It seems that any substitution involving Yossi Benayoun causes surprise these days. Less than a week ago the Israeli’s late withdrawal, during Liverpool’s loss to Lyon drew a chorus of boos from the club. Last Wednesday, he emerged from the bench 15 minutes from time as the Reds chased the game at Arsenal, and his introduction raised more than a few eyebrows.
It was not that it was Benayoun being brought on, of course. The 29-year-old’s guile and composure was more than welcome at a stage when Liverpool were on top of their energetic but inexperienced opponents. The consternation from the travelling pocket of Reds supporters packed into a sold-out Emirates Stadium came from seeing that it was David Ngog who was to be replaced.
Ok, it is not the same as removing, say, Fernando Torres, but still it was surprising. The young Frenchman had given Rafa Benitez 75 minutes of hard-work, and plenty of quality. It was his clever back-heel which opened up a glorious chance for Philipp Degen in the early stages, one that the Swiss full-back wasted.
Contrasting his performance with another Liverpool player looking to establish himself as an understudy (or partner) for Torres, Ryan Babel, and it is clear to see which player is showing more promise at this stage.
Babel cost more than £11 million, seven times as much as Ngog, when he arrived at Anfield from Ajax in 2007, and the early signs were highly promising. Moving with a fluidity which reminded Kopites of John Barnes or Thierry Henry, the Dutchman netted ten goals in his debut season at the club, and looked set to push on and establish himself as first choice.
That he has not is a damning indictment, at a time when quality attacking players at the club are apparently in such short supply. Torres is undoubtedly the top dog at Anfield, but there is an undoubted chance for someone like Babel to nail down a regular place. A chance, it appears, he is unable, or unwilling, to grasp.
On Wednesday night, he flitted around halfheartedly, offering only a partial threat as Liverpool were second-best for large spells. One nod down for Emiliano Insua’s goal, and a skimming 30-yard free kick that Lukasz Fabianski fielded well was the sum total of his night’s work. A night that was capped with a poor miss, as he failed to connect with Dirk Kuyt’s low cross late on.
Babel’s apologists point to the fact that he is yet to fully earn the faith of Benitez, and that he has never received a prolonged run in the first team. There may be an element of truth in this. Babel has already been named as a substitute 55 times in his short Anfield career, and has been substituted on countless other occasions. But when confronted with statistics such as those, is it not logical to wonder why?
The answer, it seems, is a case of attitude. Ngog may not be the darling of the Kop, though his strike against Manchester United last weekend will help, but his performances always display plenty of hard-work, a willingness to learn and improve, and a team-first attitude. Supporters respond to such traits, and the Frenchman is currently reaping the rewards.
For Babel, who has made plenty of noise in the past about needing to leave in order to secure first-team football, the long-term prognosis is less promising. It is clear that the talent is there, but Benitez could be forgiven for doubting if this Liverpool side are able to unlock it on a regular basis. The January transfer window may represent Liverpool’s best chance to pick up a sizable fee for Babel, who will be 23 by the time Christmas comes.
Obviously things can change. Babel’s pace and shooting power means he will always appeal as an alternative option from the bench, but at this moment in time, it makes more sense to back the Frenchman than it does to go Dutch.
Obuah Lauds Nwabali Over Chieftaincy Title
The proprietor of Go Round FC , Bro. Felix Obuah cups he was on cloud nine seeing his former ward, Super Eagles’ first choice goalkeeper at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 in Cote d’Ivoire, Stanley Bobo Nwabali, being conferred with a chieftaincy title at his Egbema Kingdom home in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers State .
The 27-year-old Chippa United goalie was led to the ceremony on Sunday by Bro. Obuah as he first paid a courtesy call to the ONELGA council headquarters where the Chairman, at the Nzeobi’s palace in Aggah-Egbema, HRM Eze Everestus Amuda conferred the chieftaincy title ‘Ugo Egbema 1 of Egbema Land’ which means the Pride of Egbema on the Chippa United goalkeeper.
Amuda eulogised Nwabali for his performance especially his penalty saving heroics which he noted, engraved him in the hearts of many Nigerians both home and abroad.
