Sunday 17 November 2019

/ by Colin Udoh

Christian Obodo in Maseru after supplying the cross for Yakubu Aiyegbeni's game winner against Lesotho

Nigeria arrived in Maseru on Saturday ahead of their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Lesotho on Sunday.

It has been 13 years since the Super Eagles were last in the southern African country. Not a single Super Eagles player from that era remains in the squad today.

Recently-retired former captain John Mikel Obi, who missed that game (a story for another day), would have been the only player from that time still in the squad if he was still around.

I was one of just two Nigerian journalists in Maseru for that game, which unfortunately, was n to broadcast live. So it was my match report for KickOffNigeria that most people had to rely on for proceedings.

Here is my throwback travelogue and report from that trip and game from 2006. 
This report was originally written for the CyberEagles forum

I left Nigeria on Thursday night and arrived Johannesburg about 6am Friday morning. Before leaving Lagos, I was told that the boys would be going by road to Lesotho (pronounced Lesutu). 
On arrival, I rang Idah Peterside and he told me the plans had changed. A first batch of players had left at 6am that morning and a second batch was due to leave by 9:30am. 
As it was already close to 8am, I crossed over from Arrivals to Departures and was lucky enough to catch the second batch. Leading them was Tunde Adelakun, accompanied by Team Co-ordinator Jossy Dombraye (I will return to him later) and Chidi Ngoka, an NFA staff. 
Luckily, I discovered there was a seat available and I quickly bought a ticket. Players on the trip were Emmanuel Okoduwa, Bob Osim, Uche Udeorah and Oguche (no relation to Lobi team mate Andy). 

Nothing prepared us for the shock we got at the tarmac. We were to fly in a Jetstream 41 aircraft 

It’s the smallest thing I have ever flown in and like I reported here, not an experience I want to repeat. Dombraye was providing entertainment of sorts for the players by clinging to the seat in front of him for dear life. By the time we touched down, there was a general agreement that we take photos in front of the plane, which we did. 

Most of the players were still in bed when we arrived and I only got to see them at lunch. But there was quite obviously a relaxed atmosphere in the camp. 
BTW, I had planned to join the team bus for training. After lunch, I decided to go upstairs to my room as we still had about an hour to go before training. The bus was due to leave by 2:45pm. 
While watching TV, I didn’t know when I dropped off, and by the time I opened my eyes to take a leak, it was 4pm! I had to find my way to the place. . .and it cost me. 

It would take someone who has been in the Eagles camp before, during- and post-Oliseh to understand what I mean here. 
Yobo walked up to the two new boys,, Udeorah and Ogbuke, shook their hands and welcomed them to the family. Kanu did the same, and even took Udeorah under his wing. 
Players were walking into each other’s rooms, staying up late, talking, gisting, laughing and sharing jokes. The camaraderie was unbelievable. For instance, after the game I was in Oruma and Yakubu’s room where Kanu, Oruma, Yakubu, Obodo, Enakarhire, Ogbuke and Udeorah spent hours watching Nigerian home videos and reliving past experiences until 3am in the morning. 
We were joined by others who came and went, like Nwaneri, Okonkwo, Enyeama, Yobo, etc. It was a mini-party of sorts with an i-Pod terminal hitting music like mad, and everyone singing and dancing. Even Samson Siasia joined the party, although he took some time to speak to Obinna about his game and how he should clean up his act. 

The one sour angle to all this was the Mikel situation. All the players are very upset with Mikel for not turning up. Almost everyone compared him to Kanu, saying he hadn’t achieved as much as Papilo and yet he was doing big man. 
The general feeling is that Mikel is feeling like a ‘Big Boy’ because he plays for Chelsea, and I suspect he wont get hugs and kisses the next time he shows up in camp. 
I will post the story of the saga later. 

