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Nigerian Football

An insider’s story on Osimhen-Finidi saga




Many out there saw the Finidi vs Osimhen saga as just another player Vs coach disagreement that will fade away with time. To some, this is the perfect occasion for the NFF to stamp their feet on indiscipline among national team players by coming down hard on Victor Osimhen.

This writer knows Victor Osimhen very well. I worked with him for close to two years as media officer of the Under-20 National team of Nigeria and I don’t really need anyone to tell me about his temperament. We ate together, travelled together and spent the nights gisting after dinner.

I really don’t need anyone to lecture me about his temperament, he is a warrior, fighter and above all, he is the most patriotic footballer I have ever seen or known. His passion in the green white green jersey is second to none. His hunger for success is unbelievable and he has got a big heart.

I remember that Under 20 qualifier against Burundi in Bujumbura and the victory against Sudan in Omdurman. On both occasions, Osimhen rose to the occasion even though he was nursing a knee injury and had to play in pains.


That tells you how passionate this young man is when dressed in Green White Green. So you will understand why he felt betrayed by comments allegedly made by Coach Finidi George, describing him as unpatriotic.

Such comments will hurt any true patriot especially when you remember the sacrifices. Let’s not forget too that he claimed he called to inform the coach of his injury after visiting his doctor in Wolfsburg and also pleaded with the coach that he will like to be in camp to offer moral support to the boys at the detriment of his own comfort, which coach Finidi turned down

Nevertheless, there is always the need to apply caution and maintain a calm, cool and coordinated approach at all time especially when you find yourself in that position where many now see you as their role model, mentor or icon. As current African footballer of the year, Osimhen ticks these boxes perfectly and has even a grown to be classified as an idol to so many young footballers on the continent.

In an attempt to unravel all the miseries surrounding that accusation purportedly made by Finidi that Osimhen and a few others pick the games that suits them and that majority of these players are not patriotic, this writer has taken time to dig deep to find out what transpired at that meeting that was held inside the conference room of the honourable Minister of Youth and sports.

Now, what you are about to read below, are highpoint of the meeting as narrated by two persons who were privileged to be part of the meeting and have agreed to talk only on condition of anonymity.


The Meeting That Matters

The NFF delegation to that meeting held at the office of the Honourable sports minister, was led by NFF president, Ibrahim Gusau. Also on the entourage are the NFF 1st Vice president, Anyansi Agwu, General Secretary Sanusi Mohammed, team secretary and director of competitions Dayo Enebi with NFF technical director Augustine Eguaveon completing the list.

The Sports minister Senator John Enoh has invited the NFF and FInidi to come explain Nigeria’s dismal performances in those two World Cup qualifying games against South Africa and Benin Republic and proffer solutions on the way forward. At some point during the deliberation, Super Eagles head coach, Finidi George was asked to speak and he poured out his mind,  without holding back.

What Finidi said

According to my source, Finidi heaped the blames on his players. He was furious with the way the players responded to National call-ups which some of us complained about in the build-up to these matches.


My source said Finidi then went on to assure the minister and his employers, the Nigeria football federation, that he has absolute confidence that the Super Eagles can still qualify for the World Cup if all hands are on deck.

He said, that he is surprised that a few players in the team have Godfathers in the NFF. According to him, if he tries to stamp his feet on certain behaviors in the team, some persons will remind him that the players in question, belong to either a board member or a top official of the NFF.

It was at this point that the NFF Technical director, Augustine Eguavoen cuts in and told Finidi, that to succeed as head coach, he needs to stamp his authority, be decisive and be brutal if need be. Eguaveon gave an example of how he banished Yakubu Aiyegbeni to the bench because the former Portsmouth striker who at the time was doing so well in the Premier league, thought he deserves an automatic jersey whenever he comes to camp.

Finidi then responded by saying he was going to change his approach henceforth. He said he will no longer tolerate these unpatriotic players in the National team. This was when he now said a player like Osimhen could have taken the risk and come play for Nigeria if he really wants to do so. This is according to my my sources.

However, I am not sure that Finidi made this comment to indict Osimhen. As at the time he dropped that line, he was trying so hard to keep his job and make his employers see him as a man that can wield the big stick when it really matters. He was also just looking for a name to use to balance his thoughts and anger and Osimhen unfortunately, became the scapegoat.  


At that meeting, the NFF didn’t tell Finidi in the presence of the Sports minister that they had plans to engage a foreign technical adviser. However, he might have offended the gods by revealing during that meeting with the minister that some top guns in the federation, are Godfathers to players of in the Super Eagles and that explains why they are seen as the untouchables.  

Little wonder, a decision was taken behind him, to employ a foreign technical adviser and demote the former Enyimba of Aba head coach to assistant coach. Immediately Finidi got wind of this plan, he quickly tendered his letter of resignation.  

