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Nigeria faced Benin Republic in Uyo and Lesotho away from home, on Wednesday and Sunday respectively in the first games of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, there was one name many Nigerians would have loved not to see on the 21-man list and on the pitch of play, it’s none other than Daniel Akpeyi.
Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi who has made the National team for the first time since the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, is an inevitable inclusion due to the injury sustained by Francis Uzoho in the friendly against Brazil in October with his return is still far from close.
Akpeyi was introduced to Nigerian football fans, not for the first time as he was a U20 national team player in 2005, but shot into the consciousness of Nigerian Football fans in the dismal of a 2-0 loss to South Africa in Uyo, June 2017, while there was little he could do to the goals he conceded, he didn’t display confidence
The situation was the same five months later in a pre-world cup friendly against Argentina, the next he featured in a Nigerian game as he was replaced by Ikechukwu Ezenwa who became Nigeria’s No 1 goalkeeper after the South Africa loss which was Nigeria’s first loss to the Bafana Bafana in a Competitive game.
Nigeria beat the South Americans 4-2, the 2 goals conceded in the first half when Akpeyi was in between the sticks, both goals scored due to his poor positioning and response. Uzoho replaced him in the second half and the youngster secured his World Cup shirt and of course the number shirt.
Ever since Nigerian fans have detested seeing the Kaizers Chief shot-stopper in goal with many preferring Ikechukwu Ezenwa who was also an eccentric individual but with better confidence and more experienced than Uzoho.
However, the baffling scenario was the fact that the man that was instrumental in Nigeria’s first competitive loss to South Africa [which even more satisfying for the South Africans, happened here in Nigeria] was more heralded and loved in South Africa not because he was in goal in that historic result.
Actually, it was because he posted incredible performances in the Premier Soccer League in South Africa where he first played for Chippa United before he was snapped up by one of the biggest teams in the PSL, Kaizers Chiefs.
Week in week out, Akpeyi showed brilliance, ability, confidence and every other quality needed in a top-class Goalkeeper in the PSL, he made Nigerians wonder if it was a clone who comes to the Super Eagles where all these qualities disappear and make you wonder how he became a professional Goalkeeper in the first place.
Subsequently, he made the team to the AFCON in Egypt and became the number one Goalkeeper for the Super Eagles, in the very first game against Burundi although the records may show he had a clean sheet, the records won’t show how his jittery nature almost made him make a mess of back pass and turn it into an own goal or how he looked like a time bomb waiting to explode.
Through the group stage he failed to concede although he sat out the third game, the knockout stage was not pretty as he conceded two against Cameroon and also gifted South Africa a late equalizer with his poor positioning for a free-kick which allowed the opponents score in an empty net.
While he was lucky as Ekong scored the winning goal with just seconds left of the game, the semi-final against Algeria was where the final straw broke the camel’s back. Ekong had scored an own goal, Ighalo had equalized but as Nigeria held hopes of extra time, the Super Eagles conceded a free kick by the edge of the box.
Akpeyi arranged the wall, Onyekuru secured the base of the wall with his back, Mahrez noticed Akpeyi’s position right behind the wall, he chose the far corner just inches away from side Akpeyi should have protected by standing close.
Alas, He was beaten at his near post by a spectacular free-kick albeit he could have saved with a better position and dive, Algeria won the game and Nigerians and indeed Gernot Rhor had enough.
He was dropped from the third-place match against Tunisia and Nigeria’s subsequent matches. The last of him, Nigerians thought they had seen after Maduka Okoye took his place in the friendlies against Ukraine and Brazil in September and October respectively.
Surprisingly, Akpeyi started to show brilliant displays weekly in the PSL and he kept out two penalties as Kaizer Chiefs beat Orlando Pirates 4-2 on penalties in the 2019 Telkom Knockout Quarter-finals.
He was also spectacular against Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns in the PSL. Thus it was inevitable to send a call up to him after Uzoho got injured last month in the Brazil friendly, an incident which threw the Super Eagles handlers for a search for a new goalkeeper.
Undoubtedly, Akpeyi is Super Eagle’s most in-form goalkeeper Nigeria has in any top-flight league in the World, Ikechukwu Ezenwa can’t be assessed after being inactive for a long period due to NPFL delayed resumption while Maduka Okoye in the German lower divisions wasn’t showing up with performances and numbers that are worth to man the Super Eagles goalpost against African oppositions in the AFCON qualifiers.
While some hailed his recall into the Super Eagles squad on the back of his club performances with the hope that he would replicate such in the Green White Green, many still hold a skepticism to the fact that he may still be a chameleon who in the national team is a liability that costs the team, disappearing and disappointing, allegedly by some, due to the pressure of playing in the national team which is not present in club football or according to others, he is not good enough irrespective.
Nevertheless, like him or not, Akpeyi is what we don’t want but can’t do without, a Prodigal son we can only hope will turn a new leaf as soon as possible.
Super League: Respect & Dialogue Needed To Restore Normality
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, disapproving the concept of Super League
President Gianni Infantino has called for respect and dialogue as he expressed FIFA’s strong disapproval of the proposed European Superleague project, and has requested that the concerned parties consider their position in line with respecting the institutions that exist to protect the interest of national, European, and global football.
“FIFA is an organization which is built on values, the true values of sport,” said the FIFA President in his address to the 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
“It is an organization that is built on our statutes, the statutes that define the institutional framework, with the pyramid, with FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players. And at FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove of the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA, which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this.”
