So, that’s done and dusted. The Super Eagles finally got up and running in the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifiers, grabbing their first win in a rather low-quality game in Seychelles. A games with spills, jerks and more spills- and that was just the state of the turf during- had its talking points:


Kalu shows quality, but will need patience

It was clear from Samuel Kalu’s first touches of the ball, he wasn’t quite going to be the archetypal Nigerian winger, a stereotype of focus on running, hardly enough substance to show, mostly flashes and little end product (apologies to Nigerian wingers). His ability to take-on a man, coupled with his openness to doing the simpler things when required, is something of a rarity in the Super Eagles setup. There were more than a few flaws, though, some occasions in which he seemed a bit too eager to show he can do, resulting in a few loose touches and bad decisions, but that shouldn’t overshadow the positives. Patience will be required, but Kalu looks a fine replacement for the retired Victor Moses, if not an upgrade.


Iheanacho continues to try too hard

It’s hard not to get the feel, whenever Kelechi Iheanacho is on the ball, that the forward is trying a bit too hard, but at club and country level. Almost too eager to remind us of what he contributed in the past, he ends contributing little. It was evident again here in Seychelles, his desperation to impress, his over-eagerness to get himself into the fore of things, means he once again stuck out, other than stand out. Iheanacho needs to remember that it was doing the little things that made him so eye-catching at Manchester City. His quest in trying to do so much makes him do very little.


Did Rohr miss a trick with the substitutions?

There was little doubt that the game was just about wrapped up at halftime, and any form of scepticism over the clash was quelled when Odion Ighalo struck that late penalty. With the points surely in the bag, perhaps Gernot Rohr should have gone with a different line of substitutions, perhaps not opting to bring in Oghenekaro Etebo, but rather Kelechi Nwakali, and give the youngster another chance to impress against an admittedly sub-par opposition, as well as bringing in Henry Onyekuru much earlier than he actually did. It might well have been a case of the some of the fringe players giving him a healthy selection headache.


Omeruo’s inconsistency doesn’t look like the answer

Kenneth Omeruo continues to be quite the oddity. His ability to inspire with a terrific performance one game and infuriate with a sloppy display in another continues to be a source of bewilderment. And he managed to cram those differing traits into this one match in Victoria, making a good tackled and providing a good cover one minute, then misjudging the flight of a ball and giving a lax pass the next. In the absence of William Troost-Ekong, with whom Leon Balogun has already built a sturdy-looking partnership, this looked like a chance for Omeruo to give Rohr something to think about over future defensive selections. It was an opportunity missed.


There’s still much room for improvement

Despite the dominance and the deserved, it’s still hard not to think the scoreline flattered the Super Eagles. We continue to be caught out from set-pieces, no disrespect to Seychelles, but if they can find us out through crosses and set-piece routines, and we can leave so much space at the back, then it's a cause for alarm. Better opponents will surely punish the Eagles.


African football broadcasting still leaves much to be desired

There's the constant claim in African football that it's only matter of time before we match the Europeans and South Americans on the pitch, that seeing an African side in a World Cup semi-final is around the corner. But if the distance by which we're lagging behind them in terms of just football is sometimes open to debate, the ground we have to make up in terms of broadcasting football is clear-cut. For those watching the Seychelles-Nigeria game on television, there was barely any time in which the cameras switched to the fans, or the dugout, and then there's the commentary. Commentaries have found their way to becoming integral parts of football, and sometimes good commentary can compensate for low-key games. On the evidence of this encounter, African football commentary compliments the games. There was barely any life in the commentators' when Nigeria scored, or when any side attacked, and if anyone had suspicions of the commentators working absentmindedly on this game, the situation when a replay of the Eagles' first goal was being shown midway into the first half, and the commentator yelled in approval, only to remember it was a replay wouldn't have quelled such suspicions. In an error where football is much more than just the football, the continent looks incapable of even playing catch-up.

Published in Awa Football

Two Burundi officials have been arrested after their town's football team allegedly "roughed up" President Pierre Nkurunziza who was playing during a match with his personal team, legal sources and witnesses said Friday.

A legal source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the administrator of the northern town of Kiremba as well as his deputy, who is in charge of sport, had been charged with "conspiracy against the president" on Thursday.

It all started when the Kiremba team played a match earlier this month against Nkurunziza's Allelua FC team, which includes the president.

Several town residents told AFP that the administrator Cyriaque Nkezabahizi and his deputy Michel Mutama had recruited players among Congolese refugees living in a camp in the town.

"These Congolese obviously didn't know President Nkurunziza because they roughed him up during the match, attacking each time he had the ball and making him fall several times while the Burundian players were careful not to get too close to him," one witness said

Nkurunziza, who is a "born-again" evangelical, spends at least half of every week travelling with his team Allelua FC and his choir "Komeza gusenga" which means "pray non-stop" in the local kirundi language.

He also participates in community development projects, in which he can be seen lugging around rocks or mixing cement.

The 54-year-old president, a former sport professor at the University of Burundi, continues to practice swimming and cycling and plays up to three football matches a week.

He built a 9 000-seat stadium in his home town and dozens others across the country.

Critics say he is allowed to score several "bogus" goals during each match, with no player daring to seriously take him on.

In power since 2005, Nkurunziza is leading a push for a referendum in May on changes to the constitution that would allow him to run in elections in 2020.





Published in International Watch