Sylvan us Okpala has said no coach will allow players like Chinedu Obasi, Ikechukwu Uche and Taiye Taiwo in a team given their unprofessional conduct at the time late Stephen Keshi was coach of the Super Eagles.
Okpala, who was part of Keshi’s technical team, spoke in defence of Keshi, who some ex-national team players have accused of asking for bribe.
According to him, Keshi, who won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013, had good reasons not to pick Chinedu Obasi, Ike Uche, Brown Ideye and Taiye Taiwo as part of the 2014 Brazil World Cup-bound team.
Meanwhile, Chinedu Obasi had said Keshi and his coaching crew asked him for money before he can be part of the team, adding that it was why other players did not make it to Brazil.
However, Sylvanus Okpala, who said the players were not good enough to be in the team at the time they were not included, said Obasi wasn’t even part of their plans; not even for the Nations Cup.
In an interview with Vanguard, Okpala wondered “what stopped Obasi from saying this since 2014? Was he dreaming of coming back to the national team? You have to check your age; then you can damn the consequences and come out to say the truth. He should have said it when Keshi was alive.
“I’m not trying to defend anyone or say that it’s not happening. But I didn’t experience this in the squad that went to the Nations Cup and while I was there, there was no such thing.
“Everything we did was based on merit. If you’re good, you’re good. But if you weren’t good, sorry, we picked players based on merit.
“Obasi said he played in Europe and in the Champions League when he was dropped. What does that mean? That you’re playing in the Champions League doesn’t mean that a player who is not playing in the Champions League cannot be better than you.
“Football performance is not measured that way. The only difference is that your team is playing the Champions League and you’re fortunate to be in the team, but it doesn’t make you better than a player whose team is not playing in the Champions League.”
Also speaking on Brown Ideye, Okpala agreed that he was instrumental to the team winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 and made a lot of sacrifices.
He said: “Ideye was one player then that if you said you didn’t have a player on the left; Brown would go and perform creditably well. But that didn’t mean he had to relax because he won the Nations Cup. You must be in form for a coach to pick you.”
But while explaining the omission of Taiwo and Uche, Okpala said they were rebellious; characters no coach would allow in his team.
Sylvanus Okpala said: “I was not surprised that Ikechukwu Uche did not make it to the World Cup because I knew what we went through with him during the 2013 AFCON.
“In our first game, we were playing 1-1, but were reduced to 10 men and he was asked to come in. The coach told him what to do. When he got onto the pitch, he refused to do those things.
“We had to change another player to fortify our defence. When that player was going in, Stephen Keshi told him what to tell Uche, but he still refused to play to instruction. We were one man down and Uche was not falling back to defend.
“He was dropped from the team because he was disobedient. He kept on telling us that in his club, this was how they used to play. Then at a point in time, I called him and said there is a way we want you to play here. This is the Nigerian National team and not your club; so this is how we want you to play.
“Don’t come and tell us about your club. I told him that if he played for Villarreal and Liverpool bought him, will he go to Liverpool and start telling them that this is how they play in Villarreal?”
Okpala also revealed that Taiwo almost caused a mutiny in the build up to the Nations Cup.
His words: “I also read about Taiye Taiwo’s outburst in the papers. After our experience with him, we never invited him again.
“During our AFCON qualifier against Rwanda, Taiye didn’t play well in that game. Keshi complained after the game, but the players went back to their rooms and started plotting how to remove Keshi.
“They never knew that Keshi’s room was the next to Taiye’s room.
“Taiye was telling other players that Keshi was shouting at him and that he will do to Keshi what he did to other coaches and that they would ensure that Keshi was sacked.
“Keshi was in his room listening to their conversation. Now, most of them are now coming to talk about money. It wasn’t about money because I knew about these two issues involving Taiye and Uche.
“Which coach will like to invite a player who wants him sacked in his team? It’s not possible. I am telling you what happened as an insider,” Sylvanus Okpala added.
Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira To Join Daniel Ek’s Bid To Buy Arsenal
Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek is set to launch a takeover bid for Arsenal with the help of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, and Patrick Vieira.
Ek, co-founder, and chief executive of music streaming service Spotify, has enlisted three of Arsenal’s legendary ‘Invincibles’ to help him purchase the club from current owner Stan Kroenke.
Ek first expressed an interest in buying Arsenal last week, after fans protested outside the Emirates Stadium against Kroenke’s ownership and his involvement in the failed breakaway European Super League.
