CAF Player Of The Year: Time For Nigeria To Look Inward By Oluwashina Okeleji

Perhaps the best way to begin this column is to heartily congratulate African Player of the Year, Mohamed Salah. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed what everyone knew: in 2017, there was no African better.

He edged out Liverpool team mate Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, both superb forwards in their own right, to become the first Egyptian in 34 years to win the award.

The point of curiosity, given the final three, was the clamour for Nigeria international Victor Moses as more deserving. This claim was entirely hinged on a season wherein Chelsea took the English Premier League by surprise, storming to the title after an initial wobble forced a change in team shape. While Moses is an intrepid, roving playmaker by international window, necessity dictated that when Antonio Conte needed a wing-back, he was tapped for the specialist role.

Perhaps the fact that Chelsea’s upturn in performances coincided with Moses playing more regularly led most to credit his influence directly, rather than that of a system that made a previously undisciplined winger into a disciplined defender.

Whatever the case, the argument seems to be that, having won a league title – more than could be said for any of the players in the final three – he should win by default. The fact that he did not has now come to be seen as the furtherance of some ancient agenda against Nigerian footballers. Not since Nwankwo Kanu won the second of his two awards in 1999 has a Nigerian been crowned Africa’s best. That’s a long time, but there is a danger of looking at it from the simple point of demographics.

Nigeria is by far Africa’s most populous nation, and football is by far its most popular sport. Just as science has proven, the human brain can struggle to grasp probability: we tend to think that, just because there are more of us, one of us should at least have won once on the last 19 years.

As such, it is convenient for the average Nigerian football fan to invent another reason for the dry spell. While Issa Hayatou was in power, and perhaps mindful of the (perceived) injustices of years gone by (Exhibit A: 1988/2000 Africa Cup of Nations finals against Cameroon), the narrative was that CAF was partial to Francophone nations.

So we hear that Mustapha Hadji won in 1998 on the back of one bicycle kick. Never mind that he scored at the World Cup as Morocco were hugely unfortunate to be eliminated, and that while he was scoring the bicycle kick in question, his closest challenger Jay-Jay Okocha was missing out on the Cup of Nations thanks to a CAF ban on Nigeria.

Look beyond the self-pitying narrative, and it is clear that, in the timeframe, there have been no viable candidates anyway. The aforementioned Okocha came closest, but was unfortunate to mature at a time when Samuel Eto’o was growing into one of Europe’s most devastating strikers. Should he have won in 2003 anyway? Maybe. But even allowing for that, it was still 15 years ago.

There is also the obvious question: why would CAF, or any footballing association for that matter, devalue its top award by being biased? To do that would amount to sabotage.
The simplest explanation is often the right one, but in this case, it is a rather uncomfortable one: our players simply are not good enough. To acknowledge this is to take responsibility, so you can understand why it’s not an easy pill to swallow.

A lack of ambition is at the core of the problem. The average Nigerian footballer sees football as a means to elevate his social and financial status. While there’s nothing wrong with that at all, it is the enemy of that extra push to true stardom.

It is also antithetical to discipline (once comfort is secured), another area in which our footballers fall down. The ability to delay gratification is a cornerstone of the drive for growth. When did you ever hear a Nigerian male footballer say he seeks to be the best player in Africa?

Yet, when Salah stood on the podium in Accra, he spoke plainly of his long-standing desire for the gong, and his intention to win many more. It is the lack of precisely that sort of ambitious thinking, focus and discipline, that has seen, and will continue to see our footballers come up short among their peers.

Jose Mourinho Remains Confident Over Alexis Sanchez’s Manchester United Move

 

United were unable to finalize the contract for Sanchez in time for him to be available for Burnley’s game

Jose Mourinho claims he confident about Sanchez’s speculated transfer Alexis Sanchez’s proposed move to Manchester United and confirmed Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not feature at Burnley a discussion continue.

 

United couldn’t finalise the formalities of Sanchez’s switch from Arsenal by the midday deadline on Friday in order for him to be available to make his debut at Turf Moor on Saturday.

 

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger said on Thursday it was “likely” Sanchez would be a United player within 24 hours, yet Mourinho insists he is relaxed over a proposed deal that could see midfielder Mkhitaryan move in the opposite direction.

 

Arsenal v Chelsea – Premier League – Emirates Stadium

On the latest with Sanchez, Mourinho said: “Nothing new, I think clearly everybody knows that we are there and especially when Arsenal’s manager speaks so clearly like he did there is no point in trying to hide or to deny.

