The Nigerian national team got together at Le Meridien Hotel in Uyo on Monday, presumably to prepare for their training in the run-up to a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa on Saturday. On their first night, the veterans decided to put the new additions to the team through a traditional initiation ceremony. Mikel Agu, Ibrahim Alhassan, Victor Osimhen and Henry Onyekuru were obligated by the team to stand in front and sing. Onyekuru went first and announced that it was his birthday, which earned him a singing of “Happy Birthday” from the team. He then performed a dance, followed by Alhassan, who also had to dance to a Nigerian song. Osimhen was ridiculed in fun by the squad for stumbling on the name of his club (VfL Wolfsburg) during the introduction, but he got past it and performed a dance to Tekno’s “Rara”. The initiation was rounded out by Agu, who thanked head coach Gernot Rohr for the invitation before performing his dance.
Nigeria has never lost to South Africa in competitive play at the senior level, and hope to keep that unprecedented streak of strength going this weekend. Midfielder Ogenyi Onazi, interim captain for the Super Eagles while Mikel John Obi recovers from injury, said, “I have confidence in the group that we have now and the ambition oozing in the camp… Starting well on Saturday will be key to our aspiration.” While Nigeria begins training together on Tuesday, the South African Football Association says they will fly into Nigeria on Wednesday, in order to begin their training on Nigerian turf on Thursday. While South Africa doesn’t have a stellar history against Nigeria, they can point to a 2-2 draw they achieved in November 2014, keeping the defending champion Nigerian squad from qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.