10th October, 2011
Football loving Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the reality that the nationâ€™s senior national soccer team, the Super Eagles (angry Nigerians prefer to call them Super Chickens because of their dwindling performance) wonâ€™t participate in next yearâ€™s Africa Cup of Nations.
The Eagles that needed an outright win over the visiting Guinean national team in Abuja last Saturday settled for a 2-2 draw and ended up with a miserable 11 points as against Guineaâ€™s 14 points to top Group B. The Eagles had earlier lost 0-1 to Guinea in the first leg in Conakry.
Despite all the boasting by Samson Siasia and his boys that they will beat the Syli Stars of Guinea silly, the Guineans came to Abuja to teach the Eagles a hard football lesson that they will remember for a long time. It was ridiculous for Osaze to blame T.B. Jushuaâ€™s prediction for the defeat of the Eagles. What has prediction got to do with winning a match if a teamâ€™ s disposition falls short expectations?
Yes, football is a cruel game, as Siasia said in his apology to Nigerians after the nation crashed out of next yearâ€™s Africa Cup of Nations. It becomes even more cruel when the players and technical crew take things for granted and even underrate their opponents. This was the undoing of Siasia and his boys.
Before last Saturdayâ€™s crucial encounter Siasia and some of the players had annoyingly boasted to the point of insanity that the Eagles would spank Guinea 3-0. If they had taken into consideration the strength of their opponents, perhaps they would have been more modest in their utterances which suggested that they had the magic wand to tame the visiting Guineans. This drives home the message that it is not he who is about to wear the armour that should boast but he is about to remove it after a battle. You donâ€™t win matches on the pages of newspapers.
Apart from Guinea, Mali, Zambia, Libya, Tunisia, Angola and Ghana secured their tickets last Saturday while Nigeria wonâ€™t be at the Africa Cup of Nations just like other leading African football playing nations such as Egypt (the defending champions), Cameroon and South Africa. Even Uganda, Sierra Leone and Malawi were losers on Saturday. But the lesson from the failure to qualify is for these countries, especially Nigeria, to take qualification for tournaments more seriously next time. Our fire brigade approach to preparations for major sporting tournaments has always backfired.
We should put the loss behind us and earnestly begin to prepare for the 2014 Africa Cup of Nations and the qualifying series for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Angola, wrongly perceived as minnows, deprived us of featuring in the 2006 World Cup in Germany years ago. We are yet to learn from that bitter experience. That is why we repeated our mistake last Saturday and had to pay dearly for it in the hands of the Guineans.
The rebuilding process that resulted in the resurgence of football in Ghana should start right now or else we will remain the laughing stock of football playing nations in Africa for a long time to come.