The only surprise at Eagles' (Super Eagles if preferred) woeful performance in the ongoing football fiesta in South Africa is my own emotional sadness seeing the early exit of my country. Oh, no your Eagles can still make it to the next round mathematically if they beat South Korea 2-0 and Argentina beats Greece 2-0. But to qualify in this manner tells the story of these Eagles. Although I knew that Mr. Lars Lagerback Eagles are a joke, it still pained to watch them lose two matches in a row despite my vow that Super Eagles poor performance won't break my heart.
The match against less fancied Greece in which the Eagles lost by two goals to one is heartbreaking ÔÇô just like I had described them in my last article. The Eagles scored first through a free kick taken by Uche. After the goal, the Eagles simply went to bed, probably daydreaming that they have beaten the much determined Greek team. It was a repetition of what happened in 2002 when the Eagles scored first only to lose by 2-1 against Sweden. Ironically, Lars Lagerback was the coach of Sweden then.
Their trouble compounded when Kaita exhibited a show of shame by foolishly kicking a Greek player, Vasileios Torosidis, when the ball was not in play. It may be true that the Greek player had provoked him during the struggle for ball which is quite normal, but common sense should have told Kaita to cool down instead of kicking the Greek player angrily. It led to a straight red card, which obviously affected the team.
Despite his purported apology, I recommend that Kaita should be banned from representing the national team in any football importance of this nature. He is a disgrace to himself and to the nation. I just couldn't believe that a player of his calibre and in such an important match would be so emotionally unintelligent as to allow the referee to send him off for such silly and despicable behaviour like kicking an opponent unnecessarily after a tango. I can even forgive Godwin Odiye whose own goal against Tunisia prevented us from hoisting the Green-White-Green in 1978 w/cup but not this Sani Kaita
Although these Eagles could still have lost the match due to reasons known to the team and its handlers, Kaita expulsion was a great blow. It woke up the Greek gods and helped transform the team. Kaita's folly was a vehicle by which the Greek relied on to send Nigeria out of the 2010 world cup, becoming the first nation to lose two matches in a row. What about that coaching spree! When I described the team as "Heatakers" in one of my articles, some people called for my head.
With the exception of goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who distinguished himself by saving many chances that could have easily resulted into goals just like against the Argentines, the rest were completely useless ÔÇô most especially Yakubu Aiyegbeni. The low level striker was just running after the ball; and to clown it all, he missed a clear opportunity which could have brought back the team's confidence.
Yakubu is a weak player who has lost the idea of how to score goals. He cannot dribble and he often panics in front of goals. How the so-called million dollars coach used him in the two matches should be a case study. The Eagles midfielders and attackers were so slack and unmotivated, and thus put much pressure on the defenders and the goalkeeper. Again, Enyeama helped the Eagles but the Eagles failed to help themselves.
These so-called Super Eagles are the symbol of Nigeria. When you have a national team that plays for money instead of pride, what you have is a useless team whose players, coach, administrators are greedy and inept. Nothing works for the Eagles, and may never work. There is even this disturbing report that two prominent officials, ASP Gideon Akinsola, the Camp Commandant and Eagles' Coordinator, Emmanuel Attah exchanged hot words right in front of the players over who the boss is!
Of course the same poor performance would have happened with an indigenous coach but personally I would rather we qualified not for the world cup with an indigenous coach than to win it with a foreign coach. I am of the opinion that it's better if it takes hundred years with an indigenous coach than back doors with all these foreign coaches whose coaching ability is not in anyway better than our indigenous coaches.
The lesson is that a nation does not need to waste a lot of money searching for a foreign coach especially in respect of an ill prepared world cup. Winning or doing well in the world cup isn't about splashing unnecessary money here and there like Nigeria did or has done. Hiring Lars Lagerback was/is a waste of money; an elephant project. But Mr. Lagerback should not feel ashamed about his coaching ability, for the NFF never expected him to do any magic. He was appointed just to make money through him, and Lagerback of course knows this. To pay this man 1.7m dollars for a 3-month job is not only ridiculous but sheer waste of our money. But of course the same thing will happen next time.
Apart from my hatred for hiring foreign coaches, Mr. Lagerback was especially hired too late. It means the Nigeria Football Federation or its equivalent was/is not serious about performance, but spending extravagantly. Perhaps richer nations and, or serious nations have not spent half of what Nigeria had spent on this world cup. Yet it is abysmal performance. But, perhaps our boys simply do not have the skills and, or mental balance to do the job.
And when that loquacious former Abia state governor predicted here and there that Nigeria never lost on June 12, I was just laughing. When Lagerback analyzed how he would defeat Greece and qualify for the second phase, I was just grinning. Because, obviously when you have Yakubu Aiyegbeni or Obafemi Martins and the rest of them as your attackers; one does not need to be a genuine prophet to predict rightly. Amadou Shaibu, the coach who helped qualify the team for the tournament but later dumped for a foreign coach, must be having a quiet laugh ÔÇô right now. Is Lagerback better than him?