Countdown To 2010 World Cup: Hopes, Fears Of Nigerians

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles, the national team will be flying the country’s flag in South Africa as the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) 2010 Soccer World Cup begins on June 11.

The Super Eagles abysmal performance at the African Cup of Nations in January, this year has been a source of worry to many soccer lovers. The Super Eagles have maintained the third position for quite a time in African football, which tends to show the national team is virtually stagnated.

But some people believe that the problem of the national team was with the former coach and that the sacking of Amodu would bring good fortunes to the Eagles.

Speaking with The Weekend Tide, Mr. Chukwuma Okah, a sports enthusiast said Nigerians should not expect too much from the national team because the coach only took over recently.

“I believe that Coach Lagerback is good. We need high-profile coaches like Lagerback to make the difference in Nigerian football. Nigeria stopped doing well when it started using indigenous coaches who did not have the needed experience and expertise to take our national football forward.

Look at England, it still hires a foreign coach. If we want our football to grow, we must go for the best coaches in the world. I think ethnicity has been one of the banes of our national team”, Mr. Okah stated.

He said that with time, Lagerback would be able to transform the Eagles into a team to reckon with, and pointed out that until the Eagles were able to excel in Africa, the thought of making an impact in World Cup would remain either a mirage or a moonshine.

According to him, “the World Cup is not for an unserious national teams. A team that is eyeing the World Cup must make early preparations and given the fact that the players that played the African Cup of Nations tournament are still the same that are playing the World Cup, it will take the grace of God for the team to excel”, he stated.

He, however, praised the Federal Government for taking a bold step in removing the Eagles coach. He said that there was hope for the Eagles as a world-class coach has assumed the handling of the national team.

Mr. Okah said the Federal Government also should overhaul the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) and the Nigeria Football Federation.

He noted that it would tantamount to putting a new wine in an old wine skin if the two bodies were not overhauled.

Also speaking, Mr. Dioka Isaiah, a social analyst and public commentator said with the recent performance of the Super Eagles, especially during their friendly with Colombia had shown that there was still a ray of hope for the Eagles.

But Mr. Isaiah said that Coach Amodu had denied the Super Eagles on account of abysmal performances.

Mr. Isaiah noted that the crop of players in the national team would require both individual and collective commitment to make impact at the World Cup.

The social analyst said that the best players the national team had won the 1994 squad. He said the players were world class and dedicated to their careers and observed that it would be unlikely for anybody to expect so much from the Eagles in the present circumstances.

“The Super Eagles are no longer Super, they have fallen so low. The past governments in the country killed our national team especially as they were not willing to spend money on world class Coaches. They decided to use home grown coaches without pedigree to mess up the system. The Federal Government must realise that the development of sports helps to create employment for the youths”.

Mr. Isaiah, who is an educationist, identified the concentration of the educational system on the cognitive domain as one of the problems of Nigerian educational system and pointed out that unless adequate steps were taken by the powers that be in our education system, our students would continue to miss the opportunity of harnessing their talents.

The former Principal of Chary Group of Schools at Rumuodamaya, Port Harcourt said the Ministry of Education must brace up to the challenges of the new millennium. “The school system must emphasise the three domains: cognitive, affective and psychomotor, which will enhance the harnessing of talent”, he said.

Also speaking, Miss Vivian Obiariji, an undergraduate said that Nigeria would not go far in the World Cup competition and noted that the World Cup was a competition meant for nations that had excelled in their continents.

Although, she remarked that Nigeria was able to qualify for the mundial, greater challenges would be encomtered in South Africa.

“From all indications, Nigeria does not stand a good chance to make an impact at the World Cup. You see, it beats my imagination that in a nation of 150 million persons, only the ones that put up a scrappy performance in Angola are deemed good enough to represent Nigeria at the World Cup in South Africa”, he stated.

Miss Obiariji said, look at the Ghanian national team that beat the Super Eagles at the African Cup of Nations, they were pummeled 4-0 by the Netherlands in a pre-world cup friendly”.

According to her, “the humiliation of the blackstars by the Dutch national team is an indication that Africa has not arrived at the World Cup. One cannot forget in a hurry that Ghana was placed second at the 2010 Nations Cups yet they were humiliated by an European team. Africa should not hope to carry the World Cup until the next 20 years.”

