Ode to Kevin Durant by Ejiro

As one of the Neanderthals who waits for the Olympics every four years for the 100 metres dash final and the superstar NBA players humiliate the competition from the rest of the world playing with FIBA rules which are a bit different from the NBA rules, I was looking forward to the 2012 London Olympics with great fervour. The chance to see the inimitable Usain Bolt attempt to go for the world record and Lebron/his cohorts (headlined by one Kobe Bryant and Kevin Wayne Durant) destroy everyone wasn’t gonna pass me by without the customary ohhhs and ahhs from yours truly.

Now Lebron James was widely regarded as the best player in the world at the time and proved it somewhat in the 2012 NBA finals months earlier beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games. I hadn’t at that time watched the finals but followed it online.I hadn’t, prior to that moment, seen Durant play a full game in the NBA. Yea I knew he played in the league and put up great numbers but I’d never assessed his skill set up close.

After losing the first game of the finals to the 23 year old Durant and his team of neonates, the Heat were on the verge of losing the second one after the thunder recovered a major deficit in the 2nd half. It  came down to a huge play at the end where Durant attacked James in the low post and James went on to foul him on his attempted shot which wasn’t called by the officials.

It was a huge and potential series deciding mistake by the refs. Lebron went on to hit two clutch free throws to win the game and won the next three to win the series.

The London Olympics arrived and I’m just watching highlights of the basketball games (after swearing I was going to see all the Team USA games) and loving myself. First full game I watched was the Spain/USA Gold Medal Game and something became painfully glaring to me. Kevin Durant, not Lebron, was the best player on Team USA. 

This man was 7ft tall with guard skills. He was ambidextrous, could take the ball to the rim, could post up, could shoot the midrange,the three in many ways. The catch and shoot, the pull up three, this man had it all. He was simply an Basketball scoring savant!!

Every time Spain and Pau would get close, the Americans and KD had a shot to stop their run. That was the moment i realised Kevin Durant was the most talented basketball player in the world and all he had to do to become the universally recognised best player in the game was improve his defense. That of course was not to be as he only started playing noteworthy defense in the Playoffs in his last season with OKC.  


Fast forward to May 2016, he and Russell Westbrook blew 3-1 lead in the western conference finals to the Steph Curry-led Golden state warriors, who had just set the regular season record for most wins in an NBA season with 73. It was heart breaking for us OKC fans as we’d believed we were going back to the finals to avenge our 2012 loss to Lebron. Even worse we were dead worried about Durant’s impending free agency decision.

A series of unfortunate events(injuries to both Westbrook and Durant in 2013 & 2015 respectively) and some self inflicted wounds by our front office (like refusing to pay James Harden a luxury tax of 4 mil), Westbrook’s ball dominant style of play at the 1, the teams heavy reliance on Isolation basketball, along with Lebron stacking the deck of cards in his favour, just felt like ominous signs he was going to leave and on the 4th of July 2016, Kevin Durant took his talents to the Bay area. He agreed to sign with Golden State who had just lost a heart breaking game 7 to the Cavs in the final minutes to a great Kyrie Irving isolation play. He agreed to sign for the team that just beat us in the Western conference finals sparking memories of Lebron’s decision in 2010. 


Naturally, OKC fans, NBA followers and enthusiasts were irate. Chants of Snake! Traitor! Cupcake! soon emerged. ESPN First Take anchor, Stephen A Smith, called it “The weakest move by any superstar in history” but anyhow ESPN had some thick analyst called Cari Champion go on air in 2016 and leave KD off the list of top 5 players to build a franchise around citing “He doesn’t have heart.” She was duly put in her place by Damian Lillard on twitter as a know nothing.


Ex-players were incredulous! Saying stuff like how they would never do such a weak thing. They would never hop on a bandwagon, join a team that didn’t need him to basically chase a ring conveniently forgetting Lebron had already wisely rigged the game in his favour. The naysayers were quick to say “There’s only one ball” “They are too small and lost all of their interior defense/rim protection to acquire Durant “ “KD a choker anyways and Bron would handle him and his new superteam.” 

