Katsande selects next captain – 2017 Africa Cup of Nations – Zimbabwe | Football News |

Willard Katsande of Zimbabwe during the Afcon Group B match between Algeria and Zimbabwe on the 15 January 2017 at Franceville Stadium, Gabon Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Staff Reporter

Wednesday Feb 01, 2017. 12:30

Zimbabwean outgoing skipper Willard Katsande has selected his successor to take over the captains’ armband.

The Kaizer Chiefs midfielder announced his retirement from the Warriors national side following their participation at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Gabon.

Media reports in Zimbabwe indicate that Katsande wants Danny Phiri to take over the leadership role.

Speaking of the midfielder, Katsande revealed that the South African-based midfielder with Golden Arrows has the potential to lead the team.

“I think Danny Phiri should take over the armband. He is there to lead the team going forward. The team has great potential to do well in future,” Katsande said to the News Day.

Zimbabwe were knocked out in the group stages after finishing bottom of Group B with a single point to show for their efforts.

They lost two matches to Tunisia and Teranga Lions whilst drawing against Algeria, leaving Katsande to step down form the national side.

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Pepe and James Rodriguez return to Real Madrid training | Football News |

Karim Benzema and Alvaro Morata are battling for a starting job, but which has a brighter future at Real Madrid?
The FC guys respond to tweets about the January transfer window, Real Madrid’s next breakout star and more.
Real Madrid had everything go right for them in La Liga this weekend. The FC Crew revisit the title race in Spain.
Real Madrid never looked troubled against Sociedad, winning 3-0, and extending their lead at the top of the table.
Zinedine Zidane denies Real Madrid fans whistled at Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored in their win over Real Sociedad.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has been boosted by the return to training of Pepe and James Rodriguez ahead of Sunday’s game at Celta Vigo.

La Liga leaders Madrid suffered with a long injury list through a difficult January, with their club-record 40-game unbeaten run ended by Sevilla, and elimination from the Copa del Rey to Celta at the quarterfinal stage.

Zidane himself admitted after Sunday’s 3-0 victory at home to Real Sociedad that no midweek games for a while now could be a “positive” as the squad refocus ahead of their looming Champions League round-of-16 ties with Napoli.

When the team returned to training on Tuesday afternoon, playmaker James and defender Pepe both took a full part in the session after recovering from muscle complaints which saw them sidelined in the last few weeks, although Marcelo, Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal and Gareth Bale are still sidelined.

“The Real Madrid squad completed their first training session of the week as preparations for Sunday’s La Liga clash against Celta at Balaidos (8:45pm CET) got underway,” an official statement said. “Ball work took centre stage in a workout which saw James and Pepe train with the group, whilst Raphael Varane trained indoors.

“Zinedine Zidane called up Real Madrid Castilla players Enzo and Achraf for a session in which the Madridistas carried out various possession and pressure exercises, dribbling and shooting accuracy drills and several games on reduced-sized pitches as well as shots on goal. Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal, Gareth Bale and Marcelo, who continue with their recoveries, combined work indoors with training out on the pitches.”

Right-back Carvajal remains out with a thigh muscle problem picked up in mid-January, but said at a club foundation event that he expected to be back training with his teammates in a week or so — making his potential return against Osasuna in La Liga on Saturday Feb. 11.

“I’m working hard to get back and I’m in with the therapist this week, initially without the ball and then with it,” Carvajal said. “If everything goes to plan, I’ll be back and training with the rest of the squad by next Tuesday.”

Speaking at his news conference after Sunday’s victory had pushed his team four points clear of nearest challengers Barcelona and Sevilla, with a game less played, Zidane said he planned to make good use of the extra preparation time afforded by last week’s Copa exit.

“We cannot think any more about the Copa, we are out of it,” he said. “It is not all positive as I would have liked to go through. But now that is not the case, and we must think about the positive side, we will have two full weeks to work and prepare for La Liga games and then the two games against Napoli.”

