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Fashanu: England not stronger than Nigeria

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…as Babangida hails friendly

 

Nigeria’s football ambassador John Fashanu has said the Three Lions of England are not stronger than the Super Eagles, claiming the African side can shock the Europeans when the two sides clash at Wembley on June 2 friendly arranged as preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The former Wimbledon FC star said although the English Premier League was the biggest in the world, its intensity did not translate to a strong national team. He said the friendly was a good one for the Eagles but urged the Gernot Rohr’s men to take the battle to the English. “It is a good friendly game; and I advise the Nigerian team not to be afraid of England.

The English national team is not strong anymore; they have a very good league, arguably the best, one of the most physical but the influx of foreigners in the EPL has affected their national team. “I arranged the first international friendly match between the two countries in 1995 when England won 1-0 but you cannot compare the team they had then with what they have now.

We have our players playing in the EPL; the likes of Victor Moses and Wilfred Ndidi including Alex Iwobi are top players in England and they can easily rub shoulders with the Three Lions stars when the two sides meet,” he said. Similarly, ex-international Tijani Babangida has described the friendly match with England as a ‘perfect’ one for the Eagles. He said the Nigeria Football Federation had demonstrated its seriousness about the Eagles’ good representation at the Mundial with the arrangement of grade A games like that of England.

“I will give kudos to the NFF; this is the kind of friendly game the team needs. We were still talking about the one against Argentina and this one came; you can see what that victory over the South Americans did to the psyche of our players. I am very sure the England tie is going to be another great experience for the players and the coaching crew,” he said.

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Iorfa took me from the streets, made me a star –E ze

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Super Eagles defender, Stephen Eze, who recently signed for Lokomotiv Plovdiv of Bulgaria told CHARLES OGUNDIYA that his ultimate goal would be to play for Manchester United. Excerpts…

 

 

 

What is your impression about the recently concluded African Nations Championship in Morocco where you won silver medal?
I thank God for everything; the dedication from all the players and technical crew, the hard work that we put in. I am very happy with what we achieved especially getting to the final of the competition and winning a silver medal, the first for the country in the history of the competition. Although our target was to win the gold, we have to be grateful to God. I really want to appreciate all my teammates and everyone involved in the record breaking feat.

How does it feel taking your career abroad as a footballer?
Every player’s dream is to play outside the country and mine is not be an exception. Before the CHAN competition, I believed the opportunity would come, that it was just a matter of time and I am happy it came during the competition. What I need now is hard work and dedication and I will continue in this regard so that better offers will come my way. Going to Bulgaria is the beginning of my career as I am going to face a new challenge as a player. I want to see my transfer to Lokomotiv Plovdiv as the days of humble beginnings and like the Bible says, ‘do not despise the days of little beginning.’ I am grateful to God for this and I am sure I will get better offers from Bulgaria.

You dedicated your Man of the Match Award against Libya at the CHAN to your new club, even though you were yet to play for them at that time, why?
I actually dedicated the award to them because they supported me all through the competition. You know officially I was yet to complete my transfer then, but despite that, they kept on sending me words of encouragement, goodwill messages from the director of the club and the technical crew. They wished me and my teammates the best, so when I won the award, I decided to dedicate it to them.

You already started on a winning note; how does it feel and what should your fans expect from you?
It was fantastic to make my debut and even better to have three points in the bag. Well done to my teammates and a big thank you to the fans for making it a very special debut. I believe that my hard work will help me to achieve more at the club. I must do more to justify my transfer to the club.

Do you see yourself making the team to the World Cup?
I have to continue to do what I know how to do best; everything beyond that depends on the technical crew. In life, people must talk, whether good or bad, but as a professional, you must continue to do your work and with hard work, good things will hopefully follow.

How did you become a footballer?
I started playing football when I was very small, primary school games and so on. After my secondary school, while waiting for admission into higher institution, I was also helping my parents with their business at home and playing football at the same time. One day I told my parents that since admission was not forthcoming, I needed to use my talents to help myself, so I started playing for amateur sides in Makurdi and it was there Lobi Stars saw and signed me.

Of all the clubs you played for in the Nigeria Professional Football League, which one did you enjoy the most?
I believe one thing in life, wherever you find yourself, you have to take a lesson from it. I was able to learn one or two things from all the clubs I played for in the country starting from Lobi Stars to my last club, Kano Pillars, even though I didn’t play any competitive match for them. But I am very grateful to Lobi Stars for giving me the opportunity to show my talent to the world. They made me what I am today especially the former chairman, Dominic Iorfa, who took me like his own son, I must say a big thank you to him. He brought me out of the street and turned me into a star that I am today.

If you are not a footballer, what would you have done?
I love business, so if I had not chosen football, I would have been a businessman.

Why did you decide to play as a defender and not a striker?
I actually started as a striker, but changed to a defender when I was 16 years old in secondary school. We went for a tournament and our school coach converted me to my new position. Since then, I have been a defender.

Are you enjoying the position, especially with strikers always hugging the limelight more than defenders?
Every player wants to score a goal but I am happy with what I am doing now. I thank God that I have been doing well in the position I’m playing right now. Everything in life is about dedication and determination. I believe that if I had remained as a striker, I would have succeeded too, because everything in life is about your mind and determination.