This was new territory for Durant as he was previously a universally loved athlete but now, he was more hated than Lebron James. This was a guy who delivered the most heartfelt speech in all of sports in 2014 when he dedicated his MVP to his mother in tears on National TV and called her THE REAL MVP but was now the most hated sportsman in America and 2nd most hated man in America behind Donald Trump. The Warriors would go on to win 67 games in the season, with KD, Curry, Klay and Draymond having stellar season. 


The team did survive a medial cruciate ligament injury to Durant that caused him to miss 20 games/his shot at regular season MVP. He however recovered before the end of the regular season and they breezed through the Western Conference in the playoffs going 12-0 sweeping their biggest scare in the West (Kawhi and his San Antonio Spurs) thus setting up a rubber match with the defending champions, The Cleveland Cavaliers.

This was the moment of truth for Durant. If he lost, he’d definitely be killed in the media – print, tv, social media – and almost everyone outside the Bay wanted him to lose badly but something else was happening.

Most of the pundits were saying the Cavs would win in 6 or 7, and basically comparing Lebron to Michael Jordan. That ultimately meant no one playing today compares to him seeing the experts were comparing him to The GOAT. I could imagine KD watching all that and feeling insulted and would in return, go supernova on Lebron and the Cavaliers in the finals. I was not wrong. Kevin Durant went berserk in the NBA finals. He was simply a matchup disaster for the Cavs as no one could defend him and he wasn’t ball dominant in the Golden State offense. He was a killer. If you were too small, he’d just shoot it over you, too strong, he’d take you to the bucket or shoot it over you, slack off him on the perimeter, Three! Defend the 3, he is going to the cup.


It was an ultra efficient display of offensive wizardry that has not been seen in the history of the finals. The man shot almost 50% from 3Pt range. He was giving lessons in art of scoring in the NBA finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers led by the great Lebron James through 5 games 5 years after crying off the finals stage against the heat. The moment of the series came in the final moments of Game 3 where he hit a dagger 3 that sucked the life out of the Quickens loans Arena.. IT WAS COLDBLOODED!! It was almost like it was scripted. He averaged 35ppg/5asg/7rpg with a 56% FG% and TS% of almost 70% (otherworldly) in the NBA finals and most notably played 1st team all NBA defense type of defense and was rightly named the MVP of the finals. LeBron had a triple double, averaged 33PPG with a far higher usage rate, more FGA/Game and played 6 minutes more than Durant per contest.

This man had come into his own, finally realised he was the best player in the league and wasn’t there for all the Lebron adulation. He’s now an NBA champion, Finals MVP, THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD and i believe he’d be back at the peak in 4 years for the one that matters with OKC. 

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TPL042: The Official Report

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As anticipated, the Twitter Premier League (TPL), a popular social media-driven football league, had its premier out-of-Lagos edition, tagged #TPL042, in the Eastern capital of Enugu on Saturday 19th March.

The event, which was held at the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus (UNEC) Temporary Stadium, was hosted by compere extraordinaire, Jude (of Dream 92.5FM Enugu) and the lively Miss Amanda. The day was fun filled and soaked with football action, attracting players and fans from all parts of the city.

Four teams, representing the major areas in Enugu metropolis, participated in the maiden TPL042 Championship. These teams include FC Bisalla, FC Connè, Oringo FC, and Otigba FC, which were formed in Independence Layout, G.R.A, Trans-Ekulu and New Haven respectively.

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The host, Jude, doing what he does best
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Co-host, Amanda does the Shakiti bobo with Africanist

The tournament was kicked off by the youngest team manager in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), Mr. Amobi Ezeaku of Rangers International FC of Enugu. Then, it was time for FC Bisalla to lock horns with Oringo FC in the first match of the day.

Both teams gave good account of themselves; Oringo FC, coached by Stunna, seemed like they were going to run away with it after coming from behind to lead 2-1. However, they were reduced to ten men after one of their players was given his marching orders for mouthing the referee. FC Bisalla capitalised on their numerical advantage to grab the equaliser and send the game to penalties – which they ultimately won 5-4.

