2024 OLYMPIC PLAYOFFS
Signs that Nigerian football may not regain relevance soon manifests in the calibre of 16 foreign-based players Coach Salisu Yusuf called to camp yesterday ahead of Wednesday’s 2024 Olympics playoffs against Guinea.
In the list, none of the 16 players is from any of the top five leagues in Europe. They were mostly selected from leagues in backwaters of Europe hardly better than the Nigerian domestic topflight. Yet, the competition the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) invited them for its playoff is one the country won at Atlanta, USA, 27 years ago.
The few ones in the list that appear to merit their invitations include; Gift Emmanuel Orban, the KAA Gent of Belgium forward who scored the fastest-ever three minutes hat-trick in the UEFA Europa Conference League against Turkish Basaksehir on Thursday and the team’s captain, Success Makanjuola, whose two converted spot kicks against Tanzania earned the national U23 team passage to this final round. There are also midfielder Abiodun Ogunniyi and Bello Babatunde.
Sadly, in a country brimming with football talents from every nooks and crannies, Coach Yusuf also scandalously invited a player from the 9th tier of English club football to the Dream Team.
Omole Akinyinka Olaoluwakitan plays for 9th Division Athletic Newham while Abass Saidi is of FK Zaqatala in the Azerbaijani second division. There is also a player from fringe league in Moldova. Those from Spain and Sweden play for far lower leagues not reckoned with in the scheme of serious gaffers.
The Olympic Eagles are to trade tackles with their Guinean counterparts in a first leg encounter scheduled for the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja from 4pm on Wednesday, 22ndMarch, with the return set for the Complexe Sportif Prince Heritier Moulay Al Hassan from 7pmMorocco time on Tuesday, 28th March. Guinea does not have any venue approved in the country for international matches.
The winner on aggregate will qualify for the Africa U23 Cup of Nations scheduled for Morocco later this year, at which Africa’s flag bearers at next year’s Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Paris, France will emerge.
ALL THE INVITED PLAYERS:
Success Makanjuola (FK Liepaja, Latvia); Bello Babatunde (Future FC, Egypt); Isaiah Ejeh (Mjallby Alf, Sweden); Abiodun Ogunniyi (FK Auda, Latvia); Monsuru Opeyemi Abdullahi (FC Vizela, Portugal); Omole Akinyinka Olaoluwakitan (Athletic Newham, UK); Owen Tega Udoh (UD San Sebastian Reyes, Spain); Azeez Temitope Yusuf (Mjallby Alf, Sweden); Charles Uba (Lillestrom FC, Norway); Simon Omon (Clube Operation Desportivo, Portugal); Ihekuna Maximillian Ugochukwu (FC Sfintul Gheorghe Suruceni, Moldova); Chukwudi Goodluck Igbokwe (KAA Gent, Belgium); Abass Saidi (Zagalata FC, Azerbaijan); Ibrahim Buhari (IF Elfsborg, Sweden); Gift Emmanuel Orban (KAA Gent, Belgium); Samuel Amadi (Eramica Cleopatra, Egypt)