Cyril C. NwokejiFriday, March 22, 2013




ome of us are still savouring the sweetness of our Afcon 2013 victory in South Africa; and why not, it was 19 long years ago that we last experienced something like this. However, while still enjoying the euphoria of our success, one cannot but look forward with regards the challenges facing the Super Eagles. These challenges are two fold: firstly, we have the challenge coming from ourselves - we have reached once again the pinnacle of African soccer, and would like to do better, more especially given our enormous potentialities in soccer; secondly, we are now more than ever before, likely to encounter very stiff opposition from our opponents, since as African champions, we have become the team to beat. These realities condemn us to raise our soccer standards, to a higher level - to World class ! This is achievable given our enormous potentialities in soccer.

At this point in time, it seems the stars are in favour of our upward march in soccer - at all levels! With regards the Super Eagles, the following factors are in favour of the Stephen Keshi -led technical crew:

  1. The new status of Stephen Keshi: Believe it or not, Stephen Keshi, has now become the most powerful man in Nigerian football - a great deal of thanks to his success at the Afcon 2013. Anyone doubting this fact should recollect the speed with which the Presidency reacted to news of his resignation ,after Afcon 2013, ordering the sports minister to discuss with him, and convince him to change his mind, with promises his grieviences would be looked into. A great deal of which have been done already. However, like the sensible and mature man he is, notwithstanding his "new-found" status, he still "condescended," to apologise to the NFF chairman ,for the frictions in their relationship in South Africa.

  2. Keshi has the compliment of a fine technical crew still committed to him, and assiduously working behind the scenes, helping to tinker the Super eagles; mention must be made of :

    Sylvanus "quick silver" Okpala - Okpala, is a renowned work-aholic, with diep technical ,tactical insights, having played the game at the highest levels;

    Daniel the "bull" Amokachi, is another fine coach, who also played the game at the highest levels. Any one doubting his tactical prowess, should not forget how he piloted the home-based Super Eagles, to their maiden victory at the Ecowas championship in Nigeria 2 years ago;

    Ike Shoronmu - another erstwhile top Nigerian professional player, is a fine keeper's trainer. By his inclusion, Keshi among other things ensured a smooth transition from the Siasia era, to his own era.

    Valerie Hayoundou - the foreigner in the Group. A trusted confidant of Keshi, who worked together with him in Togo and Mali; no doubt a capable hand in the tinkering of the Super Eagles.

  3. The Keshi -led technical crew, has a very rich compliment of very highly talented players - at home and abroad - waiting to be tapped for the Super Eagles project. With the spirit of competition introduced by Keshi in the Super Eagles set-up, coupled with the recent success of the Super Eagles, these talented young men are virtually springing over one another wanting to be part of the Super Eagles. This scenario means that any one given the chance to play, will be ready to almost shed his blood to impress the technical crew; this will certainly enhance the Super Eagles' performance. The days of 'big men' players are certainly over! Keshi has in addition ,a fine group of highly talented yougsters in the age- grade national teams to spare ! Wow, what a luxury for the technical crew !

  4. The Super Eagles have the unflinching support of the country's number one citizen - President Goodluck Jonathan. Neverbefore have the Super Eagles been showered with so much largesse as the President did after their Afcon victory. Largesse only rivalled by that given the Super Eagles by the erstwhile President Shagari after their victory, at the Afcon 1980.

  5. The Super Eagles, have quite a lot of matches to play in 2013; these can only benefiet the team building process.

  6. The Super Eagles now have the biggest ever support group from their well over 160million country men and women - at home and in the diaspora- standing as one man behind them, in their quest for higher honours.

The pertinent question is, how do we achieve stardom given the enormous factors at our advantage?

Starting with the game against Kenya on the 23rd of March, 2013, we should all continue to rally round the team. This is not time to distract the technical crew and the players with all kinds of unnecessary remarks about the team and it's composition. We should respect Keshi's choice of players, because at the end of the day he and he alone will take responsibilty for the team's performance. This obviously means that yours sincerely, is oppossed to the idea of Keshi submitting his list of players to the tecnhical commitee of the NFF, for vetting, prior to the list being made public. This kind of treatment was not metted out to our previous foreign coaches. As the saying goes :" what is good for the Goose, is good for the gander." After the Kenyan game, Keshi would make his evaluations on the players, and according to the principle of 'addition and subtration 'will move on in his team building process.

After the Kenyan stop, comes the high-profile friendly against the Mexicans - the reigning North and Central American champions. This match, under normal circumstances, right up to that point in time, should be the toughest match yet for the Super Eagles in 2013. Keshi will no doubt use the opportunity to try out some new players. The successful Super Eagles' players, coming out of the Mexican challenge, would re- encounter Kenya, in the World cup qualifier in Nairobi, on the 5th of June; they would encounter Namibia on the 12th of june, before jetting out to Brazil for the confederation's cup.

The confederation's cup, will afford the Super Eagles, the opportunity of testing the World cup 2014 waters in Brazil, before the commencement of the real competition. The likely winner of the 2014 world cup competition, may well be among the teams, taking part in the confederation's cup championship. The Super Eagles' performance in that competition, will certainly give a first glimpse of our preparedness for the World stage, and eventually for stardom. This the reason we must approach that competition, with the desired seriousness. After the Intercontinental championship, keshi, would customarily make an evaluation, and the concomittant readjustments.

These readjustments would be put to the test, in the subsequent matches to be played by the Super Eagles in 2013.

If hopefully and prayerfully, we qualify for Brazil 2014, one would expect the NFF, to organise quality friendly matches, for the Super Eagles. As reigning African champions, this would not be difficult. By quality, I mean matches against top European and latin American sides. This would provide the Eagles the necessary opposition, the type they would encounter in Brazil; hopefully, by the time all these preparations are made; going into the World cup proper we would have a world class Super Eagles, that may cause a soccer "tsunami," in Brazil, come 2014; that would certainly be to our collective satisfaction and pride.

From the foregoing,it's clear the Stephen Keshi-led technical crew, has everything going for them, in their desire to build a great Super Eagles for Nigeria, even for the World cup of 2014, in Brazil. They simply have to seize the moment!