Sir Vincent Job announced a cash gift of N5 million in addition to a street being named after .
At the Nzeobi’s palace in Aggah-Egbema, HRM Eze Everestus Amuda conferred the chieftaincy title ‘Ugo Egbema 1 of Egbema Land’ which means the Pride of Egbema on the Chippa United goalkeeper.
Amuda eulogised Nwabali for his performance especially his penalty saving heroics “This is the dream of every father, that his son or daughter makes it to the top. When we started, I had the dream that one day if they put in their best, they will reach the zenith of their careers,” Bro Obuah said.which he noted , engraved him in the hearts of many Nigerians both home and abroad.
A grand reception was later held in Nwabali’s honour at the Community Primary School, Okwuzi where top dignitaries including Sir Job, Chief Whip of the Rivers State House of Assembly and member Representing ONELGA Constituency I, Hon Franklin Nwabochi as well as member representing ONELGA Constituency II, Hon Dcns Nkemjika Ezekwe showered encomiums on the Super Eagles shot stopper.
Rivers Hoopers Coach Sure To Make Statement
Rivers Hoopers head coach Ogoh Odaudu says his team will face a huge task after Thursday’s 2024 Basketball Africa League draw.
Hoopers were drawn against former champions US Monastir, APR of Rwanda, and Senegal’s AS Douanes in the Sahara Conference.
Top two teams will advance to the BAL playoffs scheduled to take place in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 24 to the first of June.
There will also be a slot for two best third-placed teams from across the three conferences (Kalahari, Nile, and Sahara).
“The group is obviously a very tough one, Odaudu said.”
‘’Former champions US Monastir, APR who defeated the Rwandan team (REG), who were at the BAL last year; they are a very tough team too. Of course, last year’s finalist, AS Douanes, is in that group, so we have been placed in the group of death.
While the other two conferences will hold in March and April, the Nigeria Premier League Champions won’t play until May 4.
Odaudu added, ‘’Notwithstanding, we have enough time to prepare and be there. We will overcome once the jump ball comes.’’
Since the inaugural edition in 2021, Rivers Hoopers and Kwara Falcons are the only Nigerian teams who have played in the BAL, and neither have gone past the group stage.
The former Nigeria international wants his team to be the first Nigerian team to make it to the playoffs of the Basketball Africa League.
“First and foremost, getting out of the group is our target for this year’s BAL. We are tired of just going to participate and coming back home after the first round.
“For us this season, we want to ensure we get to Kigali and be in the playoffs. Whatever happens from there on is a bonus.
SWAN Gets New Leaders In Rivers
The Rivers State Chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) has elected a new leadership.
On Monday, February 19, Peter Abaje of DAAR Communication was voted Chairman alongside other executive members: Vice Chairman – Deinma Abaku; Secretary, Ekpor Temple; Financial Secretary, Bath Ndubuwa, and Eyo Kelvin, Welfare Officer, who will pilot the administrative activities of the association for three years.
While other officers were elected unopposed, Mr. Abaje beat the out gone Chairman, Ms Sarah Atonye David by 10 votes to five to emerge.
The election was held under the supervision of Mr. Gabriel Nwanetanya National Ex Officio, who represented the Zonal Vice President, Azuka Chiemeka.
Inaugurating the newly elected officials, Mr. Gabriel Nwanetanya described the electoral process as peaceful and orderly and charged the Executive members to live above board by re-positioning the association in the state as no excuses would be given for non-performance.
He encouraged them to be creative and look inward to discover and showcase the abundant sports talents existing in Rivers State and also appealed to them not to apply personal interest to move the association forward.
In his inaugural speech shortly after the election, Peter Abaje, the newly elected Chairman of SWAN in Rivers State, said that the conclusion of this election signaled a new dawn in the state chapter of the association and vowed to lift the association to greater heights.
The Chairman also promised to carry every member along in the scheme of things as well as operate an open-door policy.
“The new leadership under my watch would collaborate with the private institutions and Rivers State Government to promote and develop community sports as well as encourage the education of members in areas of sports journalism, he assured.
Members of the association who voted and witnessed the election process, applauded the SWANECO for delivering a hitch-free, fair and transparent election.
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