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.
Rangers Approve Three-Week Break For Players
The management of Rangers International FC, Enugu has approved a three-week break for players and coaches of the Flying Antelopes as the 2021/2022 season comes to an end, with August 28, 2022, as the date for the resumption of activities for the 2022/2023 season.
In a brief session with players, coaches, and backroom staff of the club, at the weekend, the Administrative Secretary, Barrister Ferdinand Emeka Ugwuarua, thanked the players and coaches for their efforts in the ended season though, he lamented the inability of the club to achieve its set targets.
Ugwuarua charged the players to be professional in conduct during the break so as to come back refreshed for the task ahead in the coming season, stressing, “We all understand that we could not achieve our set target for last season and we are desirous of achieving in the coming season, hence, I urge you to be professional in conduct during this break period so as to come back refreshed for the task ahead.”
Also speaking, the Technical Adviser of the side, Coach Abdul Maikaba praised the players and management for their determined display in the concluded season, stressing, “Even when our collective efforts did not result in achieving our set targets, I must thank you all for the cooperation shown and believe that we shall get it done in the coming season. I implore you all to display maturity as you take time off the game for the approved period and return stronger for us to strategize going into the new season.”
Recall that the Enugu landlords, Rangers International F.C ended the NPFL 2021/2022 season in the 5th spot amassing 56 points from 38 matches scoring 41 goals, and leaking in 30 goals, while they were eliminated from the Aiteo/Fed cup in the round of 32 by Oriental rivals, Heartland, 8-7 in a marathon of penalty-kicks after the regulation time, ended 1-1 inside Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia stadium, Benin-City.
Scrabble In The Jungle Championship Debuts August 26
A new level of organised scrabble tournament, tagged Scrabble In The Jungle Championship, will debut in the country on the 26th of this month.
The tournament, put together by Scrabble Las Vegas in conjunction with the Nigeria Scrabble Federation (NSF), will involve eight top-ranked players selected by NSF, as well as four wildcard nominees. They will compete over 36 round of games in a closed location over a three-day period.
According to the organisers, the 12 players will be kept in a boot camp, a controlled space where they will test their skills in the board game for three days without connecting with the outside world.
At the championship, the top players are expected to hunt for points on the boards using different strategies to outsmart their opponents.
The organisers added that fans and supporters would be given the chance to adopt any of the players, who they feel could win the title and the grand prize-money at the end of the show.
Speaking ahead of the championship, President of Scrabble Las Vegas, Musa Olasupo, who is the convener of the Scrabble in the Jungle series, said the desire to raise the stakes and make the sport more attractive and sustainable birthed the new variant of Scrabble in the Jungle Championship.
“The Scrabble In The Jungle Championship is a boot camp arrangement where we keep players under one roof to live, eat and drink scrabble for three days.
“Our focus is to encourage competitive scrabble that will reward excellence. This maiden edition will feature the top eight players, according to NSF July ratings, and four wildcards.
“Management of Vegas has discretionary powers on the four wildcards, but we hope to make the players of equal strength.
Fourth OPSH Peace Football Tourney Kicks Off In Jos
The fourth edition of the Operation Safe Haven Football Tournament, also known as Major General I.S Alli Peace and Unity Tournament, has kicked off at the Rwan Pam Township Stadium.
Initiated by The Special Task Force (STF) code-named Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), the opening ceremony of the competition was attended by dignitaries from within and outside Plateau State.
In his opening remarks, the General Officer Commanding Third Division Jos, who also doubles as the Commander, OPSH, Major General Ibrahim Ali, said the tournament was significant in the peace building process towards ensuring lasting peace in Plateau State and in all the local councils within OPSH Joint Operation Area.
General Ali noted that the core essence of the tournament was to use sports as a unifying tool to emphasise the benefits of peaceful co- existence, unity and teamwork.
Represented by the Deputy Commander, OPSH, DCP Mohammad Rabiu, the Commander described football as a universal sport that bonds people of diverse ethnic, cultural, political and religious affiliations together.
He promised to do everything possible to ensure successes recorded in the peace building efforts are not reversed, while urging the people to join hands and move away from behaviour that could subvert the collective growth of the people and enhance harmonious living.
Also speaking, the Chairman, House Committee on Navy and member representing Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam Federal Constituency, Yusuf Gagdi, applauded OPSH for improving the security situation of Plateau and other areas within its jurisdiction.
Gagdi maintained that the tournament would help to unite youths of diverse religious, cultural and political differences. He also pledged to continually support any initiative of OPSH designed to sustain peaceful co-existence in the state.
The climax of the event was the ceremonial football match between the 2021 champions, Barkin Ladi Boys and Zango Kataf Football Club.
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