Notwithstanding the high pedigree of the LaLiga in world football, Chairman of the League Management Company, Shehu Dikko, has sounded a warning to the Spanish teams lined up to engage the selected side of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) not to think it is going to be a stroll in the park against the All Stars from Nigeria.
Dikko gave the warning while speaking to the Spanish press on Monday night immediately on arrival in the city of Valencia where the NPFL All Stars will take on Valencia CF in their opening game of the friendly tour.
“The first assumption for football followers would be that it will be an easy run for the LaLiga clubs over the NPFL All Stars, given the high standard and pedigree of the Spanish league in comparison to growing Nigeria Professional Football League but they would be mistaken. This is football and I believe there can be surprises ” Dikko said.
His optimism draws from the quality of players brought together into the NPFL All Stars many of who he opines are up to the challenge.
“The NPFL All Stars has talented and experienced players. Many of them have played for Nigeria national teams at different levels, with different numbers of caps in the senior national team. Others have had experience in international and continental competitions. They are very confident players who will not be intimidated the rating of their opponents,” he explained.
The NPFL All Stars departed Lagos on Monday morning and arrived Valencia by train from Madrid where they landed in the evening after a three hours stop in Casanblanca, Morocco.
Dikko however pointed out that the real value of the NPFL All-Stars LaLiga tour is not about the possible results of the matches but “the exposure it gives to the players, the opportunity to learn from a different environment with high quality players and high standard of organisation and the ability to translate same into the NPFL while at same time inspiring Nigerian players to aspire for higher performance.”
Captained by Enyimba FC of Aba top player, Chima Akas, the team parades some of the best in the NPFL. The list includes goalkeepers Ikechukwu Ezenwa of FC IfeanyiUbah, Nnewi, Theophilus Afelokhai of Enyimba FC of Aba and Emeka Nwabulu of Wikki Tourists, Bauchi.
Others are Mathew Etim (Rangers), Austin Obarokpo (Abia Warriors) and Jamiu Aliyu of Kano Pillars. Also in the squad are Enyimba’s Joseph Osadiaye, Rabiu Ali of Kano Pillars, Godwin Obaje of Wikki Tourists and Ezekiel Bassey of Enyimba.
Obinna Nwobodo of Rangers, Emmanuel Ariwa (Akwa United), Ifeanyi Ifeanyi of MFM, Ismaila Gata of FC IfeanyiUbah, Samuel Nweke of Nasarawa United and Charles Henlong of Wikki Tourists also made the list.
The rest of the squad are Dayo Ojo of Sunshine Stars, Chisom Egbuchulam of Rangers, Sikiru Olatunbosun of MFM, Chinedu Udoji of Enyimba and his team mate Dami Ojo.
The team is being handled by Nigeria national team coach, Sanusi Yusuf, assisted by Imana Amapakabo of Rangers International FC of Enugu and Nigeria ex-international, Ike Shorunmi as goalkeepers trainer.
The All Stars will commence their test against Valencia CF on Wednesday, August 10 and go into the Carranza World Tournament on August 12, when they take on Malaga CF in Cadiz. Possible victory against Malaga will match them against either Athletico or Cadiz CF, hosts of the tournament for either the winner’s or third place contest scheduled for August 13.