The dispute between Nigeria and clubs in the professional ranks over players ahead of the Federation Cup semi-finals took a new twist on Wednesday. This time, Nigeria head coach, Stephen Keshi, has taken a swipe at the clubs for seeking the release of their star players ahead of the August 15 Cup semis billed to hold in Calabar and Ilorin.
Keshi told SuperSport.com: “I don’t understand why a team that registered more than 30 players are asking for the release of just two or three out of their entire squad. Why can’t they play without these two or three players? That is a terrible thing I must say.”
Coincidentally, the Super Eagles are also lined up to face Niger Republic’s Mena in an international friendly game at the Stade General SeyniKountche in Niamey on August 15. Heartland and Kano Pillars have been in the forefront of seeking the release of their stars for the Cup semis.
Cup holders, Heartland, billed to face Prime FC at the Ilorin Township Stadium, have goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, Francis Benjamin and Kabiru Umar in the Super Eagles’ camp in Abuja. A fourth Heartland player, ObinnaNwachukwu has been released by Keshi after he reported to camp injured. Femi Ajayi of Crown FC has replaced him.
Gabriel Reuben, Umar Zango and Papa Idris, who all played key roles in ensuring that Kano Pillars reach the Cup semis, are also in the Nigerian camp. Lobi Stars, also one of the semi-finalists, have their forward, Tony Okpotu with the Nigerian Under20s preparing to face their Tanzanian counterparts in an AYC qualifying this Sunday.
Prime FC are the only semi-finalists that will have the full complement of their squad to face Heartland.