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Omeruo, Simon among early birds as more withdrawals hit Super Eagles’ camp

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[FILES Nigeria’s defender Kenneth Omeruo celebrates his goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Nigeria and Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium on June 26 , 2019. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

No fan will be allowed at the match venue
• NFF calls on interested TV stations to bid for matches
• Federation rubbishes story on COVID-19 palliative

Defender Kenneth Omeruo and forward Moses Simon were among the early arrivals at the Super Eagles’ Hotel die Zeit an der Glan in Austria yesterday, ahead of the international friendly matches against African champions Algeria and Africa’s number two ranked team, Tunisia.

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Forwards Samuel Kalu and Chidera Ejuke, defender Leon Balogun and goalkeeper Mathew Yakubu were also in the early birds’ corp, hours later, England–based defenders William Ekong, Oluwasemilogo Ajayi and Olaoluwa Aina, as well as forward Kelechi Iheanacho landed in Austria. Right behind them were goalkeeper Dele Alampasu, defender Jamilu Collins, midfielder Frank Onyeka and forwards Cyril Dessers and Alex Iwobi. The other invited players were being expected in camp last night.

Also, as he countenances imminent approval of his international switch to the Super Eagles of Nigeria, former Germany U20 captain, Kevin Akpoguma, has arrived at the team’s hotel in Austria to familiarise with the Nigeria set-up and bond with the other players.

Three-time African champions Nigeria file out against the in-form Fennecs at the Jacques Lemans Arena on Friday before taking on 2004 African champions Tunisia at the same venue on Tuesday next week.

Coach Gernot Rohr would have to do without three of his initial invitees, with Turkey-based midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo suffering a knock on Sunday, following an earlier injury to Wilfred Ndidi and permission granted Italy–based forward Victor Osimhen to sit out the matches.

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It is the first gathering of the Super Eagles this year, with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down football globally since the month of March, just before a quick-fire double AFCON qualifying series with Sierra Leone that will now hold in November.

Match organisers, Eurodata Sport have clarified that no fan will be allowed inside the stadium for any of the two matches, in conformity with extant protocols on the coronavirus pandemic.

But to ensure that Eagles’ fans watched the game, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has invited television stations interested in bringing the matches live to the homes of Nigerians to immediately contact the Federation on the modalities to achieve this. Both matches will kick off at 8.30 pm Austria time (9.30 pm Nigeria time).

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The full list of players expected at the camp latest today is goalkeepers Dele Alampasu (FK Ventspils, Latvia); Matthew Yakubu (SKF Sered, Slovakia), and Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands).

The defenders are Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Chidozie Awaziem (FC Boavista, Portugal); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Olaoluwa Aina (Fulham FC, England); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); and Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal), while the midfielders are Mikel Agu (Vitoria Guimaraes, Portugal); Tyronne Ebuehi (FC Twente, Netherlands); Frank Onyeka (FC Midtjylland, Denmark); and Samson Tijani (TSV Hartberg, Austria).

The forwards are Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr, Saudi Arabia); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Cyril Dessers (KRC Genk, Belgium); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Kalu (Girondins Bordeaux, France); and Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia). On standby are Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor, Turkey); Ramon Azeez (Granada CF, Spain); Joshua Maja (Girondins Bordeaux, France); and Henry Onyekuru (AS Monaco, France).

MEANWHILE, the NFF has described as total falsehood, a report in an online publication that it has received the $1.5million promised by the world football –governing body, FIFA to all its member associations, as a palliative for the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), which has ravaged the world this year.
 
“The FIFA Council approved the sum of $1.5 million for each of its member associations as a palliative for the coronavirus pandemic (COVID19) around the month of July 2020. Yet, the writer said the money was paid in May 2020. The report is an outright falsehood and yet another pathetic display of ignorance on the part of the writer. The NFF has only received the $500,000 meant for the women’s game, and this fact is very easy to cross-check. A simple mail to FIFA would have cleared this issue.”

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“FIFA COVID19 palliative is totally different from Operational Cost (annual grant) money and is also not the same thing as FIFA Forward money. However, in the haste too, once more, go to town with something negative, the writer failed to establish the critical difference between FIFA annual grant and FIFA COVID19 palliative. It is a case of criminal defamation that the NFF will not take lightly,” NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi said yesterday.
 
Sanusi added the NFF has over the years sustained the habit of sending details of all monies received (even sponsorship funds) to the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, and that further checks can be made at that establishment.
 
“FIFA promised to send an initial tranche of $1million ($500,000 for the men’s game and $500,000 for the women’s game) and another payment of $500,0000 in January 2021. Of the first tranche, we have only received the $500,000 for the women’s game, while waiting for the other $500,000. I want to add that we are also yet to receive the $500,000 palliative promised by the continental governing body, CAF. We are waiting for these monies so that we can distribute them as we have set out in the template approved by the NFF Executive Committee. We will also inform the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development once the monies come.”

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