Football fans on Thursday said the failure of the Super Eagles to be part of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Equatorial Guinea, which kicks off on Jan. 17 would not prevent them from enjoying the competition.
“The absence of the team in the upcoming competition is unfortunate but there are other teams to watch,’’ some of the fans said.
The Eagles, the defending champions, failed to qualify for the continental glamorous soccer spectacle — the 2015 AFCON.
An ex-international, Tarila Okorowanta, told newsmen that the situation could have been avoided if the Eagles did not underrate the teams during the qualifying stages.
“It’s a pity Nigeria will not be part of the Nations Cup this year but we must learn from our mistakes to avoid such situations in future.
“We should always take every qualifier seriously, if we want to be present at major competitions.
Okorowanta of the Stationery Stores FC, however, said the Eagles’ absence at the tournament would have minimal effect on football following in the country.
Teslim Fatusi, another ex-international said it was a pity that fans would be deprived the opportunity to cheer up their darling team at the event because of the inability of the national team to qualify for the competition.
“It is a sad thing that Nigeria will not take part in the competition; fans will not have the opportunity to support our team.
“Even other participating teams and CAF will feel the country’s absence at the competition,’’ added Fatusi.
A former Eagles’ goalkeeper, Segun Oguns, said the country’s non-participation “is a big minus to soccer development’’.
Oguns said it was a shame that after winning the last edition, the Eagles could not be there to defend the title in Equatorial Guinea.
“The truth is that we have disappointed ourselves because we are heavyweight when it comes to continental football.’’
Festus Adeyeye, a don at the Faculty of Education, Department of Human Kinetics, University of Lagos said: “Nigerians will watch AFCON because we are football lovers.
“But my suggestion is that we should get back to the drawing board and get back to developing football through the grassroots and the national leagues.’’
Uthman Okunu, Team Sports Coordinator, Lagos State Sports Council said: “no doubt, the Eagles will be missed; that will not deter football lovers from watching the biennial competition.
“We are really going to be missed at the competition but with countries like Cameroon, Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire at the tournament, Nigerians will temporarily shift loyalty.
“The players in these teams and their players have huge followership in Nigeria. So, Nigerians will always want to follow these teams’’.
Nigeria made first impact in the AFCON in Ethiopia at the 1976 edition, where the country placed third in the tournament, started in 1957.
The country did not qualify for the 1986 edition.
The country also withdrew from the tournament in 1996 because of a diplomatic stand-off with South Africa which hosted the event.
The competition holds from Jan. 17 to Feb. 7