for NPL honours

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Enyimba, Remo Stars and Rivers United, the podium finishers at the last season’s Nigeria premier League play-off begin action this Sunday hoping victories in their first matches this season.

The trio had their Match Day 1 fixtures postponed owing to continental engagements of Rivers United who were to host Remo Stars and also that of Bendel Insurance who were to be away to Enyimba.

The three teams are back in action playing their Match Day 2. Remo Stars host Enugu Rangers in Ikenne in what could be the toughest match of the week.

When both met in May 2021 Remo Stars won 1-0. The reversed leg in Enugu ended goalless.

That may have informed Rangers’ coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu’s anticipation of a tough match. Last season, he led Plateau United to the same stadium and was able to get away with a draw.

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He is quoted by Punch newspapers as acknowledging the tough challenge by Remo Stars, but he is optimistic that starting the season with a win over Doma United have lifted their spirits.

Instead of their normal practice of honouring away matches by travelling by road, Enugu Rangers took a flight to Lagos and then embarked on the short trip to Ikenne.

Remo Stars who have in the past three seasons been having steady rise in Nigerian football scene are hopeful to win the title this time. In the previous season, they finished third on the log.

Last season, they were runners-up. This might be their season if the steady growth is maintained.

Writing on Platform X (previously Twitters), Remo Stars’ coach, Daniel Ogunmodede hopes to begin their title chase on a winning note.

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“We are fully focused and ready to kick off the 2023/2024 NPFL season with a bang. Let’s make history, one game at a time.”

For Rivers United, Nigeria’s sole survivor in the continental venture, the team hope to keep the momentum as they face Niger Tornadoes. They also hope to  maintain their unbeaten record against the Minna side. Niger Tornadoes lost their opening match by a lone goal to Abia Warriors on Match Day 1. Another loss, this time at home may spell doom for them.

Defending champions, Enyimba will be away to Gombe United. When they met in May this year, Enyimba beat Gombe 5-0 in Aba. In the earlier leg, Enyimba also won 2-1 to make it a double over the Niger State team.

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.

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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