The Sun News

World Cup Qualifier: Nigeria vs Zambia

This is the second time I will disclose publicly that I am very angry with myself and Nigeria, my nation. The source of my anger has always been with the fact that a few of us, especially those privileged to be in the corridors of power, make the rest of us look less human by the way they make simple issues seem complicated, with all the terrible consequences for the health of our nation. I have many examples to give to buttress my position, but since today’s outing is not about politics, I will just mention one which happened last weekend in Umuahia, capital of Abia State and we move on.

I am against massing the military against a civilian population for any reason. By now it should be clear that the military should be for external aggression. If the police is weak, we recreate the mobile police force and give them responsible duties to do with a cardinal instruction to always respect the civil rights of our citizens. We have refused to go this way because we like the easy way out. The South East is now militarized and all of us know the consequences of such an action. We just saw one last weekend: show of force against civilian population and the storming of the residence of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu in Umuahia and brutalization of citizens, including some members of the security forces. This was not necessary except if the objective was to kill Kanu. Otherwise Kanu can be reached either by invitation or when he appears for his case at Abuja. The siege option sends a very dangerous message which I know is not good for this nation and in particular the President. I leave the matter at that.

Today’s topic is inspired by the concept of social responsibility. Like I always say writing should not be for writing sake, it should have a soul which is the upliftment of the human specie and the transformation of his environment. Even though we are misbehaving, especially in terms of good governance, some of the factors in our advantage make us a giant nation in world affairs and one of the ways of confirming this status is sports. Sports is war or fierce competition by other means. So, beyond issues of human development and provision of employment, sports provides nations an avenue to reemphasize who they are.

Our national football team, the Super Eagles, have been floundering in recent years and the outcome has always rubbed off negatively on our image as a giant nation. But in the last one year the team has come back to life in the most superlative way. They play good football and win in a magnificent style. They are not there yet but we are happy. They are one match away from qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and that game is the big match between Nigeria and Zambia on October 7 in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom state. It is a must win match for our boys if not for anything but for the fact that the Eagles will be playing their last match away in  Algeria, while Zambia will be at home to Cameroun.

Given the importance of the match everybody that has something to contribute should do so and on time too. Our government has not given a match of such magnitude the attention it deserves. Everything is not money, sometimes we need to change the national mood, charge the atmosphere so that our sportsmen would be in killer form to go and bring the much needed victory. If not for Supersports, a South African broadcast outfit, we won’t hype our sporting engagements not to talk of watching them live. We witnessed some efforts in this direction with the Camerounian matches. I hope that would be sustained and improved upon.

I have listened to the Super Eagle’s coach, Gernot Rohr, speak on the encounter with the Zambians on the Channels Television. He seems to know what is at stake and expressed optimism of victory. The thought that came to my mind was whether he had taken time to study the Zambians playing away especially their encounter with the Algerians away from home. Algerians did not play badly as the Zambian victory would seem to suggest, but they were victims of little tricks of the Zambian team. The Zambian team did not go to play, they rather went to defend and where possible, through a quick counter attack, see if they could get a lucky goal. Over eight of their players played from the mid of their own half to the defense, which means their defense area was always packed full. They countered from the left and once they cross the centre line, they cross the ball to the right winger who had pace and fine dribbling skills. This winger was always looking out for the number nine who equally was very skillful and had pace.

They also tried to use long balls to penetrate the host’s defense line and from what I saw, they were under instruction to shoot at goal from any point. They were also deadly with a few spot kicks they had. What killed Algeria most was delay tactics. The Zambian goalkeeper would feign injuries and it took him very long to get back, same for the other players. Little contact and they were on the ground.

I guess the objective was to kill the zeal of the host. Our defenders must be behind their attackers at all times. Our goal keeper should be alert at all times and avoid the kind of unprofessional collision recorded in the last match in Younde which was responsible for the equalizer. We have a good team and I am sure our coaches know what to do. Before I forget our boys must be primed to play 90-minutes exhaustive game. In Cameroun we saw a near vulnerable team when the Camerounians turned on the heat in the closing moments of that game. Happy victory Nigeria!

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