Showing posts with label Soccer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soccer. Show all posts

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Video - Nigeria’s Lookman the hero as Atalanta stun Leverkusen

Ademola Lookman scored a stunning hat-trick as Atalanta beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the Europa League final to win just the second major trophy in their 117-year history and end the German champions’ remarkable unbeaten streak.

Lookman, who struggled to establish himself in the English Premier League with Everton, Fulham and Leicester City before reviving his career in Italy under Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini, struck twice inside the first 26 minutes before sealing the win 15 minutes from full-time on Wednesday night.

The victory ended Gasperini’s own two-decade-long pursuit of major silverware as his side totally outplayed Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen – or ‘Neverlusen’ as they had been dubbed after going an incredible 51 games unbeaten.

But just as they did against Premier League heavyweights Liverpool and three-time finalists Olympique de Marseille in the previous two rounds, Atalanta didn’t give their opponents a sniff and marked their first European final with a famous victory.

“We needed to be attacking. It was not enough just to defend. We know these teams are great at attacking. Everyone was extraordinary,” Gasperini told Sky Sports Italia, referring to the teams his side beat to become the first Italian winners of the competition since Parma 25 years ago.

“The way we did it was the most important thing. We deserved it without a shadow of a doubt against such a strong team. Winning the Europa League is an extraordinary achievement.”

Leverkusen started the game looking decidedly unsure of themselves and some uncharacteristically sloppy play handed the first chance of the game to Gianluca Scamacca, who didn’t get enough on his header from a fine Matteo Ruggeri cross.

It was an early warning shot, and the purposeful Italians struck within minutes when Davide Zappacosta was allowed far too much space down the right before Lookman beat a flatfooted Exequiel Palacios to the cutback to stroke home the opener.

Lookman was mobbed by his teammates and substitutes who were in dreamland 14 minutes later.

Another Leverkusen error gifted possession to the Nigerian forward, who skipped past one defender and curled a beautiful right-footed shot into the bottom-right corner from just outside the box.
‘One of the best nights of my life’

The stunned Germans showed brief flashes of how quickly they could turn it on in attack, but little came of it – and it was Charles De Ketelaere who came closest on the break as Atalanta did not show a shred of debut final nerves nor any effects from the absence of injured captain Marten de Roon.

Leverkusen swapped defender Josip Stanisic for top scorer Victor Boniface at halftime, but it changed little as both sets of travelling fans continued to create the kind of Aviva Stadium noise matched only by some of the Irish rugby teams’ famous wins or memorable international football nights of years gone by.

Leverkusen had only failed to score once during the run that featured 42 wins in all competitions and 17 goals scored in or after the 90th minute, but there was no such comeback on Wednesday against the resolute Atalanta backline.

“The normality is not to get defeated in the 52nd game. Normally it happens much earlier in the season. It’s been quite exceptional what we have achieved, and we have to be really proud,” Alonso told a news conference.

“We were missing many things for sure. It’s very demanding to play against Atalanta, a lot of dual situations, very physical … It happens, it’s football, today wasn’t our day. They were better.”

Lookman, who completed his hat-trick with another stunning strike into the top corner, this time with his left foot, became the sixth person to score three goals in a major European final and first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1975 UEFA Cup.

He was flung into the air by his teammates when the final whistle blew, and the Bergamo club ended the 61-year wait since their 1963 Italian Cup triumph.

“It’s one of the best nights of my life,” Lookman, who cradled the match ball as he collected his winners’ medal, told TNT Sports.

“It was an amazing performance from the team. We did it … We made history tonight.”

Al Jazeera

Related story: Nigeria appoint Finidi George to succeed Peseiro

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Nigeria appoint Finidi George to succeed Peseiro

Former international Finidi George has been announced as the new head coach of Nigeria, succeeding Jose Peseiro.

The 53-year-old was placed in interim charge of the Super Eagles after the departure of the Portuguese following Nigeria's defeat by Ivory Coast in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final in February.

George, also coach of club side Enyimba, oversaw two friendly matches last month, beating Ghana 2-1 before a 2-0 loss against Mali.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) confirmed his appointment on Monday after approving a recommendation from its technical and development committee.

Former Ajax and Real Betis winger George spent 20 months as an assistant to Peseiro and is expected to remain in charge of Enyimba, whom he led to the Nigerian title last year, until the end of the season.