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Rangers team manager Amobi (in black) kicked off the event. (Source: Efe)
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The match officials for the day (Source: Efe)
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Oringo FC Starting Eleven
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FC Bisalla Starting Line-Up. (Source: Twitter)
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Otigba FC players in prayer mode
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FC Connè call unto God to grant them victory

Enugu’s fast rising dance group, SQUAD, took to the pitch afterwards to thrill the fans and players with a mesmeric performance. Soon after, it was time for FC Connè to go head-to-head with Otigba FC. FC Connè looked like the most organised team and had the best team kit but couldn’t replicate such organisation on the pitch and fell 1-0 to Zuggy-led Otigba FC.

Whilst waiting for the final, the fans were stimulated by captivating musical performances by some Enugu’s upcoming acts such as Latino the Rapper. However, the highlight was the ‘Ogene dance off’ between Jude, the host, and DJ Gentle which had everyone screaming. There was also a quasi-marriage proposal; Daccoh was perplexed at the beauty of Miss Scondutch and impulsively went down on bended knee to ask for the nymphet’s hand in marriage – word has it that she accepted his proposal.

Soon after, all attention turned to the pitch for the final between Zuggy’s Otigba FC and FC Bisalla, managed by Mack4, popularly called Coach Ojoo. The game was far from a friendly encounter; even the rain couldn’t stop them from going at each other. Eventually, both teams couldn’t find the net after extra time and had to settle for penalties. And once again, FC Bisalla emerged victorious, 7-6 after sudden death, to become the first ever winners of the TPL042 Championship.

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FC Bisalla and Oringo FC players shake hands before the first game
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FC Connè try to score with a corner. (Source: Click042)
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FC Connè and Otigba FC fight for the ball. (Source: Click042)
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FC Connè players at the break. (Source: Click042)
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Coach Zuggy in happy mood after FC Connè win
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Coach Ojoo in his element
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Oringo FC Coach Stunna looks dejected after defeat to FC Bisalla
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Male members of Squad dance group
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Female members of Squad working
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Boys enjoying themselves
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He just had to kiss the pitch
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Latino the rapper spitting some bars
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The proposal (Source: Twitter)

Apart from the football action, Eazydrug was on ground to offer medical advice and emergency response. However, it was their voluptuous and nubile medics who were the cynosure of all eyes. Everyone at the venue, including the referees, was allured by their natural endowment. As a consequence, some players feigned injuries just to get the attention of the ladies.

The event was also loaded with lots of goodies; the fun corner had people taking turns to play video games, snooker, darts and table tennis. Different delicacies were also served; most notably fresh palm wine was served in a dispenser. Sharwama, small chops by Onyicks, Cakes by Belmond, assorted food by Chincherry, Chevy’s home made Abacha and Nkwobi, Smoothies by Oris, Bolè as well as alcoholic drinks of different brands were also made available.

There was also a book-swap stand, which afforded novel enthusiasts the opportunity to drop their old novels in exchange for a new one. As a result, many made new friendships and reconnected with long lost friends. There was also time for two lucky people to cart away with retrocode shirts in the Retrocode #TPL042 Giveaway Promo.

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Eazydrug officials brought their A-game. (Source: Efe)
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Hips don't lie
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Oringo FC player writhes in pain to get the attention of the medics
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The medics rush to his aid. (Source: Efe)
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Medics walk away after the player is certified OK to continue. (Source: Efe)
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The Medics take a breather
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Otigba FC and FC Bisalla boys shake hands before the final
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The players were all smiles before the first ever 8hours derby
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Under the sun or in the rain
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Fresh palm wine inna dispenser
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A young boy tests his hands against older folks in Video Games
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Video Game enthusiasts seem engrossed here
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Fans enjoying table tennis and snooker at the fun corner
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The book-swap crew
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First winner of the TPL Retrocode shirt giveaway, Akuchi, holding her shirt. (Source: Efe)
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Nnanna presents his retrocode shirt to the public. (Source: Efe)

In the end, everyone had a lot of fun and was sad to see the day end. Enugu has been talking about the event since Saturday, mostly good stories. Hopefully, there will be more TPL042 events in the near future.

Click here to watch the Ogene dance off.

