AFCON: The cause of Super Eagles fall against Bafana Bafana of South African
How did the unthinkable happen? The defeat against the South Africans is not to be categorized under an old adage that “Pride goes before a fall,” but comes very close to it. There comes that pivotal encounter which stuns sportsmen into a chilling reality, never to take things for granted. This was the drama played out at the Godswill Akpabio theatre last Saturday.
Without a doubt the South Africans were superior on the day and deserved their handsome away victory against Nigeria. This was no fluke, and there was no luck involved.
Bafana Bafana arrived with a clear tactical finesse, surprising skills on the ball, and the quiet optimism that they had the sharp scalpels to cut through the rib cage of the Super Eagles, given half a chance. They went about their surgery with clinical efficiency that in the end left the patient dead on the turf at Uyo.
So, what lessons are there to be learned from a hurried post-mortem?
The first problem with the Super Eagles is one that has suffused everything in the wider context – the lack of quality human resources management and maintenance culture.
A graph of Nigerian sports shows a victory today, a fall the next, then another victory and further failures into mediocrity, followed by depression, quarrel, dismissals, and a fresh start.
Experts in business management will tell you that such a scenario dissipates strategic thinking and productive energy, and further destroys invigorating capital resources. The result is not excellence, but imprisonment at a level just above the baseline.
This is why the “Super” Eagles were once ranked among the top five in the world, but currently languish in spaces between 30th and 60th, even with the pedigree, and high quality of human resources always available to the country.
Perhaps one thing the NFF does not possess is the financial clout to maintain a professional national outfit. Why this remains the case over the years, and the business community cannot invest in sports is a mystery.
There should be no more guaranteed shirt for any Eagle. Each spot should be earned.
For over fifty years we have vacillated between selecting more home-based than foreign-based footballers, a native or a foreign coach, and the use of stadiums in the swamps of coastal Lagos, in the savannah of Kano and Kaduna, in the centrality of Abuja or in the rainforests of Uyo and Calabar.
Rather than concentrate on the coming encounter with the South Africans, our sports media columns were awash with which Nigerian players were signing new contracts with teams in England, Turkey, Portugal, Russia, Belgium and Slovakia, all of which hyped into a crescendo that the Super Eagles were invincible.
Last Saturday the goalkeeper was nervous, the defence lethargic, the midfield starved attackers that had a poor first touch on the few passes they received from behind.
The South African keeper had no shots on goal to save, as his massed defence asphyxiated the aimless Nigerian onslaught that only produced disarray and disappointment.
Gernot Rohr must start considering the fact that there could be alternatives to Akpeyi, Iheanacho, Iwobi and Onazi, and not to guarantee them a starting line-up on each occasion, which infuses arrogance into their young heads.
Our young players have been enjoying a dangerous superstar status. It appears that Rohr has become a fan of some of the players, rather than their instructor.
Clouds will loom over Nigeria if Rohr does not get his selection right by August
Clearly, Nigeria lacked the leadership of Mikel, the drive of Moses and the calmness of Ikeme, but that is now spilled milk over which complaint will do us no good.
The Super Eagles handlers simply have to give opportunities to Isaac Success, Henry Onyekuru, Olarewaju Kayode, Mikel Agu, John Ogu, Tyronne Ebuehi and Dele Alampasu. And I think Tony Nwakaeme cannot be left out of this Super Eagles squad.
August will decide the fate of Nigerian football when the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon come roaring into Uyo. As current African Champions, and on the evidence of what they have now seen of the Super Eagles, their tails must be up. But then, in football, it could also be their undoing.