By Balogun Rilwan Adetayo
Since the triumphant breakthrough in South Africa in 2013, the Super Eagles of Nigeria have not been to any other Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) coming behind South Africa and then Egypt in the qualification series of 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Egypt being our lifelong nemesis was a bout that could have gone either ways but the loss to South Africa was a very bitter pill to swallow especially considering the fact that we lost it on home soil inside our beloved Nest of Champions, Uyo.
Despite being blessed with an embarrassment of talents, the Super Eagles have flattered to impress even themselves. Constant team imbroglio, managerial changes and associational deficiencies have done a lot to put our football in pitiable situations and missing out on two consecutive editions of the AFCON was the nadir of our problems; Nigerians find it worrying to believe and watching a competition without Nigeria is shamefully sad in all fairness but like a losing hero on a warfront, people will turn their backs but the belief of our struggles will make us rise. Nigeria is up again.
Over the last few years, a few managerial maladjustments have coated Nigerian football with the sack of Stephen Keshi and the appointment of once fans beloved, Sunday Oliseh. The Super Eagles are a difficult team to manage especially if one is an ex-international who’s carrying a lot of people’s hopes. Sunday Oliseh no doubt is a brilliant manager who might have succeeded where the pressure was minimal but in Keshi’s shoes were large spaces needed to be fitted into, a challenge that seemed too enormous for Oliseh’s young career.
Samson Siasia came and injected some sanity into the team, most importantly, giving the captain’s armband to Mikel Obi after the departure of trusted goalie, Vincent Enyeama. Appointing Ahmed Musa as team captain was a blind choice from Oliseh as it lacked both taste and chaste. Mikel was better positioned in every ramification and was brilliant to have rejected the appointment as assistant to Musa, that proved to be the beginning of a great start.
One thing I think that may be Gernot Rohr – the new foreign coach – with the Super Eagles is his openness to listening to advice and his undebatable willingness to give everyone a chance. Already, the third man in our midfield triumvirate that seemed like a problem we would never solve is gradually being quelled and shelled.
Once again, I’ll like to make clear that Oghenekaro Etebo is a proof that in our local league is a wonderful credibility of talents. Against Algeria, Etebo was arguably the best performer on the pitch. After his Olympics exploits, he has settled into the team like water to duck and is presenting coach Rohr a fantastic range of options with his sweet, immense versatility.
With John Obi Mikel in his finest state of mind as a Super Eagles player, at least with his actions and words, in his career and a continuous continuum of great talents raising their necks from every part of the world, the Super Eagles are destined to be great again, in grand style and no tournament proves better than the 2018 World Cup in Russia, to announce ourselves at the world stage and prove to the world that after all, our Nations Cup hiatus is a blessing in disguise, only if, the assignment we’ve been assigned and started excellently is finished with awe and if only, we give chances to who’s deserving irrespective of where they play. Nigerians are gifted, and home doesn’t take away their brilliance.