Photo Credit: unless where stated, all pictures were taken by Kefellerworks Photography.

How Sports Prepares You For Entrepreneurship Part 2/2

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…continued from last post

Focus
In my short life, I am yet to see anyone who has achieved massive success without zoning out people, forgoing pastimes and focusing inwardly. This helps one to understand his/her strengths as well as weaknesses and find a way to use them effectively and efficiently to neutralise the tactics of those he/she is up against. Sports teaches you how to “be in the zone” and close yourself off from distractions. If an athlete/player, whether amateur or professional, can maintain his focus, he has attained a certain level of maturity. As an enterpreneur, focus is important when starting a business. For one to be successful in business, one must stay focused on his/her vision/goal no matter how distracting things might get. And when success is achieved, a focused enterpreneur will have enough in his arsenal to fight laziness and complacency.

Teamwork
For every sports team to excel, the coaches and players need each other. Even athletes that participate in individual sports like tennis, athletics, golf etc need the help of their trainers, coaches and nutrionists to excel. Babe Ruth, the American Baseball legend, once said, “the way a team plays as a whole determines its sucess. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world but if you don’t play together the club won’t be worth a dime.” The same goes for enterpreneurship. You may have to do things alone to build your business from the scratch (start-up) but you need people to take it to the next level. Delegating some work to team members, who are hungry for success and take pride in their performance, affords you the time to focus on other things.

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Leadership
Participating in team sports gives one the chance to develop some leadership skills by captaining/coaching a group of players. As a result, an individual can acquire social and emotional intelligence, which are prerequisites in leadership. Hear Eddie Robinson, “Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you.” It is important for an enterprenuer to be able to understand his social and emotional make up as well as that of people who are under his payroll. A good enterpreneur must have a healthy open line of communication with his workers. And also maintain eye contact whilst talking with them as this gives an impression of sincerity, honesty and confidence. It is easy to forget about the troubles of others but if one takes time to remember and ask, it goes a long way. People perform best when they know they’ve earned the trust of the leader.
 
Mentorship
There are so many talented individuals out there who have lost their way because they had no mentor/coach to guide them properly. One may be naturally skilled and talented but if the opportunities aren’t there or there’s no one to offer guidance, attaining success will be an illusion. Jamaican Sprinter, Usain Bolt spent his time playing cricket and football at a tender age but his cricket coach noticed his speed on the cricket pitch and encouraged him to try track and field events. Under the tutelage of Pablo McNeil, a former Olympic sprint athlete, Bolt was encouraged to focus his energy on improving his athletic abilities and the rest they say is history. The same happens in business, every rookie enterprenueur needs a mentor to guide and direct him inorder to achieve great success.

Attitude towards failure
Failure happens to us all in one way or another. Even the best falls down sometimes but what really matters is how you recover when you are down. It must be said that failure can be painful and hard to take; it demoralises some and makes them wallow in self-pity. However, it can also spur others to greater things. Former cyclist, Lance Armstrong, once said, “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” For an enterprenuer, failure can be a wonderful management tool as long as it doesn’t become a habit. When faced with failure, the entrepreneur tries to keep his head above the water and find ways to be successful. Bill Gates co-founded a failed startup called Traf-O-Data with Paul Allen when he was 17. Their failure later became a springboard to success; their next start-up, Microsoft, is currently the world’s largest PC software company.

The entrepreneurial race, just like life, is a marathon (sports) with hurdles here and there. Many startups fail – even those backed by a huge amount of venture funding – at the first hurdle. So participating in sports can equip an entrepreneur with indelible capabilities and skills required to motivate oneself and weather the storm until he/she crosses the finish line.

How Sports Prepares You For Entrepreneurship (part 1/2)

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It is no news again that the unemployment level in the country, particularly among youths, is alarmingly high. The President Goodluck Jonathan-led Government tried to curb this problem through encouragement of entrepreneurship
and small business development. As a consequence, many Nigerian youths have embraced enterpreneurship as an alternative career choice.

Participating in sports can actually help prepare the Nigerian youth for enterprenurship. Personally, I have been playing and watching sports since I was 5. Even though I don’t get to play and watch sports as much as I would like anymore, I have come to realise there are interesting similarities between sports and enterpreneurship.

