EDITORIAL: Nigeria, AFCON And The No Show

Super Eagles
Super Eagles
Simply and painfully put, Nigeria’s Super Eagles will not be at next year’s African Nations Cup in nearby Equatorial Guinea to defend the cup they won in South Africa. Coming third in her qualifying group behind run away leaders, South Africa and surprise bundle, Congo, shut the door on the African Champions(?). It is a reverse form of history making because this is a competition that will go on without the defending champions who, having failed to get past those defeats in the hands of Sudan and Congo, booked her place in the African Football Hall of Shame.

Perhaps followers of Nigerian football who are disappointed by the performance of the Eagles have remained blind to the huff and puff nature of the Eagles’ performances all these years. Worse still, they arguably invested patriotic believe in the ability of a bunch of players masquerading as a team; even optimism in the abilities of those who administer football in Nigeria. For all of their resilient believe, the Eagles’ no show is the absolute wake up call that their enterprise has been a shadow chasing one.

Let us put it clearly; of the full complement of squad members at Stephen Keshi’s disposal, how many command first team shirts in their clubs in Europe? It has become necessary to put this question forward because if these players are not good enough for first team positions in club sides, what then can they offer a nation? Perhaps too, we need to point out that, because Nigeria has in place a system that celebrates and rewards vain colorations, most players are selected to the team on the ‘strength’ of a bench warming appearance in several European and Asian club sides, to the disadvantage of the nation.

Again, the technical depth of the Eagles’ coaching crew is not stellar. We believe that for the two games that undid Nigeria’s chances in the qualifiers; the game away to Sudan and the Congo game in Calabar, more mobile players should have been handed starting roles considering the intense nature of both games. Playing against a Sudanese team buoyed on by a packed full stadium, the Eagles allowed their opponents too much expression space which wore them out easily. Emmanuel Emenike was the lone striker who was fed no balls and had to always drop deep to pick up balls and begin the arduous journey to the Sudanese goal. Link up play was non-existent while failure was present. This strategy created room for that 42nd minute Bakri Abdulgadir header, beating goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and confining the Eagles to this failure now upon us.

Calabar; we are not unaware of what happened in the buildup to the loss to Congo. While it was expected that the team will concentrate on the game at hand, most team members concentrated more on the vast and hidden pleasures of the ancient city. Whereas stern looking security men kept guard outside the Transcorp Hotel, women of easy virtue made their way into the camp and ‘helped’ the team unwind, just before a crucial game. We therefore had tired legs running on the pitch, losing the game and blaming instead the rainy nature of Calabar. Has there ever been a time when rain did not heavily fall in Calabar?

For the administration of football in Nigeria, more has happened in the court rooms than inside the Abuja Glass House of the Nigeria Football Federation. Not only has self been elevated over country among members, funds meant for programmes have been effortlessly pilfered with no reprimands; NFF has only been able to walk, bandaged. Were FIFA to completely look the other way, the NFF will have been run like every other thing Nigerian; corrupt, uninspiring, lacking focus but absolutely cocky in outlook.

Let us purposefully submit that, the inability of the Eagles to be on the football party to Equatorial Guinea is self-inflicted and represents a poor return on an equally poor preparation process. Those who want to make excuses can only regale themselves in the sophistry of the weak; “man no die, man no rotten”, and it still does not take away the reality that for the Super Eagles, it is a no-show in Equatorial Guinea and Nigerians must pay to watch a dance next year without her dancers.

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