YEARN­ING FOR SU­PER EA­GLES OF 94

THISDAY - - EDITORIAL -

How Nige­ria can get back the foot­ball squad she had of 1994 through 1996 is part of my wor­ries about the Su­per Ea­gles. From the on­set, I must con­fess that I have nearly lost in­ter­est in the Nige­rian foot­ball team. I have not been able to fig­ure out what could be re­spon­si­ble for the de­cline of the Su­per Ea­gles. If not for pa­tri­o­tism and the in­born love for the “Pele’s toy”, I would have stopped watch­ing foot­ball matches. To get re­lief, I some­times pre­fer to watch matches of for­eign clubs than our lo­cal tour­na­ments. Yet, though not a fan of any, I be­long to every se­ri­ous club but never a diehard for any. That was me when Nige­rian clubs and tour­na­ments were in­ter­est­ing. Can our past foot­ball his­tory re­turn?

Some­times, I feel that the pol­i­tics sur­round­ing the choice of play­ers is re­spon­si­ble; pol­i­tics in dif­fer­ent ways. Ei­ther be­cause in the course of choos­ing the play­ers, the harm­ful idea of fed­eral char­ac­ter is placed on board or the con­sid­er­a­tion of god­fa­ther­sim/who-knows-who comes to play. Or cor­rup­tion is re­spon­si­ble in the sense, as al­leged, that play­ers have to pay im­me­di­ately to be se­lected or sign pacts to for­feit parts of their match al­lowances. It is bad and what­ever is re­spon­si­ble for this, I think the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to sani­tise the sys­tem in the glass house.

I have never wept for Nige­rian foot­ball like that of France 98 when Nige­ria lost woe­fully on June 8 to Denmark by 4-1 in the round 16. This fol­lowed the loss to Paraguay 3-1 on June 24 at the stage matches. Nige­ria had ear­lier de­feated Spain 3-2 on June 13, de­feated Bul­garia 1-0 on June 19. Hopes were very high for Nige­ria to de­feat Denmark. I prayed for the Ea­gles af­ter the first and sec­ond goals hit Peter Ru­fai’s net in the third and 13th min­utes. I still prayed that Nige­ria could make it in the sec­ond half as usual un­til hopes were dashed by the third and fourth goals in the 60th and 76th min­utes by Ebbe Sand and Thomas Helveg re­spec­tively. I took to mem­ory every bit of the hap­pen­ings in 98 Su­per Ea­gles’ out­ing. And since that year, Nige­ria has been un­able to build a strong team. Any hope for Nige­ria in Rus­sia 2018 with Croa­tia on June 16, Ice­land on June 22 and Ar­gentina on June 26 at the group D stage? Muhammad Ajah, Abuja

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