In fact, his first letter that was sent to the NFF, was not signed so he was asked to withdraw and sign before sending it again.

How did Osimhen get to know about what Finidi said?

It will also interest you all to know, that, there are top officials of Nigeria football that are on the payroll of Nigeria footballers. I know of a footballer that once gave an administrator in the previous board a wrist watch worth over €40,000. I am also aware that every Super Eagles team list comes with a price.


 Before a Super Eagles team list is released, there are lots of interests at stake and most players, except the established names like Osimhen, Lookman, Nwabali and a few others, come to the Super Eagles camp, armed with gifts for their Godfathers.

That is why these Godfathers will do anything to please the players in return. There are also those secretariat staff that have their ears to the ground and push out these information daily to curry favours. So it baffles me, why anyone will be surprised that Osimhen got inside information of what transpired at the meeting. He is too connected and too rich to be left in the dark.

Now that it is established based on available facts that Finidi alleged that Osimhen and a few others are not 100% patriotic to the national cause, it is on that bases we will now judge that Instagram live video posted by Osimhen and pass a judgement thereafter.

Osimhen has no reason to go live the way he did and his choice of words on the day are not acceptable

Victor Osimhen is a superstar of repute. The current African Footballer of the Year, a Nigerian player that is now idolized in Napoli. I remember in one of my recent interviews with him in Abidjan, during the recent AFCON, I saw a few die-hard fans who had travelled all the way from Napoli to Cote d’Iviore, just to support the best footballer after Diego Amando Maradona to have played for the club.


Putting all these into consideration, Victor Osimhen should know the weight of whatever comments he makes. He must learn to talk at all time to impress his fans and promote his brand no matter his frustrations, obsessions or irritations.

Secondly, for his personality, class and position, he shouldn’t be the one speaking always, he should delegate these responsibilities especially reactions to sensitive issues like this one, to his manager, agents or trusted friends. Your choice of words also matters.

 In all, Osimhen by that singular act, has demoted himself from that exalted seat of an icon in the hearts of his die-hard fans. Attacking your coach the way you did and generalizing the attack to include Nigeria and Nigerians is demeaning to say the least. As a friend who cares and appreciate the talent in you, I am making this passionate appeal to you.

Please go out there and do an apology to coach Finidi and everyone that is effected by your comments and rudeness. Say it for the sake of posterity.  

Trust me, I wouldn’t have bothered to do this if I don’t care about your present and your future. A stitch in time, saves nine.


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

Nigeria battles with Egypt over signing of Hervé Renard



Terrible Hervé Renard Blow For Cote D’Ivoire -

Nigeria’s search for a coach ahead of the start of the qualifying duels for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations has been narrowed to two-time winner, Hervé Renard, the Frenchman who guided Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire to victories in 2012 ans 2015 respectively.

 The Frenchman was in charge of Saudi Arabia in their sensational 2-1 defeat of Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

He is at the moment the head coach of the French Women’s team featuring at the Olympics but intends to step down at the end of the Games next month.

That confirms his availability. But it comes at a huge cost. Sources informed the Sports Village Square that the Nigeria Football Federation has tabled an offer of 2 million euros to the coach believed to have the necessary skill to handle teams from Africa owing to his experience.

  But the NFF is not alone. The Nigerian officials face stiff competition from Egypt who are also interested in Hervé Renard.


The Egyptian FA tabled a salary offer of 1.9 million euros.

Egypt sacked their coach, Rui Vitoria after the last AFCON in Cote d’ivoire while Hossam Hassan is signed as an interim manager.

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Nigerian Football

Class of 2013 Golden Eaglets cry out: “All we’re saying, fulfil your pledge”



Golden Eaglets  coach Manu Garba has yet again  called  on the  government and people of Cross River State to promptly redeem the house gifts pledged to players and officials of the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup-winning team, in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Manu painfully regrets that the unfulfilled promise remained a sour point for not only the team members, but also that of its late equipment manager Muhammed Kafa, who unfortunately passed away almost a year ago, without getting the house gift promised by the Cross River State Government led at that time by former governor, Liyel Imoke.

“When I remember Muhammed Kafa, one of the things that come to mind was his desire to get the house  pledged to all the  ten officials and 21 players  that won the World Cup in 2013 by the then Governor Senator Liyel  Imoke,” Garba said.” The house gift pledge has gradually paled into becoming an illusion because it has not been redeemed 11 years after Governor Imoke made the pledge in Calabar, and nine years after he left office as governor of the state. 

“To think that it’s almost a year that Muhammed left us after that ghastly accident in Kaduna without getting the house is even more painful because that was one of his dreams.