Passion
This is a very key element in sports. If you are passionate to be the best in the sports you love, you can take that passion into everything you do, including enterpreneurship. A passionate person is always ready to go extra miles and get things done. This is essential in enterpreneurship. Most entrepreneurs are driven by a passion for their business. It is the force that keeps them working when things are falling apart.

Work Ethic
Sports is the epitome of hardwork, desire and dedication. Sometimes talent is not just enough. There is a common saying that “Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.”  Sports can prepare one for the rigours and uncertainty that come with the enterprenuerial journey. Take heed to the words of former American baseballer, Derek Jeter, “There may be people that have more talent than you but there is no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”

Preparation
Former American swimmer and nine-time Olympic champion, Mark Spitz once said, “If you fail to prepare, you are prepared to fail.” Preparation is crucial in sports. Every sportsman trains and prepares very hard to have a competitive edge over his closest rivals. The same happens in business; it is hard to see a successful entrepreneur wake up one day and start a business the next. He must develop his invention idea into a product, find the right market for his product, determine how to reach them and also come up with a detailed plan on how to beat his/her competition, and that takes time and effort. It must be said that preparation is not a guaranteee that one will be successful but it increases the odds. Always remember the words of late Joe Paterno, American college football hall of famer “the will to win is important but the will to prepare is vital.”

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Self-Confidence
Self-confidence, not self-obession, is crucial to success in all aspects of life. Without self-confidence, we struggle to fit in. Sports helps raise the confidence level of an individual and this can trickle into all areas of the individual’s life. According to Dan O’Brien, former American decathlete and Olympic Gold medallist, “For many of us, who struggle with ‘fitting in’ or our identity – sports gives us our first face of confidence. That first bit of confidence can be a gateway to many other great things.” An enterprenuer must be self-confident to reach the zenith of his/her endeavours. Self-confidence allows one to take calculated risks but without self-confidence one will be scared to take risks and even if/when you do, nobody will believe in the risks you take.

Self-Discipline
This is one special quality that many successful people have acknowledged can lead to greater success, accomplishment and happiness in life. No personal goal or achievement can be reached without self-discipline. Lou Holtz, American College Football Hall of famer, once said, “Without self discipline, success is impossible, period.” Weakness for the bottle and women, drugs and gambling have ruined so many people. Sports can help one develop self discipline that can lead to success in all areas of life. This is in line with the words of Bob Cousy, a former American Basketball player, “Sports gives your life structure, discipline and a genuine, sincere, pure fulfilment that few other areas of endeavour provide.” In Sir Alex Ferguson’s book with Sir Michael Moritz, Leading, he praised Cristiano Ronaldo’s self-discipline not to deface his body, smoke or drink. He also said that Ronaldo keeps himself at about three kilograms below his natural weight to help him maintain his pace. Ronaldo is smart enough to know that if he doesn’t stick to his healthy lifestyle, he will regress. Every enterprenuer needs Ronaldo-esque self-discipline inorder not run his business into the ground.

….To be continued

Top Ten Anglo-Born Players That Can Improve Quality of Super Eagles

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After impressive debut of 29-year-old Carl Ikeme in Super Eagles’ stalemate with Tanzania in Dar Es Salam recently, many have questioned why it took so long for Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to woo the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper to dorn the Green and White of Nigeria.

Ikeme was first called up to the Super Eagles squad back in 2007 but finally made his protracted debut for the team as he stood in for the bereaved Vincent Enyeama, and was Super Eagles best player on the day, making some good saves to earn his team a valuable point.

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Nigeria have lost some talented players such as Ross Barkley (England), Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales) and David Alaba (Austria) in recent times due to inability of Nigerian Football executives to swiftly cap these players at senior level.

Now let’s look at ten English-born players who can be added to the Super Eagles to improve the quality of the team.

1. JORDON IBE

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Jordon Ashley Femi Ibe started his career at modest football league side Wycombe Wanderers where he became their youngest-ever Football League player when he made his debut in 2011 aged just 15.

