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Road To Rio 2016: Nigeria Dig For Olympics Ticket

Posted: Nov 28, 2015 at 6:27 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Nigeria’s male under-23  team will tomorrow start their chase for a ticket to play soccer at the 2016 Rio Olympics, when they confront Mali in a CAF U-23 Championship Group B fixture at the Stade Caroline Faye in Mbour.

And for coach Samson Siasia, whose mother is still in the kidnappers’ den, after being forcefully taken against her will by three armed men at Odoni Community of Sagama local government area in Bayelsa State, it is going to be a testy time as he battles to keep a cool composure in his quest to qualify the team for a second Olympic ticket under his watch.

More than 12 days after Madam Ogere Siasia was kidnapped, the family is yet to meet up with the demand of the kidnappers, with accusations flying round that they have abandoned the kidnapped.

Though they have pleaded with the Bayelsa government to help them secure the freedom of their mother, it appears the appeal has fallen on deaf ears.

A member of the family, Denis Siasia said “the last time we spoke to the kidnappers, they threatened to bury Mama if we failed to meet their demand and we told them that we don’t have the kind of money they requested for as we were only able to raise N600, 000. From the tone of their voice, they were angry.’’

Siasia, it is recalled qualified the Dream Team to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, where they won the silver medal after losing to a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentine side in the final. Interestingly, Chelsea midfielder, John Mikel Obi was one of the stars of the Nigeria side and though he is not playing in this current tournament, he is backing Siasia to steer the team to success in Senegal.

“I feel the coach can qualify the team for the next Olympics,’’ Mikel tweeted last night.

Nigeria have won the Olympic gold once at the 2006 Atlanta Games and have always been a force to reckon with at the greatest sporting show in the world..

But Siasia will have his work cut out for him when the CAF U-23 Championship revs off tomorrow in Senegal, from where Africa’s three representatives will be determined.

Eight teams, split into two groups of four will be contesting for the three spots to Rio, with the top three finishers at the end of the tournament progressing. The Nigerians are in Group B with Algeria, Egypt and Mali, who they battle first on Sunday at the 5000 capacity Stade Caroline Faye in Mbour.

The other venue is the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor in Dakar, where hosts Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia are expected to play.

After weeks of preparations, capped with a 1-1 draw against the Gambia U-20 earlier in the week in Brikama, Siasia fine-tuned his plans for the tournament, running from tomorrow to December 12, with the injection of new players like Chile 2015 highest goalscorer, Victor Osimhen, with the aim of spiking the team to a rousing performance in Senegal.

Blessed with a crop of gifted young players like Liverpool’s Taiwo Awoniyi and Ajayi Junior of CS Sfaxien, the onus is on Siasia’s side to roll to a sweeping victory against Mali tomorrow.

And, speaking from their Mbour base in Senegal, Siasia says he expects a stiff opposition from Mali, who he however insists will fall to the superior play of his team.

“We are here to get the ticket to play at the next Olympic Games in Rio and are aware of the threats that Mali and the other teams in our group pose to our aspirations We will remain focussed and stay dogged in our quest to achieve our target here.

“It is very important for us to start with a win in our first match and with the crop of players I have here, I feel confident that they will rise to the demands of the day and get the three points to stay in the hunt for the ticket to Rio’’, added Siasia, who guided Nigeria to a silver medal winning feat at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

But the former Flying Eagles coach has also cautioned his wards on the dangers of playing with bloated ego.

Some of the teams that have qualified for the Rio finals include hosts Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, Argentina, Fiji, Denmark, Germany, Portugal and Sweden.

Three more teams from Africa will join the Rio train by December 12 while the three qualifiers from Asia will be known on January 30 when the Asian U-23 Championship ends in Qatar, hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup