As the World Cup competition kicks off today in Brazil, Nigerians cannot but be confident of their national team, the Super Eagles, who are the current continental football champions. This profound optimism arising from our African football leadership should place the country on a solid stead when it confronts the 31 other nations also jostling for the coveted laurel.
What the country’s representatives need most to excel in this competition is the spirit of unparalleled sportsmanship. The goal is not just the prize at stake. A lot more dimensions come to play at such tournaments: carriage, dignity, responsibility, good conduct, diplomacy, pride, the entire nation’s image and other associated tangential qualities. In other words, members of the Super Eagles and their handlers should know that they are Nigeria’s worthy ambassadors while the event lasts. Any negative manifestation will put our country in bad light.
All the arguments and disagreements over preparatory issues in the build-up to this sporting spectacle, particularly players’ selection, should be discarded as we go into the competition. No such matter should be allowed to distract the team and possibly affect its performance. There is no way there would be no disaffection and grey areas during preparations for a competition of this magnitude. What is most cardinal now is the way such inevitable manifestations are managed in the best interest of the country, and not individual or selfish considerations. Our collective interest overrides the idiosyncrasies of anyone, no matter how skilful or highly placed in the society. An unruly star or irresponsible manager in any team is a clear danger to national aspirations, whether it is in sports or other departments of life.
We call on the Super Eagles to improve on past performances at the World Cup and strive after bringing the cup home. This is the time to prove that our soccer leadership of the continent is not a fluke. All that is required is commitment and sacrifice by members of the team. Nigeria, more than the other three African countries in the race, has the best credentials and panache to be the first nation from this continent to lift the Cup. Therefore, Super Eagles should put in their best—that is the least expected of them at this global sports fiesta.
The World Cup tournament demands the utmost from all the 32 participant-countries in terms of discipline, character and overall conduct. Whatever happens there is transmitted to the world and people take note of untoward developments, not only as they affect individual players or teams, but also their countries. The Super Eagles should always be conscious of this and its far-reaching implications for our nationhood. They should avoid all scandals and untoward behaviour. The World Cup is important, but our integrity is even much more critical to us as a nation.
Super Eagles should not be under any delusion that they are going to Brazil to impress anyone. The aftermath of such preoccupation is that they would subject themselves to undue pressure and, in the process, the overall goal would be lost. All the lessons learnt during the friendly matches should be brought to bear on their performance. Experimentations and stylistics are over, as the real event unfolds at the global stage.
The stake now is entirely different from what obtained during the qualification series and build-up campaigns by way of friendly encounters. We must go beyond the elimination rounds and work towards playing in the finals. We cannot settle for anything less. Indeed, the world expects so much from African champions whose citizens are performing creditably in international leagues.
Our expectation is that the Super Eagles will subdue their opponents and bring the trophy home at the end of the competition. We must dominate our rivals right from the blast of the whistle to the finals. Mistakes of any kind should be avoided in order to ensure victory.
Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora are fully behind Super Eagles. We wish the team an excellent representation of our football-loving country. Good luck, Super Eagles, as you fly our flag high in Brazil!