The 2012 edition of the Africa cup of Nations Has come and gone with Zambia, emerging champions and deservedly so, the penalty shootout victory over Ivory Coast was a perfect climax for football purists like me and gave me a reason to believe that good football does pay.
The elements surrounding the final game made for a well written script, and Zambia, delivered, the spirits of the departed souls of the class of 1993 were with the team as they went into the final game, Congratulations to the Chipolopolo as they savor their maiden AFCON title even as I wished and hoped it was our beloved Super Eagles that did us proud just like Captain Christopher Katongo and his team-mates did Zambia, please don’t remind me, yes Nigeria didn’t qualify, and this piece is more about the way forward for Nigeria than who won the 2012 edition.
What are the lessons Nigeria can learn from Zambia’s success? Is there anything for us to point to and wish we should work on?, Talent wise, Nigeria has much more than Zambia can offer, we have players in the major leagues of Europe who participate in the European Champions league and the Europa Cup, players who compete at the highest level, so where did we get it wrong?
Attitude I dare most say, is the biggest bane of success for the Super Eagles and Nigerian football in general. Attitude from our egocentric players, to ineptitude of our administrators towards the development of the game. Our players need to understand that playing for the country is the ultimate sacrifice anyone can give, take a cue from the Zambian team, they don’t have the champagne life style that most of our highly paid stars have, they were spurred by selfless thoughts and objectives, there has to be one thing that soars above personal vendettas or grouse as such. Nigeria is plagued by a lot of societal issues and mal-administration, deep emotion wounds which the beautiful game has the ability to soothe, the average Nigerian uses football to get his ‘fix’. Football is an escape route for many of us, from the trouble that hits us in the face every day, and those at the helm of things need to realize that.
We must also get rid of our ‘giant of Africa’ toga and buckle down to rebuilding our lost glory because evidently we are not good enough anymore. The Nigerian Football Federation has its work cut out, it has to be transparent and get its house in order, the recent scandal of missing funds should be a starting point, those responsible should be brought to book, to serve as a deterrent for others, The Nigerian Premier league should be given all necessary attention for it to grow into a solid brand. Youth development should be at the apex of the NFF’S agenda. Coaches from all levels of the national team should be tasked to go round the country and scout for talent, the dearth in our pool of resources is alarming and something urgent needs to be done.
Coach Stephen Keshi has little or no time to tinker his squad as the AFCON2013 qualifiers are just weeks away, I just pray and hope that lessons have been learnt, the Super Eagles need a change in mentality and approach and maybe, just maybe, Keshi might be the one to return Nigeria to the glory days.