No doubt one of the most entertaining teams in the world, the Super Eagles of Nigeria appear to be taking a downward dive over the past few years.
It all began in 2002 during the African Nations Cup when former Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh reportedly insulted former Nigerian sports Minister Ishaya Mark.
This was followed by a disciplinary action on the Super Eagles as traditionally in Africa, you dare not talkback to your senior talk less of walk him out. The matter was taken up accordingly and Nigeria’s team, which began its gradual build up in 1989 was disbanded. In spite of its impressive display of skill and technique at the USA 94 world cup as well as the Atlanta 96 Olympic Games, the team which was on the verge of attaining its peak with the likes of then Captain Sunday Oliseh, Kanu Nwankwo, George Finidi and Jay Jay Okocha to mention a few, was sent packing and a new team was horridly (not hurriedly) put together. That put to the end of the star studded team, which the world never got to see at its peak.
Handling the matter traditionally involved the input of a village chief. Hence Coach Onigbinde, an outdated village chief was given the mandate to create a new team. The world cup is no stage for beginners. Teams spend years in preparation. There is no where to hide. As expected, Nigeria’s poorly prepared and newly forged team did not go beyond the first stage in World Cup 2002. Inadequately trained goalkeeper Ike Shorunmu, whom many felt should have been made the captain of the Swedish team for playing a good game for Sweden, was the one who shattered all Nigerians dreams by giving away a crucial goal.
This downward trend would have been averted if Nigerians had realised they were living in the 21st century and realised that the captain has a right to walk anyone out, especially as the Minister was not meant to be there at that time of the night. In addition, the captain of the team is answerable to his coach and not to the Minister, who should also have put national interest above his ego. Besides, why would the whole team be disbanded because of one person’s misbehaviour?
Unlike many Nigerians hope, The Nigerian Football Federation has not lived up to its expectations. In fact, since I was born, they have forever been going back to the “drawing board” only to stage a comeback with the same old mistakes: poor selection and shady preparations. This has put a lot of stress on the shoulders of the members of The Nigerian Supporters Club, who are always seen in the arena singing songs to God. Not a miracle but miracles have been needed. Christians and Muslims have come together as one. Lord help us.
Poor preparation is the bedrock of Nigeria’s soccer team’s misfortunes. The world cup takes place every 4 years. Nigeria had 4 years to send her supporters club to Japan in 2002 and guess what? They arrived late.
Being fair to the Village Chief, he was never instructed to win the world cup. He was told to assemble a team that would be a force to recon with in the years to come. It appeared winning was not on his agenda as he preferred to hold Argentina to a draw without realizing he had the tools to whip the Argentines. He played a defensive game, aiming at using his weakest side (his defense) against the strongest part of the argentines (the Argentine attack) rather than using his strong part (his attack) against the weakest part of the Argentines (the Argentine defence). All was wrong. Mutiu, an old cargo, was one of his revelations. If this team was meant to peak in future years, then it is funny since soccer stars do not attain stardom in their late 50’s. Putting that aside, the so called future team was later disbanded and to date the whereabouts of some of those players remains a mystery to be solved. If Enid Blyton were alive, it would have been a good mystery to be solved by the Famous Five.
Currently, Nigeria has a slim chance of making it to the 2010 World Cup. Their latest match between the Super Eagles and their Tunisian counterparts- the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia- sent me on self imposed house arrest as there was no way I could show up my face at work to my eight Cameroonian colleagues. This match showed our team’s lackadaisical attitude at its peak once again. How long does it take us to know a coach has lost it? Drawing with Mozambique earlier on in the qualifiers was enough to spell doom if we continued with Coach Amodu Suaibu.
After the match, Super Eagles player and strong man Mikel was seen yelling at the defenders in the in dressing room. Quite an interesting comment for one who made just one brilliant move in the entire 90 minutes game! Mikel appeared to have forgotten that the defense had to make a million and one moves to prevent the Tunisians from increasing the goal margin. Well if the lousy players had kept the ball up front and away from the crumbling defenders, we would have all been singing a different song. Technically, lots of things were wrong from the onset of the game. For instance, fielding Seyi Olofinaja and Mikel Obi, both defensive midfielders on the same game added to the already confused Nigerian side. Nigerian Coach Amodu (who claims Nigerian) obviously made countless tactical blunders in the match. It is funny, Nigerians are known to be very intelligent people but I’m beginning to suspect that Nigerian citizenship might actually be one of the easiest to acquire.
That was a real sad day for Nigerians. Many wept after the match. Not weeping that they lost but weeping that the Nigerian police, whose wages are paid from the tax of the common man to protect the interest of the nation, refused to honour the interest of the people, most of whom felt they owed it as a point of duty to all Nigerians out side the Stadium to beat the hell out of the players.