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Former Super Eagles player Peterside Idah urges talented defender Ime Okon to snub SA for Nigeria

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The battle between Nigeria and South Africa to secure the international future of Supersport United defender, Ime Okon, has become more intense, with former Super Eagles international goalkeeper, Peterside Idah, urging the promising talent to consider playing for the Super Eagles instead of the Bafana Bafana.

Idah who spent over 10 years playing in the South African league, made the call on Friday following intense pressure by South African sports personalities for the 20-year-old to commit his international future to Bafana instead of the Eagles.

Ex-Bafana Bafana captain, Thulani Hlatshwayo, first threw the gauntlet when he ‘threaten’ to stop helping Okon if he chose Nigeria over South Africa.

The former Orlando Pirates defender who said he has been impressed with Okon’s commanding performances in the league, explained why he thinks the youngster should pick his country of birth over the West African giants.

“I have told him he needs to stay in South Africa because it will be difficult for him to crack the Nigeria national team,” Hlatshwayo told reporters in a recent interview.

“To be able to crack the Nigerian national team, he needs to play in Europe, but we need him in Bafana Bafana.

“When you look at our centre backs, Mothobi Mvala has injuries, there is also Grant Kekana and Siyanda Xulu — and I read Siyabonga Ngezana had an issue with his travel documents, but I don’t know what is happening there. His father is from Nigeria and mother from South Africa.

“He grew up here, he studied here and coach Gavin Hunt took him from Randburg Football Club. He is South African and he speaks Afrikaans.

“He is a rebel; every time there is Afcon, when Nigeria is playing he is with Nigeria and when South Africa is playing against Nigeria we have a lot of banter in the team.

“I told him I am going to stop helping him if he chooses to play for Nigeria because there are things in his game that need to be polished.

“The more he plays, the more experience he is going to get and he will do well. I don’t know if it has something to do with him being young but he is quick and strong and we complement one another very well,” Hlatshwayo said.

Okon who was born in Johannesburg to a Nigerian father and a South African mother, is a central defender who made his debut in the Premier Soccer League only this season and has immediately turned himself into a regular with the team.

He was even entrusted with the armband in the Caf Confederation Cup match against Mordern Future earlier in March and impressed in the match that former Bafana Bafana defender, Andre Arendse, said he has the potential to become better than the legendary Lucas Radebe.

The young defender was named in Bafana Bafana’s 50-man provisional squad for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) but did not make the final 27-man list to the continental showpiece, which has further heightened the debate on his international allegiance as he is eligible to play for both Nigeria and South Africa.

The youngster himself is yet to publicly declare his international allegiance as he said he still undecided about his future.

In an interview recently,
Okon disclosed that he does not want to be pressured about his future, saying it will be a tough decision for him.

“I just don’t want any pressure, but I just keep my mind open to both and whatever comes first then we’ll see what happens because it’s quite a tough decision for me.

“South Africa is the country I was born and bred in, but Nigeria now is my home where my dad is from. I’d say for now it’s better with South Africa because with Hugo Broos sees us around. With Nigeria, it’ll be quite tough, but I just do my best to also get a call up there.”

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Nigeria, Zambia clinch women Olympic football slots for Paris 2024

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The Super Falcons of Nigeria and the Copper Queens of Zambia on Tuesday picked the last two spots in the women’s football tournament at the Paris Olympics after winning two-legged playoffs in the fourth round of African qualifiers.

While Nigeria played out a goalless draw against the Banyana Banyana of South Africa in Pretoria to qualify after a 1-0 win in Abuja last week, Zambia needed an extra time win to get past Morocco in Rabat in their second leg encounter.

The Copper Queens successfully turned a 2-1 first-leg home defeat into a 3-2 aggregate triumph with a 2-0 win over the Atlas Lionesses at Moulay Hassan Stadium.

Orlando Pride of USA striker, Barbra Banda, opened the scoring for Zambia in the 38th minute and got her brace when she converted a penalty in the 105th minute to send her country to the Olympic starting in July.

However, the two African countries have been drawn into tough groups for the football event at the Games.

The Super Falcons will take on world champions Spain and former world champions Japan and Brazil in Group C at the Olympics while Zambia is in Group B alongside France, former champions the United States and Germany as well as last year’s women World Cup semi-finalists, Australia.

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Spain denies Nigeria’s ‘Future Eagles’ visa for international tournament

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Spanish authorities have denied Nigeria’s Under-15 football team, popularly known as Future Eagles, the opportunity of participating in an international invitational tournament which would also feature Belgium, Italy and England.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), in a post on its X handle on Tuesday, said members of junior football team including the players and their officials were denied visas to attend the tournament in Spain.

The Nigerian football body said though the Spanish embassy did not give reasons for the visa denial, the team would “therefore not be travelling to take part in the Uefa U16 Development Tournament.”

The Future Eagles made up of 20 players and seven officials, were set to depart Nigeria on Tuesday, ahead of their first match against Belgium scheduled for Friday, before squaring up against Italy and England.

The Uefa Under-16 Youth Development Tournament, which is organised by Europe’s football governing body, has been held since 2012 and is intended to expose elite junior players to international football and ease their transition into senior levels of the sport.

The Future Eagles, coached by Patrick Bassey, recently returned from a tournament in Morocco where they won one match and lost one against their Moroccan counterparts on a two-match tour of that North African country.

Their first game had ended in a 2-3 defeat, but they bounced back to win the second game 5-3 in the city of Kenitra.

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