George scored six goals in 62 international appearances for Nigeria and was part of the 'Golden Generation' which won the Nations Cup in 1994, the same year in which the Super Eagles appeared at the Fifa World Cup for the first time in the USA.

He will be expected to produce immediate results as Nigeria's next fixtures in June are two potentially crucial qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, which will also be held in North America.

The Super Eagles' campaign needs reviving after the three-time continental champions drew their first two games in Group C.

The NFF has labelled the home match against South Africa and the game against Benin on neutral ground as "must-win encounters".

George is thought to have beaten off competition from a host of contenders for one of the most high-profile roles in African football, including former Super Eagles team-mate Emmanuel Amuneke and Spaniard Domenec Torrent, a former analyst and coach for Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola

The NFF has not announced the length of his contract.


Success on the pitch and in the dugout

One of Nigeria's best wingers of all time, George had a glittering career at club and international level.

He won three league titles with Ajax, who he joined in 1993, and also lifted the Uefa Champions League, Uefa Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup with the Dutch giants in 1995.

Spells at Betis, where he was a runner-up in the Copa del Rey in 1997, Mallorca and in England with Ipswich Town followed.

But he also registered several achievements with the Super Eagles after scoring on his international debut against Burkina Faso in 1991.

George netted the goal which secured Nigeria's qualification for the 1994 World Cup, going on to set up his country's first ever goal at the finals against Bulgaria.

He was also part of the squad which featured at the 1998 tournament in France.

George helped Nigeria beat Zambia 2-1 to lift the Nations Cup trophy in 1994 and was part of the squads which finished as runners-up in 2000 and as bronze medallists in 1992 and 2002.

He took over at Nigeria's most successful club Enyimba in 2021, leading them to their first title in four years by winning the league two years later.

The NFF's decision to choose Finidi George is not much of a surprise, although Emmanuel Amuneke was a fan favourite and a leading candidate to replace Jose Peseiro.

The recent friendlies against West African rivals Ghana and Mali were an audition which the new coach passed despite mixed results and George must now meet some high demands.

First up are 2026 World Cup qualifiers which take on even more importance after the Super Eagles missed out on the last edition of the finals in Qatar.

George will be tasked with putting together a team capable of delivering a fourth Nations Cup title, improving on the second place finish in Ivory Coast this year.

As an exciting winger in his playing days, he is expected to bring a new style of play - utilising and effectively managing the talented squad at his disposal as well as nurturing players in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

George will continue to combine his roles as coach of the national team and defending NPFL champions Enyimba, who sit second in the table with six games remaining.

Meanwhile, the fact the NFF has overlooked Amuneke again will spark debate among fans of the Super Eagles

The 1994 African player of the year masterminded Nigeria's Under-17 World Cup triumph in 2015 with players like Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze, who are now an integral part of the senior squad.

The former Barcelona forward also led Tanzania to qualification for the 2019 Nations Cup.


Related story: Portuguese Peseiro quits as Nigeria coach

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Gabriel Osho of Luton Town called up for Nigeria Super Eagles

Luton Town's Gabriel Osho was handed his first international call up by Nigeria, along with Benjamin Ihefu of Tanzanian club Ihefu SC, for two friendlies against Ghana and Mali later this month.

Osho, 25, was born in England to Nigerian parents and is among 27 players called up by Nigeria for the tune up games, which will be played in Morocco.

But the Premier League defender could be doubtful for the games after being taken off late with a knee injury in the Hatters' 1-1 Premier League draw against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Returning to the squad, which is largely populated by returnees from the Africa Cup of Nations, is midfield general Wilfred Ndidi, who missed the tournament with injury.

The Leicester star leads a bunch of other returnees, including defenders Jamilu Collins and Tyronne Ebuehi, midfielder Tom Dele-Bashiru, as well as forwards Nathan Tella, Cyriel Dessers of Glasgow Rangers, and Nottingham Forest's Taiwo Awoniyi.

But there was no place for skipper Ahmed Musa, who recently parted ways with his Turkish club. Vice-captain WIlliam Troost-Ekong is also missing with a season-ending injury that he picked up during the tournament.

Nigeria are currently without a coach, after Jose Peseiro's contract lapsed at the end of February. The Portuguese and the NFF could not come to an agreement on a new contract and the federation have since begun the search for a new coach.

