Cyril C. NwokejiMonday, November 24, 2014




he failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for Afcon 2015, though painful, didn't come to yours sincerely as a surprise. It hung for quite some time in the air. The qualification campaign was troubled from the very first match. It was clear the Super Eagles were not equal to the task; paradoxically against teams which are not in the same class as the Super Eagles. Teams which didn't and still do not belong to the elite class of African soccer teams, not withstanding their advancement in soccer. But teams which paradoxically gave the Super Eagles, the soccer 'nightmares' of their lives and surprisingly, succeded in robbing the Super Eagles the opportunity of defending their hard won African Nations' cup title, in Equitorial Guinea, come 2015.

When the draws for the qualifying matches of the 2015 Afcon were made, the immediate past President of the NFF : Alhaji Maigari, confidently told the press the Super Eagles would come out tops in their group. Yours sincerely, shared the sentiments of the erstwhile president of the NFF; what with the class of the Super Eagles as African champions, and the not-too- fantastic reputation of the opponents : Sudan, Congo Brazaville and South-Africa, the Super Eagles appeared destined for qualification for Afcon 2015. But helaas, reality, has turned out differently !

Why didn't the Super Eagles deliver on the huge expectations placed on them by Nigerians?

Meethinks the following reasons were responsible:

Firstly, the NFF ,was in confusion, for an unacceptably long period of time! It was confusion galore, confusion precipitated mainly by selfish interests! Some of the so called soccer administrators, who were battling for positions on the NFF board, didn't have the soccer interests of Nigeria, at heart. They were merely interested in satisfying their petty and selfish "stomach infrastructure." They were more concerned with getting their own share of the dollars and cents, that normally accrue the NFF, than in the development of Nigerian soccer.They shamelessly battled themselves, almost to the point of 'annihilation;' and it took the intervention of FIFA, through banning Nigeria and threats of future ban and of course the intervention of our soccer-loving President Goodluck Jonathan, before they behaved themselves, and filed behind the correctly and democratically elected NFF president : Mr. Melvin Pinnick Amaju. While these wranglings were going on in the NFF, yours sincerely, in an article titled : " The confusion in the NFF, is killing the Super Eagles ," alerted Nigerians, particularly the troubled NFF, of the possible negative consequences of having a stalemate, at a time, the NFF, was supposed to lead the development of Nigerian soccer, more especially vis - a -viz the qualifiers for the 2015 Afcon tournament. These warnings were unheaded and the consequence is what we have today - failure to qualify for Afcon 2015 !

In other words, while some Nigerians battled themselves for positions on the NFF board, the Super Eagles' rivals were busy perfecting their strategies for Afcon 2015 qualifiers. The coach of Congo Brazaville : Claude L'roy, told the press he watched the video tape of the World cup match between Nigeria and France about twenty times; this was at a time the Super Eagles didn't even have a coach, as Coach Keshi's contract ended after World cup 2014!

Secondly, the technical crew headed by Coach Keshi, didn't help matters either, by what was obviously a wrongful selection of certain players for the Super Eagles. Was it by accident or design ? Yours sincerely doesn't know. These wrongful selection of certain players, without a doubt, reduced the quality of the Super Eagles; little wonder the Super Eagles, struggled even against opposition that don't belong to their class! Failure to qualify for Afcon 2015, is the obvious logical consequence, notwithstanding the advantages enjoyed by the Super Eagles in their last match - home support etc. South-Africa and Congo Brazaville, are not great sides and would certainly not be among the title favourites come Afcon 2015. Nigeria, deservedly failed to qualify from a fairly easy group, through her won doing. Nigeria, as it were, shot herself in the foot, purely out of selfish reasons, when that was totally uncalled for ; with an ignominous failure as painful consequence!

After this rather ignominous failure of the Super Eagles, which is the way forward ?

The way forward, is not to continue wallowing in the pains and frustrations of failure; and certainly not to get consumed in self pity; but rather to pick up ourselves, dust up ourselves, learn the lessons of failure and embark on a new journey to soccer development. In this regard yours sincerely makes the following suggestions:

Firstly, one is happy, sanity has finally returned to the NFF. One has a lot of confidence in the new NFF president: Melvin Amaju Pinnick. The track record he left behind in Delta state, is there for all to see. More especially, he was well schooled in the art of soccer administration, by one of the foremost and best soccer administrators Nigeria has ever produced, the late former secretary of the NFF: Mr. Patrick Okpomo. Mr. Amaju, is no doubt ready to lead Nigerian soccer and yours sincerely has no doubt he would succeed.

Secondly, there needs to be a change in the technical crew of the Super Eagles. One expects Coach Keshi to take a walk away from the Super Eagles technical crew! He has no doubt failed to achieve his latest objective of qualifying Nigeria for Afcon 2015. There should be no gainsaying this fact; his position as Super Eagles coach, under these circumstances, is no longer tenable! Regardless of his past successes with the Super Eagles, he shouldn't forget the popular soccer maxim: " A coach is as good as his last match." He might be contracted again to coach Nigeria in the future, but for now, like one clearly stated in an earlier article titled: " Goodbye to the "Big boss ," all Nigerians, including Coach Keshi himself, would gain from a "Keshi break."

As replacement for Coach Keshi, yours sincerely supports the earlier decision of the NFF, to go for a foreign coach. With all due apologies to all the Nigerian soccer "nationalists," at this point in time, no indigenous coach fits the bill. Nigerian indigenous coaches with all due respects, can hardly rise above sentiments when managing the affairs of the Super Eagles. Yours sincerely is however not advocating for a permanent appointment of foreign coaches for the Super Eagles, as one believes the best coach for any national team, is in principle, an indigenous coach; but given the present circumstances of the Super Eagles, a foreign coach, would be best for Nigeria; at least as a stop gap measure. The NFF, could then systematically plan for an indigenous coach, preferably an assistant to the foreign coach, to replace the foreign coach, at the expiration of his contract; which one suggests shouldn't be longer than 2018. The foreign coach should be ready to live and integrate in Nigeria - a la Coach Westerhoff. We don't want a foreign coach who would not live in Nigeria, but would jet in and out, a la Coach Voghts.

The foreign coach should have the following objectives:

  1. Qualifying for the 2017 Nations cup competition and preferably, making Nigeria African champions again; in the worst case scenario, a semi-final appearance ;

  2. Qualifying for the 2018 World cup competition, and getting to the quarter-finals.

Notwithstanding the present soccer quagmire Nigeria finds herself at the senior level, one believes the country has enough talented players to bounce back within the shortest possible time, like was the case in South-Africa, 2013. This is doable. I have every confidence in the ability of our soccer players to bounce back after a major set back. The Super Eagles have done it before and can do it again !

Allez Nigeria ! Forward ever, backward never! The Super Eagles will rise again! "Iseeeeeeeeeh………. ! "