November 29, 2021


documenting the nigerian story…

The different engagements of holidaying Super Eagles stars

The attention of the world is presently focused on the ongoing 2020 European Championship also called EURO 2020 which is taking place in 11 cities across Europe.

The knock-out stage will commence on Saturday with quarter-final matches. Already the top dogs, defending champions Portugal, the highest ranked team in the world Belgium, world champions France, Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Germany, England, Spain and Croatia have proved bookmakers right by qualifying for the Round of 16.

However, before the ongoing championship, the different football leagues in Europe as well as the Champions and Europa Leagues had taken place. Almost all club competitions ended in the month of May leaving the centre stage for Euro 2020.

But it was mixed fortunes for the Super Eagles who are plying their trade in some of the European clubs. While some ended the season with sweet memories and trophies, some had seasons they would like to forget in a hurry as they either struggled to escape relegation or were relegated outrightly.

Super Eagles defender, Shehu Abdullahi and his newly wedded wife, Najlat Muhammad Suleiman


For players like Simy Nwankwo and Simi Ajayi, it was a season to forget as they were relegated with Crotone and Westbrom respectively. Next season, they will resume in the lower divisions in Italy and England.

But why the duo of Nwankwo and Ajayi gnashed their teeth, it was a moment in the sun for some of their compatriots. For instance, in May, Super Eagles and Villarreal midfielder, Samuel Chukwueze, lifted the Europa Cup, Paul Onuachu wrote his name in gold after he scored 35 goals and gave five assists to among other individual prizes, win the Belgian League with Genk, Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun won the Premiership in Scotland with Glasgow Rangers while Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi helped Leicester City to win their first FA Cup in their 137-year history.

Now that most of the football leagues in Europe are on holiday, the Super Eagles players have also kept aside their hectic season to unwind and recharge for the 2021/2022 season.

While some of the players stayed back in Europe to enjoy the holiday with their families, some were on the first available flights back to Nigeria where they are presently holidaying and engaging in different activities pending the end of their holidays.

Interestingly, some of the players have returned home to either get married, pay courtesy visits to high ranking politicians like state governors, ministers, the clergy or business moguls. Meanwhile, some went back to the football academies where they started their careers.

On Friday last week, Shehu Abdullahi took a second wife when he tied the nuptial knots with Kannywood actress, Najlat Muhammad Suleiman.

The wedding ceremony took place in Kano state and some of his teammates, including Super Eagles captain and bosom friend, Ahmed Musa were in attendance. The Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Maniru Dan Iya also graced the occasion.

The following day, another Super Eagles and Slavia Prague forward, Peter Olayinka wedded his heartthrob, Yetunde Barnabas, at a private ceremony in Lagos.

Former Miss Barnabas is popularly known for her role in Nigerian television sitcom, Papa Ajasco, where she plays the role of Miss Pepeiye.

She is also a former beauty queen who was crowned Miss Tourism Nigeria in 2019 and the Most Beautiful Girl in Abuja the same year.

A host of Nigeria stars including Odion Ighalo, Monaco loanee Henry Onyekuru, Napoli striker Victor Osimhen, Nantes winger, Moses Simon and Bordeaux winger Samuel Kalu were present at the ceremony.

As these players began their honeymoons, some of their colleagues took time out to visit some politicians and business leaders in the country.

Before now, the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello ‘White Lion’ was in the news for hosting some footballers at the Lord Lugard House as the state Government House is called.

It will be recalled that in March, Bello hosted a novelty match between members of his cabinet and the former players of 1994 and 1996 Super Eagles squad at the 25,000 capacity Confluence stadium, Lokoja.

Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State (L) with John Mikel Obi


The technical adviser of the 1994 AFCON winning team, Clemence Westerhof, technical adviser of 1996 Atlanta Olympics gold winning team, Bonfere Jo and a host of former Super Eagles players like Kanu Nwankwo, Jay Jay Okocha, Tijanni Babangida, Garba Lawal, Peter Rufai, Victor Ikpeba and Austin Eguavoen were in Lokoja as guests of Bello.

While political watchers were still deliberating on the purpose of the novelty match which they said may not be unconnected with his presidential ambition, the ‘White Lion’ recently played host to some holidaying players like Kelechi Iheanacho, John Mikel Obi, and Odion Ighalo.

Bello wasn’t the only governor visited as the Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu received FC Porto left back, Zaidu Sanusi while Mikel Obi again visited the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his counterpart in Jos, Simon Lalong.

The Stoke City star also paid courtesy visit to Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote as well as another business tycoon, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah who currently represents Anambra south in the Nigerian Senate and is vying for the governorship seat of his state in an election billed to hold in November this year.

It will also be recalled that the former Super Eagles captain was last week appointed the Youth Ambassador by the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare after a meeting at the National Stadium in Lagos.

Within the same week, another former player, Odion Ighalo paid a courtesy visit to Dare at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja where he was appointed National Principals’ Cup ambassador.

Ighalo prior to his visit to the Minister of Sports had gone to see his ‘children’ at ‘The Ighalo Orphanage Home’ as well as his football academy in Lagos.

He was not alone as Samuel Chukwueze on Tuesday visited an orphanage in Umuahia where he made an undisclosed cash donation.

Before then, the recuperating 22-year old Villarreal of Spain star had visited his alma mater, Diamond Football Academy in Umuahia. It was in the academy that he honed his football skills between 2012-2017.

In the same vein, the Commander, 9 Brigade Command, Ikeja, Brig Gen Lader Saraso hosted Super Eagles star, Moses Simon in Lagos recently.

The Nantes star was invited to be part of a short ceremony which ended with a novelty match between Little Wonders Football Academy and 36 Lions FC.

Simon took part in the friendly game and laid the assist that helped Little Wonders FC to win 3-2. At the end of the game, he gave the teams the sum of N100,000 each as his support to their project.

Similarly, UD Almería lanky forward, Sadiq Umar was in Kaduna where he played in a football match between Future of Africa International and Kaduna European based professionals at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.

The players are expected to return to their various clubs in about a month’s time in preparation for the coming season. For now, they are recharging their ‘batteries’ while attending to public and private affairs.