It is expected that Technical Director Augustin Eguavoen will lead the team to Morocco while the NFF continue their search for a permanent coach to replace Peseiro.

Nigeria take on arch rivals Ghana on March 22 at the Grand Stade de Marrakech in the first of the double-header friendly. Both teams last met in March 2022 in a two-legged play-off for a place at that year's FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar, with the Black Stars edging the fixture on the away-goal rule after a 1-1 aggregate.

Four days later, they play Mali at the same venue. Both sides last clashed in a friendly match in Rouen, France in the summer of 2016. The encounter ended scoreless. Three years earlier, Mali's Eagles lost 1-4 to the Super Eagles in the semifinal of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, who went on to win the title in Johannesburg.

By Colin Udoh, ESPN

Friday, March 1, 2024

Portuguese Peseiro quits as Nigeria coach

The 63-year-old Portuguese coach met the target of guiding the Super Eagles to the semifinal of the tournament set for him by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), but opted to move on.

Peseiro said it was a great privilege to work with Nigeria and he and his staff will miss both the officials and players they have worked with over the past two years.

"It has been 22 months of immense dedication, sacrifice, emotion, and enormous enthusiasm. We feel a sense of fulfillment," Peseiro posted on X, formerly Twitter, after his contract with the NFF ran out Thursday.

"Guys, we are thankful; it has been a privilege to be part of this family.

"We will miss you, but we will always be there for you, no matter where you are. A big hug to all of you."

Peseiro was appointed Nigeria coach in May 2022 amid concerns he would not make a success of the job going by his past record.

He helped the country qualify for the delayed 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, which was staged in Ivory Coast last month, when the Super Eagles went all the way to the championship game.

His critics knocked his defensive tactics even though the team reached the final against most expectations.

His extended contract covered only the Africa Cup of Nations after which officials said he was offered a new deal with the same monthly salary of $50,000, which he earned when he took a pay cut last year to keep his post.

Widely travelled Peseiro has said he has received several offers after Nigeria were beaten in the final by hosts Ivory Coast.

His departure will signal what could possibly be a long-drawn search for a replacement with growing calls for the often cash-strapped NFF to hire a local coach, who they can afford, in his place.

Peseiro, a former Real Madrid assistant coach, previously managed Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and clubs including Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto, Panathinaikos, Rapid Bucharest, Al-Hilal, Al-Wahda, Al-Ahly Cairo and Sharjah FC.


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Argentina Vs. Nigeria Friendly Match Cancelled

Next month’s international friendly match between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and world champions Argentina has been called off.

No official statement has been made by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) over the cancellation of the high-profile friendly game slated for March 26, 2024, in Los Angeles, USA.

According to BBC Sport reporter, Oluwashina Okeleji, the cancellation was a result of the short time to process visas for the Nigerian delegation.

Okeleji stated that the US organisers of the game have already drafted in Costa Rica as replacement for the Eagles.

The friendly game between the Eagles and Argentina was initially scheduled to hold in China but was cancelled.

The game was cancelled after Lionel Messi failed to appear in a friendly game between Inter Miami and an Hong Kong Selected XI.

He received a lot of backlash from fans who had to be refunded by the organisers of the game.

The former Barcelona captain explained that he sustained an injury, hence his absence from the game.


Related stories: Argentina to play Nigeria in the US, replacing China tour


Friday, February 23, 2024

Argentina to play Nigeria in the US, replacing China tour

 Argentina scheduled exhibitions against El Salvador and Nigeria in the United States next month as part of Copa America preparations, replacing a China tour canceled after Lionel Messi didn't play at Inter Miami's preseason game in Hong Kong.

Argentina will play El Salvador on March 22 at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Field and Nigeria four days later at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Argentina Football Association said Thursday.

Messi, Argentina's captain, is likely to be with the World Cup champions and miss Miami's Major League Soccer match at the New York Red Bulls on March 23.

World Cup champion Argentina had been scheduled to play Nigeria at Hangzhou and Ivory Coast at Beijing during a tour of China from March 18-26.

Messi said before Miami's friendly against a local all-star team in Hong Kong on Feb. 4 that he was suffering from a groin injury, and his absence sparked spectator anger. He played three days later in Tokyo in an exhibition against Vissel Kobe.

