Nigerian Football: From glorious moments to gloomy days?

By Ikenna Okonkwo on 27/06/2015

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Keshi and Pinnick...

Following what appears to be an ongoing onslaught against current members of Nigeria’s Super Eagles including Head Coach Stephen Keshi, Captain Vincent Enyeama and Midfielder Ogenyi Onazi by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, football loving Nigerians may still wait a little longer to witness glory days in the country’s football after repeated dwindling fortunes.

Watching from a distance, Stakeholders have begun to take cursory look at a looming downturn in Nigerian football. While few of them believed that the perceived action by NFF Board was in the best interest of the game, others are of the view that more diplomatic approach should be deplored.

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For the past one year, Nigeria’s football has witnessed downward trend with the beginning of soccer catastrophic nemesis on Africa most populous Nation being when the senior national team failed to qualify for 2015 Nations Cup held in Equatorial Guinea, few months after they crawled to knockout stage of 2014 World staged in Brazil.

Not too-informed France national team that couldn’t progress beyond quarter-final of same tournament, courtesy of Germany 1-0 victory, sent the Nigerian side parking in the round of 16.

It was observed that the period under review witnessed park of defeats for Nigerians known for special preference for football among other sports apparently due to numerous issues that surrounded the transition of power from one administration to another.

Shortly after new leadership led by Amaju Pinnick was put in place as from September 30, 2014, things seem not to have become better following the inability of the country’s biggest brand, Super Eagles to qualify for 2015 AFCON after South Africa held the team to 2-2 draw inside brand new Akwa Ibom international stadium in Uyo.

Even as Nigerians were yet to recover from the ‘disastrous’ continental soccer no-show, both the Nation’s Senior Female team, Super Falcons and U-20 male team, Flying Eagles recorded another woeful performance in their separate outings at this year’s FIFA Women World Cup in Canada and U-20 World Championship New Zealand.

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That was after U-23 male team, Dream Team 1V narrowly missed a ticket to this year’s All Africa Games scheduled for Congo Brazzaville in September. Zambia held Nigeria’s side to a goalless draw at home, a situation that raised anxiety on the team’s possible ouster before Coach Samson Siasia added more players to his squad. They eventually recorded a narrow 2-1 away win in Zambia.

With the second coming of Keshi as Super Eagles Handler, hope was steered on the possible re-engineering of Nigeria’s squad that won 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa, two years ago.

Already, the team started 2017 AFCON qualifier with a 2-0 victory against Chad in Kaduna. However, the joy of beginning another round of qualifier with victory was caught short as the country’s football body began showing of displeasure in the way some members of Super Eagles made comments or acted before, during and after the match.

First on the NFF’s punishment list was Onazi who was asked to pay a fine of $5000 after Confederation of African Football, CAF meted out a two-match ban on the Italy-based player.

Next was Enyeama who was issued a query and hurriedly got it torn. Though he later apologized but NFF summoned him before their disciplinary committee, an invitation he failed to honour.

Then Keshi who has been in the center of many storms was named among 59-man shortlist by Ivory Coast Football authority, his name on the list of coaches to possibly take over job of coaching Ivorian National team triggered NFF Board to extend invitation to appear before its Disciplinary committee last Tuesday.

Taking a critical overview on the recent disciplinary measures adopted by the federation, immediate past Super Eagles coordinator Emmanuel Attah wondered why NFF would choose to disclose internal issues to the public even before taking possible action.

For him “while I don’t subscribe to indiscipline I think NFF should be more diplomatic in handling such issues. What happened to Onazi can happen to any other Person. There is this moment of madness in football.

“As for Enyeama, he has served the country meritoriously. There is no need making an issue out of what he said before the match. What the federation and the team need at this point in time is total concentration on how to qualify for the next Nations cup.

“I believe by now we should have passed this stage of focusing on what will distract us and focus on how to confront Tanzania and Egypt. Where do we head from here? We need to work on our opponents. We need to get the technical aspect of Tanzania and Egypt National teams.

“The disciplinary committee should have carried out an investigation, after that they will issue a corporate query. If you are not satisfied with the query, you will then invite him. Look at how the Flying Eagles and Super Falcons went out of World Cup.

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“We had so much hope on them but they went are out. There is no need on putting more energy on little issues such as this. The federation should focus more on how to improve our coaches’ capacity, develop Referees like other national team. We have technical study group, what are they doing to help the national teams.

His view was not different from Keshi who called on relevant stakeholders to rally round his team for optimum performance.

He added “We need to change from all this little gossip and all these stuff, we need to go ahead and forge a formidable team which includes the press, the players, NFF so that we can conquer the world and conquer African Continent. My focus right now is to prepare for the game against Tanzania.”

On his meeting with NFF Disciplinary committee, Keshi who refused to divulge details of what transpired between him and the committee said “Everything went well but NFF will talk to you on that but everything went well. Like you Guys just know I never applied for Cote d’Ivoire job.”

With the eventual announcement by the disciplinary committee that they would now prefer Enyeama case to be treated internally while they pay a visit to Ivory Coast, Nigerians are waiting patiently to see the outcome of pending administrative soccer issues.

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Posted on June, 27 2015

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