• Saturday, December 02, 2023
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‘Super’ Eagles: The failure of 12th hour strategy



Three months ago, I became an emergency football analyst. I had queried the dumping of Amodu after the qualification of Eagles for the world cup; complained about our foreign-coach-dependency-syndrome, arguing that the problems with Nigerian football were systemic and beyond the colour of the coach, that the loyalty of a foreign coach was usually doubtful and that it did not make strategic sense to anchor our strategies on resources [foreign coaches and players] which we could not control.

I also complained about our 12th hour strategy: preparing for a competition when others were already at the venue! Now, the wind has blown and we have realized that the Reverend Fathers also wear trousers! We did not start the preparations early; we were about the last to release our final list and arrive South Africa; the usual Nigerian factor characterized every aspect of the preparations [or lack of it] and participation and yet, we expected miracles; we expected to win because God is on the throne! But God is not partial; He does not reward mediocrity; and he cannot deny rewards to those who are prepared in favour of those who are engaged in collective gambling. God cannot be a Nigerian permanently because His constituency extends beyond our shores.

The disgraceful outing and ousting of the Eagles in the historical African World Cup is simply a failure of our usual 12th hour strategy; it reinforces the elementary saying that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. A survey of how we prepared for the world cup will convince even a cursory observer that we should not have done better than we did. The sacking of Coach Amodu and employment of Lagerback occurred while other countries were concluding their preparations for the competitions. This created its own uncertainty and gave the new miracle worker little time to settle down to business. He hurriedly assembled an unwieldy list of 34 players whom he did not really know.

We commenced our world cup camping on 23/5 10, after the presidential farewell dinner of 21/5/10 and arrival at London on 22/6/10. That was barely two weeks to the commencement of the games. Our first friendly was with S/Arabia, a country that was not part of the games. We had a total of 3 hurriedly arranged friendlies when other countries had concluded their preparations, released their team lists and were on their way to S/Africa. In fact, while Nigeria started camping on 23/5/10, played its first friendly on 25/5/10, Brazil arrived South Africa on 26/5/10-when Nigeria was yet to raise a squad!

When the games started, we [players, coaches, officials and even Nigerians] behaved true to character. When we lost to Argentina, we celebrated because we had expected to lose. When we lost to Greece, we blamed Kaita who behaved through his name by adopting a KITA [Kick In The Arse] strategy. When we finally lost to South Korea, we blamed Aiyegbeni, Martins, the Jubalini [the ball] and the goal posts. We never blamed ourselves; we were busy looking for scapegoats! Of course, as it has been our tradition of late, we depended [and prayed] for the misfortune of others. We had once qualified for a competition as the best losers [what a title] and even then, we were the worst of that best losers.

To qualify for this tournament, we depended on the goodwill of Mozambique and the misfortune of Tunisia. In this case, we prayed for Argentina to defeat North Korea. Instead of doing our job, we were waiting for others to play for us. Rather than playing, we were engaged in permutation, combinations and miracle seeking. Even when the miracle-working Argentina kept their own part of the bargain, we felt to keep ours, forgetting that even to benefit from miracles, there are conditions

The players were not fit and generally played as if they were not aware of the issues at stake. The only exception was Enyeama who won the singular honour of being the man of the match on 2 occasions. We failed to plan and thus planned to fail. We had no strategy as we only depended on the performance and misfortune of others. Our 12th hour strategy [preparing haphazardly at the last minute] has failed.

I did not expect much and I was not disappointed. I only commiserate with those who expected much. But even though Eagles [and Nigeria] has crashed out, it was still a miraculous affair for some. Those who made the over-bloated official delegations: [Nigerian Football Federation; Presidential Taskforce; Federal Government]; the 60 senators [or sin-ators] and horrible members, the governors and their hangers on. It was a miracle for those who benefitted from the various shady deals involved in the almost 3bn budget. It was miracle for Lagerback, the 4th most expensive coach in the world. It was also a miracle for Enyeama whose performance had so shone that agents and consultants are now queuing on his door.

We do not need to set up a committee to probe our woeful performance. We already know why the Eagles failed to fly in South Africa. People have recommended total overhaul while others have called for the head of Lagerback. But my own recommendations have not changed since my comments before the games. We should hire young vibrant and trainable indigenous coaches [Siasia, Keshi, Eguavon] and train them on a continuous basis; assemble local players, train them and keep the together for years. When there is a competition, bring in a few foreign players to share experiences with the locals and boost their morale but these are players who are able to report early to camp for easy blending and bonding. The practice of people flying in from Europe to the stadium cannot and will not see us to the promised land. We must also start preparing early. Our arrangements for the next African Cup of Nations and World Cup should start NOW.