At that news conference Zidane was also asked about a likely return date for Gareth Bale, who has been sidelined since injuring an ankle in late November, but did not say exactly how long more he expected the Wales international to be out.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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Antonio Conte concentrating solely on Chelsea rather than Premier League rivals

Confident Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte will not spend any time looking over his shoulder as the rest of the Premier League try to reel in his runaway leaders.

A 1-1 draw at Liverpool, coupled with a defeat for Arsenal and a draw for Tottenham, meant the Stamford Bridge side extended their advantage to nine points.

Having negotiated a testing night at Anfield, next up is a home clash against the Gunners, who were 3-0 winners at the Emirates Stadium back in September.

A victory for Chelsea at the weekend would leave Arsenal 12 points adrift and effectively out of the title race but Conte is not getting too concerned with that just yet.

“The best thing is to see ourselves, not the others,” he said.

“We stay top of the table and that is a great achievement but it is important to focus on ourselves.

“There are 15 games remaining and 45 points. It’s important to draw against a really good team (Liverpool) and now we must focus on playing Arsenal.

“We play another great team because Arsenal is a great team who can fight for the title.

“Don’t forget we lost 3-0 away and I think this could be a good chance for us to show that the second part of the season we are a totally different team if you compare us to the previous game.

“It is a good chance for us. We play at home, which is very important, but it will be a really tough game.”

Although the title appears Chelsea’s to lose, Conte’s first aim is to ensure the club qualifies for the Champions League after missing out last season.

“For a club like Chelsea it is very important to come back in this competition,” he added.

“This week is very important for us and we want to finish this week in a good way as the game against Arsenal is very important.”

Source: PA

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Antoine Griezmann should come to Premier League – Thierry Henry | Football News |

Steve Nicol has his say at the latest rumours, including Man United’s reported attempt for Antoine Griezmann.

Thierry Henry has told Sky Sports News that reported Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann “should come to the Premier League.”

Atletico Madrid and France attacker Griezmann is among the most sought-after talents in world football after a 2016 that saw him star for club and country and finish third in the voting for the Ballon d’Or and FIFA The Best awards.

Although the 25-year-old is under contract until 2021 and has said he is happy playing under Diego Simeone at the Calderon, there has been persistent speculation that United are considering paying his €100 million release clause in the summer, while Arsenal have also been touted as a potential destination

Asked about the issue on Sky Sports News, former Arsenal and France star Henry said: “I think he’s someone that should come to the Premier League.

“If he goes to Old Trafford then it’ll be great for them but he’s a player you need, for the league and everyone, for the fans, to be able to see that guy.”

Henry said he had been closely tracking the career of his compatriot, who was rejected by Lyon as a teenager for being too small and then came through the youth ranks at Real Sociedad before joining Atletico for €30m in 2014.

“I know of him for a very long time, he’s been at Sociedad early in his career,” Henry said. “No one wanted him in France by the way, when you think that he had to go to Sociedad to find his way, that tells you the character of the man and how great a player he is when no one thought he was going to do it.”

Henry — Arsenal‘s all-time record goal scorer — stressed that his wish was for Griezmann to play in England and not necessarily to join United.

“For now people are talking about him going to Manchester United and what he can bring to the league and not only Manchester United if he goes there,” he said. “But yes I think he should come here. I don’t know [if it should be United] but I think he should come to the Premier League.”

Griezmann has previously suggested he would be open to a move to Old Trafford, saying in November that he speaks to Paul Pogba about United and would be keen to play alongside his France teammate at club level.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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Black Stars goalkeeper hit with fine by the Ghana FA – 2017 Africa Cup of Nations – Ghana | Football News |

Kalifa Coulibaly of Mali challenged by Razak Brimah of Ghana during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Finals football match between Ghana and Mali at the Port Gentil Stadium in Gabon on 21 January 2017 ©Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Staff Reporter

Wednesday Feb 01, 2017. 12:00

The Ghana FA have hit goalkeeper Razak Brimah with a US$2500 fine in response to his foul-mouthed rant on Facebook.

