President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr. Amaju Pinnick has praised the “extra-ordinary fighting spirt, rare dedication and total commitment” of the Super Eagles in Saturday’s Cup of Nations qualifying triumph in Pointe Noire.
Goals by Ikechukwu Uche (from the penalty spot) and Aaron Samuel (a sweetly curled finish) sent the Eagles to second position in Group A with an automatic qualification ticket earned once they achieve a win over South Africa in Uyo on Wednesday. Nigeria earned only one point from their first three matches of the campaign after defeat by Congo in Calabar, draw with South Africa in Cape Town and defeat by Sudan in Khartoum.
“I cannot commend you enough for making Nigeria proud, through your fighting spirit and the patriotic fervour with which you approached the game. It was a difficult environment in its entirety but you were not deterred, and that must be our guiding philosophy from now on,” Pinnick said as he appreciated the players inside the chartered Discovery Airline aircraft on the way back home.
Nigeria’s 100-man contingent was shabbily treated throughout their stay in Pointe Noire by the Congolese hosts, but praise must go to that country’s security operatives who rose to the occasion to forestall a planned attack after the Red Devils were well-beaten.
“Apart from being denied access to our team’s only training session, our delegation was not given any match ticket, contrary to the regulations, and our accompanying media were denied accreditation to the match.
“But we are all happy that we could sing after the match. You have simply turned the campaign around for the better and we look forward to finishing the qualifying campaign on a high note in Uyo on Wednesday,” the NFF boss added.
This year’s arrangement is a reversal of what happened in the last quarter of 1992, when in their qualification campaign for the 1994 FIFA World Cup; the Super Eagles battered the Bafana Bafana in Nigeria before travelling to Pointe Noire to defeat the Red Devils.
The NFF supremo also ordered immediate and special treatment for Eagles’ duo Azubuike Egwuekwe and Hope Akpan, who were injured during the game. As the team was landing in Uyo, Akpan was conveyed in a special ambulance to the Government House clinic for another x-ray, while the team’s Doctor, Ibrahim Gyaran, was told to ensure Egwuekwe got all necessary treatment to be fit for Wednesday’s decider.
Reading FC of England’s Akpan, a native of Akwa Ibom, twisted his left arm while Egwuekwe had a cut just above the left eye.