By Jerry Asiegbu
â€¢As fans urge Okocha to return to Eagles
Nigeriaâ€™s 1994 Super Eagles squad Saturday beat Africa all stars 2-1, in a thrilling encounter organised by telecommunications giant, MTN, as a prelude to the 2010 World Cup holding in South Africa. The match, which was played at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, tagged the battle of legends, saw an array of football stars produced by the African continent in the last two decades.
The Nigerian side captained by Enyimba coach, Augustine Eguavoen, took the battle to their opponents area as early as the first minute and were promptly rewarded in the third minute when Garuba Lawal, who showed great fitness throughout the one hour the match lasted, beat goalkeeper Alain Goumeni from Cote dâ€™ Ivoire for the Africa all stars for Super Eagles first goal. The African side parading such superstars as the 1995 World Footballer of the Year, George Weah, did not fall back as they surged into the Super Eagles vital area looking for the equaliser.
The former Liberian presidential candidate was brought down outside Nigeriaâ€™s 18-yard box and the resultant free kick by Guinean Titi Camara sailed over the bar. Titi Camara, who is the coach of the Guinean national team, again set up Weah but was dispossessed by the Nigerian defenders comprising Eguavoen, Ben Iroha, and Taribo West.
Edem Williams, who hails from Eket in Akwa Ibom State but lived and played in Cameroon replaced Goumeni who got injured as he ran into Nigeriaâ€™s Emmanuel Amuneke.
Nigerian side also replaced goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu with Aloy Agu in the 22nd minute and in the next minute Titi Camara equalized for the Africa all stars. Jonathan Akpoborie increased the tally on the 28th minute, making it 2-1 for Nigeria at the end of the first half.
Austin Okocha, who was introduced in the second half added vigour and entertainment into the game as he displayed those soccer artistries for which he is known to the applause of the fans. Occasional incursions by Amuneke, Victor Ikpeba and Okocha were thwarted by Ghanaâ€™s Samuel Osei Kuffor, who stood as a rock in defence till the end of the match. The African side has such football greats as Kalusha Bwalya from Zambia, Phil Massinga of South Africa, Ghanaian Odarty Lamptey, Cote dâ€™Ivoireâ€™s Abdullahi Traore, Youssouf FofanaÂ and Paul Ndiefi of Cameroon.
Fans cheered and urged Okocha to return to the Super Eagles. There is on-going debate in Nigeria over this. Adokiye Amasiemeka started it when he asked Okocha to quit retirement and return to action.