Home » Headlines » Siasia Goes For First Trophy, As 2011 WAFU Cup Ends

Siasia Goes For First Trophy, As 2011 WAFU Cup Ends



With the ‘stubborn’ Ghana’s Black Stars now behind it, the Super Eagles Team B looks unstoppable for the 2011 WAFU Nations Cup title. Apart from Coach Samson Siasia hoping to write his name in gold as Nigeria’s coach at the senior level, the Aminu Maigari-led board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is looking forward to grab its second gold in two months, having won the African U-20 Championship in Johannesburg a few weeks ago. Aside that, GOWON AKPODONOR, who is in Abeokuta, writes that the fans and government of the host, Ogun State, say a victory for the Eagles against Togo today is a must, as no Nigerian team has been defeated at the MKO Abiola Stadium in the last eight years of the administration of Governor Gbenga Daniel.

At the end of the thrilling second semifinal match between Nigeria and Ghana on Thursday, which ended 2-1 in favour of the Super Eagles Team B, the Technical Committee Chairman of the NFF, Barrister Christopher Green, celebrated like a baby. “It is a hard-earned victory and it calls for celebration,” he told The Guardian.

“These boys have made me proud. The Ghanaians were so stubborn. My God, what an encounter! At a point, it was like it was going the way of Ghana. I doff my hat for our players for their fighting spirit, especially the never-say-die spirit of Ekigho Ehiosun. I thank the fans for their support,” Green said.

He was not the only one celebrating. The NFF President, Maigari, who breezed into Abeokuta just when the referee was about to signal the commencement of the match, was also delirious. Rooted to his seat at the VIP Stand, Maigari said: “My God, this is really tough. The boys should be commended for this effort. The Ghanaians too are good. They gave us a real tough battle. I just came in a few minutes ago and I have not checked into the hotel. My luggage is here with me. God forbid bad thing.”

Ogun State Sports Commissioner, Bukola Olopade was more concerned with the national team record, which the Ghanaians would have dented if they had beaten the Super Eagles on Thursday, saying: “Never, not at this time. No national team has lost a match here since 2003 and it won’t happen in the time of Samson Siasia. The spirit of Ogun won’t let it happen. This trophy belongs to Nigeria. Now that Ghana is out, I don’t see Togo stopping us from celebrating with the trophy on Saturday (today). The Hawks must fall the way Black Stars fell and it will come to pass.”

For goal digger, Ehiosun, the victory over Ghana was made in heaven. As he made his way into the team’s bus after the encounter, the Warri Wolves strongman pointed his two hands to the sky and said: ‘God, you made this victory possible. I know you will do it again on Saturday.’

Ehiosun was indeed the hero of the day, as he provided the two strikes that shot down the rampaging Ghanaians in the thrilling semifinal tie. Playing with zeal, energy and determination, the striker was everywhere.

Before the game against Ghana on Thursday, Ehiosun had scored seven goals for the national teams since his debut against Sierra Leone in an international friendly in Lagos.

Even when Ghana took the lead in the 67th minutes through a penalty, Ehiosun was not deterred. He kept pushing until his effort was rewarded in the 84th minutes, when the majority of the fans had given up. The equalizing goal, his eight for the national team, was significant in many ways. It was the goal number 8 for the player wearing jersey No 8.

It was his fourth goal in the WAFU Nations Cup scored in the 84th minute. At the start of the competition, Ehiosun had set a five-goal target for himself. So, with four goals in the kitty, he was so sure the fifth would come and so, he doubled his effort towards realizing it. With the referee keeping blind eyes to two previous efforts, which the fans saw as penalties, the player continued his raid on the Ghanaian defence until he was obstructed by Baboto Mohammed in the 18-yard box.

It was a penalty for Nigeria, but the kick was wasted by Stanley Okoronkwo, whose shot smacked off the cross bar to the relief of the protesting Ghanaians, after the keeper, Daniel Adjei was beaten.

To the Nigerian fans, it was a golden opportunity misused, but Ehiosun was not done yet. With minutes turning to seconds, he blasted home the winning goal with a close range shot to hit his target of goal number five in the WAFU Nations Cup competition.

The victory was the sixth victory for coach Siasia since he assumed his duty as head coach of the senior national team. And expectedly, he was full of joy at the end of the encounter, praising the players for a job well done.

Siasia said: “No going back having come this far. The Ghanaians actually gave us a good fight and I am happy we emerged victorious at the end. I thank the fans for their support and I want to urge them to stand by the team till the trophy is won on Saturday (today). We are the defending champions and we can’t afford to lose the trophy.”

The fans, Super Eagles and Nigerian football officials may be savouring the euphoria of success in this competition so far, but the 2011 WAFU Nations Cup has not been a smooth sail. It has posed many challenges for the organisers.

From the dying minute withdrawal of three countries, Senegal, Mali and The Gambia, to the day-to-day running of the competition, the organizers and members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) have bad tales to tell.

In particular, the numerous complaints from the camp of Ghana Black Stars, especially the coach, David Duncan, who gave the LOC a tough time while agitating for either one thing or the other.

At a point, Ogun Sports Commissioner, Bukola Olopade and some other members of the LOC were forced to take on the Ghanaian coach head on, when it became obvious to them that the coach was looking for an avenue to ‘rubbish’ the organization of the competition.

One of the LOC member told The Guardian: “If Coach Duncan is not complaining about the bed sheets in the rooms of his players, it is the swimming pool. He instigated the Ghanaian team to reject four hotels here in Abeokuta. He said the other day that the pitch was not good enough for football. I have not seen this kind of coach in my life.”

The Guardian learnt during the week that the dying minute withdrawal of some of the countries was actually the handiwork of some former members of WAFU, said to be die-hard loyalists of the immediate past president, Amos Adamu.

A source hinted that the ‘saboteurs’ did not want the 2011 edition of the competition to succeed, saying: “They used their old connections to arm twist officials of some of the countries to pull out at the dying minute so that there would be no chance to get replacements for them.”

Initially, two venues, Abeokuta and Ijebu-Ode were scheduled to hold the competition. But the withdrawal of three countries forced the organizers to settle only for Abeokuta. Apart from that, the timing of the competition also did some damages, especially in the area of funding.   The eight-year administration of Governor Daniel will end on May 29, and for majority of the people, the competition did not enjoy the government financial support as it were last year, when the state hosted the inaugural edition.

But in all, the secretariat of WAFU is full of praises for the governor for reviving the competition from the ‘grave’ having been moribund for close to two decades.


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