“As we remember Muhammed, I want to use this opportunity to beg incumbent Cross River State Governor, Bassey Otu, to redeem this pledge that was expressly  pledged to players and officials of the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup-winning team by his predecessor. This is a good way he can help immortalise Muhammed and help ameliorate the pains of his family. Besides, it will be a morale booster to others to always give their best for their fatherland.”


Recall that precisely on 15th   November 2013,Governor Imoke  during  a reception inside the  state’s council chamber for the victorious FIFA U-17 World Cup  team of  2013,offered  house gifts to the 21 players and 10 officials for doing the country’s proud  in the United Arab Emirates.

 “We want to make an investment with you in property,” Senator Imoke  said in front of camera and in the presence of the then Minister of Youth & Sports Development, Mallam Bolaji  Abdulahi and other chieftains of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) led by the then President Aminu Maigari.

He added amid cheers: “We have  a new housing estate  already being developed  and at the end of that  exercise; completion of those estates,  each one of you  would have a small piece of property that is your own and that  would have been fully developed; that  you can  rent out or  occupy.”

But Garba said it  was shocking that  the pledge  made  by Senator Imoke in 2013  on behalf of  the government  and people of Cross River State is yet to materialise.

“Of course, we were all excited  when Senator Imoke made the pronouncement at the Government House in Calabar when he hosted us for winning the FIFA U-17 World  Cup in 2013 but we are yet to be given the houses as promised, even though the housing estate has long been completed and occupied,” Garba said, adding that efforts made during the tenure of  Imoke’s successor, Professor Ben  Ayade bore no fruitful results.


He continued “The  FIFA U-17 World Cup-winning team  of 2013 was the baby of  the Cross River State because we  were camped at  the Princeville Hotel  in Calabar for many months  and we  played all our qualifying matches there but nothing  was done  about  the house gifts during the tenure of Professor Ayade.

“But since government is a continuous process, we are pleading with Governor Bassey Otu  to use his good office  to fulfil this pledge made on behalf of the state by Senator Imoke.

“ I’m also seeking the intervention of Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Enoh, who incidentally comes from Cross River State, to ensure that justice is done on our behalf.

“ We have waited so long and  just last  year, we lost one  of us,  our hard working equipment manager, Muhammed Kafa, but   I think it will be in his good memory if the house gifts are redeemed and show that our labour of winning the World Cup in 2013 is not in vain,” added Garba.

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Nigerian Football

FIFA referee instructor promises better deal for Nigerian referees at major tournaments



Tangawarima (left) makes a point to Gusau

Former FIFA referee, and now FIFA senior technical instructor Felix Tangawarima, has expressed confidence that if Nigeria’s next generation referees receive the necessary support and encouragement from the NFF, the absence of Nigerian referees from major international tournaments will soon be a thing of the past.

Tangawarima, who is at the head of the FIFA team that superintended a five-day training programme for the country’s Young Talents (40 young arbiters) and which is presently concluding a similar programme for elite referees, spoke during a courtesy call on President of NFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau at the NFF Secretariat, Abuja on Wednesday.

“We have seen so much promise and potential from the Young Talents, and as I said last week, there are exceptional talents in there who can easily step up to the plate to replace some of the elite referees that we believe are no longer good enough. It is now our responsibility, and that of the NFF, to keep inspiring, supporting and encouraging those young blood to fulfill their potentials and reach the apogee.

“It is no longer tenable that major tournaments come and go without Nigerian referees. Something must be done and I can tell you that now, we are on to a good thing. I am happy about the new direction that the NFF is taking in the area of refereeing development, the commitment of the leadership to motivating the referees and the personal interest of the NFF President in changing the narrative.”

While commending the excellent work of the NFF Referees Sub-Committee, Tangawarima, who was in company with FIFA Fitness Instructor Mark Mzengo from Malawi, appealed to the NFF President to find the enablement for Nigerian international referee instructors to periodically engage upcoming instructors at the zones with a view to enhancing their capacity.


Responding, Gusau stated that he is always most pained any time there is a report of misdemeanour by a Nigerian referee or a list of referees for major tourneys is released without a single Nigerian referee.

“Personally, I find it unacceptable. At every opportunity, I tell the referees that we will continue to assist those who deliberately step out of line, to stay away permanently. It is a vocation that requires the highest level of integrity, discipline, dedication, diligence and moral rectitude.

“We are delighted at the good recommendation you have given our next generation of referees. We will work assiduously to see that they fulfill their potential.”

The NFF President also used the occasion to announce that the Federation has already procured new gadgets for Nigerian referees to enhance their work on the field of play.

Also at the meeting were NFF Deputy General Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme; Director of Communications, Ademola Olajire; Chairperson of NFF Referees Sub-Committee, Mrs Faith Irabor; Members of NFF Referees Sub-Committee Abraham Zakowi and Waziri Furo Gawe and; SA to General Secretary, Mr. Mohammed Ameenu.

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