The shot-stopper took to social media to post a curse-ridden video in which he hit back at the critics of his performances at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.

In response, the GFA issued a statement condemning his conduct and revealed that the player will lose half of his win bonus (the money will be donated to charity upon Ghana’s return from the AFCON) and write a formal apology.

According to the statement, the punishment is due to a breach of the code of conduct of the Black Stars, which states in Article 6(1)& (2):

1 – During the periods of camping all members of the Delegation, particularly players are forbidden to engage in any discussions, and/or any form of communication with player agents, scouts, journalists and all other unauthorized personnel except with the express permission of the Head Coach or Leader of Delegation.

2 – Any player who violates Clause 1 of this article shall be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000.00 In pursuance thereof, the GFA has decided to impose a fine of $2,500 on Brimah which will be donated to a charity in Ghana.

Brimah and Ghana will hope this action puts the issue to bed and allows the player to focus on preparing for Thursday evening’s semifinal against Cameroon.

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Cristiano Ronaldo ‘hurts’ when Real Madrid fans whistle – Keylor Navas | Football News |

Real Madrid cruised to a 3-0 win over Sociedad at home, with Cristiano Ronaldo finding the score-sheet once again.
Real Madrid cruised to a 3-0 win over Sociedad at home, with Cristiano Ronaldo finding the score-sheet once again.
Zinedine Zidane denies Real Madrid fans whistled at Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored in their win over Real Sociedad.
Amid concerns about Real Madrid‘s plethora of injuries, the FC crew assess Cristiano Ronaldo’s form in La Liga.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas has said that his teammate Cristiano Ronaldo “hurts” when he is whistled by his own team’s supporters, however the club’s record-top scorer does still “love all the fans “at the Bernabeu.

Ronaldo has been criticised at the Bernabeu on and off over recent years, even as he became Madrid’s record all-time scorer and helped the team win two Champions League trophies in the last three years.

There were more whistles and boos after some poor early touches in Sunday’s 3-0 La Liga win at home to Real Sociedad, with video appearing to show the Portugal captain responding by mouthing an offensive phrase in the direction of the stands. He then provided an assist and goal as Zinedine Zidane’s side stretched their lead at the top of the title.

Speaking on radio show El Larguero, Costa Rica international Navas said: “What Cristiano tells us, and what he says to [Sergio] Ramos, the skipper, is that he loves all the fans

“It hurts him that they whistle him, but he knows the [majority of the] fans support him. He always tries to help the team with goals. He is committed to this club and wants to win trophies, as we all do, to make our fans happy.”

Whistles for stars at the Bernabeu are not new, with club legend Alfredo Di Stefano, current coach Zinedine Zidane and long-serving club captain Iker Casillas all on the receiving end of abuse from the stands at various times in their playing careers.

“These things happen,” Navas said. “I was new and it took me by surprise [at first]. In the end the team is much stronger when the players and fans are united. When the fans support us it gives us a boost. That is what we want.”

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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Egypt’s El Hadary not quitting soon – 2017 Africa Cup of Nations – Egypt | Football News |

Staff Reporter

Wednesday Feb 01, 2017. 11:30

The oldest player at the on-going 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, Essam Kamal Tawfik El-hadary has said he is not about to retire from international football soon.

Aged 44-years, the Egyptian responded to a question during a presser on Tuesday that he is not thinking about retiring but focused on the semifinal game between Egypt and Burkina Faso on Wednesday.

“My mind is thinking about the semifinal because it is the big match. Nothing about retiring,” said El-hadary who did not seem amused.

The goalkeeper broke the record of the oldest player at an Afcon event on January 17th when he replaced injured first-choice shot-stopper Ahmed El-Shenawy in a Group D game against Mali. He has gone on to feature in the matches against Uganda, Ghana and the 1-0 quarter final win over Morocco.

