FEATURE: Nigeria’s 2022 WCQ failure: Beyond Amaju Melvin Pinnick

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For the second time since Nigeria tasted participation in the World Cup in 1994, the country’s flag will not be hoisted at the forthcoming Mundial in Qatar, later this year, following the inability of the Super Eagles to go past the Black Stars of Ghana in the last round of qualifiers. A goalless draw in Kumasi and a one-all draw in Abuja meant that Ghana wins the slot through away goal rule.

Trust Nigerians, so many theories have been thrown up as reasons for the inability of the Almighty Eagles that had since being described as ‘Super’ to go past their West African neighbours in the two legged qualifier, and above all, the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has been called names, and has also been called upon to resign his position as head of the football controlling body in the country.

Also, some are already saying that he should forget his third term agenda, even though he has not really come out to announce his intentions to run for third term. His body language may have been read and understood by many, especially those who have interest, or have those who are nursing the interest close to them.

But, the problem or rather, problems of Nigeria and Nigerian football are beyond the Delta-born administrator. It’s actually lack of structure, just like other sectors of the economy. With the situation that unfolded in the World Cup Qualifier against Ghana can happen and even get worst with anybody in Pinnick’s position.

Most of the submissions by analysts are more sentimental, with very few touching on some of the fundamental issues. Even at that, NFF is not only about Pinnick, but about a Board, and by extension, the Ministry of Sports which now operates as if it’s controlling only football in Nigeria. Most of the activities towards the qualifiers were shouldered by the Ministry, which also decided where the return leg match in Nigeria should be played.

The World Cup Qualifier Nigeria played against Ghana witnessed a divided structure blended with the hierarchy of the Sports Ministry. Significantly, the Ministry was touted to have imposed a indigenous coach against the will of the NFF, who clamoured for a foreign coach.

It was never an ordinary issue how the struggling Tunisians eliminated Nigeria from the 2021 AFCON in the second round. It was an extremely poor outing. Also, Nigeria has the opportunity to beat Ghana in Nigeria, but the chances were frittered.

With Pinnick as the President, it doesn’t make him an ‘all-in-all’ leader, and that’s why we have to first find out why is it that we don’t have a structure, and why some of the Board members will always claim the President has been taking unilateral decisions, including, but not limited to players selections as claimed, invitation of Nigeria-foreign players into the team, as well as the choice of technical crew as the issues were reported.

Some claimed that Pinnick is employing the popularity of the game arrogantly and cunningly, to manipulate stakeholders who have genuinely invested their time and energy in the game to further consolidate his personal gains. They claimed that he has explored his position to build his personal profile. He was once a CAF first Vice President before he was schemed out. He later emerged as a member of FIFA Executive Council which, according to them, brought nothing to the entire nation he represents. They also added that the stakeholders are being arrogantly denied their rights, especially from CAF and FIFA, through him.

Sincerely, why are we blaming Pinnick? This is because; he did his best by giving a very conducive environment for the team to play. Why should we also blame the Ministry of Sports for suggesting that the match be played in Abuja, which for now is our best facility to host the all-important match? Why do we equally blame the coaches who picked arguably the best players the country can throw up for now? After all, most of us did not complain when the going was good, until when it happened that we couldn’t qualify.

But, what we failed to realize was that, most Super Eagle players are overrated and finds it difficult to adapt and replicate the forms we see them exhibit in their various clubs abroad, and politically, some agents influence inclusions of their players into the team. They also use agencies and media hypes all buttressed with financial rewards.

The whole issue started when we relegated our domestic league, which before now, had been the mainstay of virtually all the national teams, at the expense of Nigerian players born in foreign land.

The NFF is so crazy about inviting foreign-born Nigeria players. Even though there should be nothing wrong with inviting Nigeria players born abroad to come play for their fatherland, but it has become a crazy pattern for the NFF that it looked as though that is the only thing that mattered to the Glass House when it comes to selection of players for the Eagles.

Many of these players don’t understand African football and the importance of playing for the Super Eagles because they don’t know the country’s football history.

Nigeria legend Daniel Amokachi also questioned the pedigree of the current Super Eagles players who were born abroad, claiming that they contributed to Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup and they only opted for the three-time African champions because their countries of birth never wanted them.

Before now, Nigeria has never relied on Born-Abroad players for footballing success at all levels, including the Super Eagles. The problem of the Super Eagles have now graduated to the point that the home based players are not reckoned with at all.

