NAIROBI, Kenya- The 2018 SportPesa Super Cup winner will give Everton FC a run for their money at Goodison Park, visiting former striker and Nigeria Super Eagles captain, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, asserted.
Aiyegbeni who retired from playing last year and is now an Everton ambassador, was among thousands of fans who watched Tanzania league champions, Simba SC and their Kenyan equivalents and cup holders, Gor Mahia FC book their places for Sunday’s showdown at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru.
On Friday, the visiting star was part of the Everton coaching clinic benefiting two Nakuru-based clubs, Nakuru AllStars FC and St. Joseph’s FC who play in the Kenyan second-tier National Super League.
“The games were quite tough. The four teams gave everything, they were more physical and fought for every ball and it is good since it shows more determination they want to win. There is good talent here but they need more sponsors to give these players what they want.
“They also need someone to teach them skills. In Africa we do not have people who can teach those skills to these footballers and what we saw yesterday (Thursday) was players who were playing as a team but they still need more coaching,” Yakubu who captained the Nigeria Super Eagles to the South Africa 2010 World Cup remarked.
The winners of the Simba versus Gor showdown will earn a ticket to play the English Premier League side at their Goodison Park stadium in Liverpool in addition to bagging USD30,000 (KSh3m) after they knocked out Kakamega Homeboyz FC and Singida United FC in that order.
“They went for all 50-50 balls and if they had a better pitch, we could have seen better play from these guys. They are more tactical than before and it was great to watch, I enjoyed it. I think they way the four teams played, they can give Everton a run for their money seriously.
“They showed aggression and its not going to be easy. In know Everton will still win but you must give credit and attention and I hope this winner will give everything at Goodison as well,” Yakubu added.
Despite retiring from professional football, Yakubu still trains ‘five or six times a week, took thrill in engaging players from Nakuru and St. Joseph’s through the drills alongside Everton academy coaches, Lewis Nightingale and David Ness.
“They are young kids and I still learn from them as well. It is a good opportunity to be here to pass the experience I have to pass it to them. They really showed they want to play football, it is their dream and I hope their dreams will come true and one of them will play in Europe.
“To be a professional footballer, you must show dedication and focus on that. You have to listen to learn from the coaches and having the right people around you, bad people will finish your football,” the retired forward who spent four years at Everton from 2007 and 2011 advised.
With the countdown to Russia 2018 World Cup entering its final week, Yakubu concedes it would be an achievement for Nigeria to progress past Group D that has losing Brazil 2014 finalists, Argentina, France 98 third finishers Croatia and Iceland.
“To win the cup will not be easy and I hope Nigeria go through to the next round. We cannot compare this team with the one from the 90s that (Daniel) Amokachi, Taribo West, Sunday Oliseh and the likes, that was the best team Nigeria had ever produced.
“They were unbelievable but the team we have now has good guys who can play well if they believe,” Yakubu who captained and was among the scorers in November 2009 when the Super Eagles beat Kenya 3-2 in Nairobi to seal qualification for the South Africa 2010 World Cup assessed.
Chris Humphreys who is a Partnerships Manager at Everton echoed Yakubu’s view the Super Cup winners will ignite Goodison when the East African team travels to the United Kingdom (UK) to play in one of the eldest and most famous football grounds in England.
“We saw two really competitive matches, the standards were high and we are looking forward to the finals on Sunday. Its a great opportunity to play at Everton and we saw how they wanted to come and play in the UK.
“Big tackles were flying in and it makes it fantastic to watch The players were athletic and give quality games despite the harsh weather and we expect them to play well at Goodison Park,” Humphreys added.
On his part Everton coach, Nightingale noted there was enough football talent in Kenya that needs to be given the right coaching to develop them to international stars.
“We are just looking for players who are comfortable on the ball, want to be seen with the ball all the time, who are good with both feet and make good decisions when they have for the ball to find their teammates besides showing quality with it.
“It is good to see players with good control of the ball and who can use both feed. We told them to work hard with their technique, to keep playing, practicing and working hard. They want to learn and take the information they are given,” Nightingale who is part of the Everton Under 14 set up emphasised.
Gor blanked Singida 2-0 with Meddie Kagere, the top scorer from last year’s Super Cup in Tanzania helping himself to a brace and the third for the tournament whilst Simba survived a nerve-shredding post-match shootout to sail through 5-4 on penalties after the first semi ended goalless.
The third-place play-off between Homeboyz and Singida will precede the final set for 2pm local time (+3GMT) starting from 12pm.
Should the final of the tournament dubbed Road to Goodison end all square, 30 minutes of extra time will be played before turning to penalties if a winner is not found after 120, which is a departure from the quarters and semis where the game went to a straight shootout to break the deadlock.