Enyimba Goalkeeper, Theophilus Afelokhai has finally been given the opportunity to stake his claim to the Super Eagles number one shirt.
He is replacing the custodian of the position Francis Uzoho, who was injured at the weekend in a Spanish second division game.
Super Eagles’ Manager, Gernot Rohr disclosed yesterday that Afelokhai and the other two regular goalkeepers, Daniel Akpeyi and Ikechukwu Ezenwa would get equal opportunity to fight for the position ahead of the African Nations Cup qualifier against Bafana Bafana of South Africa and the international friendly with Uganda this month.
Nigeria will travel to Johannesburg to keep a date with the Bafana Bafana in the race to Cameroun 2019 and return to take on Uganda three days later in Asaba.
In the first encounter between the Super Eagles and South Africa in Uyo, the Bafana Bafana ran away with a 2-0 victory. But Rohr is boasting that his lads will get their pound of flesh in Johannesburg.
Speaking through Super Eagles Media Officer, Toyin Ibitoye, Rohr said he chose to replace the injured Uzoho with Afelokhai due to the Enyimba goalkeeper’s recent form, adding that he would give them equal opportunity to grab the number position.
The Franco-German said he is not worried by Uzoho’s absence because any of the keepers in camp is good enough to mount the sticks in Johannesburg.
Rohr also revealed that he has been working on getting his team ready for the game in South Africa, saying he is currently reviewing past videos of matches featuring the Bafana Bafana to have a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses.
He added that arrangement has been concluded to ensure the early arrival of the players in their new camp in Asaba, which will hold the international friendly against Uganda immediately after the African Nations Cup qualifier in Johannesburg.
“The three goalkeepers now have the opportunity to prove their worth in training to ascertain who gets the first team shirt. There is no automatic shirt for any of the goalkeepers invited for the game.
“Our camp will open on Monday in Asaba, Delta State and we are expected to depart Asaba on a chartered flight on Thursday or Friday for South Africa.
After the game in South Africa, the Super Eagles will return to the country for the international friendly against Uganda taking place in Asaba,” he said.
The Guardian learnt that one of the former regular goalkeepers in the team would be dropped after the matches if Afelokhai proved better than them.
This is because the coaches want to maintain only three goalkeepers in the team at every campaign.
AWCON 2018: Dennerby Out To Prove Doubters Wrong
The 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) kicks off in Ghana this weekend. Nigeria’s Super Falcons will be defending the AWCON title won two years ago in Cameroon, seeking to add another triumph to their past accolades.
The continent’s most successful national team almost by rote, they go into the tournament once again as massive favourites. This makes the continued lip service paid to them somewhat difficult to understand. Less than a fortnight ago, much to the chagrin of many in the industry, the team embarked on the final leg of preparation in Abidjan clad in casual mufti, looking very much like a rag-tag bunch hastily assembled at a moment’s notice.
It was a damning microcosm of the levity with which the nation’s women’s teams, and women’s football in general, is treated. Predictably, what followed was hand-wringing, apologies and a bizarre explanation centred on kits being stuck at customs.
While in Ivory Coast, the team proceeded to face the ASEC Mimosas’ under-16 Boys team. Undeniably the level of opposition the Nigeria Football Federation seems to believe the Falcons will have to contend with in Ghana. However, it all rankles on so many levels.
It seems, sometimes, the football authorities feel the need to put obstacles in the way of our own athletes. It is a weird, and unseemly way to foster resilience. Apologies are simply not good enough when nothing ever changes.
Besides, there is a feeling that this year’s edition might not be the foregone conclusion that it has always been.
The host country, Ghana will have the home support behind them and will draw confidence from their WAFU tournament victory earlier this year, even though that competition only permitted home-based players.
Cameroon and South Africa will also be competitive, but perhaps the biggest threat comes from Equatorial Guinea, who are the only other nation to have won this tournament previously. Though initially expelled after Kenya lodged a complaint about player eligibility, the two-time winners were re-admitted and will be precarious. They will compete out of Group B, same as the Falcons, and should both nations progress, it even sets up the prospect of a final rematch, a repeat of the riveting 2010 final which the Falcons won 4-2.
This implies that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Swedish manager Thomas Dennerby. He comes with some pedigree, having led Sweden to a third-place finish in the Women’s World Cup, but that was seven years ago. This job will be a far sterner examination of his abilities
He has the hardest job of anyone who has ever managed the Super Falcons. There is a suspicion that, with the outstanding record of success on the continent, just about anyone can coach the team to victory at an AWCON. As such, there will be a greater focus on the ‘How’ – his methods and the manner in which the team plays.
Like a curveball, the AWCON will serve as a FIFA Women’s World Cup eliminator, with the top three sides in Ghana earning a ticket to represent the continent next year in France. A quantum leap for Nigeria will also be expected on that front.
In terms of talent, Dennerby still has the finest assortment to choose from in the competition. If anything, he will face a bit of a headache when it comes to picking, especially in the forward positions where the likes of Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega will compete for positions. There is also the youngster Rasheedat Ajibade, highly rated and making her first appearance at an AWCON.
If Dennerby can bring them all together, it would go some way toward convincing his doubters, that his appointment has not simply been a waste of scarce resources. It would also give hope of better days to come.
SA Stadium Manager Worries That Nigerian Fans Will Outnumber Hosts
Despite the fact that the South African team will be hosts, reports have shown that Nigeria has a large presence in Johannesburg, and this has stirred up worry for Grobbelaar who acknowledged that their renowned love for football means they could throng the arena more than their hosts.
In their previous match against Seychelles, the South African team played in an almost empty stadium.
Grobbelaar has now admitted that the situation has led to awareness campaigns and offer of freebies, to ensure South Africans show the same zeal they give to matches between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.
He admitted; “We are worried by the low numbers. We are playing against one of the best teams on the continent and our biggest rivals.”
NBBF Men’s League To Hold As Scheduled
The Nigeria Basketball Federation has said the men’s league will hold as scheduled despite two clubs – Gombe Bulls and Kwara Falcons – dragging it to an Abuja high court over their rights to represent the country in the FIBA Africa Zone 3 club championship.
Gombe and Falcons were the two finalists of the 2018 Kwese Premier Basketball League, which was organised by the Tijjani Umar faction of the NBBF.
But the NBBF under the leadership of Musa Ahmadu-Kida recently said it would organise an abridged league from November 13 to 17 to determine the country’s representatives in the tournament, which holds from November 20 to 25 in Benin Republic.
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