For the first time in a long while, the Nigerian team to the South Africa 2013 Cup of Nations (AFCON) kicking off on January 19, from all indications, is fully prepared to trade tackles with their counterparts from all parts of the continent. Unlike in the past, there were no tales of ill-preparation pursuant to the prosecution of this campaign this time around.
This, expectedly, has elicited Nigerians’ confidence in the 23-man squad—a development that psychologically predisposes the Super Eagles to victory. The players, who are privileged to represent the country, should realise the honour and personal glory associated with such a contingency. The fact that they are flying Nigeria’s flag should imbue them with a high sense of responsibility in and outside the field of play. Other countries and their squads expect so much from us by virtue of our continental stature and leadership profile.
We cannot afford any odious manifestation throughout the duration of the competition holding in various cities of South Africa. Nothing unites Nigerians as much as football. This consciousness should be at the back of the minds of our representatives in AFCON 2013. Good conduct and success at the competition will go a long way in soothing frayed nerves back at home arising from a cocktail of domestic challenges. The Super Eagles under the tutelage of Coach Stephen Keshi must have a patriotic team spirit that guarantees laurels, which, in turn, translates into year-long joy and celebrations for Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.
As the event kicks off shortly, the Nigerian team should bear in mind that we were not at the preceding competition jointly held in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea due to organisational shoddiness during the qualification stages that resulted in our preliminary and utterly embarrassing exit. Having qualified for this edition, commitment must be optimal so that the coveted cup comes to Nigeria for the third time since the evolution of the sporting spectacle. Our return to the competition can only be underscored by our lifting the cup.
We should use AFCON 2013 to re-launch our football prowess as a country that was listed as the 5th best in the world in 1994 (the last time we won the Cup of Nations) as against the current 38th position and second most entertaining side after Brazil. Even the yearly Confederation of African Football (CAF) Footballer of the Year Award that we used to feature prominently and win takes place these days without our players being shortlisted, let alone winning the prize! All these go to confirm that our football image has really gone down.
This is the opportune time to redeem our lost glory. We cannot be the giant of Africa by mere word of the mouth. Nigeria, in Group C comprising Chipolopolo of Zambia (the defending champions), Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia and Stallions of Burkina Faso, is one of the most favourite nations to win the cup. These four countries will lock horns in Mbombela Stadium during the elimination series before the knockout round.
As the Super Eagles commence the race for the ultimate sporting prize on the continent with their match against Burkina Faso on January 21, we have the conviction that they will trounce the Burkinabes en route to defeating Zambia and Ethiopia subsequently in progression towards lifting the cup. We wish our representatives at the South Africa 2013 AFCON success and look forward to receiving them and the continental trophy next month in triumphancy!
The Super Eagles must have it at the back of their minds that all Nigerians at home and abroad are solidly behind them in spirit. We wish the Super Eagles good luck in the Orange Africa Cup of Nations.