By Onochie Anibeze
Former Eagles captain, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, has finally succumbed to pressure to return to the Green Eagles, spokesman of the team Idah Peterside has revealed.
Peterside told this reporter in Lagos that Okacha bared his heart to him before Sundayâ€™s World Cup qualifier in Abuja whereÂ Tunisia held Nigeria to a 2-2 draw, a result that has given the North Africans better advantage to qualify for the World Cup finals.
They lead the group with eight points while Nigeria are next with six points. Nigeria can only qualify if they win their remaining two matches while Tunisia drop a match. Peterside told the story this way:
â€œI discussed with Okocha and the problems in the teamâ€™s midfieldÂ came up. He told me that he could play in the World Cup if Nigeria qualifies. He said he could prepare from January and in four to five months he would be ready to play at the World Cup level again. Part of the preparation would be to play in the league in Nigeria.
He could sign for Enyimba, Rangers, 3SC or Warri Wolves, the club from his native town Delta, the only state that honoured him with a testimonial match. He lives in Lagos and has business in Lagos and it would have been nice if Lagos had a premiership club. I say this because there could be a situation where he would play only home matches.
The clubs may not be able to cough outÂ enough money that may make him to leave supervision of his business in Lagos. His business createsÂ the attraction for a club in Lagos but thereâ€™s no big club here. He feels strongly about helping the national team and he believes he can still contribute a lot based on what he sees in the team.â€
One time Green Eagles star Adokiye Amasiemeka was first to make a clarion call to Okocha to return to the Eagles. This led to national controversy and Adokiye maintained that nobody in the present team can boast of the creativity of Okocha and that he could still turn the tide. Adokiye foreclosed that doom awaited the Eagles if nothing was done to their midfield to have finesse that an Okocha could contribute.
His views are coming to pass with the draw the Eagles played with Tunisia in Abuja on Sunday. The midfield was hopeless, the defence porous and the attack blunt. Qualifying for the World Cup is now an uphill task for the Eagles.
Okocha is a member of the Task Force President Yarâ€™Adua set up to ensure Nigeriaâ€™s qualification for the first World Cup that will be staged in Africa. He fumed over the inability of the players to hold on to their lead on Sunday and said he would have killed the game if he were playing.
â€œThe baby they said we should go and welcome is dead,â€ he lamented over the draw, wondering why the players did not slow down the game when they lead 2-1 and it was just two minutes to full time.
â€œThere are ways to do this. You could hold the ball on theÂ flanks and shield it in a way that opponents may make contact and you will fall. The referee blows for a foul and you pass the ball to a colleague who rolls it back to you and you shield it again and another forceful contact will result into another foul and time is passing.
Every player will be involved in killing time. I feel bad about this game. I expected the experienced ones to have taken leadership and known what to do. I almost jumped into the field to stop the Tunisian attacker when he was rushingÂ into our goal area in the very move that led to their equaliser. He had so much space and I thought of stopping him. In seconds, I thought of crazy things.
If I rushed into the field from my close position and stopped that move FIFA would have probably banned me from watching live matches but Nigeria would have had a better chance to go the World Cup. I went crazy at that moment. Itâ€™s not good to say but crazy things went through my head. I was almost by the touchline when that move commenced and see how the whole thing turned out,â€ Okocha told this reporter in his hotel room few hours after the match.
Peterside revealed his nod to the calls for his return Wednesday in Lagos before jetting back to his base in South Africa where he mentioned it on Supersport Thursday night.