 

“But (it’s) not done, not done at all, so in this moment Mkhitaryan’s our player, Sanchez’s an Arsenal player and with a match tomorrow I want to switch off and focus what is the most important thing, which is the match.”

 

Asked if the deal was dependant on Mkhitaryan moving to north London as well, Mourinho replied: “I don’t know.

 

Manchester United v Southampton – Premier League – Old Trafford

“Sometimes people think transfers involve a lot the managers in the negotiations, I think it depends on the profile of the club, on the way we establish our jobs and in my case when it goes to the table of negotiations I like to be out, I am out and I will just calmly waiting for news, no more than that.”

 

Mkhitaryan was left out of the United squad that faced Stoke on Monday due to the uncertainty over his future and Mourinho confirmed he would be absent at Burnley too.

 

“No, not selected,” he added. “But in very good condition, training really well and in good conditions like the others.”

Chelsea In Talks With Roma’s Emerson Palmieri Agent Confirms

 

 

Fernado Garcia, the agent to Roma defender Emerson Palmieri has claimed that the Italian club are in talks with Chelsea over a possible move for the Italy international.

 

Several left-backs has been linked with the blues in recent months – with Juventus’ Alex Sandro a serious target but his club’s demand has put  Chelsea off the radar. Marcos Alonso is said to be given more competition from his coach.

 

The 23yr old has only played twice for Roma since returning from a serious knee injury at the start of December, making just 25 Serie A appearances last term.

 

And Garcia, claims a move to Chelsea is a “concrete possibility”.

 

“There’s nothing certain yet,” he told Calciomercato. “We are in a phase of discussion and evaluation.

 

“Chelsea are a concrete possibility, absolutely. Now the two clubs are talking, so we will see if they reach a positive conclusion. I have no planned trips to Italy, at least for the moment, as we are waiting for developments.

 

“Obviously, Emerson would love to play in the Premier League and it would be a dream to work with Conte, as he is among the best coaches in the world.”

 

 

 

Pele Collapses After A Dangerous Exhaustion

Brazil icon, Pele, is being observed by doctors in his homeland and will remain in the hospital after he collapsed on Thursday morning.

The world football Legend, 77, had been due in London this weekend where he was honored at the Football Writers’ Association Tribute Night on Sunday evening at The Savoy.

But he will instead remain on fluids in hospital as he embarks on a health therapy to making sure he gets better from the severe and dangerous exhaustion.

An FWA statement reads: “In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion.

“He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion and everybody at the Football Writers’ Association wishes Pele a swift and full recovery.

“Understandably, his medical situation prevents him from travelling to London for the Football Writers’ Association Tribute Night on Sunday evening at The Savoy.

 

“But after discussions with Pele and his team, he has insisted the event should continue, not least because many of Pele’s friends are travelling from overseas to be with us on Sunday.

 

 

“While it is incredibly sad Pele cannot attend the function, the FWA are grateful that all those who have been asked to pay tribute on the night – Gareth Southgate, Cliff Jones, Gordon Banks and Steve Hunt – are determined to help make the evening a memorable one.

 

pele-completesportsnigeria.com-csn

 

“Pele’s team have also asked that we film the event and send a copy to Brazil in the knowledge it will lift the Great Man’s spirits to see his friends are thinking of him and sending their best wishes. With that in mind, we want to do Pele proud and make Sunday night as memorable as possible.

 

“It goes without saying, Pele has an open invitation to any of our functions once he regains his health and we are already discussing the possibility of him joining us in May for the Footballer of the Year Dinner.”

 

Pele was seen earlier this week at the opening ceremony of the Carioca state championships in Rio de Janeiro, but his frail appearance and use of a zimmer frame have led to concern over his health.

 

He has been limiting his public appearances after a number of health problems last year.

 

His previous appearance before his showing in Rio had been at the draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia last month, where he arrived in a wheelchair.

 

Pele is widely regarded by many as one of the finest footballers of his generation and of all-time.

No Offer From Chelsea Yet But Conte is A Fan Of Dzeko

Edin Dzeko’s agent Irfan Redzepagic  has claimed that there’s no offer yet on the table even though Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is a big admirer of the player.

 

The Bosnia-Herzegovina international and Roma striker, who scored twice in the 3-3 Champions League draw with the Blues at Stamford Bridge in October, is one of the hottest centre forwards who has been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea this January.

 

When asked about the reported interest, he said “No, I don’t know anything about this. I’ve no information to that effect,” he told romagiallorossa.it

 

“Dzeko is a Roma player. You know that well.

