A light seems to have shone at the end of the tunnel for Nigeria’s Kelechi Nwakali, as he attempts to get his career back on track with Spanish side Huesca
The 22-year-old was a 63rd minute substitute in newly-promoted Huesca’s 1-1 draw at Villareal on the opening day of La Liga.
Nwakali, who was player of the tournament at the Under-17 World Cup in 2015, has spent much of his time since August 2018 battling visa issues which have limited his chances to play.
Problems with red-tape and a lack of playing time while on loan from English side Arsenal to Portuguese club Porto left him very low on confidence.
“There was a time, I was having doubt in myself, I wondered if I was not up to it anymore,” he told Tidesports source.
“It was difficult mentally for me but my mind was made up, that I had to leave.”
He secured a move to Spanish side Huesca in August last year from Arsenal but once again red-tape prevented him from playing.
Instead he was forced to sit-out the first six months of his contract in Nigeria trying to secure the documentation that he needed.
It led to accusations from some in Nigeria that he ‘spent more time posting images on social media than actually playing football.’
“It was difficult mentally not playing for a year, so going through all of that and coming on the internet to see someone say, I am gallivanting, was hurtful, I was bothered,” he explained.
“A lot of Nigerian fans had the impression that I was just sitting in Nigeria doing nothing.”
His paperwork issues were finally resolved in January and allowed him to play Huesca’s final five games of the season as they clinched promotion to La Liga.
“It is a new beginning, I have had my ups and downs, but this is the time to make it right again, this is the time to get it back on track,” he insisted.
“As the season progresses, I believe I am going to play more, right now I also play as a Number 4, the coach is trying to see the roles for which he can always feature me’ he explains.
“I can play as a number 10, 8 and 4 and I believe it’s a great advantage for me and I can always help the team.”
The start of a nightmare
A lack of work permit to play football in the United Kingdom saw Arsenal send Nwakali out on loan three times in the duration of his five year contract, the last of which was with Porto in 2018.
Two months into his time at Porto, a troubling battle with visa bureaucracy left him stranded in Nigeria, after a journey to represent his national team turned into a nightmare.
Gernot Rohr had called up the player to be part of Nigeria’s squad to face Seychelles in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier and a friendly match against Liberia.
“I didn’t have a Portuguese resident card, it wasn’t ready before I left, but I had to come to that game because that was my first official call-up for the Super Eagles and after I was stuck in Nigeria for three months.
“It was difficult getting a visa back to Portugal, I couldn’t get back to my club for three months and by the end of the season no one wanted to take me, they said I hadn’t been playing.
“I learnt a lesson that it is important you do well at your club side first, the National team is important, but some important decisions need to be made, that will help my career in the future and I didn’t make the right one in the right moment,” he explained.
Reflecting on his time with the Portuguese giants, FC Porto, the midfielder labelled the move a ‘mistake’ one that has also seen him part ways with the agency representing him since he broke into the limelight.
“I regret making the move, that was a mistake from me and the agency. They (agency) have a lot of players and I needed to go to another place where they have my interest at heart and where they can focus on me.
“I was told when I moved that I would train and play with the first team and there was an option to buy me on a permanent deal which sounded good.
“But after three months of training with the first team, it wasn’t looking like I would join the first team any time soon,” he admitted.
Signing for Arsenal at the age of just 16 after a phone call from former Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger confirmed Nwakali’s abilities after winning the tournament’s best player award at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup where he captained Nigeria to the title.
The impressive signing put him shoulders above his peers from the tournament, however the setback now sees the midfielder playing catch up to some of those trailblazing teammates.
FIFA Ranking: Nigeria Drops By Three Spots, Now World 32nd
Nigeria’s Super Eagles have dropped by three spots in the October edition of the FIFA ranking to place 32nd in the world.
This was after losing one of their two international friendly matches and drawing the other within the period under review.
In the ranking table on the website of the world football governing body yesterday, Nigeria garnered 1,488 points in the month of October as against 1,493 garnered in September.
It would be recalled that the Eagles had on October 9 lost 0-1 to Algeria in an international friendly match and settled for a 1-1 draw in another with Tunisia on October 13.
The drop in the global spot has also dropped the Nigerian national team to the fourth spot on the continent behind Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria respectively.
They had occupied the third position in September.
On the global scene, the podium remained unchanged even as 120 international fixtures were played in the month of October.
Qualifying games for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the play-offs for UEFA EURO 2021, and UEFA Nations League fixtures were among the 120 internationals played over the last month which resulted in significant movement.
While the podium remains the same, the gap has narrowed between top-ranked Belgium and their immediate pursuers, France and Brazil.
This was in the wake of the Red Devils‘ loss to England (4th) in the UEFA Nations League — their first defeat since November 2018.
