The poor performance by the Super Eagles at the just concluded 2018 FIFA World Cup did not come former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu, as a surprise.
“I don’t want to believe that we have come to the point where the issues surrounding our participation in the World Cup or international competitions without success have become an accepted norm of by-gone is by-gone,” Adelabu told The Guardian after watching the World Cup final match between France and Croatia on Sunday.
“We need some explanations on what went wrong with the Super Eagles in Russia, and how we hope to correct it in the future.
Personally, I consider it as an abuse of human capacity development for a nation of about 180 million citizens, to parade a group of sport men and women for international competitions, without ensuring that they have been exposed to the limit of human capacity development both tactically, technically and psychologically before the competitions,” he stated.
To Adelabu, who played for the then IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan in his active days, Nigerian national teams brought more sorrow than joy to football-loving Nigerians in the last four years administration of the out-going board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
“What our sport administrators fail to understand is the psychological impact of our lack of professionalism and intellectual negligence in the way we prepare for competitions. We spent so much money without having anything to show for it.”
Before the Amaju Pinnick-led board came into existence in September 2014, the nation’s football was on a steady rise.
The previous board led by Aminu Maigari won virtually everything, including the 2013 African Nations Cup title by the Super Eagles in South Africa, as well as the Golden Eaglets’ victory at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
The National U-29 team, Flying Eagles and all the three female national teams were not left out of the victory dance.
However, the out-going NFF board could not replicate the successes it met, rather, it had been harvest of more failures by the various national teams since 2014.
After the late Stephen Keshi led the Super Eagles to capture the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013, many football lovers across the continent were looking up to Nigeria to dominate the scene the 2015 AFCON held in Equatorial Guinea.
It never happened, as the Super came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with South Africa in their final qualifying Group A match at the Nest of Champions in Uyo, Akwa Ibom.
The Eagles needed to win outright, but only struggled to get a point, thereby failing to defend their Nations Cup title.
The President of NFF, Amaju Pinnick took responsibility for the failure saying: “It is a tragedy for us to come so near and yet fail to qualify for the 2015 AFCON in Equatorial Guinea.
We made so much effort and sacrifice in our last match in Congo to achieve the victory we needed there, and really had no business bungling it here.”
Pinnick then promised to make quick amend by making sure the Super Eagles qualify for the next edition of the African Nations Cup in Gabon.
It turned out to be another tragedy for Nigerian football, as the Super Eagles lost the Gabon 2017 AFCON ticket to Pharaohs of Egypt, despite enjoying the morale support from millions of Nigerians.
On a day so much was expected from the team led then by coach Sampson Siasia, the Eagles surrendered their 1-0 lead to the Pharaohs with just two minutes to end the game at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna.
The second leg in Aleixandre on March 29, 2016, saw the Eagles put every foot wrong, conceded a second half goal to give the Egyptians a passage to Gabon.
The failure at the senior level also spread to the junior teams, as the Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles failed to qualify from Africa.
Perhaps, one major setback for Nigerian football under the out-going board was the failure of Nigeria U-17 team (Golden Eaglets to defend their World title, which Nigeria won at the United Arabs Emirates under the Maigari’s administration.
The Golden Eaglets were knocked out in the qualifying race for Africa U-17 Cup of Nations by a relatively unknown Menas of Niger Republic 3-1 in Niamey (3-2 on aggregate), thereby failing to make it to the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.
A similar fate befell the U-20 national team (Flying Eagles), who could not qualify from Africa for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea.
The female senior national team, Super Falcons, who won the first trophy under the Pinnick-led board, the AWC title at Namibia 2014, also failed to make it to the All African Games and Rio 2016 Olympics Games.
Though, the Pinnick-led NFF board recorded few successes, as the Super Falcons won the 10th AWC title at Cameroun 2016, while the Flying Eagles won the 7th AYC title in Senegal.
There was also a silver medal by the home-based Super Eagles at WAFU Cup in Ghana, where the Nigerians suffered a 4-1 defeat in the hands of Ghana Black Stars in the final.
The Samson Siasia-led U-23 team also grabbed a bronze medal at Rio 2016 Olympics Games.
Many football fans have attributed the free fall of Nigerian football under the Pinnick-led board to the ‘deliberate’ killing of the NFF Academy, which a lot of resources had been sunk into.
Most countries now thrive on the expertise of their promising young talents, groomed through the local means.
Many believe that the Pinnick-led NFF board placed priority on Nigeria’s participation in regional, continental and international tournaments because they are ‘estacode-related.’
There seems to be lack of clear-cut adherent policies that will ensure all-year soccer activities in schools, and it has done more harm than good to Nigerian teeming youths.
In most cities across the country, what keeps the youths busy are various categories of self-styled road-side tournaments, organised independent of respective state Football Associations.