With the date and venue for Super Eagles’ Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Chad now known, I think we can now intensify our countdown to the encounter.
Of course it’s been a while we saw the Men’s senior national team in a competitive fixture. No thanks to the sad event of last year’s non-qualification for the 2015 AFCON held in Equatorial Guinea between January and February this year. It was indeed a bitter pill to swallow and one that we certainly not want to either remember or reenact. Six months is a very long time in football and that is how long our dear Super Eagles have taken to feature in a competitive fixture. Between now and then, what has changed? And what can we look forward to on the 13th of June when our neighbours along the North East boundary, Chad come visiting?
The Ahmadu Bello Stadium in the beautiful North-Western City of Kaduna will play hosts to the Nigeria/Chad game on the 13th of June. The 16,000 capacity stadium has a natural turf which is in a very good shape as I write and is ready to host even a bigger game. It is only befitting that Kaduna, a populous multi-ethnic city has been given the nod to stage this game as football fans in the city and its environs always throng the arena to support any of our national teams that comes there. The last time the Eagles played in that stadium was a friendly against the Etalons of Burkina Faso in September 2013. It was just three days after a World Cup qualification victory over Malawi in Calabar and the Eagles flew in to dismantle their West African foes 4-1 in front of a vociferous crowd. We hope our neighbours get another of such treatments.
Between the 19th of November last year when we drew 2-2 against South Africa and now, many things have changed but one major feature is the Chief Coach of the team, Stephen Keshi who has been given a second chance to correct mistakes of the past.
Peeping through my window and to the various European leagues are at the home straight, one does not readily find joy in the appearances of our national team players who have basically been on the fringes at their respective clubs for the greater part of the campaign.
Either due to the arrival of perceived better players and or niggling injuries, stars such as Efe Ambrose, Uwa Echiejile, Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike and even Brown Ideye who were prominent in the team that ruled Africa in 2013 have struggled for playing time and form for the most parts of the season.
It is however laudable that the home-based stars would open the camping exercise for the engagement at hand in what will be a repeat of the recipe that Keshi used in producing a Nations Cup winning delicacy in 2013. I hope and I am silently confident it will be another productive effort as the home-based stars have seen quite a lot of actions on the domestic front and it is guaranteed that the best have been selected (watch out for my next piece on the analysis of selected home-based players).
It is time for everyone to get down to business. Not just the administrators, team coaches and players but also the clichéd “12th man”. Yes, we the fans of the Super Eagles. It is important that we understand that every successful team has a bad patch. Moments when they stumble, fail and fall but what defines true Champions is that ability to rebound and recover from such disappointments, learn from them and excel again.It has no doubt been a season of contrasting fortunes for the players in their respective clubs. Some achieved great team success, some were “nearly” men, for some, it was so-so. Therefore, when they return from Europe for the national assignment, the impact of fans is key to the psychological well-being of the players which is crucial to deliver the results that will make us happy.I hope we will be there for the lads to welcome them home, forgive them for last year’s failure and have renewed belief in their ability to make us all smile again.By Fisayo Dairo