Argentina, the defending world and South American champion, opens the Copa América against Canada or Trinidad and Tobago on June 20 at Atlanta, then plays Chile five days later at East Rutherford, New Jersey, and Peru on June 29 at Miami Gardens, Florida.


Relates story: Chinese sports authorities cancel Argentina vs Nigeria friendly


Monday, February 19, 2024

Video - Super Eagles players receive state honors in Nigeria

Nigeria's Super Eagles returned home to a heroic welcome earlier this week, despite losing last Sunday's AFCON final to hosts Cote d'Ivoire. Though low-spirited for not bringing home the trophy, the Super Eagles stars were encouraged by being awarded one of the highest national honors by the state.


Related stories: Nigerian star Iwobi faces cyberbullying after AFCON loss to Ivory Coast

Video - Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: AFCON Final Highlights



Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Nigerian star Iwobi faces cyberbullying after AFCON loss to Ivory Coast

In the aftermath of Nigeria’s defeat on Sunday at the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria midfielder Alexander Iwobi archived all of the posts on his Instagram account, leaving the page blank.

The action was in response to a barrage of hate speech on his social media accounts, as disappointed Nigeria supporters sought an outlet for outrage following the Super Eagles’ 1-2 loss to hosts Ivory Coast in Sunday’s final.

The Fulham midfielder started six of seven matches in the tournament and was instrumental to Nigeria’s unexpected run to the final despite playing a more withdrawn role than is natural to him.

He was similarly targeted online following his sending-off in the defeat to Tunisia that caused Nigeria’s round-of-16 exit in the 2021 edition of the tournament. Then, as now, he was forced to archive his social media posts; this time, however, there are reports that he may be set to retire from international football.

‘Let love lead’

Iwobi, who has won more than 70 caps for Nigeria since making his debut in 2015, is a nephew to legendary Nigeria midfielder Augustine “Jay-Jay” Okocha, widely regarded as one of the best dribblers in world football.

Throughout his career, 27-year-old Iwobi has been burdened by comparisons to his uncle, who won the AFCON in 1994, with many expecting similar flamboyant performances as the former Paris Saint-Germain and Bolton maestro.

While those are big shoes to fill, Iwobi has surpassed Okocha’s international appearances and enjoyed a solid career in the Premier League.

His versatility has also seen him play different roles, including at AFCON where, according to the player himself, he was tasked with safe circulation and helping the team keep its discipline without the ball. “I am meant to manage and work for the team,” he explained on the eve of Nigeria’s quarterfinal victory over Angola. “The role me and [midfield partner] Frank [Onyeka] have been told to do is to manage the game as best we can, but first and foremost to defend as a team.

“We have creative players upfront whether it is Samuel Chukwueze, Ademola Lookman and Moses Simon; there’s a lot of creativity in there,” he said. “I’m just trying to do my job for the team, and if there’s anything to help the team win, it’s what I’m prepared to do.”

Despite his explanation, he has been the subject of renewed abuse, ranging from criticism of a perceived lack of creativity and risk-taking to disrespectful, hateful comments about the legitimacy of his familial link to Okocha.

This even though Nigeria’s progress to the final was unexpected, with the likes of 2021 champions Senegal and 2022 World Cup semifinalists Morocco touted as favourites until they bowed out early.

In November, the Super Eagles began their qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup with consecutive draws against Lesotho and Zimbabwe, not only imperilling their chances of qualification but casting doubt over their AFCON prospects and the competence of Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro.

Still, Nigeria went through the group stage unbeaten, scored in every match and conceded only one goal from open play leading up to the final on Sunday. The backlash following the defeat on Sunday has, however, centred upon the standard of the Super Eagles’ performance, which many deemed lethargic. Iwobi, who was substituted in the 79th minute with the score tied at 1-1, has become something of a lightning rod for fan ire.

The hate has been so vehement that members of the Nigeria squad have taken to social media to post messages condemning it and supporting Iwobi.

Midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, who missed the tournament due to injury, posted on Instagram, saying, “It’s very sad the way we troll. The difference between our jobs is that our mistakes are televised; we all make mistakes but only few people see your bad days at work.”

“Some troll for vibes, social media engagements, increase of followers and so on, not even minding the mental state of the victim,” he said. “But when something happens to the victim, we come back to social media to ask hypocritically why the victim didn’t speak up. Let love lead.”

