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AFCON Qualifier: Nigeria’s Super Eagles Land In Freetown

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Nigeria’s delegation to Tuesday’s 2022 AFCON qualifying match against Sierra Leone arrived in Freetown on Monday afternoon aboard a chartered flight that flew the team from Benin City, and after a 30-minute ferry ride on the Atlantic from the International Airport in Lungi to the Sierra Leonean capital.

The chartered aircraft touched down at the airport in Lungi at 12:15pm local time, and players and officials were received by the Charge d’Affaires of the Nigeria High Commission, Mr. Sona Charles, the Consular, Mr. Paul Alabi and some members of the Sierra Leone Football Association.

There was a hiccup at the airport as Sierra Leonean immigration officials insisted that the Nigerian players and officials must undergo COVID-19 tests right at the airport, even after evidence was provided by the Nigeria team that all delegation members did the tests and all returned negative just hours before boarding their flight in Benin City.

Efforts by the top officials from the Nigeria High Commission and the Leader of Delegation, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau to make the Sierra Leonean immigration officials understand that the results obtained few hours earlier were sufficient for the delegation members to enter into Freetown, prosecute the match and return to Nigeria, failed to sway the officials. Further pleas to allow the players and officials leave the airport and for Sierra Leone to send medical officials to conduct the tests at the team hotel fell on deaf ears.

After the tests, the players and officials boarded the ferry and eventually arrived at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown just before 3pm local time (4pm in Nigeria).

Coach Gernot Rohr and his technical team led a total of 22 players and the backroom staff. The Eagles were due to have their official training at the Siaka Stevens Stadium (venue of Tuesday’s match) on Monday evening.

The delegation also included Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme (NFF Deputy General); Mr. Bola Oyeyode (Director of Competitions); Coach Augustine Eguavoen (Technical Director); Mr. Ademola Olajire (Director of Media and Communications); Mr. Nasiru Jibril (Chief Technical Officer); Mr. Emmanuel Ayanbunmi (Protocol Officer); Mr. Mohammed Ameenu (SA to General Secretary) and Mr. Ayo Olu-Ibidapo (Media Officer).

Tuesday’s match will kick off at 4pm local time (5pm Nigeria time).

The Confederation of African Football has appointed Guinean officials Tawel Camara Younoussa as Referee for the match, with his compatriots Sidiki Sidibe (Assistant Referee 1), Abdoulaye Sylla (Assistant Referee 2) and Bangaly Konate (Fourth Official) also on duty. The match commissioner is Silvestre Cantussan from Guinea Bissau.

SUPER EAGLES IN FREETOWN

Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Sebastian Osigwe (FC Lugano, Switzerland); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Defenders: Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Abdullahi Shehu (Omonia Nicosia, Cyprus); Chidozie Awaziem (FC Boavista, Portugal); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Fulham FC, England); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Kevin Akpoguma (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, Germany)

Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Galatasaray, Turkey); Tyronne Ebuehi (FC Twente, Netherlands); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa; Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Emmanuel Dennis Bonaventure (Club Brugge, Belgium); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia)

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Brexit: African Youngsters Seeking Premier League Moves Will Have To Wait

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African footballers hoping to move to the Premier League will be affected as new Brexit rules are to be effected from the 1st of January, 2021.

In new rules that are to help protect homegrown players in Britain following exit from the European Union (EU), players younger than 18 cannot make moves to British clubs. Also, no Premier League club is allowed to sign more than three players under the age of 21 in any transfer window.

All foreign players are subjected to a point-based threshold to be able to play in the UK, meaning players that don’t meet the expected points won’t be able to secure a transfer. Premier League clubs will also have to wait a little longer to secure foreign young talents.

EU members will have to secure a work permit before moving to the Premier League, as practised with Africans before.

While the rule is not targeted at African talents, it means good, young players from the continent hoping to make a switch to Premier League teams will wait for a longer time.