The players got a chance to train on the pitch on Saturday afternoon. 
Let me just talk a bit about the weather. When I got there on Friday, I discovered the game was for 3pm Lesotho time. 
Come 3pm, the whole place was hot as hell and I asked the FA official is they would not have to change the time to maybe 4pm? He said it would be fine by Sunday. 
On Saturday, by 3pm, the place was biting cold. I couldn’t believe it. 
When the boys trained on the pitch, they were aghast. It was rough, bumpy and undulating even though it looked good from a distance. 
After dinner, the discussion was the best way to approach the pitch and the directive from Eguavoen was that they should not stretch themselves too much. Just do enough to make sure the Likuena did not have time on the ball and pressure them high on their side of the field. 
As for the ball, it was horrible. Just a touch (even for a non footballer like me) was enough to know that those match balls would not cut it. Unfortunately, the boys had to live with it. 
By 1pm on Sunday, it was raining cats and dogs. Up until we got to the stadium, it was still pouring. In a way, this helped our boys as it softened the pitch, but it also meant the balls were flying and as they had been instructed to take it easy, it meant chasing lost causes was out of the question. 
Martins tried on one occasion and learnt his lesson. 


1’ Kickoff by the hosts. Nigeria in green, playing from right to left. 
4’ Martins chases down what looks like a lost ball, out paces his marker to win the ball. But there is nobody to meet his cutback inside the box. Lesotho clear. 
5’ Oruma hits a shot that is deflected for a corner kick. 
7’ Taye Taiwo misses a right foot clearance in front of the 18-yard box. Sello Muso latches on to it, but Taiwo recovers to block the shot. 
8’ Yakubu is put through by Martins, but he is crowded out by two defenders inside the box. 
10’ A poor defensive header almost lets Martins in, but he wins a corner kick from which Ogbuke’s shot is headed agonisingly over the top by Martins 
14’ Yobo concedes freekick just past the halfway line. Bokang Mothoana hits a ferocious drive which is scrambled to safety by Enyeama as it headed for the bottom right hand corner. Lesotho win their first corner kick after Nigeria’s three. 
19’ BOOKING: Yakubu gets the ball inside the net, but the whistle had already gone for offside and the Middlesbrough striker is booked. 
20’ Mothoana hits another long range drive that Enyeama fists away, as it heads for the top right hand corner. 
23’ Yakubu’s threaded ball splits the defence and Martins is through on goal, but goalkeeper Phasumane Kholuoe is quick off his line and makes a fine save 
25’ Seyi Olofinjana, who has been having a great game, dispossesses one man and finds Martins who forces another good save from the keeper. 
28’ Olofinjana wins the ball—again—inside his half and makes a great run past defenders with ease. But he fails to make the pass and loses the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box. The subsequent counter attack almost proves fatal. Eguavoen is livid! 
34’ Obodo heads at keeper from Abbey cross 
35’ Ogbuke misses from close range from Taiwo’s freekick. 
40’ Obagoal again just heads over as the half peters away. 

46’ Oruma wins freekick on the right hand channel. Taiwo curls it inside the box and is headed in by Yakubu, but the goal is ruled out for a foul on the keeper. 
50’ GOAL! Obodo picks up the ball in the left hand channel, gets in a bit of a mess as Taiwo tries to shoot. But Obodo gets the ball, floats it into the area and Yakubu is on hand to make an easy tap in. 
53’ Yobo almost makes it two from another Taiwo freekick, but heads narrowly wide. 
57’ BOOKING: Bushy Moletsane booked for a challenge on Oruma. 
58’ BOOKING: Abbey promptly joins him after a crunchy challenge from behind on Bokang, who has been Lesotho’s most dangerous player along with Muso. The Nigerian is lucky to escape with only a yellow. 
62’ SUBSTITUTION: Bokang off for Katleho Moleko and Bushy off for Ralekoti Mokhahlane. 
73’ Nwaneri easily disposseses Refiloe Potse—for the umpteenth time, and frustrated fans call for the striker to be substituted. 
74’ Martins breaks through again, but the goalkeeper makes yet another great save. 
75’ SUBSTITUTION: Okoduwa on for Ogbuke 
78’ Oruma’s freekick causes all manner of panic in the Lesotho box. Yakubu’s ball looks to be dribbling in but is cleared off the line! 
80’ Potse makes way for Tefo Maipato to derisive applause from the crowd. 
82’ Fans bay for penalty as ball hits Yobo on the arm. Ref rules it was shoulder 
83’ SUBSTITUTION: Yakubu off for Kanu. 
86’ BOOKING: Langana Nkhethoa booked for poor challenge on Oruma 
88’ SUBSTITUTION: Oruma off for Okonkwo. 
89’ A clearly unfit Kanu gives the ball away for the third time. Muso gets a good shot in but Enyeama has it covered. Five minutes of added time to be played. 
95’ FULL TIME: Crowd unhappy at referee ending the game ‘early’. 

