By Patrick Omorodion
That the Eagles have performed below par all through the 2010 World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers so far is an understatement. It is a fact that many Nigerians have su
ffered or continue to suffer heartaches each time the team line out to play either at home or away.
Right from the first round when the Eagles struggled over little teams like Equatorial Guinea, Nigerians have said the team lacked the character to pick a World Cup ticket especially when it comes to the crunchy second round when tougher teams would confront the Shaibu Amodu-tutored side.
Rather than think of what to do to strengthen the team for the task ahead, the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF labelled them unpatriotic while Amodu also insulted some of those who dared to criticise his style.
After the first round when the Eagles recorded a 100 percent performance, the only side to do so, he beat his chest and scoffed at his critics, who were being sincere in telling him the naked truth.
The second round started with an away tie to the Mambas of Mozambique in Maputo where they were outplayed. But for the benevolence of the referee who turned blind eye to two seeming perfect strikes of the host, the EaglesÂ could have returned from that trip with shame. The 0-0 draw was equally a disgrace as events have proved so far.
As the team drifted, President Umar Yarâ€™Adua created a Presidential Task Force, PTF, to do what the NFF seemed incompetent of doing, mobilise the team and Nigerians to ensure Nigeria does not miss out of Africaâ€™s first World Cup.
The PTFâ€™s effort showed in two matches, against Kenya and Tunisia in Abuja when the stadium witnessed a full house for the first time. But each of those times, the players never reciprocated with sassy football display and a convincing win. Many unannounced fans may have suffered different bodily harm due to the teamâ€™s uninspiring play.
Against Tunisia in Abuja when the fans waited in excitement to celebrate the Eaglesâ€™ climb to the top of the group and pick the ticket at the end of the qualifiers, the players spoilt their fun by struggling to a 2-2 draw with the visitors.
That was the situation when the Mozambicans came calling on October 11. A quick goal from the Eagles, like Tunisia did against Kenya in Rades, would who soothed the frayed nerves of the scanty crowd of fans who still managed to go to the stadium to see what remained of the ruins Amodu and the NFF have put the countryâ€™s football.
That was not the case as the team struggled against a more fit and mobile Mozambicans. What more, Amodu started a match rusty Yakubu Aiyegbeni, a favourite of his any day, who looked too heavy to even lift a foot.
While the team looked pitiable, young and enterprising forward, Osaze Odemwingie, who was voted the best footballer same nite of the match at the MTN/AIT Football Award by Nigerians, ran all over the pitch, trying to rescue the team and Nigeria.
The team was finally saved by a Victor Obinna Nsofor header, at exactly three minutes of injury time and Eagles maintained the two point gap between them and Tunisia. And suddenly dooms day was again postponed till the last day of hostilities, with permutations on high again, that the Eagles will beat Kenya in Nairobi and Tunisia lose to Mozambique in Maputo. Hm, incurable optimists.
After the nail-biting game, a humble Odemwingie talking to the BBC, begged the fans to continue to support them since they still have a chance, even though he said the booing by the fans gave them goose pimples.
Unlike Odemwingie, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was uncouth, lambasting the fans for booing them and most especially the National Anthem when it was being sang. Enyeama has a right to be angry with fans but he should leave the reprimand to the authorities who are the custodians of the laws of our land. He should have been remorseful on the teamâ€™s lacklustre performance than worry about fans booing of the National Anthem.
The fans who sacrifice all, their time, money, emotion as well asÂ risk their live to travel from the nooks and crannies of the country to Abuja to cheer the Eagles only to be rewarded with heart-wrenching performance, do not deserve Enyeamaâ€™s vituperation.
Enyeama who conceded cheeky goals against Tunisia, should be hiding his face in shame. This is more so as he has gained from the poor show so far. He has earned thousands of dollars, got refunded his flight ticket money each time he came here to play and ate free food, all at the expense of the tax payers he is now insulting. What the fans need is good football and a World Cup ticket for their financial and emotional investment, nothing more. Definitely, not Enyeamaâ€™s insults.