El-hadary is a four-time winner of the Afcon competition and now has 151 caps for his country. He is also currently enjoying a second spell with Egyptian Premier League side Wadi Degla.

El-Hadary won his first African title in 1998 and was named as the best goalkeeper in the tournament when Egypt won on home soil in 2006 and defended their crown successfully in both 2008 and 2010.

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Blackburn Rovers wait for confirmation of Efe Ambrose loan deal | Football News |

Efe Ambrose in action for Celtic

Staff Reporter

Wednesday Feb 01, 2017. 11:28

English Championship club Blackburn Rovers have said they are awaiting confirmation by the Football League later today on the transfer of Nigeria defender Efe Ambrose from Celtic.

Blackburn told Skysports that Ambrose’s transfer from Celtic has not been confirmed by the Football League, and they will await confirmation by Wednesday afternoon.

The paper work of the defender’s loan deal to Blackburn Rovers will be assessed and the clubs involved are confident the paperwork was completed in time and expect the deal to be ratified this afternoon.

Ambrose, who has lost his place at Celtic, was linked with a loan move to Hibernian in Scottish second-tier league.

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Mino Raiola coy about Juventus interest in AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma | Football News |

Gianluigi Donnarumma has made over 50 appearances for AC Milan.

Gianluigi Donnarumma’s agent, Mino Raiola, cannot understand why the 17-year-old has been singled out for criticism during a rough period of form for AC Milan, adding that if he is no longer wanted at the Serie A club, he can easily find him an alternative.

The Rossoneri have picked up just five points from their past seven Serie A games and were also knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Juventus, and Donnarumma has borne some of the brunt for this recent dip.

Milan have done little to defend Donnarumma publicly and Raiola issued a warning on transfer deadline day when he told Mediaset television that he will act in his client’s best interests.

“We’ve taken note [of the criticism],” Raiola said. “We just have to see what kind of a club Milan are going to be, and I’ve already told [general manager Adriano] Galliani this.

“I have to think of his interests and then we will see if there is any interest from Europe’s big clubs.”

Should Milan be unable to convince Donnarumma they can fulfil his ambitions, Raiola does not expect there to be any problem in finding another club for him, although any potential buyer would have to dig deep for the Italy international.

“Gigio is worth as much as a Modigliani, who is one of the greatest Italian artists,” Raiola said. “If a price were to be put on him then it would be Milan who would name it. The lad’s contract is not expiring just yet, though, so we shouldn’t make a drama for no reason.”

Raiola was coy when asked whether Juventus have already been in touch with him to discuss Donnarumma’s transfer, but his words were suggestive.

“You’ll have to ask [general manager Beppe] Marotta, [sporting director ] Paratici and [director Pavel] Nedved,” he added.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.

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Standard Liege loan Uganda’s Miya – 2017 Africa Cup of Nations – Uganda| Football News |

(L-R) Farouk Miya and Moses Oloya are joined by Geoffrey Massa of Uganda as they celebrate a score against Congo Brazzaville during the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers on 12 November 2016 at Mandela Stadium, Namboole. ©Ismail Kezaala/BackpagePix

Staff Reporter

Wednesday Feb 01, 2017. 10:30

Belgian First Division side Standard Liege has loaned Uganda Cranes attacking midfielder Farouk Miya to Royal Excel Mouscron FC.

Miya, who was signed from Uganda Premier League side SC Vipers last January, was unveiled on Tuesday.

“Miya has been acquired on loan from Standard Liege till the end of the season,” said the Club website.

Miya was the only player to score a goal for Uganda at the on-going 2017 Total Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) were they bowed out in the group stage.

Miya scored in the 1-1 draw against Mali in the last Group D game at the Afcon competition. Uganda lost by the same 1-0 score to Ghana and Egypt.

The 20-year-old Miya, who was Uganda’s 2015 Uganda Footballer of the Year, also scored the lone goal when the Cranes beat Comoros 1-0 to qualify for the 2017 Afcon.

