The interim boss of the three-time champions has revealed why one of his in-form forwards had to pull out of the squad for the biennial competition
Super Eagles interim boss Austin Eguavoen has blamed Watford for the decision to remove Emmanuel Dennis from Nigeria’s 28-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Dennis was initially in Nigeria’s squad for the biggest African showpiece, starting on January 9 in Cameroon.
However, on Friday, he was replaced in the squad alongside Victor Osimhen, Leon Balogun and Abdullahi Shehu, a decision that angered many Nigerian fans.
While the reason for Osimhen, Balogun and Shehu’s withdrawal was revealed, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) did not provide the reason why Dennis was taken off the list.
However, before his removal, Watford manager Claudio Ranieri had claimed the club were looking to stop Dennis from going because his invitation came in late.
Eguavoen has now confirmed that it was Watford that did stop Dennis from going, even though the 24-year-old did his best to convince the club.
“We tried to reach out to the club, and the club is like, no, we will not allow Dennis to go, Eguavoen told newsmen.
“And Dennis also told me that his club had done everything humanely possible for him not to be at the AFCON.”
“I can’t force it. I reported the matter to the authority, they also tried.
“That was why we had to wait until about the last second before we pushed the button.”
“Dennis says he wants to come, but the club is threatening him, Eguavoen added.
Four replacements have now been called up for the quartet removed from the squad, and Eguavoen revealed they were all happy after receiving the call.
“I only found Onyekuru once, and he was happy about it. Initially, he’s been an integral part of this team, and I felt bad that some of them wouldn’t be around, but the decision has to be made.
FG’s Basketball Ban Primitive, Shameful – Kienka
The Director, International Tennis Academy and author of the recently published book, ‘Sports in Nigeria – Going Round In Circles,’ Godwin Kienka, has described Nigeria’s withdrawal from international basketball activities for two years as “very primitive and shameful sports politics.”
Last Thursday, Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), gave the approval following the crisis that rocked the factionalised Nigeria Basketball Federation in over a decade.
Kienka, in a statement said, “The Ministry of Sports hiding behind the Presidency to make that decision makes it even more odious. It just confirms what we have exposed in the book that most of those who run sports in this country do not care about the athletes, the coaches and the promotion and development of sports in the country.
“At a time when the national women’s basketball team qualified for the world championships and the men are on the way to making it a double, how does their participation or non-participation impede a grassroots or local league programme in Nigeria?”
He added, “If the decision was from the Presidency, why did the statement not come from the Presidency?”
Kienka lamented the decision, saying it denied the home-based players, who would have been a part of the two teams, the opportunity of being scouted by agents from across the world.
“We had the same mix-up and confusion in the Athletics Federation of Nigeria before the last Olympics, leading to the ban of several athletes essentially because of utter negligence of drug procedures by the ministry and the federation. It is said that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”
CAFCC Final : Okpara, Ndah Storm Uyo With Pirates
Ahead of tomorrow’s final of the TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup 2021/2022, former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Willy Okpara and defender, Olisa Ndah arrived late last night with their South African team Orlando Pirates to Nigeria.
The Soweto-based side who will face Morocco’s RS Berkane at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo for Africa’s second club football prize, touched down in Port Harcourt about 11:45pm last night before arriving Uyo.
In their third appearance in the Confederation Cup, Pirates are playing the final for the second time, and first since 2015 when they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia.
Okpara made his debut for the Nigeria national team in 1996 and was selected for the 1998 FIFA World Cup squad. He was capped five times and after he retired, became a goalkeeping coach for Orlando Pirates.
Meanwhile, RS Berkane breezed into Uyo earlier yesterday aboard a chartered Air Maroc flight.
Our correspondent gathered from aviation sources yesterday that on board the Moroccan national carrier were six crew members along with 96 strong RS Berkane ‘s contingent including players, officials and fans ahead of tomorrow’s final.
The flight that departed the Oujda Angads Airport in the Oriental region in Morocco landed in the Akwa Ibom State capital by 3:55 pm Nigerian time for their decisive tie against Orlando Pirates..
The Orange Boys as the Moroccan side are called, were Confederation Cup runners-up (to Zamalek of Egypt) in 2019 and emerged winners in 2020 after beating Egyptian side, Pyramids Egypt courtesy of a solitary goal by Burkinabe defender , Issoufou Dayo at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat.
In a related development, Umbro, the CAF technical sponsors, yesterday revealed the official match ball , FIFA Quality Pro, for the eagerly awaited fixture .
Based on Umbro’s renowned Neo Pro ball model, the official match ball is “FIFA Quality Pro” certified for use at the highest levels of the professional game and utilises the latest in structural and fabrication technology with a unique graphic that draws on the structural elements of the tournament’s trophy.
F’Eagles Qualify For 2023 Africa U-20 Cup Of Nations
Nigeria’s national under-20 male football team, on Tuesday overpowered Cote d’Ivoire in the first semi-final match to reach the final of the ongoing WAFU B Under-20 Championship in Niamey.
The 2-1 victory not only gave them a ticket to Saturday’s final match but also came a ticket to next year’s Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations scheduled for Egypt.
Midfielder Daniel Daga put Nigeria in front after only five minutes, when he cleverly escaped the attention of the Ivorian defenders to nod in from a well-weighted pullout.
The seven-time African champions then launched onslaughts after onslaughts on the Ivorian goal but failed to add to the tally.
It was rather the Ivorians who equalised just before half-time from an intelligently-taken free-kick at the edge of Nigeria’s penalty box.
Neither team could find another goal to gain upper hand before the end of regulation time inside the Stade General Seyni Kountché in Niamey, and the game went into extra time.
Forward Ibrahim Yahaya got the winner for Nigeria in the 111th minute of play when he tucked in from the penalty kick spot to make it 2-1.
The Tidessports source reports that Nigeria will now square up against neighbours, Benin Republic in Saturday’s final match.
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