YEARNING FOR SUPER EAGLES OF 94
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