Team captain Ahmed Musa posted on X that “cyberbullying is not only a violation of decency but a huge crime” and called for a show of “genuine love and support to our players”. Striker Victor Osimhen told Al Jazeera that “this unnecessary aggressive behaviour is unacceptable”. “We all fought for the colours of our country, win or lose we are together,” he said.

Okocha, who has often denounced the unfair criticism directed towards his nephew, had this to say to the online trolls and abusers: “I pray for my country Nigeria and the people that can only hate and see nothing good in others; when effort counts for nothing. Treat people the way you want them to treat you, all we have in this life is each other.”

While there has been no official confirmation of the reports of Iwobi quitting the national team, there are concerns that the cycle of abuse could affect Nigeria’s chances when it comes to courting the interest of players in the diaspora.

Over the last decade, more foreign-born players have been integrated into the team; five of the starting 11 in Sunday’s game, including Iwobi, were born overseas.

Following the team’s AFCON elimination in 2021, goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, who was born in Germany, was inundated with so much hatred online – including threats to his life and family – that he not only deactivated his social media accounts but has excused himself from international selection ever since.

Al Jazeera

Related story: Video - Nigeria vs Ivory Coast: AFCON Final Highlights

Monday, February 12, 2024

Friday, February 9, 2024

Chinese sports authorities cancel Argentina vs Nigeria friendly

Chinese sporting authorities have cancelled next month's friendly international between Argentina and Nigeria amid a growing backlash against Lionel Messi's failure to play in an Inter Miami match in Hong Kong last week.

Argentina were scheduled to play Nigeria in the Chinese city of Hangzhou next month before facing the Ivory Coast in Beijing, but Messi's failure to take the field for Inter Miami in Hong Kong on Sunday caused widespread anger among fans.

The organiser of the Hong Kong match said they would give fans a 50% refund for tickets after the Argentine did not take the field during their 4-1 win against Hong Kong All-Stars due to injury, but played in Japan days later.

The backlash grew on Friday, with Hangzhou sports authorities saying that Argentina's friendly against Nigeria would no longer take place.

'As a commercial event, a company and the Argentinian soccer team negotiated that the team would play a friendly match in March this year in the city of Hangzhou,' the Hangzhou authorities said in a statement.

Messi and his team-mates had touched down in Hong Kong last Friday after being thumped 6-0 by Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr in Riyadh the day before. The Portuguese superstar did not make an appearance, while Messi came on in the 83rd minute.

Reports claimed that the Argentina World Cup winner had been carrying a hamstring injury upon the team's arrival. But according to Hong Kong's sports minister, Messi had been contracted to play for at least 45 minutes.

Two days later, Inter Miami defeated Hong Kong All-Stars 4-1 at the Hong Kong stadium, but the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner, despite being named on the bench, was not brought on by manager Gerardo Martino, angering fans inside the ground.

The MLS side's owner, David Beckham, had greeted the crowd after the game to thank them for an 'incredible welcome', but he was met by boos from the 40,000 fans inside the stadium, with some having paid around £365 (USD$460) to catch a glimpse of Messi.

Reports initially claimed that fans would not be reimbursed should Messi not feature during the game, with the 36-year-old having been utilised heavily in the pre-match advertising. One fan had even flown from Melbourne to watch the superstar play.

Some even took their anger out on advertising hoardings around the stadium, with a video on X (formerly Twitter) showing one fan kicking a cardboard stand of Messi and several of his team-mates, taking the Argentine's head off.

The Hong Kong government were equally furious about the situation, releasing a statement claiming that it could withdraw £1.6million (USD$2m) of funding to the organisers that helped bring Inter Miami to the city.

'Regarding Messi not playing the match day, the Government, as well as all football fans, are extremely disappointed about the organiser's arrangement,' the statement read.

'The organiser owes all football fans an explanation. The Major Sports Events Committee will take follow-up action with the organiser according to the terms and conditions, which includes reducing the amount of funding as a result of Messi not playing the match.'

Miami's coach, Martino, stated that the club's medical team had taken the decision not to field Messi during the game.

'We understand the disappointment of the fans for the absence of Leo (Messi),' he told reporters.

'We understand a lot of fans are very disappointed and we ask for their forgiveness.

'We wish we could have sent Leo on for at least a while but the risk was too big.'

