The popular Ajegunle City is a part of Lagos state that has produced amazing talents for the football obsessed-nation, Nigeria. It is known to be one of Lagos state’s toughest and most dangerous ghettos, but despite the negative attributes, it has a great reputation of producing some of the best Nigerians to have kicked and are still kicking the round leather game.
The peculiarity about Ajegunle is that it is a community that housed a lot of people with different tribes and beliefs. When BBC Africa’s Stanley Kwenda did a special report on Ajegunle, he found out about top Nigeria players to have honed their skills from the city.
Also, when he interviewed Ex-Super Eagles striker, Jonathan Akpoborie, he discovered that due to the dedication of the boys from Ajegunle, at least a player or two would always be in any Nigerian National team.
Akpoborie said, “This is actually the home of football in Nigeria, I don’t want to downgrade the area by attributing the success of footballers to poverty but there’s just nothing to do for the kids.”
“They spend most of their time here playing football and in so doing they develop themselves and naturally become gifted footballers. “In the national team, there’s always one player who originated from Ajegunle.
“It’s exactly how I started – the grown-ups play first, we watch them play, then eventually we get in the field. They were inspirational to us.” Akpoborie said.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that just as the Niger-Delta region is Nigeria’s hub for crude oil, Ajegunle is Nigeria’s football hub when it comes to harnessing Football stars because going by the city’s trajectory, it has unearthed many football greats since 1990.
Cheapgoals will in this piece look at players that the Ajegunle slum has produced.
But it will be under two categories; those set of players that just started their footballing career and those that have retired.
The First Category
- Junior Lokosa
Junior Lokosa was born on August 23 1993 in Badagry. His football career started with Firstbank FC in 2013 before joining Kano Pillars in 2017. At Pillars, Junior showed to Nigerians what stuff he’s made of when he emerged as NPFL’s top scorer after scoring a career-high 23 goals in 35 appearances.
His breakout in 2018 brought about calls for Junior Lokosa to be included in the Super Eagles prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He joined Esperance of Tunisia in 2019 after trials in China.
- Sikiru Alimi
Sikiru’s popular nickname in the NPFL (Omo Alhaja) tells anyone that definitely, he hails from the South-Western part of Nigeria.
The 24-year-old prolific striker is another raw talent that passed through the popular AJ City of Lagos. He began his professional football career at Warri Wolves in 2015; but after two successful seasons with Delta side, he joined Sunshine Stars of Akure.
Double digits of goals were enough for Omo Alhaja in his two-year spells at Sunshine Stars to bag a move to Lobi Stars before eventually leaving the shores of the country in January 2020 to Stade Tunisien for a record transfer fee.
- Anthony Nwakaeme
Anthony is the younger brother of Dickson Nwakaeme; both of them were actually born and bred in Ajegunle but only Anthony had the chance to play for the Super Eagles (once, in 2017)
He started out at Vejle Football Academy before moving to Universitatea Cluj. He had two loan spells before moving back to Cluj.
Tony had stints at Israeli sides, Hapoel Ha’anana and Hapoel Beer Sheva, after which he moved to Trabzonspor in 2018 and has been there ever since.
The Second Category which comprises of Ex-Super Eagles Stars.
- Odion Ighalo
Odion Ighalo is a potent goalscorer, a full-blooded Ajegunle citizen who began at Prime FC and later playing for the defunct Julius Berger in Nigeria.
He told BBC’s Stanley Kwenda the hurdles he scaled through before his rise to the limelight. He said “It was very tough growing up there. It’s not like in Europe where you have everything provided.”
“You have to look for money to buy football shoes, jerseys, transport, and even water to drink after training. If you can’t afford the transport then you stay – and those who stay are great players,” says Ighalo.
Ighalo made his debut for the Nigerian national team in March 2015 against Uganda. He represented the nation at the 2018 World Cup and was the highest goalscorer in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign.
He eventually led Nigeria to a third-place finish at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, where he finished in the competition’s Team of the Tournament and was crowned top scorer.
- Jonathan Akpoborie
Akpoborie started his professional career at Julius Berger, before moving to the USA and the rest of his playing days was in Germany.
Jonathan played for 9 German clubs before his retirement in 2012. 1. FC Saarbrücken of German 2. Bundesliga. Akpoborie also had spells with FC Carl Zeiss Jena, Stuttgart Kickers, for whom he scored 37 goals in one season, and Waldhof Mannheim, before finally joining top-flight F.C. Hansa Rostock in 1995.
