Hello, incurable believers in the Super Eagles of Nigeria. How are you recovering from the latest shambolic performance by your overrated players? I hope none of you, especially those who put a money bet on Friday’s match are contemplating suicide. Football is no doubt a beautiful thing but definitely not something to die for. Like I always admonish supporters of the ‘new generation’ Super Eagles, blessed are those who don’t expect much from them, for they will never be disappointed.
Friday, March 24 was another day the Super Eagles came to Abuja and heaped more misery on Nigerian football lovers who are already traumatized by the long fuel queues and cashless policy of the present administration. In fact, not just queues and lack of cash but the pain of the just concluded the more you look, the less you see the electoral process. So, when the Super Eagles were devoured by the Wild Dogs of Guinea Bissau in their third match of the ongoing 2023 AFCON Group A qualifiers at the MKO Abiola stadium Abuja, it was double jeopardy for most football fans.
As usual, Nigerians are angry at the players, the coach and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). Expectedly, there are deafening calls for the sack of the coach and a total overhaul of the playing staff. We have been down this route countless times.
Personally, it surprises me that Nigerians are not ready to lower their expectations. This is not to cast aspersions on the players or doubt their individual abilities, but as a team, they have consistently failed to justify the confidence that over 200m football-loving Nigerians have continued to repose in them. Like their predecessors, these Super Eagles players are adored by many yet they appear reluctant to reciprocate this gesture.
When the opportunity came for them to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup which would have been a debut appearance for most of them, they bungled the chance right in front of their teeming fans. The loss to their perennial rivals, the Black Stars of Ghana happened a few weeks after they raised high and dashed the hopes of Nigerians at the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon.
Even after the 2O22 World Cup mishap, the Super Eagles have remained the same as they have managed only two victories in eight matches under the present Technical Adviser, Jose not Mourinho ‘the special one’ but the clueless Peseiro. Other people may be surprised by the results posted recently by the team but I am not because these Eagles have refused to grow strong wings for full flights. Most of them are so clumsy and ordinary that one wonders why they are still called Super. Most of them are only using the national team as a rehabilitation centre. Anytime they are invited to camp, they honour such invitation to have the opportunity to raise their profiles. Unfortunately, those who should shock them to life have no faith in home-based players. Therefore, we seem stuck with these guys whose commitment remains questionable.
However, as we question the suitability of the players to play for the Super Eagles, we must also not forget to beam our searchlight on the technical crew of the team being led by Peseiro, who is no doubt living up to his rating as a third-grade coach. Even before he was appointed, his poor record wasn’t concealed from those who went to hire him. Among many failures with clubs and other national teams, he literally finished the Venezuelan national team when he managed to win one match out of 10. Therefore, when his name was mentioned as one of the possible replacements for Franco-German tactician, Gernot Rohr, not a few Nigerians protested but Amaju Pinnick who was bent on destroying the Super Eagles went for his man.
Against Guinea Bissau, Peseiro was his usual self. He has been heavily criticised but since no amount of rainfall can wash away the spots on a leopard’s skin, he still showed gross incompetence in his selection of players and substitutions during the match. Of course, some of the players have become ‘shareholders’ in the team and must be invited to camp but Peseiro should know that it is not a must for them to play. It was indeed funny how he was busy jumping up and down on the touchline as if he was doing something meaningful. No man offers what he does not have. Peseiro should be told in very clear terms that he lacks the technical and tactical intelligence to revive the Super Eagles. I will be shocked if he stays longer than June when his present contract expires.
Well, it is right to blame the players and the coach for Friday’s disaster but what of the negative role that the pitch of the MKO Abiola National Stadium played in the debacle? Of course, most of the players are average but their performance was made worse by the not-so-perfect condition of the pitch. It is sad to know that less than two years ago, the Dangote Group through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) of the Ministry of Sports renovated the pitch with $1m. The indigenous contractor, Aron Nigeria replaced the playing turf with pure dynasty pas palum, the latest grass technology in the world.
During the handing over of the facility to the Federal Government in December 2021, the pitch was lush green. It glittered like the pitches that were to be used at the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Unfortunately, after a few months, Nigeria’s poor maintenance culture has caught up with the playing surface once again. Despite the 24 water sprinklers that were installed by the contractor, the grass has dried up in many parts and the surface of the pitch is no longer even. During the match against Guinea-Bissau, the ball continued to bounce awkwardly, making it impossible for the players to string good passes. Maybe the grass was cut too close to the time of kick-off.
In all fairness, we can criticise the Super Eagles for breaking our hearts again but we must not forget that most of these players are used to world-class pitches. How can an Alex Iwobi who all through his professional career has made use of some of the best facilities in the world give his best on a turf that is heavy and uneven?
So, the substandard surface of the MKO Abiola National Stadium also contributed substantially to the latest failure by the Super Eagles. Therefore, as we decry the steady decline in the national team’s performance, let’s also sympathise with some of the Super Eagles players like Victor Oshimen whose commitment is never in doubt but are let down by certain factors beyond their control. It is not the responsibility of the players to maintain at least one pitch of international standard for the national team.