The failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations to be staged in Equatorial Guinea leaves the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) with no other option than to re-strategise and plan for the future.
While Nigerians are still ruing the disappointing inability of the AFCON defending champion to book a ticket to the next edition of the African soccer showpiece, the NFF aware of the implications of the development has decided to shift its attention to age grade teams in order to build a new Eagles for the future, particularly ahead of the 2017 edition of the AFCON.
The Nigerian team, one of the five African flagbearers to the 2014 World Cup held in Brazzil and one of the two countries from the continent to get as far as the second round stage in the mundial, Algeria being the other team, shockingly failed to pick a ticket from a relatively easy group that had South Africa, Congo Brazzaville and Sudan
The Nigerian team under the tutelage of 2013 AFCON winning coach finished third behind South Africa and Congo to miss out of the party to Equatorial Guinea who got the nod of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) to host the tournament after original host Morocco pulled out because of the fear of the dreaded Ebola disease.
Implications of the Equatorial Guinea Miss
The Super Eagles failure to fly to Equatorial Guinea means that for the third time Nigeria will not be able to successfully defend the title. In 1982 in Libya, two years after winning her first Nations Cup title on home soil. The Eagles crashed out in the first round.
Nigeria won the Cup in 1994 but a political logjam between Nigeria and South Africa disallowed the Nigerians from going for the defence of the title as the then head of state, the late Sani Abacha stopped the Eagles from going to South Africa.
Therefore the number one implication is that Nigeria, once again, will not be able to defend the AFCON title.
However, the major implication is that most of the players in the current team that failed to qualify for the AFCON 3015 would either be moving closer to retirement age or would have even called it a day with international football before the next edition of the African version of the mundial.
Based on their current ages, there is no hidden the fact that some of these players are already at the peak of their careers and would have perhaps, be going for their last AFCON outing had the Eagles qualified for Equatorial Guinea 2015.
The next step, therefore is for the NFF to settle down and begin the search for suitable replacement for the likes of Mikel Obi, Vincent Enyeama, Austin Ejide, Osaze Odemwingie, Ambrose Efe and other players who are close to 30 years or are already 30 years and above..
Hence, the task not rests on the coaches of the youth teams, the U-23 national side and the U-20 side, called the Flying Eagles.
Without mincing words, both coaches Samson Siasia and Manu Garba have serious assignments on their hands as the NFF and Nigerians would certainly be looking at their directions to build solid squads from where suitable legs, good enough to don the colours of the country at the senior level, would be discovered.
Fortunately, the two handlers, they themselves ex internationals, are specialists in grooming young players going by their antecedents as youth team coaches, therefore, the task to them, should not be as tedious as what it would be to a coach coming into these levels afresh.
Samson Siasia and the U-23 team (Dream Team)
Sia One as the former Flying Eagles and Super Eagles forward is fondly called has a relatively rich record as far as handling youth teams is concerned.
In 2005, he was the man in charge of the U-20 team when Nigeria conquered the rest of Africa to cl;aim the African Youth Championship (AYC) in Morocco. That same year, he led the same team to the final of the World Youth Championship in Holland..
In both competitions, young players like Mikel Obi, Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi, Taye Taiwo, Obinna Nsofor, Ambrrose Vansekin, Dele Adeleye, Ambrose Efe and the rest shown like millions stars, a development that later earned some of them full international caps (graduation into the Super Eagles).
As the handler of the U23 team, otherwise called the Dream Team, Siasia also did well by piloting the team, made up largely of his players at the u-20 level to the final of the Beijing 22008 Olympics football final.
Unfortunately, Siasia was denied victory on the two occasions by Argentina with Lionel Messi playing a pivotal role in the fall of Siasia teams.
Returning to the saddle as the head coach of the U-23 team at this point in time means that expectations would be very high as Nigerians look onto Siasia and his team not only to win matches but to produce players that would ultimately filled the gap to left by the aging Eagles.
The team is called Dream Team because Nigerians expect that bulk of the players should do well enough and graduate straight to form the next Super Eagles squad and this Nigerians would be looking forward to as Siasia and his team begin their journey in February with an All Africa Games qualifying match agains Gabon In February.
Manu Garba and the Flying Eagles
A two time FIFA U-17 World Cup winning coach, first as assistant to the late Yemi Tella of the all conquering Golden Eaglets squad at Korea 2007 and later as the head coach of the terrific squad to the last edition of the championship held in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The former Green Eagle player going by his track records with the cadet team, is, a guru in terms of discovering talents and moulding them to world class players.
He is expect.ed to transfer that magic wand to the U-20 of which he is now the head coach and goo a thing, he would be working with most of the players he handled at the U-17 level two years ago.
Garba has started very well, piloting the young Eagles to clinching a ticket to the African Youth Championship where they will battle for a place at the next edition of the World Youth Championship.
Just like a player like Haruna Lukeman, who played under Tella/Garba U-17 team graduated to the U-20 and later to the Super Eagles and just as the majority of the 2013 U-17 team have moved to the U-20 level, Nigerians expect the U-20 team to further widen the scope of these players and make them tick for the senior team in the next two years and the ominous task of achieving that rests much on Manu Garba.
Facing and Doing the Job Squarely
With the above settings, both sweat handlers no doubt are faced with serious task which much however, be faced with optimum patriotism. The youth teams are the foundation for a solid senior national team and whatever the age grade teams are able to churn out will go a long way in defining the future of the Super Eagles in future engagements.
Therefore, Siasia and Garba are left with no option than to discharge their duties to the best of the abilities, with no fear or undue favvour. They should shun sentiment and put god fatherism apart, but should make sincerity their watchwords so as not only to get results that will appease Nigerians but ultimately to help build a new Super Eagles squad that would return Nigeria to the fore front of African football..
The two coaches and their lieutenants should make up their minds never to entertain any form of interference as this would not do them any good but would only rubbish their jobs.
The Roles of NFF, Club Manager, Players Agents, Journalists
At this crucial period of Nigeria football, every stakeholder should at least for once, work for the good of the game in Nigeria and not for selfish gains.
If we are truly saddened by the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2015 AFCON, then we should all put our hands on the deck to help form a formidable squad that we would be proud off.
Officials of the football governing body should not bring in quota system into the selection of players, they should not handpick or impose players on the coaches, rather they should allow them do their job so that whatever results come out, they would take full responsibilities for it.
The NFF should ask the coaches to submit their programmes, look into it in details and then the necessary things which include giving them the right atmosphere to operate.
Club Managers should stop selling players to coaches on the basis of relationship with the tacticians. If a player is good, such could be recommended to the coaches not that a player should get a permanent place, regardless of his form.
The role of players’ agents and sports journalists in the falling standard of Nigeria football cannot be over looked. For the best of players to emerge, unnecessary promotion of players should be stopped. Positive recommendations could be made instead of blowing the trumpet of a player who is struggling to hit form even at abroad all because of selfish gains.