September 6, 2009

NFF officials, Eagles go into hiding as World Cup dream fades

By Tony Ubani & Fidelis Ebu

Officials  of the Nigeria Football Federation and members of the Super Eagles, went into hiding after Nigeria faltered to an annoying 2-2 draw against Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles at the Abuja National Stadium.

They did this as enraged fans threatened to deal with them after Nigeria’s hopes of reaching next year’s World Cup in South Africa, were mathematically ended by their fierce rivals from north Africa, in a tie that saw the home team surrendering the initiative twice and with that ended Nigeria’s slim hopes of making it to the tournament.

2010 World Cup: Osaze Odemwinge (left) with Mikari Yassin of Tunisia at world cup qualifying Match in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

2010 World Cup: Osaze Odemwinge (left) with Mikari Yassin of Tunisia at world cup qualifying Match in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

After putting up a disjointed performance for most of the game, it appeared like the Nigerians were going to eke out a 2-1 win over the Tunisia, but with two minutes left in the regulation time, slack defending, which was a recurrent feature of the home side game, proved to be their undoing as an unmarked Oussame Daragi, had enough space to beat Vincent Enyeama, in goal for Nigeria, an outcome, that left fans shell-shocked, dumbfounded and enraged, to the point that they started threw caution to the wind as the went in search for the fumbling players and NFF officials.

As the whistle was sounded to end the match, bitter fans, started throwing water cans, ice cubes and any object that they could lay their hands on, in readiness for an all-out onslaught against the players and officials, who quickly disappeared into thin air, to avert any damage to their persons.

While Tunisian players remained on the pitch, to savour their golden draw, which leaves them two points ahead of Nigeria on the table, with two games left, some bitterly aggrieved fans, attempted to invade the pitch, but were prevented from doing so by swift security operatives, who prevented what could have turn into an ugly night for Nigerian football.

For the fans, the night was already ugly as their team face the prospects of a second successive failure to play at the greatest soccer stage in the world and they justifiably felt that the players did not put in the extra to beat Tunisia, in a tie that they knew that only a victory would help Nigeria’s cause.

They also felt that the whole show of shame that they saw yesterday, was triggered off by the officials of the NFF, who they blamed for not having a clear-cut plan on how to prosecute the World Cup campaign.

A case in hand that they readily point to is the retention of Shuaibu Amodu as coach of the team, when it was increasingly clear from the first match against Mozambique in Maputo, that the former BCC Lions handler, did not have the wherewithal to guide us to South Africa 2010.

If there were any doubts to these claims, before yesterday’s match, all that faded away as Nigeria were, on numerous occasions pierced open by Tunisia, who should have won the match had Issam Jemaa, taken the chances that came his way.

For the fans, some of whom, remained seated, sobbing and gnashing their teeth, the night would have ended on an appropriate  note had they got their pound of flesh on the culprits, who were at large, when they came knocking, with boiling anger.