United we stand, that is what Aso villa should pick from our dear Super Eagles as they prepare for the 2018 World Cup. The team is made up of the country’s best, all over the globe. From Greenland to Christmas Island, from Tibet to Malvinas.
I expect President Muhammadu Buhari who is set to overhaul his cabinet, to do away with all the round pegs in square holes. It does not matter if all his appointees from his Northern constituency are the best brains on offer. I believe in merit, just like we see in the Eagles camp.
The President follows football, at least, his Media Adviser, Femi Adesina, knows soccer more than the backstreets of Abuja. And Oga has some football luck. This I know. As he plays in the second half of this administration, let Fair Play be Mr. President’s watchword. Many of us prefer this to the 95/5 change slogan.
For those who are not keen fans, Eagles’ Russia’98 Mundial ticket says so much about us. We are great and ever willing to overcome if given the opportunity. And we excel when the atmosphere is right. What is holding us back is leadership.
The Eagles survived the African qualifiers without losing a match. And they were drawn in a ‘Group of Death.’ Cameroun, five–time African champions and former champions, Algeria and Zambia, provided the toughest opposition. Yet Nigeria conquered all. Icing on the cake was the demolition of reigning continental champions, the Indomitable Lions.
That was supposed to be the roughest road ever to the World Cup. Our great Boys made it look so easy. We can really move mountains in this country if our leaders follow the right path. In the Eagles camp, there is no talk of zoning, cabal, quota system , catchment area and militancy.
I can bet my life that IPOB and Boko Haram are happy with the Eagles and watched all their games. If anyone is in doubt, gather all the captured fighters in one room when the Eagles are playing their next friendly and watch the patriotism that will follow.
I insist that some future Super Eagles players maybe in the Boko Haram camp because we have soccer-loving young men in the North who if well managed and given opportunities, will be playing in some of our Premier League teams.
Has anyone heard of Boko Haram attacking sportsmen or going to detonate bombs at the Maiduguri Stadium when El Kanemi are playing? Did IPOB ever ask fans to stay at home instead of watching Rangers or Enyimba play? Our leaders should use football to keep our bubbly young men busy.
Kelechi ‘Caterpillar’ Emeteole was a Lieutenant in the Biafra Army. He played for the Eagles. He managed Enyimba, Heartland, Kano Pillars and Nigerdock. He lived in Maiduguri as coach of El Kanemi Warriors. Boko Haram knew he was doing his job, they never threatened him. He finished his assignment and only died when he relocated to the South-East.
This may sound strange but it is true. Should the entire Eagles squad be made up of 11 good Boko Haram players and they are doing well, Afenifere will not address a press conference. Ohaneze will even send them congratulatory messages. Yes, Boko Haram are Nigerians. I am sure most of them are carrying arms because of government has not provided an alternative.
In the Eagles camp, compatriots do not know of an Igbo skipper called Mikel Obi. Do we even remember that Leon Balogun is Yoruba or that Ogenyi Onazi is Idoma? Odion Ighalo is Esan. Alex Iwobi does not claim to be Delta Igbo. Ahmed Musa is definitely not representing the North. They are all one Nigeria, doing us proud.
We can now see why those who did not grow up with us are beginning to identify themselves as proud Nigerians. Troost Ekong, Olu Aina, Brian Idowu, Tyron Ebuehi, name them. This is the Nigeria of our dream, where tribe and tongue should not divide us.
I assure President Buhari and fellow Nigerians that these Eagles will make a bold statement in Russia. At long last, Argentina will fall. Eagles retired Diego Maradona after USA ’94, they will finally rest Lionel Messi in 2018. It shall come to pass.
Russia 2018, shares some common features with USA’94.Nigeria and Argentina played in Group D. One of the two European teams in their group qualified for the first time. Greece in 1994, Iceland in 2008. One of the teams belonged to the former East Bloc. Bulgaria in 1994 and Croatia in 2018.
I also have a word for the Eagles: Do not underrate Croatia. They debuted at France 98 where they placed third. Croatia emerged from the former Yugoslavia, so are strong. When Yugoslavia won the Chile ’87, FIFA U-20 championships, their best players were from Croatia.
Robert Prosinecki, of Barcelona, won the Golden Ball even without playing in the grand finale due to suspension. Davor Suker[Sevilla] bagged the Silver Boot with six goals and Zvonimir Boban[AC Milan] netted the first and last goals of the tournament.
Africans are tough too. Algeria beat European champions West Germany 2-1 in 1982. Cameroun, with nine men, defeated defending champions, Argentina, in 1990. Nigeria hammered Bulgaria 3-0 in 1994 and Senegal stunned defending champions, France, in 2002. Eagles will shock the Argies in 2018.