 

“Every time you talk about Dzeko, clubs like Chelsea, Chinese clubs, even Mexican clubs crop up. They’re only rumours. The truth is that Dzeko wants to stay at Roma.

 

“My role is not to reveal certain dynamics of the market. All I can say is that Conte likes Dzeko. But who doesn’t like Edin?”

 

Conte is said to be keen to sign a striker who poses a strong aerial threat, having seen Fernando Llorente join Tottenham over Chelsea in the previous transfer window.

 

Surprise moves for West Ham’s Andy Carroll and Stoke City veteran Peter Crouch have also been suggested.

Edin Dzeko’s agent Irfan Redzepagic  has claimed that there’s no offer yet on the table even though Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is a big admirer of the player.

 

The Bosnia-Herzegovina international and Roma striker, who scored twice in the 3-3 Champions League draw with the Blues at Stamford Bridge in October, is one of the hottest centre forwards who has been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea this January.

 

When asked about the reported interest, he said “No, I don’t know anything about this. I’ve no information to that effect,” he told romagiallorossa.it

 

“Dzeko is a Roma player. You know that well.

 

“Every time you talk about Dzeko, clubs like Chelsea, Chinese clubs, even Mexican clubs crop up. They’re only rumours. The truth is that Dzeko wants to stay at Roma.

 

“My role is not to reveal certain dynamics of the market. All I can say is that Conte likes Dzeko. But who doesn’t like Edin?”

 

Conte is said to be keen to sign a striker who poses a strong aerial threat, having seen Fernando Llorente join Tottenham over Chelsea in the previous transfer window.

 

Surprise moves for West Ham’s Andy Carroll and Stoke City veteran Peter Crouch have also been suggested.

Why Sanchez To Man United Is Different From Van Persie’s Arsene Wenger Gives Reasons

 

As the clock winds down on Alexis Sanchez’ stay at Arsenal, manager Arsene Wenger has sought to shun off the fears of club fans who fear a repeat of the scenario that happened when former striker Robin van Persie moved away from the Emirates to Old Trafford

 

Arsenal faithfuls were bitter when the trasfer to United was finalized in 2012 while the Chile international forward Sanchez is tipped to follow the same path with United playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan set to go the opposite way.

 

“Sanchez will not extend his contract and I am very certain our fans know this and they have accepted that idea,” Wenger said.

 

“And the fact that it will not be one-way traffic, it will be other-way traffic as well [with Mkhitaryan], so that makes the whole thing a bit smoother maybe, a bit less disappointing. We lose a player yes, but we could gain another player of top level as well.

 

“When it was with Van Persie it was a similar case, in the fact that he had only one year to go. Maybe it was the first case where the big players, Van Persie was one of the first cases where a big player didn’t extend his contract and came close to the end of his contract.

 

“That will happen more and more. Because we arrive at a level where the money at stake for players who are free is so big, and the transfers are so big, that the players

Fernandinho Extends Contract At Manchester City

Brazilian midfielder, Fernandinho, has extended his contract by a new two-year deal with Manchester City.

The 32- year-old was due to run out of contract in six months time.

Interesst from other clubs who are trying to get him off the Manchester club have been disregarded.

There was concern at the Etihad that he may walk away for free after several failed attempts to agree a new deal.

But the saga is now over as City look to maintain their dominance in the league which has seen them go 12 points clear.

 

Fernandinho has enjoyed a new lease of life under Pep Guardiola and has excelled at the base of City’s midfield this season and even netted twice.

 

Fernandinho joined Manchester City from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013 for a fee of £30million and won with them the Premier League title in 2014 and has clinched two League Cups.

 

 

The deal will delight boss Guardiola after having to pull out of a move for Alexis Sanchez because of the cost.

 

The Chilean was thought to be on his way to reunite with the Spaniard but his wage demands have seen him on the brink of a move to rivals United.

 

City take on Newcastle at the weekend as they look to bounce back from their first league defeat of the season at the hands of Liverpool last week.

Council Boss Reiterates Commitment To Grassroots Sports

The Executive Secretary, Egbedore South Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Mr Kola Ajao has reiterated the commitment of the council’s management team to the development of grassroot sport among the youths in the council area.

He gave the assurance at the grand finale of the youth football competition tagged Kola Ajao Youth Soccer Championship organised by Egbedore South LCDA, at the Ido-Osun High School playing ground recently between Fehinti Football Club and Estate Boys.

According to a statement by the Information Officer of the council, Mrs Iyabo Adeniran, Ajao, who described sports as a unifying factor, said the gains in participating in sport competition are numerous and should be taken advantage of.

