Ex-international, Segun Odegbami, says he feels unfulfilled not playing at football’s showpiece event, the FIFA World Cup, despite getting close to qualification twice.
Odegbami, regarded as one of Africa’s best footballing talents, guided the country to its first-ever Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 1980 and emerged the tournament’s joint-top scorer with three goals.
He also won three Nigerian Premier League championships (1976, 1980 and 1983), two FA Cup titles (1977 and 1979), and one African Cup Winners Cup medal in 1976.
However, amid the successes, the Mathematical, as he is fondly called, has over the years silently nursed the agony of not attending a single World Cup tournament.
“Missing out of the World Cup and not featuring at that level is very painful,” the 68-year-old, Odegbami said.
“It is even more painful because we had the opportunity twice, but on both occasions, we couldn’t.
“We knew it was important to go to the World Cup, but if we had realised the enormity the way we know today, we would have done everything possible to ensure that we went.”
Truly, Odegbami and his teammates were close to qualifying for the 1978 and 1982 World Cups but inexplicably failed on both occasions in the final qualification games.
In the first instance, the Green Eagles, as the national team was then known, needed a draw versus Tunisia in Lagos in their last qualification game to seal a spot at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
Having held the Tunisians 0-0 in their first fixture, expectations were high.
But it was the North Africans that triumphed 1-0 courtesy of defender Godwin Odiye’s 61st minute own goal in front of stunned fans inside the National Stadium, Lagos.
On the second occasion, the Eagles were battered 4-1 on aggregate by an Algerian side inspired by mercurial duo Lakhdar Belloumi and Rabah Madjar.
More shocking was the Eagles 2-0 defeat in the first leg in Lagos.
Odegbami said poor decisions by the administrators and the coaching crew cost the country and the players the chances of featuring at football’s biggest event on both occasions
“Failure to qualify for the 1978 World Cup had nothing to do with the performances of the players, but with the administrators, whose last-minute decisions did not favour the team,” the former Shooting Stars forward added.
“They increased the gate fees for the last match against Tunisia and there were less than 3,000 people inside the stadium following a massive protest against the administrators.
“For the first time ever, our own fans booed us and supported the Tunisians. We ended up losing that game 1-0 and there was silence everywhere because all we needed was a draw.
“Also in 1981, with just a match to go, the coach allowed the administrators to influence his decision and took the game for granted by replacing the bulk of the players that had taken us that far.”
Odegbami believes his inability to feature at the Mundial also cost him the opportunity to be crowned the CAF African Footballer of the Year during his playing days.
“I feel unfulfilled not to have played at the World Cup. If I had gone to either of the two or both World Cups or played in the final of the CAF Champions League, I would have been named Africa’s best player very easily, but those two events stopped that in my career.”
Aisha Buhari Cup: FIFA, CAF Presidents Grace Kick-Off, Falcons Win 2-0
Substitute Gift Monday handed Nigeria a sweet 2-0 victory on the opening day of the maiden edition of the Aisha Buhari Invitational Women’s Tournament in the City of Lagos.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State led eminent political big-wigs, and FIFA President, Gianni Infantino and CAF President, Patrice Motsepe led football’s top echelon, including President of NFF and FIFA council member, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, to the showpiece at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan.
Monday, interestingly a player of FC Robo Queens of Lagos, spurned in the air to meet a cross by Captain Asisat Oshoala in the 83rd minute and nodded past goalkeeper Fatoumata Karenta, six minutes after coming into the fray for Francisca Ordega.
The goal put the Super Falcons in the lead after a rather turgid day on Lagos island, with the Malians showing greater zest and desire in the opening half and returning after the recess with the same impressive fighting spirit.
The visiting Female Eagles had survived a raid on their area in the 5th minute as Nigeria looked to go into the lead with a corner, but the defence cleared. Nine minutes later, Ordega sidenetted from another quick dash upfront, and in the 18th minute, Ageusissa Diarra tested Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie from a 30-yard free-kick.
In the second half, Uchenna Kanu sidenetted in the 67th minute, before Oshoala, who should have scored with only the goalkeeper to beat, failed to get past Karenta. In the 74th minute, Karenta again saved from Kanu.
In the 83rd minute, Monday rose highest in the box and nodded past Karenta, bringing so much excitement to the arena.
One minute into added time, Monday was again at the end of an Asisat’s assist, and looped the ball over an advancing Karenta to put huge smiles on the faces of Nigerians.
Enyimba Appoints Finidi George As Head Coach
The former Ajax and Real Betis winger, George Finidi, who replaces Fatai Osho whose contract expired at the end of August, has joined the eight-time Nigerian champions, Enyimba FC, on a two-year contract.
George, a legend of Nigeria’s men’s senior national team, made 62 appearances for the Super Eagles in an illustrious playing career that lasted up to fifteen years.
He was a key member of the glorious era that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and represented the country at two FIFA World Cups, the 1994 and 1998 editions.
Tidesports source reports that at club level, George won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in 1995 and went on to play for Real Betis, RCD Mallorca, and Ipswich Town.
His first official game as Enyimba head coach will be the CAF Confederation Cup’s second preliminary round fixture against Senegalese side, Diambers FC in mid-October.
Speaking to Enyimba’s media immediately after putting pen to paper, George said, “I have to say it’s a great opportunity for the club to have this confidence in me.
“I want to thank the chairman, the members of the board, and the supporters for even thinking about me. On my own part, I will be here to just work and do the job. It’s never going to be easy but I’m here to work and make the team win.”
Chairman of Enyimba, Felix Anyansi Agwu, stated that the arrival of George represents a new chapter for the club.
“I believe that the time has come for us as a club to open up a new chapter, a chapter that will showcase the many hardwork that has been going on behind the scene and usher in lots of success.
“For us to have engaged a coach like Finidi George who is coming from Europe is a clear statement of intent about our aspirations,” Agwu said.
Arteta Sees Light For Arsenal
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he sees a bright future for the club despite suffering their worst start to a season for 67 years.
The Gunners climbed off the bottom of the Premier League table with their first goal and first points of the campaign by beating Norwich 1-0 last weekend.
However, Arteta’s position is still under scrutiny ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Burnley after spending £150 million ($207 million) on new players during the transfer window.
The Spaniard claimed after beating Norwich he had enjoyed the “best 10 days of his career in this industry” during an international break when his side was rock bottom of the table.
And Arteta was equally optimistic on where Arsenal are headed with all six of his summer signings aged 23 or under.
“I’m telling you I’m very positive most of the time. I’ve seen the light and I can see bright lights,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“There can be bumps in the road within that light, but I can see a lot of light.”
Arteta is also hopeful the criticism his squad suffered after defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City will only serve to make them stronger.
“It’s tough because it hurts, because you want to see something different. But what you want is not always what happens,” he added.
“Things happen for a reason and maybe what is happening had to happen and it’s going to be really good for the club and really good for myself and everybody experiencing that situation. We have to believe that.”
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