Following his 16th birthday, Ibe was transfered to Premier League giants Liverpool but had to join the U-18 squad to continue his development. He made his Premier League debut aged 17 in Liverpool’s final game of the 2012/2013 season against Queens Park Rangers (QPR), assisting Phillipe Coutinho for the only goal of the game.

However, his progress was stunted by the emergence of Raheem Sterling and he was loaned out to Birmingham City and Derby County for the rest of 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 seasons respectively. Now 20-years-old, Ibe is expected to play a huge role in Liverpool’s season following £49m sale of Sterling to Manchester City in the summer.

He has already played for England at various youth levels but is eligible to play for Nigeria at senior level through his father. New Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh announced via twitter that Ibe has turned down the chance to switch allegiance to Nigeria however he remains eligible for Super Eagles until he makes a senior appearance for England.

2. Tiago Ilori

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Tiago Abiola Almeida Ilori is also on the books of Liverpool. The Portugal U-21 International was born in England to a Nigerian father and a Portuguese mother in 1993.

He started his career in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon but earned a £7m move to Liverpool in 2013. However, he has found games hard to come by at the Merseyside club and was loaned to Granada in January 2014 for the rest of the season. He also spent the entire 2014-2015 season at French Ligue 1 club FC Girondins de Bordeaux. He was farmed out on loan again this season on transfer deadline day to Premier League club Aston Villa where he is expected to see more playing time.

Ilori, 22, has already been approached by the English FA to play for England at senior level but he declined opting to play for Portugal instead. One hopes the Nigerian FA and Super Eagles can use the father to woo him to switch his allegiance to Nigeria.

3. Dele Alli

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Bamidele Jermaine Alli plays for Tottenham Hotspur but started his career in League One with Milton Keynes (MK) Dons in 2012. He made his debut for MK Dons in 2011 aged 16 and went on to make 74 league appearances, scoring 22 goals over the next two-and-a half years.

He came to the limelight after a wonderful display in the middle of the park in MK Dons’ surprise 4-0 League Cup win over Manchester United last season. He earned a £5m move to White Hart Lane last January but was loaned back to MK Dons for the rest of the season, helping them to gain promotion to the Championship.

Ironically, he made his Tottenham debut against Manchester United in this season’s curtain opener. He has featured in 4 of Spurs’ 5 games so far, scoring once to earn his team a valuable point at high flying Leicester City. He has been compared to Steven Gerrard hence the English authorities are keen to have him on Three Lions roster. It was reported earlier this year that John Fashanu will help convince the 19-year-old to play for the country of his father.

4. Chuba Akpom

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Chuba Amaechi Akpom is an England youth International who has been at Premier League contenders Arsenal since he was eight. He made his Premier League debut in 2013 at the age of 18 in 3-1 win over Sunderland.

Akpom, now 20, was expected to be part of Arsene Wenger’s plans for the new season but was surprisingly sent to Championship club Hull City on a season-long loan. He hit the ground running immediately, scoring on his debut in 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town back in August.

Akpom can add pace and power to Super Eagles’ attack which lacked bite against the Tanzanians.

5. Dominic Iorfa Jnr.

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Iorfa, 20, is a right back by trade and also the son of former Nigeria international Dominic Iorfa. At club level, he is team mates with Carl Ikeme at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Iorfa has become a fan favourite and a first-team regular at the Molineux Stadium following his impressive displays. He was adjudged Football League’s Young Player Of The Month in January 2015. He is expected to move to the Premier League at the end of the season when his contract with Wolves expires.

He was called up to England U-21 squad for last week’s International games and was also promoted to train with the senior team by England coach Roy Hodgson for their Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino. His father has reiterated that his son will represent Nigeria at senior level but with his stock rising, it is only a matter of time before he is capped by England so NFF need to act fast and give him a call-up to Super Eagles.

6. Sammy Ameobi

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Sammy is younger brother of former Super Eagles striker Shola Ameobi. Just like his brother, he started his career with Newcastle United but is currently on a season-long loan to Championship club Cardiff City.

The 23-year-old left footed winger pledged his allegiance to Nigeria in 2014 following his brother’s appearance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. He had featured in friendlies for Nigeria U-20 side against Saudi Arabia and Egypt back in 2011 ahead of 2011 African Youth Championship.