He said his administration believes in catching them young syndrome by identifying talents among youths and assisting them to develop their talents in the sport industry.

Commending the efforts of the organisers of the competition for putting their wealth, vast experience, time and energy to develop sports at the grassroots, he said the efforts would inculcate the spirit of sportsmanship in the youths.

The council boss saluted the efforts and courage of the participating teams from the preliminary to the final and therefore promised to organise other field events to foster unity.

He also encouraged the youths to take part in sport competitions beyond the localties to expand their talents.

The Council Manager, Alhaji Badiru Kolapo appreciated the performance of the participating teams and encouraged them to endeavour to develop their talents so that they can get to international level.

Meanwhile, the Estate Boys won the match with a one goal via a converted penalty.

Present at the occasion of the football match were the Olojudo of Ido-Osun, Oba Adedapo Aderemi; political functionaries and members of the community.

Osun Babes FC Launch 2017/2018 Home And Away Kits

 

Nigerian Women Premier League side Osun Babes FC has launched its new kits ahead of the 2017/2018 NWPL season. The kits manufactured for the first time by Haggai sees the ‘Omoluabi Queens’ traditional yellow and brown colour revamped and refreshed.

 

The 2017/2018 NWPL season will be the 3rd consecutive season the team will take to the field in the yellow and brown colour. In an age when all the manner of flashed and piping are added to kits, its refreshing to see Haggai take a straightforward approach to the home kit with the brown colour shed to the shoulders, while the away kits remains in its green and red colourway.

The design stays loyal to tradition, taking inspiration from the colours in the seal, crest and flag of the State of Osun alongside several classic shirts by using several design features which should make these kits fans favourites.

Alongside the central design details, the 2017/2018 shirt also includes a truly unique feature which includes the latest performance technologies designed to allow players to be more comfortable on the field of play. The new “Omoluabi Queens” kit no doubt is also made up of fabrics and special stitching which provides greater freedom of movement and comfort without sacrificing flexibility and resilience.

 

The new Osun Babes home and away kit are available for pre-order now ahead of its release in February 2018.

 

 

Neymar Scores Four, Cavani Equals Zlatan Record As PSG Destroy Dijon

Brazilian superstar Neymar scored four goals as Paris Saint-Germain thrashed Dijon 8-0 in the French Ligue 1 on Wednesday night.

Argentina forward Angel Di Maria bagged a brace while Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani each scored a goal.

Cavani’s goal against Dijon means he has now equalled Zlatan Ibrahimovic as PSG’s all-time leading scorer in all competitions on 156 goals.

PSG have now won eight straight games in all competitions.

Di Maria opened scoring for PSG in the fourth minute and scored again in the 15th minute to make it 2-0.

Cavani got on the score sheet in the 21st minute to bring score to 3-0.

Neymar netted a hat-trick, scoring PSG’s fourth, fifth and sixth goals on 42nd, 57th and 73rd minutes respectively.

Mbappe got amongst the goals when he struck in the 77th minute to give PSG a 7-0 lead before Neymar completed the rout by netting his fourth goal to end the game 8-0.

PSG maintain their leadership in the league table as they take their points tally to 56, 11 points ahead of second place Lyon.

Home Eagles Defender, Okoro: We Must Be Clinical On Goal Vs Libya

Home-based Super Eagles winger cum right-back, Osaso Okoro, has admitted that the team must be clinical in front of goal to stand a chance of advancing to the next round of the ongoing 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco.

Okoro who is making his second tournament appearance at (CHAN) also rues the scoring chances the Home Eagles squandered during their their first Group C match against Rwanda, insisting the the team was unlucky in that game.

“Sometimes games end in that wa, but we must take our chances in the next game against Libya,” Okoro, an Enugu Rangers defender told CSN from Morocco.

“We were not lucky at all, and I hope we will be luckier in our next game.”

Okoro also told Completesportsnigeria.com that the home-based Super Eagles’ next Group C opponent, Libya, will be very tough to beat on Friday.

“Libya will be tough, and we will be ready to face them because only a win can guarantee us a place in the next round.

“To beat them (Libya) we must be clinical. if we don’t take our chances, then we will have ourselves to blame.”

Libya kicked off defeated Equatorial Guinea 3-0 in their first game, and a win over the the Home Eagles will seal their place in the quarter-finals.

Nigeria’s Home Eagles are joint second with Rwanda behind group leaders, Libya, who have three points from thei first game. Equatorial Guinea, without any point yet, are rock bottom in Group C.
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