By Fred Edoreh
Obviously, things are no longer as they used to be for our senior national teams. The Super Eagles were exited in the second round at the last AFCON, they failed to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, they have had two games with Algeria within days and without convincing play.
The Super Falcons got booted out in the semi finals at the last AWCON by Zambia who had been largely unknown in the continent’s women football.
We can trade blames as much we can – from NFF, to Pinnick, to coaches, to players, but I have an old analysis that suggests that we ought to have taken some form of revival action decades back but didn’t.
I do not know if it is restructuring or rebuilding or going back to drawing board because those terms have been over used to no effect, but the result of our inattention and inaction is what we are seeing now.
Time was, we had our players making waves in top foreign clubs. The ones we have now are not in the top clubs and they ain’t making waves.
Time was, our players won the African Player of the Year, back to back to back. They no longer do.
After our exploits in the mid 90s, especially 1994 through 1996, we started dwindling in the 2000s. We finished third place in the 2004, 2006 and 4th in the 2008 AFCON. We failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, returned 3rd place again in 2010 AFCON and finally failed to qualify for the 2012 AFCON as well as London 2012 Olympics, both the male and female teams.
Our performance in the whole of the 2000s suggested that we were stagnating and falling down, even crumbling.
If we had been conscious to take stuck, that was the time for us to have recognised that we were heading downhill and should have started to work on getting back up. Instead, we have been trying to patch the situation.
We have debated about foreign and indigenous coaches, foreign versus home based players and all that, thinking that someone will bring a magic wand to put the team top in the globe and not admitting to our decline in the regeneration and rebuilding of players.
In fact, to compound the self deception, some complicit sports editors even called our 2004 AFCON 3rd place finish a “Golden bronze.”
As delightful as winning the 2013 AFCON with Stephen Keshi was, it made us not to see how bad things had got. We were not exactly a champion stuff. We won only one game, 2-nil against Ethiopia, and drew two, 1-1 with Burkina Faso and Zambia, in the first round. Yes, we won that edition of the AFCON but our games were tellingly awful and we didn’t admit that.
The consequence was our failure to qualify for the next AFCONs, in 2015 and 2017.
It is not surprising therefore that we are still groping…
We all can see that we no longer have the quality and character of players for which we qualified the Eagles as Super. We have had this drop coming. We just didn’t come to terms with ourself, perhaps.
The question goes back to what and how we did in building players in the past 25 to 30 years to feed the senior national team.
We must know that those players who shone in 1994 through 1996 were obviously groomed long years earlier, not just during the period they shone. Their shining only showed finished work.
The issue of age cheating and allegations of collection of bribe by coaches from agents to field their players, especially in age grade teams, just MAY also have compromised our development. This has shown in the poor competitiveness of our CHAN team which is a reflection of the state of affairs at home.
Minding this analysis, my theses is that if we are to do well in the 2030s upwards, we should begin to see the players now. We are talking about national team football here and it presupposes that the players would need to have emerged through some building process.
As it is with the Eagles, so it is with the Falcons.
As they say, “Man know and be true to thyself.” That is the way to deliverance and salvation but, as I always remind us, if you have 100 yams and you lie that you have 200, after eating the 100 yams, you must eat the 100 lies.