FLYING EAGLES DIARY AUGUST 5


Pereira, Colombia, Aug 5, 2011 – Thursday afternoon, the Flying Eagles make the hour-long bus ride from Armenia, which has been home away from home for the past 10 days or so, to the more urban Pereira.

Colombia is truly a very beautiful country with amazing tropical landscapes of green gullies, mountains and valleys, and we take in such beauty as ‘El Loco’ Juan drives through those narrow, winding roads to Pereira.

In Pic: Abduljeleel Ajagun
As always, there is a welcome reception Colombia style, complete with song and dance, inside the lobby of the four-star Hotel de Pereira, which will house Nigeria for two nights along with Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

The top police chief, who presented a bouquet of flowers to coach John Obuh, admitted that as a proud Colombian he does not wish for the host team to clash with the Flying Eagles, who have made a flying start to the U20 World Cup with 10 goals in two matches.

But the reception in Pereira could not compare with one earlier that day in Montenegro, a suburb of Armenia.

Montenegro’s mayor, a woman, and a 3,000-strong crowd gathered at the neighbourhood’s square to throw a party for the team they have already crowned champions of the world come August 20.

Surprisingly during this reception, Igbo and Yoruba music are played to the delight of the players and officials.

The team led by assistant coach, Samuel Abimbola, are presented with traditional Colombian hats and sack clothes similar to what is commonly won by the Fulanis in northern Nigeria.

“It was really touching the way we were warmly received and honestly there were tears in my eyes,” reveals goalkeeper trainer Sule Shuaibu.

The Flying Eagles train at the club Campestre in Pereira under floodlights and before a handful of club members soon on arrival.

The boys are still to catch enough sleep after the exertions of the previous day in the game against Croatia, but sleep quickly disappears from their eyes after coach Obuh has put them through half an hour training drills.

Top star Ahmed Musa is not part of this training. He is fit but it appears the effects of the Ramadan fasting is already catching up with the jet-heeled winger.
The boys watch the first half of their last game against Croatia in the morning Friday.

Obuh does not want them to watch the full game because he needs their full concentration and focus as he points out their various mistakes and strong points.
The last time, the team watched the a full-match video playback, Kwara United goalkeeper Kazim Yekini was caught dozing away!

The team will train again Friday ahead of the final Group D match against Saudi Arabia at the 40,000-capacity Estadio monumental Hernan Ramirez Villegas in Pereira by 8pm local time or 2am Sunday Nigerian time.

The stadium was built in 1971 and has staged some very important events like the 2001 Copa America, the South American equivalent of the Africa Cup of Nations, as well as the South American U20 Championship in 1987 and 2005.

President of the Nigeria football Federation (NFF) and leader of delegation, Aminu Maigari, has hailed the team for their performances thus far and has asked them to do more because Nigerians do not expect anything less.

“The boys have done very well, but there is always room for improvement and I urge the boys to continue to improve until we get to the final and win the cup,” Maigari said in his room 835.
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