It is yet another arithmetic calculation again as Nigeria chances of qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon suffered a huge set back Friday following the Super Eagles 1-1 draw against the Pharaohs of Egypt in a must-win game in Kaduna.
Oghenekaro Etebo had put Nigeria ahead on the hour, when he scrambled home off a rebound after Kelechi Iheanacho’s sizzler came off the post; but, at stoppage time, Mohammed Salah beat an offside trap to draw Egypt level.
Invariably, the 1-1 draw implies that the Pharaohs stays on top of group G with seven points and Nigeria five points, just as the reverse fixture comes up in Alexandria, Egypt on Tuesday.
In this regard, Nigeria no doubt walks a tight rope to ensure qualification for the tournament billed for Gabon as failure to claim the maximum points on Tuesday would mean, missing the Africa football fiesta for a second consecutive time.
How did Nigeria get to this point is the big question even as it may be a rhetoric? Only last month, February 26, 2016 Sunday Oliseh announced his sudden resignation as coach of the Super Eagles to the consternation of sports-loving-Nigerians.
And of course, the reason was not far-fetched; Oliseh has been embroiled in crisis with his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) over issues of interference, non-payment of salaries and poor welfare conditions for the players.
Oliseh also added, “Contract violations, lack of support, unpaid wages, and benefits to my coaches” as some of the reasons why he resigned from his job.
“I feel fortunate, blessed and eternally grateful for having had the honour to play, captain and coach this great nation of ours, Nigeria,” he said.
This decision came after he was instructed by the NFF to be reporting to the National Technical Committee of the Federation, headed by Chris Green; which contravenes some section of his contact. But Green defended the move on the premise that it was for easy coordination.
But, the entire scenario between the NFF and Oliseh was crystal clear that Nigeria was already in a tight corner in what Lagosian would call, “one chance” with regards to the Nations Cup qualifier.
The messy development again gave birth to the second coming of Samson Siasia albeit on iterim basis and a rescue mission even as some Nigerians if not most, were and still skeptical of his chances of steering the team to achieve any success.
Similarly, the reasons for some Nigerians skepticism on Siasia were not because of incompetence, but because of the time available for him to put up a team capable of upstaging a more cohesive Egypt.
Secondly, the team would need to at least play some friendly matches as it is usually the case to enable the players blend properly; but all these preparations processes were never followed because of lack of time.
But in fairness to Siasia, he was only able to put up a very casual team made up of players with individual skills and who were more of strange bed fellows.
They gave their best, but the journey still seemed so far away from reality and tongues are now wagging, eye brows raising; who to blame and how could the situation be remedied? That is now the second big question.
Accusing fingers are pointing to no other direction than the country’s apex football body, the NFF.
Only in 2015 edition, co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Nigeria missed out of the tournament because of the quarrels between the then Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi and the NFF over similar reasons that made Oliseh to resign.
Thus it is high time a clear demarcation is drawn between the job of the Eagles coach and the NFF; whatever the result may turn out to be on Tuesday in Egypt, Oliseh seemed to have been vindicated.
The NFF cannot be administrators of Nigerian football and at the same time, the technical crew of the team. It is highly impossible, because two captains cannot navigate a ship.
Invariably, getting the right coach for Nigeria, whether local or foreign has never been a problem; but NFF’s undue interference would never give him a conducive environment to operate.
It is certainly a cliché to start dwelling how players would either be imposed on the coach or he is frustrated with the starvation of funds and other supports withdrawn.
At this juncture, whether Nigeria qualifies or not, the National Assembly through the Committee on Sports must take a position on the way forward to save the nation’s senior national team- the Super Eagles; this is because Eagles belong to the sport that cuts across ethnic, religious and social barriers-football.