Messi had also stated that he was 'a little tired' and 'wanted to return home' while revealing he could not feature during the game because his injury had left him in 'some discomfort'.

'In Hong Kong, we had an open-door training session and I went out because there was such a big crowd there and there was a clinic with the kids, and I wanted to be there and participate.

'But the truth is that the discomfort was still there and it was very difficult for me to play.

'I can understand that people were looking forward to it and I hope that there will be another opportunity for me to play in Hong Kong.'

Miami subsequently travelled to Japan to take on Vissel Kobe on Wednesday, with Messi coming on in the 60th minute to see his side lose 1-0 on penalties. The Argentine was also seen laughing after his team-mate Robert Taylor was denied from the penalty spot twice during the pre-season match.

He had also apologised to fans on Weibo, a platform similar to X, ahead of their match against Kobe.

He wrote: 'Anyone who knows me knows that I always want to play... especially in these games where we travel so far and people are excited to see our games,' he wrote in Chinese and Spanish.

'Hopefully we can come back and play a game in Hong Kong.

Despite that, China's state-controlled Global Times subsequently launched a fresh attack on Messi claiming his absence posed questions on the differential treatment for Hong Kong. They accused the Argentine striker of 'political motives' with the aim of 'embarrassing' Hong Kong after playing for Inter in Japan.

'The match in Hong Kong became the only one in Messi's six pre-season friendly matches on this trip where he was absent. The situation ... has magnified these doubts and suspicions on the integrity of Inter Miami and Messi himself.'

Meanwhile, one of the games' organisers, Tatler Asia, claimed they were left 'heartbroken' and accused Messi and Inter Miami of a 'lack of respect'.

'An event that we had hoped to be the pride of the city, and which we have worked very hard on for months, has become the source of great heartbreak,' the Tatler Asia said.

'We put our blood and sweat into bringing a world-class football match to Hong Kong and we were let down along with all of you.

'Inter Miami had committed under contract that all of their marquee players — Messi, Alba, Busquets and Suarez — would be required to play for 45 minutes unless injured. But as it turned out, we were informed that Messi and Suarez could not play due to injury.

'Injuries are part of the game. But what upsets us was the seeming lack of respect shown to the crowd.

'When we learned that Messi would not be playing, we pleaded with Inter Miami CF ownership and management to urge him to stand up, engage with the spectators and explain why he couldn't play.

'He didn't. The fact that Messi and Suarez played in Japan on February 7th feels like another slap in the face.

'Our aspiration was to create an iconic moment in support of the government's efforts to remind the world how relevant and exciting Hong Kong is. That dream is broken today for us and all those who bought tickets to see Messi on the pitch.' 

Ed Carruthers, Mail Online

Related stories: Nigerian kills friend over Messi v Ronaldo argument

Nigerian coach Stephen Keshi says "Messi is from Jupiter" after Super Eagles 3-2 defeat by Argentina in 2014 FIFA World Cup

Nigerians taunt South Africans with Tyla's song Water after Afcon victory

A video of Nigerians celebrating their football team's victory over South Africa in the Africa Cup of Nations has gone viral on social media.

In the clip, the Super Eagles fans taunt their rivals by pouring liquid over their bodies while singing the hit Water by South African singer Tyla.

On Sunday, she won Best African Music Performance at the Grammys, beating several Nigerian superstars.

Disappointed Nigerians responded by vowing revenge at the Afcon semi-final.

Nigeria beat South Africa on penalties after the match added 1-1 on Wednesday night, sparking scenes of jubilation around the country.

There is a long history of rivalry between Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, and South Africa, the continent's most advanced economy.

The viral Water clip - which is being widely shared on WhatsApp across Nigeria - was filmed at Ahmadu Bello University in the northern city of Zaria.

Hundreds of students gathered in the courtyard of their hall of residence to sing Water after the Super Eagles' victory.

Popular Nigerian pastor Jimmy Odukoya joined in the jesting by commending Bafana Bafana for their performance despite their defeat, but telling the South African players: "You need water."

He added: "If it's any consolation, it's Grammy water."

Some Nigerians have expanded the musical rivalry by saying that Afrobeats is superior to amapiano, the South African blend of hip-hop, soul and slowed-down house music that has also gained global popularity in recent years.

