When the Nigerian U-23 national team known as “Dream Team VI’’ file out on Sunday in Port Harcourt against their Congo counterparts for the CAF U-23 African Championship qualifier, will they overcome them?
These and many more have been the questions on the lips of many Nigeria soccer fans as both sides expressed readiness to lift the day
in the encounter scheduled for the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, and dubbed “The Diables Rouges’’.
The Congolese will be led by renowned coach Claude Leroy, a French tactician and a known name in African football.
Leroy has made a name coaching African teams. He has coached the national teams of Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and now handling the national team of Congo.
Already, Leroy has named 11 professional players to face their Nigerian opponents in what promises to be an interesting game.
Congo, it will be recalled, sent out highly rated Ghana to set up a clash with the Dream Team.
Leroy is on record to be the first coach to beat the Super Eagles in their fortress in Calabar last year during the Equatorial Guinea AFCON qualifying match.
Football analysts believe that the Sunday clash is expected to be interesting because the Super Eagles paid back Leroy and his chargers back with a 2-0 win in Brazzaville during the same AFCON qualifying match.
“I expect Leroy to come out smoking to prove a point in Port Harcourt and his ultimate aim is to win Nigeria again,’’ said Mr Lekan Ige, Secretary, Sports Writers Association, Rivers State chapter.
But the national U-23 team coach, Samson Siasia, said though he had a lot of respect for Leroy, his team would give a good account of itself.
Siasia had also assured Nigerians that his team would not disappoint them, especially, playing at home in Port Harcourt.
Already, the Dream Team under Siasia’s guide, has won Gabon and Zambia before the anticipated clash with Congo.
“It is also on record that the Dream Team has won several friendly games and had remained intact since its inception’’ Timi Ebikaboro, the team`s Media Officer told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
The choice of Port Harcourt and the brand new stadium, named after ex-Green Eagles winger, Adokiye Amiesimaka, has been a source of joy to many football followers in the country.
Rivers Governor, Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike, accepted that the state will host the match and immediately set up a Local Organising Committee (LOC), comprising of experts to organise the match.
Wike had also promised the team a hansome monetary reward to win the match.
Boma Iyaye, Chairman of the Committee, said the state was ready to host the match.
“The Rivers government decided to make the match free to make fans come out en masse to cheer the Dream Team to victory.
“The committee has already swung into action. We have received the team on arrival in Port Harcourt and we are working hard to make sure they lacked nothing,’’ he said.
Iyaye said the committee had been working for the past two weeks to ensure that the facility met the world football governing body, FIFA’s and the African Football Confederation, CAF’s standard.
“You will see me that when we came in here, there were things we needed to update and we have done that.
“We improved on what we met to ensure that everything was brought to international standard. We just have few things to do, so, we are very prepared,” he said.
According to Iyaye, what we are doing now is to dot the Is and cross the Ts. You can see the pitches lush and the dressing rooms are almost ready.
He said enough sensitisation had been done to create the culture of fans and spectators coming to the stadium to watch football.
Chris Green, Chairman of the Technical sub-committee of the LOC and member of Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) board, said the pitch was ready for any international match.
“The pitch is ready for football; it is well marked, very well delineated. I can say, we are ready to go,” he said.
Green said the U-23 team was very important because it was next to the Super Eagles. Players in that team could as well play for the Super Eagles.
“What I expect from them is, they should be very disciplined and play in accordance with what they have been taught.
“The coaches should spot their tactics and techniques, so that they deliver at the end of the day,” he said.
For Adokiye Amiesimaka, a member of the LOC, the stadium named after him is an honour.
“I am grateful to the former Governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi for naming the stadium after me.
“I am equally grateful to Gov. Nyesom Wike for putting me in a committee to orgainse this match.
“ It is my wish and prayer that the Dream Team wins the match against Congo,’’ he said.
The Security and Medical Sub-Committees say they are ready for the match
The Chairman, DSP Usman Ochenika, said arrangement had been made for adequate security for a hitch-free game.
“As far as the match is concerned, we are not having any problem with regards to security.
“The Rivers Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, has put everything in place to make sure that visitors and hosts with match officials and spectators as well as government officials are well protected,’’ he said.
Agba Harry, Chairman, Medical Sub-Committee, said the medical center at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium was set for any emergency that might occur during the match.
“Our duty is pretty basic, we provide ambulance service, the medical center here is prepared for the match and we also have the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital for referrals.
“We successfully hosted the National Sports Festival four years ago and we were excellent.
“We went to Lagos for National Sports Festival, in 2012 and our emergency preparation was the best.
“So, this one little match, for us, it is a walk in the park. We do not have issues with what we can do and what we cannot do. We’ve done it before, so, it is not a big story,” he said.
Some football fans in Port Harcourt say they are expecting victory from the Dream Team.
Victor Dokubo, a supporter of Sharks FC of Port Harcourt, said he was optimistic the team will win Congo.
“ Samson Siasia is a good coach. I have followed this team since he took over last year.
“ I am optimistic that they will win Congo and qualify for the African U-23 Championship scheduled for Senegal in November,’’ he said.
Boms Amadi, a Dolphins FC supporter, echoed same view.
He urged the National U-23 team not to underrate the Congolese as doing so might back fire.
“In all, I expect an interesting match because Congo under Claude Leroy is aiming at winning Nigeria. But, I do not see it happening because they will meet a different Nigerian team,” he said.
Football analysts believe that fans in Port Harcourt will be treated to an interesting game by players expected to be the new look Super Eagles.
From the preparations, the Dream Team will strive not to disappoint Nigerians. They know what is at stake and would draw from their experiences and those of others to be at the Senegal Championships.
Of course, they know that it is an opportunity to exhibit their skills and good performance will ultimately sell them to the soccer world. (NAN)