When joining Standard Liege last year they paid Ugandan club SC Vipers US$400.000.

The other Ugandan players featuring in Europe include; William Kizito Luwagga and Alex Kakuba who play in Portugal.

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Odion Ighalo says thank you to Pozzos, Watford fans – Serie A 2016/2017

Former Watford striker Odion Ighalo

Staff Reporter

Wednesday Feb 01, 2017. 09:15

Odion Ighalo has paid tribute to the Pozzo family, who have been part of his career since 2008, and the Watford fans after he completed his 20 million pounds to Chinese club Changchun Yatai.

READ: Watford confirm Ighalo’s move to China

The Nigeria international in a farewell message to Watford after he completed a four-year move to the Chinese team said he thank the football family that has been with him for nine years.

He also said he will miss Watford fans who made his stay in the EPL worthwhile.

“It’s a mixed emotion for me, I don’t know what to say right now. I am happy because I came here (Watford) and achieved a lot,” he said.

“I am leaving as a good player which the club made me. I want to thank God for the opportunity.

“I thank the Pozzo family for being there for me, we have come a long way, we have been together for nine years since 2008 from Udinese to Granada and Watford. I thank my agents for the good job.”

He added: “I hold Watford fans in high esteem, even when things were not going well, they kept chanting my name.

“I am so glad to associate with the Watford family. The club will always be in my heart wherever I go.”


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Cameroon, Ghana battle for spot in 2017 AFCON final – 2017 Africa Cup of Nations

Andre Ayew of Ghana reacts instructs teammates during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Finals Afcon Quarter Final football match between DR Congo and Ghana at the Oyem Stadium in Gabon on 29 January 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix


Wednesday Feb 01, 2017. 09:06

Cameroon and Ghana will renew their rivalry at the Stade de Franceville in the Gabonese city of Franceville on Thursday evening, with a place in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations final up for grabs.

Kick-off is set for 21h00 (CAT).

With a grand total of eight AFCON titles between them – four apiece – the two nations are among the most successful on the African continent.

The Indomitable Lions (champions in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002), were rank outsiders heading into the showpiece following several withdrawals, but proved once more how far will and determination can take you as they now set their sights on a fifth crown.

Hugo Broos’ men will again be underdogs heading into the clash, but will relish the tag having defeated pre-tournament favourites Senegal 5-4 on penalties in the quarterfinals.

Fabrice Ondoa with the decisive moment, saving Sadio Mane’s spot-kick before Vincent Aboubakar rattled home from 12 yards. The game ended goalless after extra-time.

“It is a great day for my team,” a delighted Broos said in the aftermath. “Not many people gave us the chance to reach the semifinals. We played against a strong Senegal team. We fought very hard and resisted several attacks by the opponent.

“Luck was on our side too. I congratulate my very young team. They really deserve to be in the semis. Fourteen of my team are playing in the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time and our ambition has always been to go far.”

Moreover, Broos praised his teams unity on the pitch:“The most important element was playing as a team on the field. In that sense, you cannot say a particular player was better than the other. And we needed that kind of performance against an opponent like Senegal and the players did that fantastically.”

Despite reaching a sixth successive AFCON semifinal, the Black Stars (champions in 1963, 1965, 1978, 1982) also have a lot to prove having not won the tournament in 35 years.

Runners-up two years ago, the Black Stars have come very close on several occasions over the past decade and will be hoping that this will finally be their year.

Ghana beat the Democratic Republic of Congo in their last eight clash; goals from Andre and Jordan Ayew steering the West Africans to victory.

“It will be very tough, we saw Cameroon’s quarter-final win over Senegal and they played very well,” head coach Avram Grant said.

“Cameroon will have one more day rest than us but we’ve shown we can deal with difficulties.

“My team is improving, every game we get fitter and sharper. And this team has a big heart,” he concluded.

