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How iPhone Promise Motivated Nigerian Prince to Score Against Argentina at U-20 World Cup

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The secret to the flying performance of Riliwanu Haliru Sarki, one of the stand-out players of Nigeria’s U-20 team at the FIFA World Cup, has been revealed by his club management as an iPhone promise and a strong desire to have a great tournament.

Sarki is the last of twenty (20) children born into a polygamous royal family in Zaria town in Birnin Kebbi, the capital of Kebbi State in northern Nigeria.

His late father Haliru Sarki was the Sarki (king) of the town.

The 19-year-old Prince Riliwanu Haliru Sarki lost his father to the cold hands of death, while he was in camp with the Flying Eagles, four days before the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.

Despite his brilliant pre-tournament display, the prince didn't have a great AFCON, eventually dropping out of the starting eleven.

But the speed star was one of Nigeria's top players at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina, coming off the bench in the round 16 knockout game in front of 27, 000 fans in San Juan city to score the coffin-nailing goal against the host, Argentina.

Olaoluwa Aro, the Director of Media and Publicity at his club, Mahanaim FC, revealed that what motivated the young prince was an iPhone promise before the match against Argentina.

Riliwanu Haliru Sarki cropped

"It is part of what I do for every Mahanaim FC player. Sarki is one of them,” Aro said.

“Even though I gifted him with a new boot before AFCON,  unfortunately, he only got just one assist and the performance was not really impressive, based on my evaluation and probably Nigerians who expected much from him, looking at what he did in pre-AFCON friendly matches.

"But when he came back, I sat him down and spoke to him about it and he promised to improve.

"The issue of iPhone came up when they were departing Nigeria for the World Cup. We were taking pictures at the airport and he said 'Now that he is going, I need to promise him something special because he is going to make me proud'.

“So, I asked what type of gift he wanted; he said anything from my mind. Prior to that, I heard him talking about iPhone, so I said no problem, I'll surprise you.

"When he got to the World Cup, I didn't bother speaking with him because I wanted him to focus.

"Dropping out of the regular lineup to become a super sub at the World Cup is remarkable and this is what actually informed my mind to speak with him on the morning of the match against Argentina.

"I asked him if he was ready for the match against Argentina, and he said he was very ready and I told him, let's have a deal and the deal is that if he scores one or two goals, I'll get him the iPhone. 

“And, he said okay, if the goal comes, he'll score. And I wished him the best. In fact, I had to call him again because of the poor network that, if you score tonight against the host, I'll buy you the latest iPhone. And he said ‘okay’. So, that’s was how it came."

With his pace, tricks, and flicks, Sarki became Nigeria fans' favorite at the World Cup. 

The Flying Eagles were knocked out of the competition after losing 0-1 to South Korea in the quarterfinals on Sunday 4 July.


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