And the banter has also taken on a culinary dimension, with Nigerians saying their Jollof Rice is better than South Africa's Bobotie, a spicy mince-meat dish.

Nigeria will face hosts Ivory Coast in the final on Sunday.

Most South Africans are likely to back the Ivorians.

By Mansur Abubakar, BBC

Related story: Video - Nigeria vs South Africa | AFCON 2023 HIGHLIGHTS

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Osimhen declared fit for AFCON semi-final

"Victor Osimhen has been declared fit and available for selection in the semi-final clash against South Africa on Wednesday. He has joined the team in Bouake and has trained with the squad today," a team spokesperson told AFP on Tuesday.

The Napoli striker's presence had initially appeared to be in doubt after he did not fly to Bouake from Abidjan on Monday with the rest of the squad due to abdominal discomfort.

The reigning African player of the year also missed training on Monday, having been substituted late in Nigeria's quarter-final win over Angola at the weekend.

Coach Jose Peseiro had been evasive as to Osimhen's chances of facing South Africa when asked at a press conference earlier on Tuesday.

"I cannot answer right now because it's a health problem. This afternoon I will know better if he can play or not," he said.

The 25-year-old has been outstanding for the Super Eagles at the tournament despite only scoring one goal, in their opening 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea.


Related story: Video - Nigeria vs Angola | AFCON 2023 HIGHLIGHTS


Sunday, February 4, 2024

Video - Nigeria vs Angola | AFCON 2023 HIGHLIGHTS

Nigeria secured a narrow victory over the Angola national team (1-0) in a Quarterfinal match of AFCON 2023. 

beIN Sports

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Monday, January 22, 2024

Video - Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria - AFCON 2023 HIGHLIGHTS

Nigeria won 1-0 against Guinea-Bissau to secure their spot in the Round of 16 as the second team in Group A.


Friday, January 19, 2024

Video - Ivory Coast vs Nigeria AFCON 2023 Highlights

After a foul against Victor Osimhen inside the box, Nigeria defeated Hosts Ivory Coast to qualifiy to the Round of 16!


Monday, January 15, 2024

Video - Nigeria vs Equatorial Guinea Highlights | AFCON 2023

Nigeria kicks off its journey in AFCON 2023 against a giant slayer like Equatorial Guinea.


Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Wilfred Ndidi out of Nigeria side for Cup of Nations

Midfielder Wilfred Ndidi has withdrawn from Nigeria’s squad for the Africa Cup of Nations through injury and been replaced by Belgian-based Alhassan Yusuf, the country's football federation said on Wednesday.

Ndidi, 27, was injured during his club Leicester City’s 2-0 win at Cardiff City on Dec. 29, although details of the injury were not made clear by either his club or Nigeria.

Leicester team mate Kelechi Iheanacho is also struggling with injury but was still being assessed at Nigeria’s training camp in Abu Dhabi, the federation added in a statement.

Iheanacho, also 27, had missed the last two matches for his club, who are runaway leaders in the Championship in England.

The 23-year-old Yusuf is uncapped but helped Royal Antwerp to the Belgian league title last season and competed in all their Champions League group matches between September and December.

Nigeria open their Cup of Nations campaign on Jan. 14 with a Group A game against Equatorial Guinea. They also meet hosts Ivory Coast and Guinea Bissau in their group matches.

By Mark Gleeson, Reuters

Friday, December 15, 2023

Mikel John Obi recalls his dad’s harrowing kidnappings

Mikel John Obi vividly remembers the moment he was told his father, Pa Michael Obi, had been kidnapped for a second time.

Kidnappings for ransom targeting wealthy family members has become common in Africa’s most populous country and is seen by some criminal gangs as a lucrative endeavour.

The Nigeria and Chelsea soccer player told CNN Sport that he heard the news just two hours before he was set to play a World Cup game against Lionel Messi and Argentina at Russia 2018.

“Just like everybody else, I was excited going into one of the biggest games of my life, playing against [Lionel] Messi and Argentina,” Obi told CNN Senior Sports Analyst Darren Lewis in a recent interview.

“I was in my room getting ready, and all of a sudden, my phone started ringing and it was my brother calling … to say that dad has been kidnapped. I was like, ‘What, again?’”

Obi said it was “heart-breaking” to hear his father was undergoing such an ordeal for a second time in his life.

As Obi tried to process the news, he said he began “shivering” even though it was hot summer’s day in St Petersburg.

