BY JUDE OPARA
ABUJA – Recent events in the camp of the Super Eagles of Nigeria have, for the first time, since the campaign for the qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup triggered a wave of concern if the country can manage to qualify for the championship.
These spate of worries are not unfounded if one puts into consideration the sudden creation of an unnecessary rift over who should captain the national team during the recent international friendly against the Taranga Lions of Senegal in London.
Another issue was why the legion of Super Eagles who recently moved to the Chinese league including team captain, John Obi Mikel were ignored by the technical crew led by Gernot Rohr.
It is true that Nigeria is presently occupying the pole position in the group which also has arch rivals and current African champions, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, but any slip in the next round of qualifying matches to be played in August will be disastrous.
Already the Cameroonians have a psychological boost after winning the last edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). They are now seen as the team to beat and the inability of Nigeria to have participated in that championship is indeed a minus.
This go to suggest that the Super Eagles must be in the right frame of mind to maintain the clear lead by defeating the African champions when the visit in August.
Unfortunately, the recent developments as I listed earlier give a lot of concern whether Rohr is really in charge of his team. We have heard that some of his agents are really those that invite players to the national team. If that is true it is a dangerous development.
Ignoring the China based players is a clear pointer that there may be some flesh in that assertion. The country where a player plies his trade must not be the first consideration in inviting him to the national team.
We saw Brazil demolish Paraguay 4-1 in the South American World Cup qualifier with Jose Paulinho who plays for Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande scoring a hat trick in that match. That shows that there are still good players in China or in Nigeria and indeed in any other league.
Another avoidable controversy was the manner Ahmed Musa was stripped of the captaincy. As the assistant captain, it was expected that in the absence of Mikel, Musa will automatically assume that role, but that was not the case.
Granted that a national team coach has the right to choose any player as his captain, but I don’t think that a team that has a crucial assignment like qualifying for the world cup will be investing much time changing captains.
Again, I don’t believe that it would have taken anything away from Rohr or his numerous managers if they had called Musa to inform him of the decision to hand the band to another player or better still to have him start from the bench.
This is also where I think that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should come in to ensure that no personal ego or interest of anybody, who, by virtue of the fact that he knows Rohr or facilitated his employment should derail our collective interest.
They must remember that after the back to back failure of the country to qualify for the AFCON in 2015 and 2017, anything short of booking a place in Russia 2018 will be totally unacceptable to Nigerians. We must not allow a repeat of the unnecessary controversy that was stoked by former coach, Sunday Oliseh when he forced former captain and goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama out of the national team by the way he handled the team’s captaincy.
I am not blaming Ogenyi Onazi for accepting the challenge after they refused to give it to Musa just as I never blamed Musa then for accepting it after Oliseh stripped Enyeama of that position.
My take is that we must avoid any unnecessary controversy especially now that all we need to do to be in Russia is to just win two more matches. Anybody who feels that he is too important must be made to understand that a tree does not and cannot make a forest.