BY ONOCHIE ANIBEZE
After reading the response of Sylvanus Okpala to critics who have descended heavily on the Eagles after the September 8 match that ended 2-2 in Liberia, Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka made further observations. They appear indisputable.
“We are no longer producing great players,” he said, noting that the challenge had gone beyond assembling players and scaling through some matches.
Segun Odegbami and Adokiye were among the numerous Nigerians who frowned at the result of the 2013 Nations Cup match in Monrovia.
They said the result was not acceptable and that in their time Nigeria easily overran the likes of Liberia.
Okpala, one of the assistants of Stephen Keshi, admitted that Eagles did not live up to expectation in that match and accepted the criticisms in good faith.
But he added that there were no longer minnows in football and recalled that even in the time of Adokiye and Odegbami Liberia also drew with Nigeria in matches the Eagles admitted that Liberia were better. And these happened at a time Nigeria was a giant to Liberia in football.
“With the likes of Christian Chukwu, Adokiye, Odegbami, Tunde Bamidele, Emma Okala, late Muda Lawal the Green Eagles were, arguably, the best in the continent but Liberia drew with them two times, once in 1979 and in 1981, although Chukwu and Okala had retired at the time we played the second friendly match in 1981,” Okpala said, adding that Liberia had always presented a strong opposition to Nigeria although Eagles beat them 2-0 in a friendly last February.
Adokiye further reacted saying that “friendly match is a VIRTUAL COMPETITION where the main objective may not be to win.”
But his reaction made it clear that he was not referring only to the current Eagles team but all the senior national teams since after the Clemence Westerhof era. Said he:
“Inconsistency has become a consistent feature of our senior team. The fact is that in the last 13 years or so, after Westerhof’s 1989-1994 set (the last set of carefully picked and groomed players), we have consistently found it seriously challenging to beat even the smallest teams in Africa.
Others may be growing but we have stagnated and are even retrogressing. We no longer produce players. This is the issue.”
Okpala would also not dispute this and said that it was for this reason, that a rebuilding process was on to produce a strong team for Nigeria.
He added that this would take time and that Nigerians needed to be more patient, considering the poor state of the game at the time they took over.