Balogun, Ujah victims of racist abuse after defeat
With 150 days left until the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Nigerian players across top European clubs are yet to find solution to their poor scoring ability, even as Egyptian Mohamed Salah, Senegalese Sadio Mane and Cote d’Ivoire’s Serge Aurier continue to hit target for their clubs. The situation is giving some Nigerians a great concern back home.
“It is a big worry for some of us that our players are not scoring for their various clubs because these are the materials we are going to rely on at the World Cup,” former international, Adegoke Adelabu told The Guardian yesterday. “I feel that any player we are going to use at the World Cup should be monitored by the coaches. That is the practice everywhere. Such monitoring will enable the coaches to know the strength and weakness of the players. Let us know what is happening to our players at club level.
“The World Cup is fast approaching and our players, especially the attackers, should know that they must be ‘goal oriented’ to be able to make bold steps in Russia. Sometimes, a striker needs to take risk to score a goal. I am not writing off the chances of our players at the World Cup, but they should be made to understand that doing well for their clubs is a way of building confidence in their fans. It is important they make their impact by playing regular football at club level,” Adelabu stated.
While the likes of Salah and Mane starred on a great weekend for Africans across the major European leagues, the duo of Leon Balogun and Anthony Ujah made headline for the wrong reason, as they were victims of racist abuse during Mainz’s 3-2 defeat at Hanover 96. Visitors Mainz threw away a two-goal lead before Balogun took to social media to reveal racist abuse by the home fans. “Anthony Ujah and I were insulted by monkey noises from the Hanover 96 fan block while we were warming up,” Berlin-born Balogun said on Twitter, which Ujah retweeted. “I’m shocked that such behaviour exists in 2018 in the Bundesliga, where players of differing backgrounds, skin colours and religions fight daily for their fans.”
25-year-old Mane and returnee Salah scored for Liverpool as they ended the 22-match unbeaten English Premier League run of leaders Manchester City with a 4-3 triumph. While Mane lashed in Liverpool’s third goal from the edge of the area, the 2017 African Player of the Year, Salah returned from injury and played a key role in a dazzling attacking display, set up a goal for Mane and then scored his 25th of the season for club and country to give his side a 4-1 lead.
In Spain, Michael Olunga became the first Kenyan to score a hat-trick in the Spanish La Liga, as he starred for mid-table Girona in a 6-0 thrashing of bottom club Las Palmas. His performance even drew praise from Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who tweeted his congratulations to the 23-year-old.
Some other African players, who scored for their clubs at the weekend included Ivory Coast defender, Serge Aurier, who had an impressive outing in Tottenham’s 4-0 rout of Everton. His excellent low cross finding Son Heung-Min for Tottenham’s opener and then the 25-year-old was twice involved in the wonderful move that led to Christian Eriksen’s goal that rounded off the scoring.
Malian international, Bakary Sako scored the only goal for Crystal Palace against Burnley. The 29-year-old’s left-foot shot beat Nick Pope for his third league goal of the campaign.
Ghana’s Jordan Ayew gave Swansea the lead in their relegation six-pointer at Newcastle with his third goal in five matches, nodding home the rebound after his header had been saved.
Ivory Coast striker Wilfried Bony has not enjoyed a successful return to Swansea, where he was a hit first time around –- form that earned him a big-money move to Manchester City. The 29-year-old, who has scored just twice since returning from City in August, should have won the game for Swansea against fellow strugglers Newcastle but his shot was cleared off the line.
In Germany, Guinea midfielder, Naby Keita, showed why Liverpool wants him at Anfield before next season with a superb goal in Leipzig’s 3-1 win at home to Schalke. The 22-year-old has agreed a contract with Liverpool for next season and Leipzig insisted he would not be leaving before the end of the season after his sweetly-hit shot from outside the box showed his class.