NFF President Aminu Maigari on Thursday challenged the national U-20 team, Flying Eagles to go all out for the African Youth Championship trophy when this year’s tournament finally kicks off in South Africa next weekend.
“The President, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (GCFR), the Government of Nigeria and the generality of Nigerians are looking forward to you bringing the trophy back to Nigeria. Six years ago, your predecessors won in Republic of Benin.
There is no reason why you cannot win in the Republic of South Africa”, Maigari said Thursday night in his address to the players in Port Harcourt after the team’s final build-up game, against Premier League pace-setters Dolphin FC at the Liberation Stadium.
The Flying Eagles swept to a 3-1 win that would be massive for confidence going into the biennial continental championship, but Maigari, a left-sided midfielder in his playing days, harped on the importance of leaving no stone unturned.
He stated: “This year’s competition is going to be very, very tough. We all know the circumstances that have now taken the event to South Africa. All the teams involved have had more time to prepare. That means no team must be taken lightly.
“All the eight teams in the tournament would want to win the Cup, no doubt. But considering our pedigree in this competition, and in the game generally, you guys have a good burden to lift up to the expectation of our people.
“The Government has given this team great support to prepare well and we are sure players and technical crew would do the nation proud. You can be sure that you will get all the support you need to emerge victorious on 1st May, the day of the Final match”.
Chidi Osuchukwu scored first before a brace from Uche Nwofor took the game out of Dolphin FC at the Liberation Stadium.
Head Coach Sam John Obuh had only a couple of hours after the match against Dolphin to submit his final list of 21 players to the Nigeria Football Federation for immediate dispatch to CAF.
After a two-phase camping in Abuja, Head Coach Obuh on 12th February led out his players on a two-match tour of Libya against the Libyan U-20 team in Benghazi. Both matches ended 1-1. The team arrived a training camp in Antalya, Turkey on 17th February, and spent three weeks there, and also played five friendly games, losing only one.
On 11th March, the Flying Eagles lost 1-2 to their Egyptian counterparts in a mini-tournament in Dubai, UAE but then were forced to a 2-2 draw by the Saudi Arabia U-20 two days later, before flying back to Nigeria.
Since 15th March, the team has been camping at the Hotel Somitel in Port Harcourt and using the Shell facility for training, thanks to the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. The team has also played a number of matches against top Premier League clubs, and rounded up with Thursday night’s blast of League leaders Dolphin.
The Nigeria delegation to the 17th African Youth Championship is now expected to depart Lagos for South Africa on Thursday night aboard Arik Air.
F/Eagles to stay at Southern Sun
The Nigeria U-20 team to the 17th African Youth Championship in South Africa will stay at the Southern Sun Grayston in Johannesburg, and will play its Group B matches at the Rand Stadium.
Head Coach, Sam John Obuh has been told in clear terms by the Nigeria Football Federation that he must submit his final list of players for the competition on Friday morning, for onward transmission to CAF.
On Thursday, the Flying Eagles squared up with Nigeria Premier League leaders Dolphin FC at the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt in their final build-up for the championship, which Nigeria has won five times previously.
The Flying Eagles take on reigning world champions and bitter rivals, Black Satellites of Ghana in the opening match of Group B at the Rand Stadium on Monday, a day after the opening ceremony.
Umeh leads Olympic team to Malabo
NFF’s 1st Vice President, Chief Mike Okeke Umeh will be leader of delegation of the Nigeria U-23 team to Sunday’s 2012 Olympics qualifier against Equatorial Guinea’s Olympic team in Malabo.
There would also be chairman of the technical committee, Barrister Chris Green and a couple of NFF Secretariat Staff as the team coached by former Super Eagles’ defender Austin Eguavoen seeks to consolidate on a 5-0 first leg triumph.
Eguavoen has picked 21 players for the trip, including Spain-based goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye, central defenders Kinglsey Udoh and Edet Ibok, midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim and strikers Ekigho Ehiosun and Gbolahan Salami.
The team will fly from Cotonou, Benin Republic aboard an Air Equatorial Guinea flight at noon on Friday, and arrive in Malabo after 90 minutes.
Sunday’s tie at the National Stadium, Malabo will start at 3.30pm Equatorial Guinea time (same time as in Nigeria).
21 PLAYERS FOR MALABO: Chimezie Mbah, Stephen Ofem, Otekpa Eneji, Osadebamwen Okoro, Dele Ajiboye, Theophilus Afelokhai, Emmanuel Anyanwu, Gabriel Reuben, Usman Amoda, Gbolahan Salami, Kingsley Udoh, Josiah Maduabuchi, Olufemi Thomas, Ayo Saka, Ekigho Ehiosun, Michael Essang, Edet Ibok, Christian Ibeagha, Alex Arinze, Danny Uchechi, Rabiu Ibrahim