By Prof Emmanuel Ojeme
The game which the Nigerian national team needed to win to remain relevant in the journey to 2010 World cup has come and gone. The outcome of the game has thrown-up more challenges on the 2010 project. Prior to this September, 6th game, it was a consensus of opinion of keen followers of football that having played a goalless draw with the Carthage Eagles in Tunisia, our own Eagles should take advantage of this home game to take a one point lead of the opponent.
This target was not achieved as the game ended 2-2 draw. Many Nigerian Sports stakeholders including this writer, contributed ideas to help our team win the game but unfortunately our national team failed to rise above their opponents. The purpose of this write up is to critically undertake an assessment of the performance of our players and identify why they failed to achieve the expected outcome.
In this task of assessing the performance of the team, psychosocial and physiological variables of sports performance provide a framework. Hence, we can throw our searchlight on the teamâ€™s
Preparation for the game, possession of outcome attributes of a game of that nature, organization and cohesion on the field of play, leadership on and off the field and ideological orientation of players
Was the team adequately prepared for the game?
The players did not assemble for the match until a few days to the game: They trickled into Abuja from various countries in Europe. It is possible that since the European leagues have commenced and the Super Eagles team members are in these leagues, it would be easy to put them together. This assumption is weak and may have affected the performance capacity of our team. Again, since the last game against Tunisian Eagles, our national team may have not done anything to prepare for this crucial encounter. Unlike our opponent, the Carthage Eagles, they were in camp, building-up for the game and showed superiority.
Part of our preparation should have involved pre-game warm-up friendly matches. We did not do anything like playing friendly matches. We desired rightly to win, we had the passion, we raised a lot of money, we worried about winning, but did not seem to put our boys together in a proactive preparation exercise to build team spirit, conditioning, and reassess our boys readiness. We now know better that we were wrong. I mean the team handlers and the NFF may not have done enough in terms real time preparation of players for the game unlike our opponents, who took their preparations more seriously.
Did the team possess the outcome attributes?
Outcome attributes are the requirements for effective participation and winning, such as fitness, team cohesion, energy level, work rate, strategy, discipline and mobility etc.
In all of these attributes, we were merely on average in fitness, team cohesion, organization, mobility and strategy and team discipline. Our team did not show enough cohesion and mobility and team discipline.
Why would professional footballers move forward on an offensive play and forget to quickly get back to position? Why would our mid-fielders provide so much room for the opponentâ€™s easy run against our defence? Why would our left full back, in particular, always forget to mind his position, giving the opponent room to get into our vital areas? Is that the way he plays for Olympique Marseille, his French Club?
Where was the technical crew, when many cracks were apparent on the field of play among our players? Much more instructions needed to be passed on to the players to correct these observations. It is the fault of the team leadership for not passing instructions to players through the captain or whoever is convenient to alert the players on how to progress in the game.
We failed to win the match because of the failure of tactics and team leadership. When our team scored their two goals, they celebrated as if the game has ended and forgot to regroup properly to defend their goals. This was different from the opponentâ€™s approach who showed more discipline, fitness, courage, skill, cohesion and awesome determination to come out of the encounter with a result that suited their World Cup ambition.
Was our team coherent and well organized on the field?
A well organized and coherent team maintains a pattern of play that enables it to attack and defend properly without giving any advantage to the opponent. A well organized team is able to exchange passes and yield no ground to the opponent and at the same time is able to achieve its game objective. Our team failed to win the game against Tunisia, partly because of poor organization and coherence. The Carthage Eagles saw our organizational inefficiency and exploited it effectively. Hence, they succeeded always to pull back to relevance each time we went ahead in the game.
Was there adequate leadership. What is the ideological orientation of this team?
Team leadership comes from two main sources. There is leadership from the technical bench and leadership on the field. The players on the field are expected to carry out the instructions of the coach. Considering the way the team played, with all the apparent inadequacies, it may be that either they failed to carry out the instructions of the coach or the instructions were not clear or they were left to do as they wish on the field. On the other hand, the present.
Super Eagles appears to be without a commander on the field of play. Everyone behaves as a lord onto himself. This is not good for the team. If a team is not coherent, well organized and resilient, it may be a result of poor leadership. Such a team, as our own, has no battle cry, lacks fighting spirit and bite.
Every national team is driven by some ideological orientation. This flows from entrenched core values through which the team draws inspiration. The ideology of a team keeps it aglow and gives it â€˜never say dieâ€™ spirit. You can find it among the Elephant of Ivory Coast, Black Stars of Ghana, and the Indomitable lions of Cameroon. You can see how these team deal with their opponents.
I can sense that the ideology of Super Eagles is economically defined. While they play well for their European Clubs which make them rich and â€˜big menâ€™, they seem not to find enough value in the national colours. Perhaps, the players perception of the Nigerian society also drives this value orientation. Until our players begin to find more honour and value in playing for our country, we may continue to have heart breaks due to unfulfilled expectations. It is the duty of the handlers and institutions charged with preparing the team to ideologically prepare the players.
Overall, the result of last Sunday 6th September, the failure of our national football team to dominate opponents in competitions such as this World Cup qualifier, raises more questions about Sports in Nigeria, generally. Definitely, all is not well with Nigerian Sports. And if we can cry when we suffer defeat, then we must reexamine the present approach to Sports development and administration in Nigeria.
Finally, only a miracle can take us to South Africa in 2010. Everything shows that our team is not strong enough.