After spending two years at Hansa, he moved to the Bundesliga rivals VfB Stuttgart and then VfL Wolfsburg in 1999.
Akpoborie now resides in Lagos. He works as a player agent for Rogon Sports Management.
- Samson Siasia
Born on August 14, 1967, the former Nigerian striker and the former head coach of the Nigerian Men’s National football team became the first Ajegunle player to play for Julius Berger at the young age of 15 (in 1982).
Siasia played 51 international matches for Nigeria, in which he scored 13 goals, and was part of the team that participated in the 1994 FIFA World Cup and won the 1994 African Nations Cup.
He was also a member of the Nigerian team that won bronze at the 1992 African Nations Cup in Senegal. He participated in the National Team over a period of 11 years and was recognized in Nigeria as the third-leading scorer for the National Team.
- Taribo West
Taribo was born in Port Harcourt but found his way to Ajegunle having played for Sharks of Port Harcourt. He started playing professionally with Obanta United in 1989, before returning to Sharks in 1990. Taribo then played for Enugu Rangers in 1991, before joining Julius Berger in 1992.
He was a member of the Flying Eagles at the 1993 African Youth Championship. He then went on to earn 42 full international caps for Nigeria, making his debut in a 1–3 loss to Sweden on 5 May 1994. Taribo was also a member of the Olympic squad that won the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics. He played every single minute of the tournament.
He admitted using charms before any game during his professional career, but he eventually became a pastor after his footballing days.
- Emmanuel Amunike
The 1994 African Footballer of the year was born in 1970 at Eziobodo Owerri but grew up in AJ City. Amunike played 27 times for Nigeria, scoring 9 goals.
He was part of the team that participated at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, scoring against Bulgaria and Italy; also in that year, he helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.
Amunike played all the games at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, scoring the winning goal in the final as the national team won the gold medal. A knee injury kept him out of the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
Amunike took on training duties for some teams in Nigeria, after completing two years of training courses in Europe. He led the Nigeria U17 squad to the World Cup glory in 2015.
- Ifeanyi Udeze
Everything about this former Super Eagles left-back is Ajegunle, so much that he was given the nickname of Ajegunle at the Super Eagles camp.
Udeze played for clubs such as Bendel Insurance FC, AO Kavalas (Greece), and PAOK Thessaloniki, before joining West Bromwich Albion in 2003. In his first season with the Albions, he played in the Premier League, joining the club on loan in the latter stages of the season after which Albion were relegated.
During his playing days, he was Super Eagles’ second choice left-back to former Chelsea left-back, Celestine Babayaro. On some occasions, he played together with Babayaro; both switching positions from the left full-back to the left-wing of the midfield, often confusing opponents with their identical style of play.
Unfortunately, injury ensured that Udeze couldn’t play for Nigeria for longer years. He’s an in-house pundit today at the first Sports Radio station in Nigeria and Africa, Brila FM 88.9.
Honorary Mentions: Tony Adiele, Dickson Nwakaeme, Samuel Nnamani, Moses Ogbu, Solomon Okoronkwo, Monday Odiaka, David Okereke, and Brown Ideye.
Ajegunle today now has an established grassroots football system that enables youngsters to play competitive football and develop themselves.
FIFA Congress To Decide Future Host Of FIFA Women’s World Cup™
Council assigns FIFA Women’s World Cup™ hosting decision to the football governing body’s Congress; also approves financial statements for 2020 and budget for 2022.
Meeting by video conference, the Council conferred to the Congress the decision to award Women’s World Cup™ hosting rights.
Until now, the decision has been taken by the FIFA Council, most recently in June 2020 when the hosting rights for the 2023 edition were awarded to Australia and New Zealand.
As the football governing body seeks to raise the profile of the women’s game, this represents a significant step to bring the Women’s World Cup in line with the flagship men’s competition.
The proposal will be put forward for a final decision by the 71st FIFA Congress, which will meet virtually (for the second time) on 21 May.
International match calendar and release of players.
The FIFA Council received a report on the international football situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bureau of the Council had extended to April 2021 the temporary amendments to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players regarding the release of players for international duty, and FIFA, the confederations, and its member associations remain in dialogue with national authorities about exemptions from quarantine rules for national team players.
