Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria/Mali: Eaglets to Beat Mali for Imoke

The Golden Eaglets have pledged to win their last 2013 African Under-17 qualifying home match which kicks off at 2:00pm against Mali on Sunday as a parting gift to the government and people of Cross River State.

His Excellency, Senator Liyel Imoke is unarguably the team's most important fan and the players have unanimously agreed that any goal against Mali would first and foremost be dedicated to the amiable Executive Governor of Cross River State.

Eaglets' star midfielder, Alhassan Ibrahim said it's important that the team wins Sunday's match in a "goal-rious" fashion to reciprocate the good gestures by Cross- Riverians-particularly Governor Imoke.

"We can't thank Governor Imoke enough," said the player who is widely regarded as the new Nwankwo Kanu for his guiles and wiles on the ball which is similar to the erstwhile Super Eagles' captain. "Right from day one, the Governor told us that Calabar is our home and we have enjoyed our stay in Calabar especially by winning our matches.

"By the grace of God, we are going to beat Mali on Sunday and we are going to dedicate the goals and victory to the Governor," added Ibrahim who is the team's joint-top scorer on three goals with Isaac Success in the qualifiers so far.

Similar opinions were shared by defending duo of Vice-captain Wilfred Ndidi and baby-faced Izu Omego who have stood like the rock of the Gibraltar at the heart of the Golden Eaglets defence: "Sunday's match against Mali is an opportunity to thank the people of Cross River State and we are determined more than ever to win this important match.

"This is our last home match here and we want to win in a grand style before the second leg in Bamako. We want to thank everybody in the state especially the Governor, the Commissioner for Sports, Hon. Patrick Ugbe and several others that has helped us in one way or the other since we started camping here," noted Wilfred.

Omego added: "Also we want to thank our mummy, the wife of the Governor (Her Excellency, Mrs. Obioma Liyel-Imoke) who came to watch our last two home matches when we beat Niger 6-0 and Guinea 3-0 and we are going to ensure total victory again against Mali on Sunday."

Meanwhile, the top echelon of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) led by President Aminu Maigari is already in Calabar to offer maximum support to the team.

"The NFF is happy with you and we want to let you know that we are fully behind you against Mali," Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme, the Director Technical told the players. "Fortunately, the first leg of the match is at your home and it would be nice if you can spell Mali and if need be, you can spell Bamako which would be very nice before the second leg in two weeks time."

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