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AFRICAN CUP OF NATION 2015: NIGERIA WOBBLES TOWARDS MOROCCO

AFRICAN CUP OF NATION 2015: NIGERIA WOBBLES TOWARDS MOROCCO

What else is Nigeria doing if not wobbling towards the finals of the 2015 African Cup of Nations tournament scheduled for Morocco next January?

The Super Eagles are at the moment, anything less than super.  Clearly, the campaign by the Eagles to play in the next edition of the nations’ cup started not just poorly, but on a very sad note.

If Nigerians who love football expected a poor result from this crop of Eagles, it was certainly not a loss at home.  If it was a loss, it obviously was not against the national side of Congo! Not just Congo but that of BRAZZAVILLE!

Where is Congo Brazzaville in African football? Who can remember the last time that country appeared on the chart in the African nations’ cup? Say, mention just one football club that is famous from Congo Brazzaville?

What is this that Stephen Keshi and his Eagles have done? What shame have they brought to our country? Given Congo Brazzaville’s pedigree in football, Kano Pillars Football Club, current leaders in the Nigerian professional football league, should not just beat that country’s  national team, but will easily white-wash them.  That the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was embedded in crisis at that time could not have stopped Kano Pillars.

Bring our teams on the stage Rangers International, Warri Wolves, Dolphin of Port-Harcourt, El-kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri, Heartland of Owerri, Enyimba International of Aba etc.  Who would have spared Congo Brazzaville? In Calabar for that matter!

If for any other reason, Nigerian teams are known for their invincibility at home.  From where, for God’s sake, did Nigeria assemble this crop of players?

The present Super Eagles have no excuse for the shame they brought to this country last month.  Their handlers deserve no less than rebuke.  Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi should hide his face in shame.  Other members of the technical crew are not spared.  Nigeria’s toil in football, spanning scores of years, has been smirred in the mud.  Our retired players- dead and alive who labored so hard to lift Nigeria’s name to the height you met it, are crying profusely in their graves.

The latest of them among the dead was Albert Godwin Onyeanwuna.  In his days, Onyeanwuna was an attacker, an attacking midfielder.  Because of his outstanding dribbling ability, Albert Onyeanwuna was nicknamed “master dribbler”. He belonged to that specie of players who abhorred defeat, a young man with positive attributes. Onyeanwuna, Chukwuma Igweonwu, Teslim “Thunder” Balogun and their ilk in the then Green Eagles laid the foundation on which today’s Super Eagles was built.

Albert died last April and was buried on the 19th day of September, 2014.  That was last month.  Onyeanwuna was the ‘freshest’ of those entire pioneer Eagles who witnessed the destruction Keshi and his Eagles brought on our football.  He must be crying in his grave, just as Gentleman Onyeador, Block Buster, Anieke and ‘Thunder’ Balogun.  They labored when there were no match bonuses, no appearance fees and similar incentives.

Only one thing was available the love to play for one’s country.   They craved for that love. And when they got it, they appreciated it.  They also made sure that those who gave them the opportunity to play for our dear country were not disappointed.

Onyeanwuna was buried last month in Abatete his hometown.  Abatete is a quite community in South West of Anambra State.

On that fateful day, the indigenes of that town knew that they had a son to be proud of.  Anambra state government bankrolled Onyeanwuna’s funeral expenses in appreciation of his contributions to the development of the game in Nigeria.

So much was said of this football genius nick named ‘the master dribbler.” But of all, the most instructive was that of his teammate Chukwuma Igweonwu.  For the records, it was Chukwuma’s goals for Nigeria in the 60s that made late musician Rex Lawson sing the popular song “…Chukwuma Chukwuma, is a goalooo. Chukwu beatamoooo is a  goalooo biye… Chukwuma Chukwuma, is a goalooo.”

On Friday 18th September at the Women Development Centre in Awka,   a day before Onyeanwuna’s body was lowered; Chukwuma ascended the stage, took a glance at the casket conveying the remains of his friend and bellowed into the microphone: “I’ve lost my soul mate!”

The entire audience, comprising virtually all the notable achievers in Nigerian football and Rangers, was touched.  “I am very sad this day. The man who is stretchered out in that casket was the person who made me score most of those goals for which I am today known for. Onyeanwuna made me come to Port-Harcourt to join the Port-Harcourt Red Devils.”

“After my arrival in Port Harcourt, he encouraged me in many practical ways including accommodation, and orientation into life in the Garden city.  On the field, he was one genius of a dribbler.  He would make nonsense of our opponents and then lay the ball to me to finish.  Once he had the ball, I would be on the move because I knew it would either come to me or to Thunder Balogun… Every time such opportunity came, I would remember two persons, the man who gave me the ball and the numerous Nigerians who believed in me to score for them.  I never disappointed both Onyeanwuna who gave me the ball and those Nigerians who gave me the opportunity to play for our country. God will bless his soul and bring him into paradise.”

That was the caliber of a man who was lowered into mother earth in September.  It was not only Chukwuma Igweonwu who appreciated Albert Onyeanwuna.  Anambra state did.  Governor Willie Mmaduaburochukwu Obiano did in practical terms.  Infact, the entire country did.

Obiano practically ensured that the government of Anambra State bankrolled this man’s funeral rites to the last kobo.  His first daughter, Onyinye confirmed it.  “…of all that have been said here today, please help me to thank our governor, Chief Willie Obiano for the state burial given to my father.  Through the state commissioner for youth and sports, Ogbuefi Tony Nnachetam, the governor sponsored my father’s burial to the last kobo…”

The NFF was also there for Nigeria. Chief Mike Umeh, immediate past vice president of the federation, sat on the front row.  “I am here for the Nigeria Football Federation.  Onyeanwuna was a rare gem.    He was one of the reasons why our football became popular in his days and I have been sent by the NFF to appreciate him.”

Umeh clearly spoke for our football.  But what was totally absent was the transfer of the special zeal and determination with which Onyeanwuna and his cohorts achieved the fame which we all savour today in world football as Nigerians.

The clamour today must be to ensure that our footballers in the national team should be taught to imbibe this special zeal.  The NFF it is, that must embark on that orientation for our players.  It is not just enough to be talented in playing good and intelligent football.  Football played by Super Eagles’ players must be garnished.  In doing this, the NFF must be aware that among the ingredients, determination to win for our country must be the uppermost.  That way, Nigerian football will be unique to our country.

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