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, and a model that he promoted in his 16 years at UEFA:
“FIFA is here, and I am here today as FIFA President, to bring full support to European football, to UEFA, and the 55 member associations of UEFA and of FIFA, to the leagues, clubs, players, and to fans. To all the fans, all over Europe, and actually all over the world as well.”
“We can see that there is a lot to throw away for the short-term financial gain of some,” the FIFA President added. “People need to think very carefully, they need to reflect, and they need to assume responsibility. They need to think not only of their shareholders, but they need to think about all the people, of all the fans, of all those who have contributed to making European football what it is today. It goes back not only decades, it goes back more than one hundred years. People – with love, with passion, with commitment – have created all this. And we need to protect this. It is our task.”
“FIFA is a democratic organization, an organization that is open,” the FIFA President concluded. “Everyone can bring ideas and proposals, but always with respect for the institutions, leagues, associations, UEFA, and FIFA.
With respect for the history and with the respect for the passion of so many people around the world. I understand as well that on these particular days, emotions are very high, but we need to always keep the line. Football is hope, and it is our responsibility to make hope a reality. So we hope that everything will go back to normal and that everything will be settled, but always with acting responsibly, with respect, with solidarity, and always in the interest of national, European, and global football.”
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big Elsewhere
The English Premier League has welcomed some of the best players in the history of football. Players from different continents have made a huge impact on the league with impressive performances. There are others who failed to impress and can be termed as flops.
The League is quite unique from other European leagues. It is more competitive, fierce, physically challenging in nature. Needless to say, a player who isn’t mentally and physically geared up for this will stumble under the pressure.
Established stars can fall by the wayside with their former successes and triumphs becoming nothing more than a footnote in the EPL. Impressively, some of these players put in impressive performances when they moved to other leagues.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big In Other Leagues
Following the impending sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham bought several players, one of the players they bought was Paulinho.
Paulinho was signed from Corinthians in Brazil where he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, Brasileirao, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
They defeated Chelsea in the latter to lift the trophy. Importantly, he had just won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament.
He joined Tottenham as the club’s record signing in 2013, so a lot was expected of him. However, his performance was not as impressive as the club had envisaged. He was later sold to Guangzhou Evergrande in China at a loss.
The Brazilian’s transfer to the Chinese league resulted in a change of fortunes, as helped the club claim the Chinese league and the AFC Champions League title in his first season.
In the second, he was voted into the Chinese League team of the year in recognition of his performance. Also, he won the league, FA Cup, and Super Cup.
Although critics downplayed his performance, citing the standard of the Chinese league compared to the English league, Paulinho impressed in Spain too following a €40 million move to Barcelona.
Paulinho helped the club claim the league and the Copa del Rey trophy. His performance in his only season with Barcelona impressed Ronaldinho who said: “He really stood out.”
- Iago Aspas
Most Premier League fan remembers Aspas only as a Liverpool flop with the number 9 jersey. Aspas moved from boyhood club Celta Vigo to Liverpool for a deal estimated to be around £7.7 m, with Liverpool hoping to have unearthed a gem. However, that gem turns dregs, failing to score in any of his 14 league appearances.
After just one season, Liverpool decided that they have seen enough so they sent him on a season-long loan to Sevilla with an obligation to buy. In his season-long loan at the club, he was the joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey alongside Neymar with 7 goals and won the UEFA Europa League.
At the end of his season-long loan at Sevilla, the club signed him from Liverpool but sold him to Celta Vigo in the same transfer window. In every of his first 5 seasons at Celta Vigo, he scored in double digits.
In fact, in three of the 5 seasons, he won the Zarra Trophy awarded to the Spanish player with the most league goals in a season. As of December 2020, Aspas had won La Liga player of the month four times.
- Diego Forlan
Perhaps, the most notable and interesting English Premier League flop who became a star in another League. He was not just impressive in another league; he was extraordinary with his National team Uruguay.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Forlan in 2001 following the attacker’s impressive form at Independiente in Argentina. In his first season in England, Forlan made 18 appearances but failed to score a single goal. The two seasons after were not impressive either, hence his transfer to Villarreal.
Impressively, Forlan scored 25 league goals in his first season with Villarreal and won the league’s top scorers award (2004/05). Also, he was awarded the European Golden Shoe award alongside Thierry Henry the same year. He left the club two seasons later for Atletico with 59 goals scored in 128 matches.
In his second season with Atletico Madrid (2008/09), Forlan beat Samuel Eto’o to the Spanish league’s top scorer’s award. He scored 32 league goals in 33 league appearances that season which earned him the Pichichi trophy. Again, he won the European Golden Shoe but this time it was not shared with anyone.
The next season (2009/10), Forlan played a key role as Atletico won the Europa League. He scored six times in the tournament, including two in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. He was voted as the man of the match in the final.
With his national team, he was just as impressive; he scored the most goals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa.
Furthermore, he was voted into the FIFA World Cup dream team and won the Golden Ball and goal of the tournament title. By the time he retired, he was Uruguay’s highest goal scorer in history, a record which has since been broken by Luis Suarez.
Forlan eventually became so good that some Football fans think he is the caliber of player that could have won the Ballon d’Or.
There are several reasons why players struggle when they change clubs, especially to other countries. Culture, language, teammates, family are some factors that can affect their performances.
These 3 cases show that a player may fail to perform in one league but go on to become a star in another league.