Is it a good decision that you picked football and not business?
I don’t regret any decision I take in life, all my decisions are good. With football I have achieved a lot and I am happy with it.

Who is your role model in football and the club you would love to play for?
Growing up, I loved Manchester United and the player I loved watching in the team was Rio Ferdinand. I loved his style of playing. Every player wants to play for a big club in Europe and since I am a fan of the club, I would love to play for them.

Was there any coach that left an indelible mark in your career?
I have played under different coaches and I cannot pick one because they have all impacted me in one way or the other.

What makes you happy apart from football?
I love listening to music, gospel music to be precise. Sometimes, I love going out to spend good time with my friends.

Who is favourite musician(s)?
I love Sonnie Badu of Ghana and also Frank Edward.

Your favourite song for now?
I have lost count of all their songs I had listened to, but there is a new album by Frank Edward, Onye, (meaning who in English).

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
That’s best known to God Almighty who knows the future, but I believe hard work will definitely take me to the top.

Are you preparing for your future after football?
It’s a personal thing for me but in life you have to use someone else’s mistakes as a lesson, and personally, I have seen enough to know that I have to be ready for my future. I am using others’ mistakes to guide myself now that I am still young and have strength to work. I have to do enough to make me remember playing football after my retirement.

Your best food and drink
I love eba and egusi soup and I love taking soft drinks like malt or coca cola.

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AFN C’wealth Games list: We want to develop home athletes –Adeleye

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The Technical Director of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria, Sunday Adeleye, has said the reason for listing more homebased athletes for the XXI Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, was to develop the talents back home and also expose them to international competitions.

The AFN on Thursday night released its team of 37 athletes that will be representing the country at the Games scheduled for April 4 to 15. Only 10 foreignbased made the final cut. Topping the list of athletes selected for the execution of the Games is Glasgow 2014 defending champion in the women’s 100m/200m, Blessing Okagbare, who is also the reigning Commonwealth Games record holder in the women’s 100m.

Joining Okagbare is Oluwatobiloba Amusan and will be a major contender in the 100m hurdles. Winners in several events at the recently-held Commonwealth Games trials in Abuja also made the list.

They include Enoch Adegoke (men’s 100m), Emmanuel Arowolo (men’s 200m), Emmanuel Bamidele (men’s 400m), Oyeniyi Abejoye (110m Hurdles), Patience Okon-George (women’s 400m), Queen Obisesan (women’s Hammer throw), Fadekemi Olude (women’s 20km Walk race) and Blessing Ibrahim (women’s Triple Jump) among others. Since the list was released, there has been criticisms with some believeing that the country might not perform well at the Games because of the strength of the athletes.

“I want to make it clear that the athletes selected are the best the country can boast of at the moment,” Adeleye said. “We want to give the home-based athletes a sense of belonging and make them fight for honour as it used to be in the past.

“Most of our top athletes in the past started from the home front and went on to achieve great feat for the country. For now those going have been tested and trusted to deliver.” On the issue of only three coaches going to Australia, the Technical Director said the ministry of sports gave the federation just four slots for officials and they have to make do with only three coaches and himself the TD as the head of delegation so that the team will not be traveling without a leader.

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Argentina are under pressure –Aghahowa

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Former Super Eagles striker, Julius Aghahowa believes Argentina are under pressure ahead of their meeting with Nigeria at this year’s World Cup following their 4-2 loss in a friendly last November.
Aghahowa told Saturday Telegraph that the come-from-behind win in Krasnodar is still haunting the two-time world champions which has now put immense pressure on them ahead of their final group match on June 26 in Saint Petersburg.

“Firstly, that win means we can beat Argentina if our players show high level of dedication. I observed that the result has caused so many issues with them (Argentina) and they are now under pressure because they were highly disappointed with the way we dominated them especially in the second half of that match.”

Aghahowa, who is known for his pace and back flips to celebrate his goals, recalled that his first match at the World Cup was against the Albiceleste at the 2002 World Cup – a match the South Americans dominated but could only scrap a late goal. Before then, Argentina had defeated Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup and were also triumphant at the sides’ meetings in 2010 and 2014.
“It was a tough match for us because they kept attacking us. Ike (Shorunmu) made some excellent saves before they scored late in the second half.”
The former Wigan Athletics forward attributed the successes he enjoyed while playing for Nigeria to pure dedication.

“I always had this feeling to go and make Nigerians happy when I was on the field because I knew each time I scored, there were millions of people that would have smiles on their faces.
“I was dedicated because I was a locallybred player but it’s unfortunate that most of the players that we have today do not go through the rigorous route that we passed before getting to the national team.
“It’s like they get to the national team on a platter of gold because they are playing in Europe and other places where they can be easily spotted. During our time, you must have gone through so many patches before you get to play in the national team.

Aghahowa, who also played for Esperance of Tunisia and Sharktar Donetsk of Ukraine, urged Nigerians to support the Super Eagles at the World Cup, pointing that the team can reach the semifinal, which will be a remarkable feat.
“The team is young and have players that are talented. We also have some players that are vastly experienced and are playing at top level in Europe. Let us all support the team and I believe they will make Nigerians and indeed Africa proud in Russia.”

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