Stakeholders speak: What next after Super Eagles Qatar-strophic exit?

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All eyes would be on the posh Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre in Qatar as the draws for the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Middle East  holds today.

While the flags of Cameroon, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, and Ghana will be hoisted with pride as the five African representatives at the event, Nigeria will be missing after the Super Eagles were dumped by the Black Stars on Tuesday after the final play-off.

Before now, the hues and cries were that the Super Eagles were a struggling side under the immediate past manager, German Gernot Rohr, although they always grind results when it mattered most to qualify for major events like World Cup and AFCON. 

Under the German, the Super Eagles after missing out on two successive AFCON in 2015 and 2017, qualified for both the 2019 and 2021 AFCON as well as the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup and he was on the verge of sealing a ticket to Qatar 2022 after qualifying the team for the final play-off spot but was booted under the pretence that the Super Eagles were not playing ‘sexy football’.

Days to the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, the former Bayern Munich defender was unceremoniously sacked as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) promptly drafted its Technical Director Austin Eguavoen as the Super Eagles’ interim technical adviser.

Though Eguavoen failed to take the team beyond the second round in Cameroon following the listless 1-0 defeat to Tunisia in the Round of 16th, the NFF still left him to lead the Super Eagles’ charge for the precious Qatar 2022 World Cup ticket, but that decision led only to nothing but catastrophic (Qatar-strophic) exit of the national team.

Until Tuesday when Ghana sent Nigeria packing, the Super Eagles have only missed the FIFA World Cup once when Germany hosted the event in 2006 while the ‘Giants of Africa’ have remarkably qualified for six editions including USA 1994, France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2020 as well as Russia 2018.

So, what next after next for the Super Eagles after the team’s Qatar-strophic exit from the historic World Cup in the Middle East?

Football stakeholders are unanimous that it is about time that the Augean stable of the Super Eagles and indeed the NFF must be cleaned to move Nigerian football forward following this huge setback.

Former Super Eagles midfielder Mutiu Adepoju, an AFCON winner in 1994 as well as a member of the World Cup squad at USA’94 and 2002 Korea/Japan, said he was troubled pained with the ouster of Eagles from the World Cup, saying the panacea is renewed development of the sport from the grassroots.

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“It is very unfortunate that we were not able to make it to Qatar 2022 because we had the players just like Ghana, but we were not able to utilize our chances to qualify ahead of them and that is football for you,” the former Real Sociedad  midfielder told NationSport. “The problem with our football is not Super Eagles but the way we have been handling things in our football.

 “We must now focus on development rather than competing in major competitions. We must pay attention to youth development while serious attention must be given to the development of our local leagues which have been in a moribund state for years.”

Similarly, former Super Eagles goalkeeper trainer Ike Shorunmu who was between the sticks ay Korea/Japan in 2002 was not too happy with the attitude of the players during the encounter against Ghana which he said contributed immensely to their exit from the World Cup.

“I think the problem the Super Eagles had was that they (players) believed they had already qualified without focusing on that important match against Ghana,” began the former Stationery Stores stopper.

 “They were complacent before the match, and this really cost us the Qatar 2022 World Cup ticket.

 “What worried me most during the match was the attitude of the players as they were playing as if nothing was at stake. I think the players’ attitude contributed to their exit from the World Cup.”

Shorunmu said there must be conscious efforts to develop the local league henceforth as most of the top players that the country had produced in the past came from the domestic league.

He continued: “It is time to focus on the local league because most of us that made it to the national team passed through the league and we understand the rigours of playing for the national team.

 “We should stop depending on foreign-based players but rather develop our league so that we can have players that have gone through the rigours of the league that can also hold their own when it matters most.”

Another former Nigeria international, Francis Monidafe, is equally miffed and has in fact asked that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should be dissolved even if they would be sanctioned in this onerous task of sanitizing its damaged game.

 “I think the first thing that should have happened by now is to dissolve the NFF and be ready to accept the CAF/FIFA sanction for two years so that we can use the period to set our football on the right footing,” he explained.

He continued: “We are just wasting talent away with what we are doing in the last eight years under Amaju Pinnick who is only interested in getting a higher position in CAF and FIFA as his board cared less about the development of football.

“Despite the huge money the government gives to NFF annually, there is nothing to show for their efforts because we don’t have any grassroots programmes.

 “No youth competitions and there is no genuine move by NFF to discover and groom talents from home rather they continue to scout footballers from the Diaspora which has not helped at all.

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