Foreign players moving to the Premier League will also have to secure a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) before making a switch. The GBE will operate like a work permit and it was designed by Premier League clubs to be able to access overseas talents. The system has been approved by the Home Office.

Like in the work permit system, foreign players will be graded by their international appearances and the FIFA ranking of their countries.

A player from a top 10 ranking country in the world, who has represented his nation in 50% of games in the last two years will be eligible for a GBE. For countries who are ranked lowly, the players must have played virtually all the matches played by their countries in the last two years.

How clubs perform in competitions will also be key to the points given to their players. A player with 15 points will be eligible to earn a GBE.

There will be exceptions in situations the overseas player being targeted is of the ‘highest quality’ when he’s not able to garner enough points to earn the GBE. The assessment committee will sit in such situations and assess the application. Players who earn 14 GBE points naturally qualify for assessment by the Exceptions committee.

What Does This Mean To African Players?

With a swathe of agreements coming up between Africa-based academies, club sides and Premier League teams, this implies players under the age of 18 from Africa cannot move to Premier League or EFL clubs.

It also means the Premier League clubs may not be able to easily sign players from lowly African football nations. Recall that Tanzanian national team captain, Mbwanna Samatta moved to Aston Villa last January. Under the new arrangement, the move will be very difficult to achieve as he will be on exception and must be of the highest quality, which will be a subjective assessment. Tanzania is not ranked amongst the top 100 teams in the world.

In the past, Premier League clubs have also signed African teenage youngsters with an example like Kelechi Iheanacho’s move to Man City at the age of 19.

With just three U21 foreign players allowed in every transfer window, African youngsters hoping to play in the Premier League will either start looking to other parts of Europe or be of exceptional quality to make enough GBE points.

Britain is expected to exit the EU by the 31st of December.

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In The Game | Tottenham vs Arsenal

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On In The Game, Kelechi Ayinkude and Tracy Chapele-Ugo joins NewsCentralTV’s Nnamdi Ekugbah and Olisa Chukwumah to look back at the Europa League games which featured some African players, and share their thoughts ahead of the big clash this weekend between Tottenham and Arsenal.

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Nigeria’s Chukwueze Fires Villarreal Past Sivasspor

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Matchday 5 of the Europa League came with its fireworks from Africans as they featured for their various teams across Europe.

Nigeria international, Samuel Chukwueze stole the show as Villareal ran out 1-0 victors over Turkish side, Sivasspor. Chukwueze scored the game’s only goal in the 75th minute.

Sivasspor came with a heavy presence of Africans in the 15 players registered for the game. Not less than 7 African internationals paraded for the Turkish Superliga team.

Malian goalkeeper, Mamadou Samassa was in goal for Sivasspor with his compatriot, Mustapha Yatabare featuring in the game. Gabonese defender, Aaron Appindang also started for the team. Ghana’s Isaac Cofie, Ivorian international Max-Alain Gradel and his compatriot and former international, Aruna Kone, and Chad’s Casimir Ninga completed the African collection for Sivasspor.

In Celtic’s 4-2 loss to AC Milan, Ivorian Franck Kessie and Algerian playmaker Ismael Bennacer featured for the Rossoneri. Celtic also had Ivorian, Ismaila Soro, and Cameroon’s Olivier Ntcham in the game.

Qarabag’s 1-1 draw against Maccabi Tel Aviv saw Ghanaian international, Owusu Kwabena in action for the Azerbaijani side.

Leicester lost 1-0 to Ukrainian Premier League side, Zorya Luhansk with Nigeria’s Wilfred Ndidi featuring after his lengthy injury spell. His compatriot, and teammate Kelechi Iheanacho played from start to finish for the Foxes.

Libya international, Ali Elmusrati played a key role in Sporting Braga’s 4-2 defeat of Greek side, AEK Athens.

In Slovan Liberec’s 2-1 win against Gent, Angola’s Nurio Fortuna featured for the Belgians as Guinean, Kamso Mara got one of Liberec’s two goals.

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