By Onochie Anibeze
Kingsley Onye is worried about the reports that he has been reading from Nigeria on the last 2014 World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia.
Generally, Nigerians have been celebrating the draw. They have written off Ethiopia, going by their comments in the media. Onye, who was battered in a match violence in Ethiopia in 1984 reacted this way from his base in London:
“The reactions that I read daily from Nigeria on the World Cup draw scare me. I’m even more worried now than the day the draw was made.
Nigerians are easily writing off Ethiopia. May I strongly tell Nigerians that anybody who thinks the tie with Ethiopia will be a walk-over for the Eagles should have a rethink. Nigeria will be missing the point to think that they are in Brazil already.
They are not there yet and they will not get there easily. I played against them and I know what the effects of weather are like there when you are playing. Your throat is dry and you burn out of energy in time. But aside that, the Ethiopians we watched in the Nations Cup are better now.
They have improved. They are hungry and determined. Money will not motivate them. What motivates them is the fact that they are playing Nigeria.
They are hungry, determined and will not be exhausted at home or in Nigeria. They can pass the ball. They can hold the ball and that could be a problem.
I want Stephen Keshi and his technical crew to disregard the comments of those who have predicted an easy ride. Ethiopia will not be easy to beat. For a team to qualify after losing three points for defaulting means that they are strong.
We saw their resilience during the Nations Cup. We saw their passing game. What they lacked then was shooting. They are better in that area now. They play collectively and they are very hungry. That makes them dangerous. They may not be stars but they are a good team that may surprise any team including Nigeria. Let’s not allow that to happen.”
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles beat Ethiopia 3-0 in Lagos in 1984 in one of the qualifiers for the 1985 Under 20 World Cup. The return leg ended 1-1 but the Nigerians were badly battered in a violence that ensued after the match. Onye suffered a deep cut on the eyelid and collapsed after losing a lot of blood.
Reports had spread in Ethiopia that Nigerian fans three pieces of bread at them in Lagos to spite them about the hunger in their country following the months of drought. The news hurt them badly and when Nigeria visited the players were so beaten that it was a miracle that no life was lost.