The goalkeeping department of the team has severally undermined the strength of the entire team at major competitions. For the past eight years that the former goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama left the national team, the goalkeeping department has been dwindling based on the poor scouting network to find a formidable replacement. From Maduka Okoye’s error at AFCON and the Uzoho blunder in the return leg of the crucial World Cup Qualifier against Ghana, the department has been problematic.

There is also the crucial issue of foreign coaches against the indigenous coaches for the Super Eagles. Gernot Rohr was sacked and replaced with the crew headed by Austin Eguavoen. The experiment has failed us, but would Rohr have qualified Nigeria for the World Cup if he had been left to conclude the assignment?

Spiritually speaking, some analysts also believed Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup because Coach Eguavoen ignored Primate Elijah Ayodele’s warnings ahead of the last round of matches. Primate Elijah Ayodele is the leader of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church.

During the release of his 2022 prophecies on Wednesday, 22nd Of December, 2021, Primate Ayodele, while speaking on Nigeria’s fate in AFCON 2021 and Qatar 2022 made it known that the Super Eagles won’t do well in the African Cup of nations but will qualify for the 2022 world cup if they listen to instructions.

In an update on the prophecy few days into 2022, Primate Ayodele revealed that Ghana will defeat Nigeria if Musa plays in the match. He mentioned some criteria for the Super Eagles if they want to qualify for the World Cup.

 ‘’On the World Cup qualifier Nigeria/Ghana, Nigeria have only 68 minutes to score in Ghana and let them (NFF) still use Eguavoen to do that. God has given them the mandates but if only they listen.

“Firstly, they must not take the Super Eagles job from Eguavoen, Secondly, it is not all these star players that are needed for the games, What is his name? Musa (Ahmed) must not be part of the team, If Musa plays, Nigeria will lose. I’m not against Musa but he must not play against Ghana.’’

Unfortunately, as the man of God warned, the Super Eagles didn’t score at all in Ghana, marking the beginning of doom for them considering the fact that the man of God said they have only 68 minutes to score.

Also, Coach Eguaveon could have right the wrongs but instead of listening to this instruction, he ignored and played Musa in the second leg. Sadly, the big prize he had to pay is not qualifying for Qatar 2022.

As a matter of fact, when Primate Ayodele made the prophecy about not allowing Musa play, Eguaveon reacted by asking Primate Ayodele to pray for the Super Eagles.

Another spiritual angle to the issue was that, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Imo State Chapter, Reverend Divine Eches berated the leadership of the NFF for Super Eagles failure to secure the ticket to the FIFA world cup in Qatar. Reverend Eches was a former Nations Cup winning Chaplain with the Super Eagles in South Africa 2013.

The Chaplain added that previous NFF leadership had sought for his Spiritual opinion which led to tremendous successes, but Pinnick failed to recognise all these which has led to damages of the Nigeria football fraternity.

He said: “The reason for our inability to qualify can be traced to the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation, especially the President, Amaju Pinnick”, he had said.

The pitch invasion after Super Eagles failure to qualify was also given different colorations.

According to some, the pitch invasion by Nigerians following the one-all draw between Nigeria and Ghana was not about football. “It’s about the frustration we feel about everything that has gone wrong with this country”, they claimed.

“Unemployment, hunger, staggering corruption, decay, rising cost of everything, no electricity, no water, no food, no money, no fuel, no security, no nothing yet billions of Naira disappear every day from government coffers. This calls for great concern and frustration.

The incidence also coincided with the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train by the Bandits, where many Nigerian citizens were killed, many others abducted, and many injured and are at Hospitals receiving treatment.

Failure in Nigerian football has to do with the neglect of culture and tradition surrounding the development of the game in the country. All youth development structures have been neglected and the domestic league being undermined. It also has to do with lack of structure in the leadership and control of the round leather game, which is far beyond Pinnick Amaju or those that were and would be saddled with such responsibilities after him.

Pinnick will end his current NFF tenure in September. Will he seek re-election, as being touted by some stakeholders? If so, or if not so, the Congress of the NFF holds the powers to make the changes, and not us.

The Congress will still produce a Board led by Pinnick or a Board led by another personality, and the Board will come from the Congress and by extension the system and the system is our major issue. We should not be concerned with personalities, but issues that are influencing how those in the saddle operates. We are all gloating on Super Eagles not picking a World Cup ticket, when there are lots of problems in our football….the leagues, National teams, youth football, and the entire ecosystem. It’s a collective thing, not about Pinnick alone.

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