The "terrible sin" of Alex Iwobi

Knocks and Kudos (Reviewed)
By Paul Dada
Nigerians have always been passionate about football. I understand that. One thing football tournaments involving Nigeria do for the citizens of this country is that it makes them forget about their differences. It makes them to at least temporarily forget about the fault lines that have have so polarised them.
The just concluded African Cup of Nations hosted by Ivory Coast was an elixir of sort for Nigerians. The Super Eagles who were shaky at the beginning of  the tournament found their mojo as they began mauling team after team. In the Round of 16, they sent Angola who had browbeaten other teams, out of the competition. They dominated the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the quarter-finals, and ended their trophy hopes, if they had any. The Super Eagles of Nigeria forced the boastful South Africans to eat the humble pie as they defeated them 4-2 on penalties in  semi-final final.
As the Nigerian senior national football team kept whipping their opponents, Nigerians worried less about the disturbing soaring prices of food items, worsening electricity power supply and the  weak naira.
 Hopes were high that the Super Eagles would soar above the Elephants of Ivory Coast who they had earlier defeated at the group stage. But the Nigerian team performed poorly.  The Elephants outplayed the Eagles. The Nigerian mdifield collapsed completely.  The defence of the Nigerian team caved in as the Ivorians keot up their onslaughts. The Super Eagles were a shadow of themselves. They looked like an amateur team of schoolboys in the match which ended 2-1 in the favour of the better Ivorian team.
Of course, Nigerians were disappointed. They reacted with outrage and many let loose their pent-up frustration on the team. The most vilified among them has been Alex Iwobi the central midfielder who couldn’t hold the midfield. He has been been pelted with sharp stones of vituperation, harsh mockery by crazy Nigerian cyberbullies. Iwobi was so intimidated that he had to remove most of the pictures and videos from his Instagram to reduce attacks by fangs baring and merciless trolls.
Alex Iwobi
But Iwobi, a nephew to the Nigerian football legend and dexterous midfielder, Jay Jay Okocha,  does not deserve that level of  attacks. Yes, he performed poorly in the final match, But so did most members of the team. The team played mostly to the instruction of the  coach, Jose Peseiro who had wrongly thought that his defensive approach would work in the match.
Besides, Iwobi may not have performed so well in the entire AFCON but the British-born Nigerian footballer is not necessarily an under-achieving player for Nigeria. In the history of 74 appearances for Nigeria, Iwobi has scored 10 goals for the country as midfielder. He deserves some respect.
While we have seen a number of foreign born players of Nigerian origin shun invitations to the national team,  Iwobi makes himself readily available for the country. Give him some respect, please.
That he didn’t perform up to expectation in the last AFCON, does not mean his international football career is finished. After all, some of those cyber-bullying  him  are under- achievers in their families, jobs and other endeavours.
Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa, was right to caution the cyber bullies. He wrote on his Facebook page: “Dear fans,  I want to please urge you to halt the cyber-bullying directed towards Alex Iwobi. Cyber bullying is not just a violation of decency but also a serious crime. It’s hypocritical to claim that football unites us while engaging in such behavior.
“Losing a game is undoubtedly tough, but targeting a single player for the team’s shortcomings is unfair and unjust. We win as a team, and we lose as a team. Alex gave his all on the field, just like every member of our squad.
“Instead of spreading negativity, let’s show genuine love and support to our players. They need our encouragement now more than ever. Let’s uplift each other and stand united, both in victory and defeat”.
Okocha also wrote, and rightly so, to support his nephew. Writing on his Instagram page, Okocha stated: ‘’I pray for my country Nigeria and the people that can only hate and see nothing good in others, when effort counts for nothing, treat people the way you want them to treat you, all we have is this life is each other.
“We love you #alexanderiwobi and we keep going no matter what they say, the Lord is good all the time and we trust that his will be done in our lives amen.’
I hope that the remonstrances from Musa, Okocha and other  well-meaning Nigerians would melt the hearts of the children of anger who have been pummeling Iwobi.
I must commend President Bola Tinubu for rewarding the team for coming second in the tournament. The silver medal is not a symbol of failure but an evidence of achievement and success.
The Tinubu- led administration  at a reception organised for the team, rewarded each of them with the national title,  Member of the Order of Niger, MON, a flat and a plot of land. That gesture, I trust, is a strong motivation for the Super Eagles, especially Iwobi.
Thank you , Super Eagles for emerging the second best team in AFCON.
Nigeria, let’s keep building.
Super Eagles, keep flying.
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