The lady, who is also a Chelsea fan noted that sports would continue to take the back bench until the local league is improved upon and remarked that local leagues in Europe were already fantastic and could not be compared to what is happening in Africa.

Miss Obiariji, however, encouraged the Super Eagles to do their best in South that African as it was the first time the mudial was being hosted in Africa noting Africa nations must do well in South Africa to justify the hosting. Miss Obiariji observed that it was a rare opportunity that should not be blown away.

The lady urged all to support the Super Eagles in their campaign in South Africa and emphasised that the players who had been given so much must show commitment. She also explained that it would take some years before the national team would become a team to beat.

She blamed the lacklustre performance of the Super Eagles in South Africa on the coach and lack of commitment by players and noted that there was no reason why the players won’t be committed in South Africa as everything had been put in place for the Eagles.

Another person, who spoke with The Weekend Tide, Mr. Abel Ihuaenyi, a Police officer said the Super Eagles campaign in South Africa was expected to be successful given the fact that a large sum of money had been committed to the campaign.

The Police officer said one should not expect miracle from the Super Eagles, especially as they did not do well in Angola. Although, he remarked that the Super Eagles met the simi-final target set by the NFA, the Nation Cup exposed the shortenings of the Eagles and prayed that the coach would be able to achieve greater feat with the national team.

He noted that Lagerback had enough experience to make the team succeed in South Africa. According to him, “for any team to succeed in a World Cup, there was need for discipline on the part of the players. The big boys syndrome must be jettisoned. There must be team work.”

“Teamwork is a necessary ingredient for the success of any campaign. We need both teamwork and discipline to reach at least the knock out stages of the World Cup. We must appreciate the fact that the Nigerian team does not have big names like most teams in the World Cup but what can really make the difference is if the players will work in concert,” the officer further explained.

Mr. Ihuaenyi, who said he used to play for his community remarked that individual talents were necessary for a team to impact at the world but pointed out the harnessing of the talents into a team play would be most impacting.

He stated that the World Cup was serious business that no nation would like to trifle with. He said the level of play of a particular nation belied its preparedness for the mundial.

The Police officer said he would love to see Africa win the World Cup but regretted that the game of football had not fully developed and said that he was optimistic that Africa would soon carry the world cup.

“Football has become a global rallying point. It has united different people and different nations of the world. It is the new warfront or battlefield and a major source of entertainment and income. One cannot be left behind in the globalisation of football.

More and more nations are picking interest in soccer. As we watch our country doing well there is excitement but when we lose, we blame everything and everybody for the loss. In Africa, football has brought huge income to our brothers plying their trade in Europe,” he said.

“Africa must rise up to the occasion by making effort to pick the trophy. While we have not been able to develop technologically, we must excel in sports because have the capacity to do so,” he further stated.

Mr. Christian Oyo, civil servant believes that Nigeria should hope for the worst in the 2010 World Cup because there is no magic about it pointing out that the Super Eagles performance at the African Cup of Nations was nothing to write home about and wondered if five months was enough to make a difference.

The civil servant regretted that Super Eagles were preparing quite belatedly for the mundal but noted with luck anything could happen.

Mr. Oyo, who resides in Port Harcourt urged all Nigerians both at home and in Diaspora to support the Super Eagles in spite of their short comings because it is the national team.

According to him, “we don’t have any other national team except the Super Eagles. We have to pray for them. There may be an upset here and there.

Don’t be surprised if the Super Eagles conquer the Argentines come June 12,” he stated.

On the symbolism of June 12, Mr Oyo said he wished the date match was not fixed for June 12. He said the date had become a form of defeat for the nation. He said on June 12, 1993, the nation freest and fairest elections were cancelled.

According to him,” let this World Cup campaign not become another June 12 for Nigeria. If Nigeria suffers huge defeat in the hands of the Argentines, who are one of the favourites for the 2010 World Cup, there is no gainsaying that it will be remembered as another June 12. Once beaten twice shy. The players and coach Lagerback must ensure that there is no defeat on June 12,” he said.

“But we must appreciate that the Argentines have a squad to beat with the likes of Lionel Messi. So the ill-equipped squad we have, we will certainly need the grace of God to have a draw. Look at what happened to the Ghanaian squad in the friendly with Netherlands. It was a huge humiliation. Given the background, we should not expect a miracle,” he stated.    

 

Chidi Enyie