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How Finidi George Ended My Super Eagles Career; Nigeria Can Win AFCON 2023 Title –Dimeji Lawal

How Finidi George Ended My Super Eagles Career;  Nigeria Can Win  AFCON 2023 Title  –Dimeji Lawal

Dimeji Lawal, a former Nigeria junior International, has revealed that George Finidi’s explosive emergence on the national team stage brought to an end his (Lawal’s) senior national team career, Completesports.com reports.

The onetime dashing winger also confidently posits that Super Eagles are good enough to scoop the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations ultimate to make it Nigeria’s 4th title overall.

Lawal, who arrived the big stage in 1989 following an extraordinary performance in the colours of Nigeria’s national U-20 team, Flying Eagles, during that year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup finals in Saudi Arabia, believes that he was on the verge of ‘pocketing’ the Super Eagles’ No.7 jersey the way ‘Mathematical’ Segun Odegbami did, but for Finidi’s arrival at the time with his incredible form.

The former Shooting Stars Sports Club winger who is currently the General Manager of the Oluyole Warriors spoke during the University of Ibadan old students’ interactive forum.

‘Kabongo’, as Lawal is fondly called, disclosed that the emergence of Finidi and Coach Clemens Westerhof’s preference of him in his starting lineups, ultimately ended his Super Eagles career even before it clearly kicked off.

“Westerhof single-handedly played a role in my setback at the national team, but he cannot be blamed for creating a perfect replacement in Finidi George, who without doubt, remains one of the best in our position,” starts Dimeji Lawal who was Real Madrid’s player at the time.

“My utmost respect to Finito,”added Lawal who signed for the Spanish giants in 1989 after helping the Flying Eagles perform the ‘Damman Miracle’ along with Mutiu Adepoju, Chris Ohenhen, amongst others.

Lawal found playing time incredibly difficult in the Super Eagles on account of Finidi George’s emergence. He also gives reasons why he could not break into the Madrid first team.

“My signing for (Real) Madrid was a long story of fulfilment. I couldn’t have dreamt that football would take me to Santiago Bernabeu one day, not to talk of sitting in the same dressing room with Hugo Sanchez, Michel Salgado, Bernd Shurster, Oscar Ruggeri, George Hagi, Robert Prosinescki, Emilio Butragueno, Canizares and Fernando Hierro, amongst others,” he recalled.

“My first set-back was that in those days, there was quota system as you could only have four foreigners registered and only three could play in a game, unlike now that the system has changed drastically. So, looking at the aforementioned super stars, we can all understand why it was so difficult to become a part of the first team.

“We had a few opportunities to play with the first team in some friendly games but not in an official matches.”

Lawal says he
was grateful to God for the privilege of playing at that level.

“With the array of talents at Real Madrid at that time, unfortunately, I could not edge out the foreigners above me because football and representation go beyond just the leather object. But no regrets. While I was signed by Madrid, my younger brother Muyiwa also signed for Atletico Madrid. I thank God for the uncommon privilege and honor”.

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Lawal’s national team career began with U-17s following his selection for the Canada ’87 FIFA U-17 World Cup finals.

Two years later, he made the cut for the Flying Eagles to the Saudi ‘89 FIFA U-20 World Cup where the team won the silver medal following 1-0 defeat to Portugal in the final.

As the 2023 AFCON remains just two calendar months away, Lawal looks at his Crystal ball and predicts that Super Eagles can scoop the African diadem in Cote d’Ivoire.

“Nigeria will be the team to beat in the next CAF Nations Cup. I have no doubt about that, ” Lawal said, exuding firm confidence.

“We have the generation of young talents doing so well in various European top clubs. Not only that, they are young and have the opportunity to play with and against the best legs in the World week in week out”.

‘Kabongo’ would however hand out a stern warning to the Super Eagles coaching staff to stop experimenting with the team and focus on building a formidable team with cohesion and understanding.

The man of the match award winner when the Flying Eagles faced Luis Figo inspired team at the group stage of the 1989 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia points at what should be Super Eagles players first motivation at AFCON 2023.