Enyeama 6 
Apart from two long range efforts, one from a freekick, he could have taken a holiday in the Carribeans. 

Abbey 5 
Took out one half of Lesotho’s dangerous duo with what should have been a sending off tackle from behind. Did his primary job of keeping his corner tight. 

Taiwo 6 
Bounded up and down the left flank and gave the Likuena plenty to think about whenever they conceded freekicks. 

Yobo 7 
Commanding in the air, solid in the tackle and quick to close down opponents. Gave nothing away except for that near-miss with hand ball. 

Nwaneri 6 
Started shakily, but grew in confidence and mauled Potse so much that fans called for the striker to be taken off and the player himself must have been relieved to see his name on the board. 

Olofinjana 7 
By far his best game for the Super Eagles so far in recent times. This, despite being outnumbered in the centre of the park. All he needed was a goal, and he almost got one. 

Oruma 7 
Ran the show in the middle, and kept possession well despite getting crowded out by a packed midfield. Involved in most of our attacking moves. 

Obodo 7 
As usual, kept cutting into the middle to help out. Fabulous, quick thinking assist for the goal. 

Ogbuke 5 
Always willing to take on defenders and track back to win the ball back. Unfortunately, he lost the ball too often in trying to take on players. When his moves begin to come off, defenders will be in trouble. 

Martins 7 
Worked hard, worked the channels and had about three half chances that he should have put away. 

Yakubu 8 
Undoubtedly the man of the match. Roughed up the Lesotho defenders, always available to give or receive a through ball and was willing to do his share of defensive duty. 

Okoduwa 5 
Showed committent on his debut and almost forced the keeper into a bad error with his never say die spirit almost immediately after coming in. 

Okonkwo 5 
His first international and he came out selling of roses. Kept it simple with the one-touch passing. All he needs now is a European club. 

Kanu 3 
A poor game by his standards through no fault of his and even Papilo himself knows it. Gave the ball away each time he got it. 

Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Bnei Yehuda, Israel), Greg Etafia (Moroka Swallows, South Africa), Dele Aiyenugba (Enyimba, Nigeria) 

Defenders: Joseph Yobo, (Everton, England), Taiye Taiwo, (Olympique Marseille, France), George Abbey (Macclesfield Town, England), Joseph Enakhaire (Bordeaux, France), Obinna Nwaneri (Esperance, Tunisia), Bob Usim (Heartland, Nigeria), Ude Uche (Nasarawa United, Nigeria) 

Midfielders: Wilson Oruma, (Olympique Marseille), Christian Obodo (Udinese, Italy), Mikel Obi (Chelsea, England), Seyi Olofinjana (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England), Kazeem Ayila (Dynamo Kiev, Ukraine), Okardi Blessing (Ocean Boys, Nigeria), Oguchi Uche (Lobi Stars, Nigeria) 

Forwards: Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Middlesborough, England), Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth, England), Osaze Odemwingie (Lille, France), Obafemi Martins (Newcastle, England), John Utaka (Stade Rennes, France), Ayodele Makinwa (Lazio, Italy), Emmanuel Okoduwa (Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine), Chinedu Ogbuke (Lyn Oslo, Norway).

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