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Siasia Made Me Better Player – Super Eagles Invitee

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Kano Pillars midfielder, Solomon Okpako credits his progress from Under-20 reject to Super Eagles invitee to Samson Siasia, who axed him from the Flying Eagles team.

At the time, Okpako was acknowledged as one of the best holding midfielders in the domestic league, but was as shocked as league watchers when Siasia told him he was not good enough to make the squad to Egypt.

“I was surprised, but I was not disappointed because football has its ups and downs for every player and I felt that maybe it was not my time,” Okpako said in an interview.

“But when the coach dropped me, he told me the things I was doing wrong. Some of the things he said was that I was not going forward enough and I was not joining up quick enough with the rest of the team when we were attacking.

“So I went back to Kano Pillars and I told them what the coach said and what he asked me to do.”

Okpako, who will turn 20 in May, said the change was almost instant.

“The coaches there helped me to work on it and I started seeing the improvements.

“Before, I could only play as a defensive midfielder, but now, I can play as an attacking midfielder like I did in some games at the WAFU Cup, and I can also play as a support striker.

“Also, I never used to score goals, but I scored three goals at the WAFU Cup, and it is all because of what Siasia told me. I believe I am a better player because of him.”

That was not the first time Okpako would suffer rejection. Starting his league career with Bendel United in 2005, Okpako left them when the club were relegated that year. But he was turned away by city rivals Insurance when he attempted to join them for the following season.

With nowhere else to go, the midfielder spent a full season at home before packing his bags and heading up north to join Kano Pillars at the end of the 2006 season.

“I just didn’t know what to do or where to go after Insurance rejected me. But I always believed that God would make a way for me.”

Okpako was one of six players from the domestic league named by Lars Lagerback in his 44-man provisional World Cup squad, and he says it did not come to him as a surprise, after consistent performances with Pillars.

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Eagles May Play Home Games In Abuja

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Plans are underway to have the Super Eagles move their home games to Abuja after Dangote Group handed over the rehabilitated MoshoodAbiola National Stadium, Abuja to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
Contractors, Aron Nigeria Limited, handed over the rehabilitated stadium to the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Friday.
The rehabilitation work was carried out on the main bowl pitch and scoreboard.
Tidesports source reports that Dare had clamoured for the return of the Eagles to Abuja on several occasions, stating the need to have a permanent home stadium.
The Eagles last played at the Abuja stadium in 2012
“It is my wish that the Super Eagles and indeed the national teams of Nigeria, like elsewhere, have a permanent venue to play their matches rather than playing from one place to another,” Dare said last month while speaking to State House correspondents.
“There are great benefits for countries’ national teams to have a particular venue where the players understand very well. I believe very soon the Super Eagles will be playing their matches in Abuja or Lagos if the national stadium is fully ready too.”
In the last 10 years, the Eagles have played their home games at the GodswillAkpabio Stadium Uyo, Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin and AdokiyeAmiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt.
They, however, made a return to Lagos after 10 years and for the first time for a competitive match in 20 years when they played Lesotho in the 2022 World Cup qualifier at the TeslimBalogun Stadium on March 30.
They ended up playing their remaining World Cup qualifiers and the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Lagos.
While the Eagles were hoping to make the TeslimBalogun Stadium their new home, news emerged last week that the Confederation of African Football had banned the stadium from hosting matches.
In a letter dated October 17, which was sent to the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mohammed Sanusi,CAF said the stadium “lacks the CAF criteria and requirements in order to properly host international competitions”.
The letter signed by CAF Development Director Raul Chipenda said the stadium failed to implement the recommendations addressed to the NFF after the previous inspection.

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Court Bars Bash Ali From Defaming Minister

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Justice O.C. Agbaza of the High Court of the Federal  Capital Territory (FCT) has issued a restraining order, barring Bash Ali from further making or publishing any denigrating or defamatory material against the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare.
Tidesports source reports that the Minister had far back as June 25, 2021, approached the Federal High Court, Abuja division seeking a restraining order and charging Bash Ali with libel and defamation of character.
The lawyers to the minister from the Keyamo Chambers spent months unable to serve Bash and the judicial workers strike. Upon resumption and with the serial defamation by Bash Ali continuing, the lawyers approached the court. This time, the Keyamo team and Wole Olanipekun team as counsels secured the restraining order.
It would be recalled that sometime in April 2021, Bash Ali had in a letter, which he made available to the public, made several allegations against the Minister.
The Minister denied those allegations and to assert his innocence, the Minister filed Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1269/2021seeking injunctive reliefs and pecuniary damages from Bash Ali on account of the defamatory publication.
Despite the pendency of this suit, Bash Ali recently published a video on social media in which he repeated those false allegations against the Minister and also issued several threats against the Minister and the Ministry.

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Nigeria’s Saidu Elected As Commonwealth Handball Scribe

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Nigeria’s Jibril Saidu has been elected the new secretary of the Commonwealth Handball Association.
The election, which took place via zoom on Monday, saw Saidu emerging unopposed but still polled 100 percent of the available votes.
Saidu,a former player became the second Nigerian to be elected as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Handball Association succeeding General Ishola Williams who held the same position for almost three decades.
Also, Ruth Saunders, former President of South Africa Handball Federation defeated Steve Neilson of Scotland to become the first woman president of the Association.

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