“Notwithstanding the talent depth of the Super Eagles, this crop of players have not won anything tangible for the country yet, except at their clubs. I am very sure that will be a big drive for them to really cement their arrival as new boys on the block,” he said.

“My advice for the technical crew is simple: the time of trials should be over. We have had enough of testing and trials. It’s time to build a formidable team with cohesion and understanding.

“Suddenly, we have become a country without a standing team. It’s not the best for our football. I know the first eleven of Germany, England, Spain, Holland, and France, unless there is any unforeseen circumstances (injuries, sickness etc).

“But our coaching crew keeps ‘searching’ for new half-casts or European -born players every day. That must stop now so that the team can focus on team cohesion”.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles are in the AFOCON 2923 Group A alongside hosts Cote d’Ivoire, fast-improving Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, who have qualified for a fourth straight edition.

AFCON 2023 is scheduled to kickoff on January 13 and end on February 11 2023, with six stadiums in five Ivorian cities hosting the matches.

By Sab Osuji


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COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 5
  • pompei 8 months ago

    Kabongo? Is he named after the legendary Zaire striker Kabongo Ngoy?
    Anyway, as far as SE goes, Dimeji was a tad unfortunate. He played at a time when the SE was loaded in all departments. As a right winger, he would have had to contend with 2 ogbonge right wingers, Finidi and Tijani Babangida. It was always going to be tough for him.
    He could have perhaps switched to the left wing, but if he did that, he would have jammed Amuneke and Ikpeba there.
    Midfield nko? Okocha, Olise, Adepoju and co dey there.
    Attack? Yekini, Siasia, Amokachi and co full ground for there.
    Eeeesh.
    Even if he switched to goalkeeper, Rufai, Alloy Agu, and co dey there.
    Every department was just loaded.
    Let’s just say Dimeji showed up in the wrong generation.
    Any other generation before or after that one, and Dimeji would likely have been much more visible.

  • Although Dimeji Lawal was unfortunate in breaking into the Super Eagles squad, in his own right he left an indelible mark in Nigerian age grade football.

    He was impressive against Ghana in 1990 but, yes, Westerhorf chose to look elsewhere for the wings.

    He has a point though as to Nigeria settling for a stable team which is why I think Peseiro continues to give the likes of Uzoho and Okoye a long rope to pull.

    “But our coaching crew keeps ‘searching’ for new half-casts or European-born players every day. That must stop now so that the team can focus on team cohesion” says Lawal.

    This is a very contentious topic.

    Whereas during Lawal’s time dual nationality players can expect to make up to 10% of the Super Eagles staring 11, today they can make up to 50% of the match day starting team. And yes, hardly a week goes by without clamour for this English born or that German born Nigerian.

    But latest Super Eagles spring chickens Victor Boniface and Bruno Onyemaechi were born in Akure and Owerri respectively. So, indigenous players who deliver stellar performances in club football also get their horns blown by fans.

    However the crux of Lawal’s statement is having a “stable team”. I think Peseiro is getting there. We know Chukwueze and Lookman are his preferred wingers with Awoniyi and Osihmen the marksmen. Ndidi and Iwobi will make up his midfield if all 6 players are as fit as fiddle.

    It is the defence that I think remains wide open. If fit, will he start between Aina or Osayi-Samuel? Will it be Onyemaechi or Sanusi? And will it stil be Ajayi and Bassey in the middle or will the likes of Akpoguma, Torunariga and Ekong force the issue?

    Will it be Okoye or Uzoho in goal or will Adeleye leapfrog both ?

    I think Peseiro’s team is shaping up.

    He has settled on a formation and a close group of players. It’s just to settle on a definite starting 11 but players in the pecking order across several departments of the team are easy to guess.

  • Coache 8 months ago

    World cup qualifiers in Africa are not pushover matches oooo. Every team takes it very serious by upping their ante. We should not be thinking of AFCON until after Zimbabwe and Lesotho games

  • Chibuike 8 months ago

    That’s why is good to give other players chance to show what they can do. Don’t allow players to feel comfortable in their positions

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