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘What am I going to do? Shall I tell the team? Shall I tell the players, tell the manager, tell the [Nigerian] FA?’” said Obi.

“‘What shall I do?’ Because this is the biggest game of our lives. So, I thought to myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to go out there and perform. I don’t want to let these guys [the kidnappers] win.’

“I am the captain. I’m the leader of this team and I have to go out there and be strong for the team and for the country. I decided not to tell anyone,” added Obi.

Despite pushing the Albiceleste to the limit, with a Marcos Rojo 86th-minute goal making the difference, Nigeria went on to lose 2-1 and Obi said that he felt like he “was going to fall down and probably collapse” during the game.

“I went out and performed. I remember in the game, a few times, I thought I was going to throw up. Emotions were running here and there.

“I didn’t know what I was thinking … about the game … about my dad … about my mom who was in tears … my family, my brothers, my sisters. Everybody was in tears.”

After the game, Obi says he told his teammates, the Nigerian Football Federation and the world’s media about the kidnapping, before negotiations began to get his father returned safely.

“I remember my dad saying to me, ‘They’ve got the gun on my head, son,’” said Obi.

“‘I’m an old man. I’m your dad, but you have to decide what you have to do.
It’s the second time it’s happened. I know you could pay a huge amount of money to get me out and to make sure that I come home safely.’

“Of course, I want my dad back. It doesn’t matter what. I want my dad to be home,” added Obi, who in 2018 said the kidnappers had demanded 10 million naira (around $30,000) to release his father.

Through the help of the Nigeria Police Force, Obi’s father was eventually rescued. The Nigeria Police Force did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for more details about the 2018 kidnapping.

The first time Obi’s father had been abducted was in 2011 in Jos, the main city in Plateau State in central Nigeria, when he was on his way back home after work.

“It was a massive shock for me, for the family,” recalled Obi of that first kidnapping.

“I think he was taken for about 10 days. And that’s when we tried to start making phone calls and they got in touch with us.

“Obviously, they wanted to speak with me, so I spoke with them. They made their demands. I spoke to the club [Chelsea]. I spoke to Roman [Abramovich],” added Obi, referring to the Russian oligarch and former Chelsea FC owner.

According to Obi, Abramovich told the Nigerian international he was willing to support him and said: “’If you need me to do anything, if you need me to send my people over to Nigeria to find your dad, I’d be willing to do that.

“You know, you have that option. But if you think you pay the money, then you do it. So I finally had to pay the money. And then my dad got released.”

As in 2018, Obi opted to continue playing despite receiving devastating news. He was scheduled to play in a Premier League match for Chelsea against Stoke City.

“I remember Andre Villas-Boas was the [Chelsea] manager back then,” recalled Obi.

“He [Villas-Boas] spoke to me and said, ‘Listen, you are a very important player for me. I would like you to play the game if you feel like you want to.
If not, I can understand if you don’t want to travel with the team if you don’t want to play.’

“I said: ‘I don’t want these people to win. I don’t want to show them that I’m weak. I have to go out and perform,’ which is what I did. I travel with the team. I went out and I played the game and then, yeah, so that was really, really tough.”

Obi made 372 appearances for Chelsea, winning the Premier League (twice), the FA Cup (four times), the League Cup (twice), and the Champions League and Europa League during his time at the club.

After the first kidnapping, Obi remembers being reunited with his dad who had been beaten up by the kidnappers and dumped in the street like “trash.”

Describing the moment they met, Obi said his father was “bruised, beaten up” and had his “lips broken, head swollen, he can’t walk, can’t move. It was a very heart-breaking moment for me and my family. We suffered a lot.”

CNN has also asked the Nigeria Police Force for more details about the 2011 kidnapping.

When Obi saw from afar what happened to the father of Liverpool star Luis Díaz’s father, who was abducted in October and eventually released by Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group in November, the former Chelsea star reached out to the Colombian international on social media to offer his support.

“I have to commend him and Liverpool. I always say, when you’re in these situations, you need people around you. You need people who care about you. And Liverpool showed that support,” said Obi.

“Liverpool did show him that support, the fans, the players showed him that he is not alone.

“And I’m happy to see that that’s what he got with Liverpool. And eventually his father finally got released.”

By Zayn Nabbi and Darren Lewis, CNN