Head-to-Head: Cameroon vs Ghana

Cameroon FIFA ranking: 62

Ghana FIFA ranking: 54

Matches played: 7

Cameroon wins: 1

Ghana wins: 3

Draws: 3

Cameroon goals scored: 4

Ghana goals scored: 7

Last match: 7 February 2008 in Accra (2008 AFCON semifinal): Cameroon 1-0 Ghana

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Five things about Barcelona’s Nigerian recruit Ezekiel Bassey |Football News|

Nigeria international Ezekiel Bassey, right, has joined Spanish giants Barcelona.

On deadline day, Nigerians were blindsided by news that Enyimba winger Ezekiel Bassey had signed with Spanish giants Barcelona on an initial six-month loan, with an option for a two-year contract after.

Here are five things you need to know about the transfer and the player himself.

1. Spotted on NPFL’s tour of spain

Bassey was spotted by Barcelona while on a tour of Spain with the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) All-Star team last August.

The tour was part of a bilateral agreement signed between the NPFL and La Liga last year which includes technical partnerships between the league’s and their member clubs.

Officials tracked him after that, and also analysed videos of his previous games provided by former Nigeria international Haruna Babangida, who spent seven years with the club between 1997 and 2004.

A final decision to sign him was made on Thursday, and the deal was agreed and completed within 48 hours and the player flew out on Monday night after securing a special, emergency visa.

Gbenga Okunowo
Gbenga Okunowo is one of three Nigerian players to have plied his trade at the Nou Camp.

2. Fourth Nigerian to don Barca colours

Bassey becomes the fourth Nigerian to play for Barcelona, joining a very short list headed by Emmanuel Amunike, Gbenga Okunowo and Babangida.

He also becomes only the second Nigerian, after Okunowo in 1995, to join the Catalans direct from the Nigerian domestic league.

The 20-year-old will hope to make a bigger impact than Okunowo, who took a full year to break into the first team from the B side, and only managed to make 21 appearances before he was farmed out on loan and eventually traded.

3. Bassey plays like Bayern Munich‘s Costa

A very talented winger, whose ball game has been likened to Bayern Munich‘s Douglas Costa, Bassey combines intelligence with skill and balance.

Enyimba chairman Felix Anyansi Agwu, who signed him for the club, says Barcelona have picked up a real bargain.

“He is a fantastic player and his running, especially off the ball, is second to none,” Agwu said. “Barcelona will not regret getting him.”

“He called and asked me about the club and I told him he should come because he would get opportunities to play, just like me. That’s what convinced him to join Enyimba,” Udoh added.

Ezekiel Bassey
Bassey, far left, played a key role in helping Enyimba to the Nigerian league title.

4. Bassey’s injury jinx behind him

After playing a significant part in helping Enyimba to their record seventh title, Bassey was selected by Sunday Oliseh as a member of the Nigeria squad to the African Nations Championship, CAFs tournament for players who play in their domestic leagues.

But injury and a loss of form meant that Oliseh preferred to play Prince Aggreh and Osas Okoro in the wide areas, and even when he was thrown on as a substitute, Bassey failed to light up the competition as Nigeria made an early exit.

His woes continued when he returned to Enyimba with the coach Paul Aigbogun restricting him to substitute appearances. But he recovered enough of his form to be picked for the NPFL All Star trip to Spain. The rest as they say is now history.

5. A man of good fashion

Off the field, teammate and close friend Mfon Udoh says Ezekiel is a scrooge, but one with one weakness for clothes.

“He can spend a fortune on a good outfit, but in everything else, he is very conservative in spending.” Udoh said.

Both players have been friends since they were in academies, with Bassey playing for Emma Ntuk Academy in his native Akwa Ibom State.

Udoh was already at Enyimba when Bassey was recruited, and encouraged his friend to join him

“He called and asked me about the club and I told him he should come because he would get opportunities to play, just like me. That’s what convinced him to join Enyimba,” Udoh added.

Colin Udoh is a Nigeria football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.

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