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The FIFA Council recognized that the highest priority in football is the health of the players, and therefore the discussion around the release of players for international duty must maintain this perspective, especially as the public health situation develops around the world.
2020 financials and 2022 budget
The Council also approved the organization’s Annual Report, which contains the financial statements for 2020 and the budget for 2022.
The FIFA Annual Report 2020 focuses on the role played by world football’s governing body in the fight against COVID-19, primarily through the unprecedented COVID-19 Relief Plan, which has made available USD 1.5 billion to support FIFA’s 211 member associations and the confederations through times of financial uncertainty.
The FIFA Annual Report 2020 is available on the official site.
FIFA Arab Cup 2021™
The Council approved the competition regulations for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021, confirming the match schedule and draw procedure for the competition taking place in Qatar from 1 to 18 December this year.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Fédération Internationale de Football Association.
Paul Onuachu: A Victim Of Tactical Deficiency
Ever wondered why Genk forward Paul Onuachu has always been a prolific figure for his club and find it hard to replicate that form with the Super Eagles when invited?
The Nigeria international has been in awesome form for the Blue-White, scoring 26 goals in the Jupiler League this season for Genk, while his scoring prowess at his club has been a contrast to his form with the national team under Gernot Rohr scoring just once in 9 games despite being a top performer at club level.
Ahead of the AFCON qualifier doubleheader against Lesotho and the Benin Republic, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr named his 23 man list with the inform former Midtjylland forward listed as one of the standby players.
Onuachu’s struggles with the Super Eagles in previous games he featured is quite baffling, considering the excitement that greeted his first appearance with the national team plus the impressive form he’s currently in.
The job of every manager is to find a suitable position or fashion out tactics that would be suitable for their players in other to blend with the team approaches to every match. In Onuachu’s case, he hasn’t been fortunate enough to blend in with Rohr’s tactics. While at club level, Midtjylland plays to his strength.
However, due to Napoli’s players been restricted from traveling, the Genk forward made it through the backdoor to replace Gernot Rohr’s number one forward Victor Osimhen who hasn’t really hit the ground running with the ‘Partenopei‘, but when with the Eagles, he never fails to deliver.
It’s no doubt that the lanky striker has failed to deliver in his previous games, disappointing the ever-demanding Nigerian football enthusiasts with unforgiving backlashes from the fans. However, his prolific prowess with his club suggests otherwise and consistently makes a case for him to be integrated into the team with a different tactical approach that suits his style.
The era of a target man may have been long gone in football due to the advent of new tactics that have brought about a series of changes in the game. With managers preferring to go with a fast, skillful, or makeshift winger- kind of striker, instead of a target man.
READ ALSO: Super Eagles: 9 Players Who Netted On Debut
Looking at how Paul Onuachu plays with Genk upfront shows he’s one of the best target men in football, despite been perceived by many as a slow and old-fashioned kind of forward. However, John van den Bromm has been able to carve out a tactic that suits him which has been evident with his prolific form irrespective of his style of play.
Onuachu’s Super Eagle future might be on the knife-edge with Gernot Rohr not finding the right tactics that suit the Genk forward, especially with him not been consider as the go-to man despite his blistering runs of form in Belgium.
In recent times Rohr’s philosophy of vibrant attacking football with an emphasis on passing in the final third which requires the expertise of brilliant players to implement such tactics hasn’t really favored him.
Having a player in the mold of Onuachu gives Rohr another tactical option and an alternative style of play should the initial approach fails to work as expected, but the German tactician hasn’t really taken advantage of what the man could offer with a different opponent.
Onuachu’s presence in the Super Eagles team should be an added advantage in terms of variety when the normal approach of the manager fails. With an in-form striker on the bench, it could prove valuable, but in the former Midtjylland’s case, Gernot Rohr doesn’t seem to see him as a player that has a future with the national team.
Players in the mold of the Nigerian are quite physically imposing as the point man, though they may not offer the team excellent off-the-ball movement in some cases. However, they often find a way to provide an opportunity which the team could utilize when attacking or defending.
Onuachu’s inability to show a good turn of pace and smart footwork may have been one of the deficiencies that are affecting his chances of blending perfectly into the team.
However, the job of a manager is to help players blend in perfectly, and that’s exactly what Gernot Rohr should be doing. Not only for Onuachu but for every other player who are always finding it hard to replicate club form with the National Team.