By Joe Apu
The Squirrels of Benin Republic will on Sunday take on the CHAN Super Eagles in the first leg second round qualifier ahead of the CHAN 2018 with a mindset to upstage the Nigerians. The host file out with no less than seven Nigerians on their side determined to stop the Eagles a chance to be in Kenya next year.
In their game against Togo, at least two Nigerians started the second leg match namely Ogoulola Ibrahim and Elegbede Jules with Benin passports.
“You will play against another Nigerian team,” warned a top source from Cotonou.
“Many of the players are from Nigeria and they were only given the passports and names of Benin people.
The source further revealed: “The players we are talking about can hardly speak French, which is the official language in Benin.
Nigeria and Benin enjoy close social and economic ties that Nigerian like Razak Omotoyossi, Emmanuel Fabiyi, Isaac Loute and Muri Ogunbiyi have been capped at full international level by Benin.
The Benin side is captained by midfielder Mama Seibou with former international forward Oumar Tchomogo heading the technical crew.
Meanwhile, Coach Salisu Yusuf has opted for goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa, defenders Orji Kalu and Osas Okoro, midfielders Alhassan Ibrahim and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, forwards Stephen Odey and Ifeanyi George, and 13 other players for Sunday’s 2018 African Nations Championship qualifying match away to Benin Republic.
There are also goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye, defender Chima Akas, midfielder Rabiu Ali and forward Thomas Zenke.
Goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai, defenders Ariwachukwu Emmanuel, Stephen Eze and Nasiru Sani, midfielders Hafiz Aremu, Raphael Ayagwa and Samuel Mathias and forwards Sikiru Olatubosun and Kingsley Eduwo complete the list of the playing body that will fly from Kano to Lagos on Friday and then make the short trip to Cotonou by road same day.
The Confederation of African Football has appointed Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal to take charge of proceedings at the Stade de l’Amitie on Sunday, starting from 4pm.
He will be assisted by compatriots Mokrane Gourari (Assistant Referee 1), Mohammed Serradj (Assistant Referee 2) and Said Aquina (Reserve Referee).
After Nigeria failed to reach the finals of the first two editions of the competition exclusively reserved for footballers plying their trade in their countries’ domestic Leagues, the Super Eagles won the bronze medals at the third edition in 2014. They however could not make the knock –out stage at the fourth edition in Rwanda early last year.
The return leg will hold at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano on Saturday, 19th August, with the winner qualifying for the 5th African Nations Championship scheduled for Kenya early next year.
Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (FC IfeanyiUbah); Theophilus Afelokhai (Enyimba FC); Dele Ajiboye (Plateau United)
Defenders: Orji Kalu (Rangers International); Stephen Eze (FC IfeanyiUbah); Ariwachukwu Emmanuel (Akwa United); Chima Akas (Enyimba FC); Nasiru Sani (Katsina United); Osas Okoro (Rangers International)
Midfielders: Hafiz Aremu (Akwa United); Raphael Ayagwa (Lobi Stars); Ifeanyi Ifeanyi (Akwa United); Rabiu Ali (Kano Pillars); Samuel Mathias (El-Kanemi Warriors); Alhassan Ibrahim (Akwa United)
Forwards: Sikiru Olatubosun (MFM FC); Thomas Zenke (Nasarawa United); Stephen Odey (MFM FC); Kingsley Eduwo (Lobi Stars); Ifeanyi George (Rangers International).