SAHARA Group’s new partner, Super Eagles former striker, Daniel Amokachi’s presence was one of the highlights of the fifth Saharalympic Games, held at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Sports Complex at the weekend.
The games featured an awe-inspiring display of talent, teamwork and camaraderie among Sahara employees from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
The Saharalympics is the group’s biennial sporting event, which debuted in 2014.
Declaring the games open, Anthony Youdeowei, Managing Director, Sahara Power Group, said, “the Saharalympics has become the symbol of Sahara’s commitment to fun in efficiency, a uniting platform that celebrates Sahara’s competitiveness, resilience and team spirit.”
Five teams, Sahara Group Consolidated (comprising Group operations, trading entities, First Independent Power Limited, and teams from within and outside Africa), Asharami Energy (a Sahara Group Upstream Company), Ikeja Electric, Asharami Synergy (a Sahara Group Downstream Company), and Egbin Power competed for laurels in several events, including chess, scrabble, athletics, football, volleyball, basketball, table tennis, big foot race, frisbee relay, and ping-pong race at the Saharalympics.
Egbin Power retained the championship title, while Ikeja Electric and Asharami Synergy were first and second runner-up positions respectively.
Thrilled with their achievement, Chief Executive Officer at Egbin Power, Mokhtar Bonour, said: “Our unwavering dedication to excellence fuels our progress. As a proud member of the Sahara Group family, Egbin is pleased to come tops again, but above all, we are all winners as we play and win together at Sahara.”
The event witnessed the ‘signing’ of Amokachi, who was the special guest of honour.
Executive Directors at Sahara Group, Kola Adesina and Wale Ajibade, presented a customised Saharalympics jersey to Amokachi to seal the signing.
Ajibade said the Saharalympics was also a platform that gives Sahara Group opportunity to honour individuals and teams, who have excelled in various sporting activities.
“It is great to see ‘Dan the Bull’ still looking fit after all these years, we thank you for all the awesome moments of joy you brought to Nigeria through your extraordinary skills which helped you play the round leather game at the highest level. Sahara remains dedicated to recognising and celebrating excellence in sports through the Saharalymics,” he added.
The iconic former Nigeria’s Super Eagles star joins other sporting greats who had previously been part of the Saharalympics. These include Nigeria’s first Olympic Gold Medalist, Chioma Ajunwa, former Super Eagles captain, Joseph Yobo, Victor ‘Prince of Monaco’ Ikpeba, legendary Olympian, Falilat Ogunkoya-Osheku, and legendary Nigerian goalkeeper, Peter Rufai.
Responding, Amokachi said: “I am truly honoured to have been called upon to participate in this landmark event. Sahara Group’s reputation stands out in the energy sector, and I am truly thrilled to witness the spirit of teamwork and unity that makes Sahara unique.”
Head, Corporate Communications, Sahara Group, Bethel Obioma, said the energy conglomerate was already working towards the next edition.
“The Saharalympics personifies our collective passion for success and the spirit of unity within Sahara Group. It is a platform that nurtures our competitive spirit, enhances camaraderie, and strengthens the bonds that fuel our passion for being MAD, that is, making a difference,” he added.
Osimhen, Chukwueze Doubtful As Super Eagles Eye Arsenal’s Goalkeeper
Nigeria may be without forwards, Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze, when they host Lesotho in a 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.
Osimhen and Chukwueze were expected to return to top action last weekend, but feelers from Italy say their clubs, Napoli and AC Milan respectively, have deferred that to give them adequate time to recuperate.
Napoli FC coach, Rudi Garcia, has announced the return of Osimhen, who has been out of action for almost a month following a hamstring injury.
According to Garcia, Osimhen was expected to return to training yesterday, but would miss the Champions League game against Union Berlin.
Osimhen copped an injury when Nigeria met Saudi Arabia in a friendly game on October 13 in Portugal. Speaking at the club’s media parley on Tuesday, Garcia said Osimhen would return to action on November 25, which is nine days after Nigeria’s game against Lesotho.
Also expected to miss the game is Chukwueze. Chukwueze was an unused substitute when AC Milan hosted Paris St. Germain in a Champions League game on Tuesday, but the Super Eagles Manager, Jose Peseiro, said he would not risk the former Villarreal star in the game against Lesotho.
He said: “We wish to avoid any risks, so Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Osimhen will not be called up during the next break.
“I apologised deeply for their injuries; players are paid by their clubs, and we work with them on a regular basis.”
In Osimhen and Chukwueze’s absence, the Eagles’ attack will be spearheaded by Victor Boniface and Taiwo Awoniyi. Sadiq Umar, Chuba Akpom, Terem Moffi, the rejuvenated Paul Onuachu and new kid on the block, Akor Adams, could also be handed the opportunity to stake their claim to the team’s striker’s roles.