However, there are changes to the top 10: Spain (6th, +1) and Argentina (8th, +1) swapped places with Uruguay (7th, -1) and Croatia (9th, -1) respectively.
Further down the classification, Denmark (13th, +3), Algeria (30th, +5), Paraguay (35th, +5), Morocco (39th, +4), Scotland (45th, +4), and Hungary (47th, +5) all progressed.
The Hungarians, known as the Magyars, broke into the top 50 at the expense of Bosnia and Herzegovina (51, -1).
The biggest climber this month was Malta (180th, +6), who jumped six places courtesy of victories over Gibraltar (195th, unchanged) and Latvia (142nd, -5) and a draw with Andorra (145th, -8).
Also worthy of note is the progress of Ecuador (60th, +4), Panama (77th, +4) and Israel (88th, +5).
Federation Seeks Inclusion Of Para-Soccer In NSF
The President of Nigeria Para-Soccer Federation (NPF), Misbahu Didi, has appealed to the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to include the sport in the 2020 National Sports Festival (NSF).
Didi told newsmen yesterday in Abuja that including the para-soccer sport in the 20th NSF billed for Edo would tremendously help it to develop.
“We are appealing to the ministry to include para-soccer in the list of events to feature at the NSF.
“We need to encourage people with disability who are committed to the game and also want to promote the image of this country through sports activities.
“We want to encourage people with disability to enjoy the privilege of being part of the NSF.
“So, we pray and ask the ministry to please include para-soccer in the NSF,” he said.
Didi also praised the teams participating in the ongoing eighth edition of the National Para-Soccer League, which kicked off on Wednesday in Abuja and would end on Sunday.
“We thank God that the eighth edition of the Polio Day/National Para-Soccer Championship kicked off on Wednesday at the Old Parade Ground in Abuja.
“We have teams from eight of the states which indicated interest to participate in the championship. Initially, they were 12 and we put it in our plan.
“However, things have gone this way because of the challenges of the states and the issues of protesters across the country. Now we are here, and it will be a peaceful event.
“But we must appreciate the teams which are around for the event and their owners/state governments for showing interest and making sacrifice.
“We are grateful that they made the resources available for their participation,” he said.
The NPF president also expressed the gratitude of the federation to its sponsors and the media.
“We thank the media for their support and commitment in ensuring that our needs and programmes are publicised,” he added.
Deputy Governor Denies Sidelining Sports Commission Boss Ahead NSF
Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shuaibu says there is no iota of truth in the claim that he has sidelined Godwin Dudu-Orumen, the Executive Chairman, Edo Sports Commission from his duties as the state prepares to host the 2020 National Sports Festival (NSF), tagged “Edo 2020”.
The denial came after Dudu-Orumen told newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja that the deputy governor had sidelined him in matters of the NSF.
Dudu-Orumen made the assertion when a news correspondent asked to know the state’s level of preparation for the festival following the lifting of the ban on contact sports by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
He said that Philip Shuaibu, the Edo Deputy Governor, who is also the Chairman, Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the festival, was the right person to know about the preparations.
“The Deputy Governor of Edo, Mr Philip Shuaibu, is in a better position to answer questions on the National Sports Festival; I am a spectator.
“Statutorily, I am in charge of sports, but politically the deputy governor won’t let me do my job; so I am watching,” he said.
Dudu-Orumen had said he was a mere appointee as chairman of the sports commission with no knowledge of the goings about the NSF.
But swiftly, Shuaibu, through Musa Ebomhiana, his Chief Press Secretary, denied the allegation, saying Dudu-Orumen remained the dejure and defacto chairman of the sports commission in the state.
Shaibu is the Chairman, Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the festival, he said.
Ebomhiana said : “It is unfortunate if Dudu-Orumen said so. As it is today, he is the dejure and defacto chairman of the sports commission in the state.
“Nobody has taken over his position. Like I said, he is the dejure and defacto chairman of the sports commission as it stands today.
“He is just being economical with the truth. The deputy governor will not descend to the level of taking over his job as chairman of the sports commission.”
According to the chief press secretary, the deputy governor was among those who made him the chairman in the first place. The governor and his deputy presided over his appointment.
“As the man who superintends sport in the state, he can not descend to the level of taking over the job he himself gave out.
“As you are aware, the presidency has announced commencement of contact sports from 19th, which was two days ago.
“And you and I know what the situation has been in the past two days across the states.
“There’s nothing tangible that has happened for now. And the Council of Sports has to meet and advice Mr President on further pronouncement,” he said.
Tidesports source reports that COVID-19 pandemic which led to the suspension of sports activities since March 18, caused the indefinite suspension of the National Sports Festival which was originally scheduled for between March 22 and April 1.
It was also initially moved to between October 3 and October 13 and later scheduled to now hold between October 25 and November 4.
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