The Super Eagles of Nigeria have been nowhere super in total estimation of their performances and the results of some of their matches.
Last Tuesday in Lagos, the team again looked out of sorts, and laboriously earned a point against Cape Verde, to move to the playoff stage of the 2022 world cup qualifier.
That game, again defines the class Nigeria’s national football team belongs in today’s dynamism of the global game.
This same team used to bestride Africa like a collosus, especially in the 1990s. So powerfully that it was rated highly by FIFA after the 1994 world cup finals in the United States.
The Eagles class of 1994 broke all barriers. First, won the nations cup 14 years after the 1980-1982 class won it last. Second, demystified the jinx of North African teams especially Algeria and Egypt. Third, created for itself a fear factor so much that its opponents only played to be beaten respectably, except for a few countries like Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal and the North Africans.
Between 1989 and 1994, majority of the players who defined the incredible five-year run of the team,were wrought in the local league before they moved to Europe. They were fundamentally home-grown, their spirits and blood authentically Nigerian. The few ones who were raised abroad- Reuben Agboola and Efan Ekoku( the two I vividly remember now) eventually played second fiddle in their wings.
The local league was that productive because of teams like Enugu Rangers, IICC shooting stars, Leventis United, Iwuanyawu Nationale, Stationery Stores, First Bank, ACB, NNB, Ranchers Bees and many more.
It was possible to raise three top class national teams at once in that era. Nigeria had an avalanche of footballers with individual strengths that turned around what were going to be bad days.
The clubsides were so strong that they could defeat countries like Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Madagascar or Central Africa Republic.
The schools also had their roles clearly cut out and produced through the academicals, NUGA, NIPOGA, principals cup, YSFON, great talents for the clubsides to snatch.
I refuse to agree with the point that these countries have caught up with Nigeria. Yes, to an extent, Europe has generally rubbed off positively on African football so much that the minnows of yesteryears have left where they were. But given the size of Nigeria’s potentials- the talents, the resources,the market and the passion and human intellect, the message to the rest of Africa and many countries in the world should be- CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.
As long as the local league remains unprofessional, unproductive, directionless, unmarketable and corrupt, the system won’t be able to achieve the same quality of the past years.And there will continually be no nexus between the local game and the national teams.
The Super Eagles will inevitably then rely on players without truly Nigerian foundation, who in one or two years, found his way to Europe to begin playing in some funny leagues or Nigerian-born players raised in Europe. What this has done essentially is that it has lowered the quality of invitations to the team, and tragically, it leads to poor mix.
The team is dominated by players without the real flair of Nigerian football, the initiatives, the intuition, the expression and the instincts expected in a game like that of Tuesday against Cape Verde. The reality is – more countries in the class of Cape Verde are now motivated by the reality that the Eagles are not invincible.
Every Nigerian footballer, home or in the diaspora is expected to be interested in playing for his National team, but the quality to earn a call should be determined by the county’s football system. But if the men in charge of the game continually play gods and take their interest above national interest, the boys are therefore not to blame but the gods because in their hands, only in their hands is the authority.
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