Meanwhile, the Super Eagles have taken their search for a credible goalkeeper to Arsenal, where Nigeria’s Arthur Okonkwo is one of the shot stoppers.
Super Eagles’ current number one goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho, has been under fire since his mistake in Portugal gifted Saudi Arabia a goal during an international friendly.
Peseiro recently recalled Udinese goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, as the team continue their build up to the Cote d’Ivoire 2024 African Cup of Nations.
Okoye was Nigeria’s number-one goalkeeper at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, but he was hounded out of the team by fans, who blamed him for Nigeria’s ouster from the Cameroon 2021 African Cup of Nations by Tunisia.
According to reports, Okonkwo is one of the goalkeepers Nigeria Football Federation’s (NFF) Technical Director, Augustine Eguavoen, is trying to bring to the Eagles.
Okonkwo is currently on loan from Arsenal to Wrexham, where he has been the first choice goalkeeper this season. Eguavoen, according to sources in the NFF, has held talks with Okonkwo with a view to a possible call-up to the Nigeria national team in the future.
Okonkwo, who has played for England’s junior teams at all levels, qualifies to play for the Super Eagles through his Nigerian dad, Uba Okonkwo, from Anambra State.
Peseiro Rules Out Osimhen, Chukwueze From Lesotho Clash
Recuperating Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze have been ruled out of Nigeria’s squad to kick off the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe next weekend.
Super Eagles Head Coach, Jose Santos Peseiro, has confirmed the absence of the two key players who suffered hamstring injuries during Nigeria’s international friendlies with Saudi Arabia and Mozambique last month in Portugal.
Although both Osimhen and Chukwueze have resumed training at Napoli and AC Milan respective, the Portuguese gaffer appears to have heeded calls by stakeholders in the country’s football to allow them recover fully on the sideline.
Peseiro told an online news medium TV Play that he was not going to risk the duo in the clashes with Lesotho and Zimbabwe to avoid injuries that may prevent them from representing Nigeria at the AFCON 2023 kicking off in Côte d’Ivoire in January.
“Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Osimhen will not be called up during the next break. We want to avoid any risks,” Peseiro told TV Play.
“I am very sorry for their injuries, the clubs pay the players and we constantly collaborate with them,” stressed the coach who is sad that both players have not been able to play for their respective clubs after the FIFA window.
Lesotho’s Likuena will take on the Super Eagles on November 16 in Uyo and four days later in Rwanda against Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, leading newspaper in Lesotho, the Lesotho Times is celebrating the absence of some key players for the Super Eagles. It titled its story “Relief as key Nigerian players are ruled out of Likuena tie.”
“The Super Eagles are battling to overcome these injury concerns as they prepare to face Likuena who are eager to cause an upset at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.
”The Super Eagles are ranked number 40 on the FIFA Coca-Cola world ranking while Likuena are ranked number 153.
”The injury concerns are threatening to disrupt Super Eagles’s coach Jose Peseiro’s hunt for a World Cup ticket after the team missed out on the 2022 World Cup,” the newspaper reported gleefully yesterday.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is expected to announce Peseiro’s squad for the two key matches any moment from today.
University Of Uyo To Honour Enyeama With Honourary Degree
Uyo will stand still this weekend as the University of Uyo honours former Super Eagles’ goalkeeper, Enyeama Vincent with honorary degree at her 26th, 27th and 28th combined convocation.
Born 41 years ago, Enyeama is one of the three eminent Nigerians that will bag this year’s honorary degree of the oldest Federal University in Akwa Ibom State for making Nigeria proud in the world of sports.
Enyeama was a member, Nigerian football team between 2002 and October 2015, serving as its captain from 2013 until his retirement from international football in 2015.
With 101 caps, he is Nigeria’s most capped player of all time.
Despite his below-average height for a goalkeeper, Enyeama is popularly regarded as one of the greatest African goalkeepers of all time and of his era.
In March this year, he was ranked the greatest African goalkeeper in history selected above other legendary African goalkeepers such as Joseph-Antoine Bell, Thomas N’Kono, and Essam El-Hadary by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.
The former Super Eagles captain represented the Nigerian national team in three World Cup tournaments and played a key role in the team’s victory in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Enyeama had a decorated career as a goalkeeper with numerous individual awards including being named the best goalkeeper in the Israeli Premier League three times and the best goalkeeper in Ligue 1 in the 2013-2014 season.
He also holds the record for the most clean sheets in a season in the French top flight, with 21 shutouts in 2013-2014.
Enyeama is regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in Nigeria football history with his consistent impresssive performance in goal for the Super Eagles for many years.
I present to you, Vincent Enyeama, a proud son of Ika Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and a father of three.
c Harrison Essien