By G. CHIJIOKE ODOM (Pstr)
Nigeria will win the continental soccer trophy by either one of two means: Miracle, or Tympanoplasty! That is, if she wins it! Reason: The sun isn’t shinning radiantly on our national soccer squad deployed to the continental fiesta which kick-off whislte blasts on Sunday, in Cameroun! The evidence is so clear and compelling that you don’t need to sweat a linear regression analyses to prove it!
Here goes: First, since the long, insalubrious years of recently sacked ‘untactical, non- tactician’ Franco-German tactician, Genet Rorh, the team has unremittingly haemorrhaged from its mid-field, and still does as at the last count before Eguaveon took over AFCON preparations few weeks back. This is its perennially unlovable profile; a Super Eagles with the debilitating profile and notoreity of the woman with the issue of blood. If interim coach Austin Eguavoen is able to fix this- better, stanch this flow – within this relatively short, pre-competition interlude that the team has been under his watch, then that is soccer tympanoplasty!
You will need a tympanoplasty if you are born with a congenital hole in any ear, which consequently, is susceptible to infection. If not, the hole gets larger in adulthood and leads to gradual loss of hearing. The surgeon repairs it by using a little bit of your fascia, which is located under your scalp, to rebuild the eardrum.
Our midfield is absolutely inexistent by any name so called; its fragment lacks a tympanium or ear-drum by any name so called. It could neither hear, nor understand, nor respond! Fiery and vociferous actions initiated from behind or elsewhere in the team’s dynamics find comfortable graveyard in the midfield. If Eguavoen repaired the midfield, then there will be sunrise when the green-white hits the green turf in Cameroun. We wait with bathed breath.
Second, the squad is technically and tactically inquorate. This, to me, is the real assassin’s dagger thrust in its vulnerable underbelly! In a tournament in which African countries are unleashing their deadliest strikers who ply their fanciful footworks in the top-of-the-line leagues globally, Nigeria’s danger-men are all missing in action. Neither found on the bench, nor sitted in the stadium!
Our own dear Victor Osimhen, who could confidently wear the epaulettes as highest goal scorer on coronation day come tournament’s end in February, is missing in action. So is the triumvirate strike squad of Odion Ighalo, Paul Onuachu, and young Emmanuel Dennis who has proved his lethal shots and assists and changed the narrative for his employer, Watford in the English premier league. And Micheal Oliseh? This young ‘intercontinental ballistic missile’ (apologies to late ace commentator, Ernest Okonkwo) legged discovery at Crystal Palace! Not found in the line of duty! From reluctance of their foreign clubs to release them, to injuries and recuperation concerns, it will take a miracle to rev the engine of goals that will fetch my beloveth country the coveted trophy. Mine is a mixture of hope and despair. Goose-pimples and hyper-inflationary suspended animation! Help, Lord, I look unto You!
As their replacements, you now have Awoniyi ( German-based); Olayinka ( Russian-based); Umar and Kelechi Iheanacho. While conceeding the fact that they are good strikers in their own rights, I am yet to be proved wrong that none of them is at the depth, height, width and length of Osimhen or the other four listed above.
After the 1994 World Cup, Nigeria was listed as the fourth greatest and strongest soccer power in the world. Today, we have descended to the denizen dungeon of world’s number 34 and ranks fourth in Africa. With Egypt, Algeria, Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire breathing dragon fire as they unleash their world’s deadliest strikers like Egypt’s Mohammed Sala, etc, etc, Nigeria must now survive this tournament either through the Tough Thoroughfare to Tophet or Highway to Heaven. Or Hightail it to Hell! Display our incapacitation in shoddy performance and return home crest-fallen like General Douglas MacArthur. Or ascend onto Mount Olympus in a blaze of glory like Abraham Lincoln whose tenacity or resilience after uncountable electoral defeats saw him still win the US presidency when all circumstances around him dictated that he should withraw from electoral contests in shame!
Once a global soccer bastion, we have willingly and deliberately traversed right through the luminous, down to the transluncence, and right down to the penumbra, and now sit comfortably in incomparable obscurity enveloped by outright opacity. Yet, the seeds of soccer greatness God is still pleased to repose and retain in us.
Just before the whistle blast in Cameroun, Sunday, January 9, for the kick-off, I pray for the golden rays of sunshine to suffuse the squad we are presenting. And, unbeknownst to me what labour of damage control and reconstructive surgery Eguavoen may have achieved in the face of the plethora of intimadating odds – necessary enough to bring home this golden continental trophy, – I take solace in the immortal words of the inimitable English essayist, poet and grammarian, Alfred Lord Tennyson. He wrote in ‘Idylls Of The King’: “I found Him in the shining of the stars,/ I marked Him in the flowering of His fields,/ But in His ways with men I find Him not. Tennyson was talking about God. God and His ways.
Peharps…peharps…only peharps…We win…either by miracle or tympanoplasty…or…! God help us!
G. Chijioke Odom (Pstr), A Versatile Thinker and Critical Analyst, Writes From Lagos