CLUB NEWS

Ikefe primed to play any role at Niger Tornadoes

By Andrew Randa

It is not uncommon to find players with versatility in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). A few players have been known to play multiple positions with the same effect for their teams in a very demanding league like Nigeria’s top flight.

Rangers’ midfielder Charles Henlong has played in a multiple of positions for both Giwa FC and the reigning NPFL champions Rangers, same with Abu Azeez who now turns out for embattled Ibadan side Shooting Stars.

Azeez is a Nigeria international in Beach Soccer and can be considered as a legend in that sport in Nigeria while he also played in attack and midfield for clubs like Kwara United, Warri Wolves and Enyimba of Aba.

There is a new member to that list in Niger Tornadoes centre-back Andrew Ikefe.

 

Though gradually carving a niche for himself at the Minna-based side, he has always been one for the bright lights considering his form for Katsina United last season.

Registered as a centre-back, Ikefe has played there all season for Tornadoes until Matchday 22 fixture away at Wikki Tourists.

Tornadoes coach Abubakar Bala tweaked his centre-back pairing as Tornadoes went in search of points in Bauchi. Ikefe usually pairs Sunday Akinmoladun at the heart of the defence but Bala decided to move Ikefe further up field and plugged Reuben Ogbonnaya, who was making his debut, into the gap.

It was a defensive move meant to checkmate Wikki Tourists coach Bala Nkiyu who played an attacking formation as they went in search of goals to ease their relegation worries.

The gamble did not pay off as Tornadoes lost the game 3-1.

It could have been more if not for Ikefe’s dexterity and interceptions in his new role as a defensive midfielder and with Wikki 2-0 up at some point; the former Katsina United man halved the deficit before Wikki got the third goal that sealed the three points.

Ikefe says he is surprised people are bewildered by his performance in that role considering he has played there before while at Kaduna United.

“I’m surprised and happy that people appreciated my performance against Wikki in that position as many of them have never seen me play there,” he told npfl.ng.

“It feels good to be hailed by the fans but I was actually sad we lost the game. It was painful losing in Bauchi, to be honest.

“Scoring against Wikki also felt well but one can never be satisfied as a professional if you lose a game so that didn’t sit well with me. Playing from a defensive midfield position isn’t new to me. I have played there severally for Kaduna United when I was with them.

“I don’t mind playing anywhere as far as my team wins. I will even play in goal if the coach wants me to as far as I can help my team to get points whether at home or on the road.

“That is the most important thing on my mind anytime I enter the pitch. I don’t know if the coach will keep playing me there or not but whenever I get called up I’m ready to do my best.”

Whether Tornadoes will stick with him in that position remains to be seen, but it is now evident that coach Bala Abubakar has a proper selection headache with Ikefe’s heroics in an adopted defensive midfield position ahead of this Sunday's match against league champions Rangers.

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