By Onochie Anibez
Competition.Â Discipline. Before the clash with Kenya on Sunday, coach Amodu Shuaibu kept repeating these words.
â€œWait and see. Youâ€™ll all be shocked when the players file out. But what will shock you will be good for Nigeria,â€ Idah Peterside added while the team had their last training. And so it happened that the Eagles faced Kenya without Joseph Yobo, Mikel Obi, Taiye Taiwo and Chidi Odia.
Truly, the fact that they were not even dressed for the match made it more surprising. But it was a pleasant one going by the past developments in the Eagles when players strolled into camp and were given jerseys to play for the country. There was clamour for a change and Amodu effected it boldly but clearly showed that he still respected and recognised the importance of all players.
â€œThereâ€™s need for competition and discipline in our team. We are one family but everybody must sit up for us to get results. Itâ€™s important that we all understand the new situation,â€ he said in his hotel room after the match. That simply explained why he excluded some of the big names from the team that beat Kenya 3-0 in Sundayâ€™s World Cup qualifier.
Those players did not report for the two friendly matches Nigeria played against Ireland in London and France at Saint Etienne. Nicolas Anelka, for example, played in the FA Cup final with Mikel Obi. But while Anelka was there for France in the friendly, nobody could reach Mikel Obi.
â€œThereâ€™s no success without discipline in any aspect, be it economy, administration, business; so tell Amodu to put his feet down and continue to ensure discipline,â€ Yomi Jones, an ardent follower of sports called from Lagos while appreciating Amoduâ€™s position but quickly pointing out that the Eagles were lucky to have not conceded a goal at the time Kenya created chances when it was still 1-0 for Nigeria. â€œThe game would have changed,â€ he said. Jones was one time Deputy General Manager of Lufthansa before he became the MD of Nigeria Airways but now running his travel agency, Six Continents.
The Eagles played relatively well against France and Amodu was determined to make a statement with that match. And going by what happened in the last days of their training, it became a difficult decision for him. As usual, those players who did not show commitment by reporting for the friendly matches dazzled in training just like Mikel Obi did in the few days he trained before the Mozambique match in Maputo.
But the coach had already made up his mind that discipline would reign and that the national team had to be competitive. And it turned out a pleasant surprise but one that raised the adrenaline of Nigerians while the game went on. It could still have been same or worse if the players in question played as it happened in Mozambique.
But the 3-0 result was all the difference and Nigerians are savouring it but maintaining that more work needed to be done for the team to win the June 20 match in Tunisia.
â€œIt was not an easy match. Kenyans played well and the weather affected the players. It was humid and slowed down our pace. But the good thing is that we won and can now focus on the next match,â€ Amodu added.
Nigerians especially the sports journalists welcomed his position on players he sidelined for not turning up in their tour of two countries. But there will likely be changes in Tunisia.
â€œWe have a team and weâ€™ll continue to make necessary changes. Itâ€™s about transformation and these things happen in stages. Weâ€™ll continue to adapt as we progress.â€