By Nnamdi Ojiego
Not many people spared coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi when he likened his boys to that of 1994 squad before the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by South Africa. He was roundly vilified for daring to compared his ‘amateur’ team with the all-conquering 1994 set.
Keshi had on Monday, January 14 in a chat with Supersport.com at the team’s camp in Faro, Portugal said that, “many Nigerians don’t know how good this team is. I see great potentials in them and they can go places,” adding that “in Emenike I see a player who can be like Rashidi Yekini and Godfrey Obaobona will grow in his position”.
Shortly after Keshi’s comment went viral, it was received with knocks from some people including his former team mates. One of those that disagreed with him is Peter Rufai. Rufai who manned the posts both at the 1994 Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup said, “our ’94 squad was poles apart.”
He said although the present Eagles could boast of some talented footballers, “they still cannot be compared with the team of our time.”
Rufai recalled: “Remember, 1994 was not our first Nations Cup as some of us had been in the national team since Libya ’82. We were in Cote d’Ivoire ’84, Egypt ’86, Maroc ’88, Algiers ’90 and Senegal ’92 before Tunisia ’94. You can see the difference. The present crop of players have to be there for some time to be compared to our team.”
Apart from experience, which Rufai said comes with time, the former goalkeeper said, “during our time, we played a lot of matches, our league was good and the competition for shirts in the national team was stiffer. We went through a lot to get to the national team.”
He noted that the Eagles preparing for the Nations Cup in South Africa were an upcoming team that need encouragement and could not be compared with 1994 set.
Even Vanguard Online commentators were not left out of the debate. Majority of them believed that there was no comparison whatsoever between the present Eagles and 1994 squad.
Note that the ’94 squad won the Nations Cup in Tunisia(Nigeria’s second after 1980) and also qualified the nation for her first World Cup in USA’94.
The 1994 Super Eagles squad paraded the likes of Skipper Stephen Keshi, Sunday Oliseh, George Finidi, Emmanuel Amunike, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Dan Amokachi, Austin Eguavoen, Peter Rufai, Uche Okechukwu, Uche Okafor(late), Rashidi Yekini(late), Emeka Ezeugo, Aloy Agu, Ben Iroha, Chidi Nwanu, Oliha Thompson, Samson Siasia, Mutiu Adepoju, Victor Ikpeba, Efan Ekoku and Mike Emenalo among others.
The present Eagles squad include the likes of Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Elderson Echiejile, Juwon Oshaniwa, Joseph Yobo, Efe Ambrose, Kenneth Omeruo, Godfrey Oboabona, Mikel Obi, Nosa Igiebor, Ogenyi Onazi, Fegor Ogude, Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike, Brown Ideye, Victor Moses, Ikechukwu Uche, Ejike Uzoenyi, and Sunday Mba, among others.
Note: Keshi was quoted as saying when he described his team as work-in-progress, that what took the ’94 squad, which he was a part of, five years to achieve his boys have done in five weeks.
In view of this, do you think Keshi has been vindicated? Can the present Eagles in any way be compared with that of 1994 squad based on their recent performance?