“As a kid growing up, I’ve cheered for @Arsenal as long as I can remember. If KSE would like to sell Arsenal I’d be happy to throw my hat in the ring,” Ek tweeted on Friday.
Ek is worth £3.38bn (€4.7bn), according to Forbes, and was named the most influential person in the music business by American magazine Billboard in 2017.
At this stage, it is not known how much the 38-year-old is willing to bid for Arsenal.
However, Arsenal director Josh Kroenke has told fans that his family has “no intention” of selling the club.
Speaking last week at a fans’ forum following the collapse of the European Super League venture, Kroenke said the club was not for sale but that they would work harder to engage with fans more effectively in the future.
Henry, Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer, joined his former manager Arsene Wenger in publicly criticising the club’s ownership last week.
“I do not recognise my club and what happened just now, with them trying to join a league that would have been closed, makes no sense to me,” Henry told the Telegraph.
“They have been running the club like a company, not a football club, and they showed their hand.
“Maybe it’s a lack of understanding of the core football values and maybe the money was too big of a temptation. But whatever it was, they got it wrong. Badly wrong.
“I was genuinely shocked like most people and couldn’t believe what was unfolding.
“I have never talked before, but what happened recently made me realise fans, this is your club. It is your club and I’m an Arsenal fan too.
“I’m proud of what the fans achieved. Not just Arsenal fans, all the fans. The result was a victory for football.”
Shearer, Henry Seal Maiden Induction Into Premier League Hall Of Fame
Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry have been announced as the first players to be named in the Premier League Hall of Fame.
Former Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers striker Shearer remains the leading goalscorer in the competition’s history, having scored 260 times across 14 seasons for both clubs.
A champion with Blackburn in 1994-95, Shearer scored 112 goals in 138 Premier League games for Rovers before a move to boyhood side Newcastle for £15million in 1996, breaking the world transfer record.
The former England captain, who won the Golden Boot three times, went on to net 148 goals in 303 league games for the Magpies and remains the only player to have scored 100 Premier League goals for two different clubs.
“When you look at some of the unbelievable players to have graced the Premier League – week in, week out, year in, year out – I feel very honoured to join the Hall of Fame. I have to thank all of my teammates, as well as the managers and coaches that I’ve worked with,” said Shearer.
“All I ever wanted to be was a professional footballer. It was my dream to do that, my dream to win trophies, and my dream to score at St James’ Park, to wear the number nine black-and-white shirt and it was fantastic. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Henry is sixth on the all-time goalscoring list in the competition, having hit a club-record 175 in just 258 games for Arsenal.
The ex-France star, a record four-time Golden Boot winner, scored more than 20 goals in five consecutive seasons from 2001 until he left for Barcelona in 2006.
Twice a title-winner with the Gunners, including in the unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ side of 2003-04, Henry also registered 74 assists in the competition. His tally of 20 in 2002-03 remains a joint record for a single season, with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne matching that tally in 2019-20.
“To be inducted alongside Alan Shearer as the two first inductees into the Premier League Hall of Fame is more than special,” Henry said.
“When I was young, I was just trying to make sure I could get a pair of boots and now we’re talking about the Hall of Fame. During my career, I wanted to play hard and make sure I was fighting for the cause, because that’s all the fans want to see.
“If you asked me at the start of my career about entering the Hall of Fame, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s an amazing honour.”
Frappart To Be First Woman To Officiate At Men’s Euro
France’s Stephanie Frappart is set to become the first woman to officiate at a men’s European Championship after UEFA named her as a fourth official for Euro 2020 on Wednesday.
Frappart has already achieved several firsts for female officials, having been the first woman to referee a match in Ligue 1, and in the Champions League last December for a group-stage game between Juventus and Dynamo Kiev.
“For the first time, a female official has been selected for a men’s Euro. Stephanie Frappart (France), who has officiated at several matches in UEFA’s men’s club and national team competitions this season… will be acting as fourth official at matches,” UEFA said.
Each refereeing team at the event will consist of a referee, two assistant referees, a fourth official, a reserve assistant referee at the stadium, and a team of four video match officials.
The tournament, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, will run from June 11 to July 11.
The 37-year-old Frappart was also the first female referee of a major men’s European game, for the 2019 UEFA Super Cup between Liverpool and Chelsea.