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Eagles: Okpala takes critics down memory lane

By Onochie Anibeze
Adokiye Amiesiemeka is disappointed that the Eagles could not beat Liberia in Monrovia. He recalled (In the Sun) that in his time playing a team like Liberia attracted discussions that centred on the number of goals to be scored and not whether there would be victory or not.

Segun Odegbami has followed up in the Vanguard, describing the 2-2 outing in Liberia as a shock that he is yet to come to terms with.

Sylvanu Okpala, one of the rookies in Green Eagles at the time of Adokiye and Odegbami and now one of the assistants of Stephen Keshi has said that the criticisms were in good faith and that the crew had equally taken them in that light.

He has admitted that Eagles were expected to win the match but failed to do so. He has equally admitted that the entire team needed to do more and that they have vowed to do more.”

Many Nigerians have been loud in condemning the draw in Liberia. Adokiye and Odegbami are just among the lot.

Okpala has followed the reactions since the match and said yesterday that he would simply remind Nigerians the following:

“That in 1979 when we were preparing for the 1980 Nations Cup which we hosted and won we played Liberia in a friendly match in Monrovia.

“That our best players who were arguably the best in the continent played that match. Christian Chukwu, Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesiemeka, Muda Lawal, Tunde Bamidele, Patrick Ekeji, Emma Okala,  etc played that match. We drew 2-2 and in the meeting to review the match they all agreed

that Liberia played better and even deserved to win. We all vowed to do better thereafter.

“The next time Nigeria went to Liberia was in 1981.
“Then  Odegbami was our captain as Chukwu and Okala had retired. Adokiye and Odegbami all played. We had a great squad.

“We had a good team but again, we escaped defeat as we played goalless draw and we admitted that Liberia were better.

“That in 2001 when Nigeria went to Liberia for the 2002 World Cup qualifier with the likes of Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha the team was one of the best in the world. It was the same team that won the soccer gold in Atlanta. Liberia beat Nigeria 2-1. Liberia have produced good players including the only African world footballer of the year, George Oppong Weah.

“There have been other good players too from there. I have stated these facts for people to know the extent to which they look down on other nations.

Liberia are not minnows. We ought to have won the match in Liberia but we couldn’t convert our chances. We created chances more than Liberia. Four times we had one-on-one against the keeper. We are not perfect.

We are building and if everybody recalls how it was when we took over people will appreciate what we are doing. But we can do more and the criticisms are in good faith and we are taking note. What we can assure Nigerians is that we will qualify for the Nations Cup. We have the team to do so and we will continue to work harder.”


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