However, he returned to England U-21 set up the same year but hasn’t featured for them since 2013. Ameobi deserves a look-in and may be a good asset to Nigeria. He can be added to the national pool to increase the quality of players available to Sunday Oliseh for selection.

7. Tom Adeyemi

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Christened Thomas Oluseun Adeyemi, he was born to Nigerian parents in Milton Keynes in 1991. He started his career at Norwich City in 2008 after coming up through the ranks at the club.

He had to forego a University offer from the prestigious Cambridge University to focus on football. He later gained A* grades at Advanced Level in Biology and Chemistry and an A grade in Mathematics.

He was named League One Apprentice of the Year at the Football League Awards in March 2010 but subsequently found himself on the fringes of the side and was loaned to Bradford City, Oldham Athletic and Brentford. Following expiration of his contract, he joined Birmingham City on a free transfer in 2013.

He was the spine of the Birmingham City team that went ten games unbeaten last season but suffered a back injury which affected his performance. However, he did enough to be voted the club’s Young Player Of The Year at the end of season awards. He surprisingly put in a transfer request amid interest from Cardiff City in the summer of 2014, days after being appointed vice captain of the club, and completed the move days later.

Following the managerial shake-up at the Welsh side, Adeyemi was loaned out to Leeds United for the 2015/2016 season. He has been described as a gifted, athletic and powerful midfielder. He is still uncapped at International level and could provide steel to Super Eagles midfield.

8. Alex Iwobi

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Iwobi is the nephew of former Super Eagles captain Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha. The 18-year-old midfielder was born in Nigeria but moved to England as a kid.

He featured for Arsenal in Pre-Season, scoring a sublime goal against Olympique Lyon in Emirates Cup. Arsene Wenger has rebuffed offers from various clubs to take him on loan and insists he is part of his plans this season. A move away from the Emirates might be what he needs to continue his development.

He has represented England at different under age levels but recently accepted to play for Nigeria, citing the influence of his father, uncle (Jay Jay) and Kanu Nwankwo on his decision. However, he remains eligible for the Three Lions of England until he plays a competitive senior match for the Super Eagles.

9. Dominic Solanke

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Solanke is just 18 years but has been tipped for a bright future in the game by many. He has been at Chelsea since he was seven but came to the fore in 2013/2014 season when he scored 20 goals in 25 games for Chelsea U-18 side.

This prompted Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho to declare that he would have himself to blame if Solanke fails to become a senior England international under his management. Thus, he promoted Solanke to train with the first-team squad for the 2014/2015 season and gave him professional debut, as a 73rd minute substitute for Oscar, in 6-0 trashing of NK Maribor in the Champions League. This made him the youngest player to debut in the Champions League for Chelsea.

However, he found himself way down the pecking order behind Diego Costa, Didier Drogba and Loic Remy. At youth level, Solanke continued his prolific goalscoring rate, finishing the season with 41 goals enroute to FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League triumphs. He has been loaned out to Dutch Eredivisie club Vitesse Arnhem for the 2015/2016 season to gain more first-team experience. He has since been given the number 9 jersey and also opened his account for the club in 4-1 drubbing of SC Cambuur in August.

At international level, he has represented England at U-16, U-17 and U-18 levels. He was named England Men’s Youth Player of the Year 2014 in January 2015. He also picked up the Young Player of the Year award on 25 March 2015 and was invited to train with the senior England squad. He plays primarily as a striker but can also play on both flanks and as an attacking midfielder. His versatility could be useful to Sunday Oliseh and his new look Super Eagles.

10. Nathan Oduwa

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Oduwa is an England U-18 International, who plays as a winger for Scottish team Glasgow Rangers, on season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur. He has been at White Hart Lane since the age of eleven (11), rising through the ranks to sign his professional contract in July 2012 following his 16th birthday.

He is the least known player on the list but following his scintillating displays for Rangers this season, it is just a matter of time before the 19-year-old grabs media attention. He is still a raw talent but has enormous potential and it would be good to keep an eye on him.