By Albert Akota
Moroccan referee, Noureddine El Jaafari licensed by FIFA in 2013 would be in the centre when Nigeria’s Under-17 side, Golden Eaglets host Gabon this weekend in their second leg-final round decisive qualifier.
Born 36 years ago, El Jaafari was in charge when Warri Wolves drew goalless in their CAF Confederation Cup home match against CA Bizertin of Tunisia in March and he equally supervised home-based Super Eagles’ 2-0 loss to their Ivorian counterparts for the 2014 African Nations Championship qualifier in Abidjan last year.
He would be assisted by 33-year-old Benbapa Essam and 34-year-old Hicham Ait Abbou who would serve as first and second assistant respectively. The fourth official is also a Moroccan, Mounir Mabrouk who is also 36 years old while the Match Commissioner Osama Ata Elmanan Hassan is from Sudan.
Meanwhile, the Golden Eaglets would miss the services of striker Victor Osimhen and creative midfielder, Ernest Agenor against Gabon due to poor disciplinary record.
While Osimhen earned a red card during the first leg in Libreville, Agenor ruled himself out after accumulating a second yellow card in the qualifiers.
The midfielder had his first booking despite an impressive performance in the 4-0 win against Democratic Republic of Congo in Abeokuta and a second one against Gabon in Libreville.
Despite the setback however, Golden Eaglets coordinator, Prince Udofia believes there is no cause for alarm since there is strength in depth in the team, insisting that other players would rise to the challenge.
“The coaches have been working with other players since they knew both
Agenor and Victor would not be available and there is no problem about that because there is a pool of good players to be chosen from,” he said.