Nigeria last week failed to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first time since 2006 and the second time since her first appearance in USA 94. It was a sad day for all soccer lovers and true patriots as they watched the Black Stars of Ghana book a place in the biggest football showpiece in the world, at the expense of their darling team. The Super Eagles lost on account of the away goal rule after a 1-1 draw in Abuja.
Many may not understand the implications of Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the World Cup. If it had, Nigeria just like all those who qualified, would have received a whopping $1.5m to prepare for the tournament. Even if the Super Eagles do not make it to the final, it would still not return home empty-handed.
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From the financial arrangement made by the world soccer governing body, the eventual winner of the trophy will take home $42m, while the runners-up and third-place teams pocket $30m and $27m respectively. The fourth-placed nation will go home with $25m, fifth to eighth places will receive $17m, while $13m will go to ninth to the 16th placed teams. Also, the 17th to 32nd placed countries will get $9m.
The largesse would have greatly benefitted the country in many ways. For example, it would have helped to provide some of the basic things the team has been lacking. In addition to that, the federal government would have recouped from it. In this period of economic crunch, such financial help comes handy.
Again, in this period that the nation is in its darkest moment because of insecurity, the bad state of the economy and so on, Nigeria’s participation would have served as a big relief, even if momentary. It would have brought joy to every home. Seeing the Super Eagles take part in the biggest soccer fiesta would have also brought some sense of unity and pride. Within the period of the World Cup, we would have been healed of the current general malaise that more than half of the country’s population is feeling.
Participating in the World Cup would have also helped our young players who would have been making their first appearance. Aside building their confidence, it would have given them the opportunity to showcase their talents, which will attract scouts to them. For others, it will give them the needed exposure and experience for subsequent tournaments. But we missed all of that.
The unfortunate incident of the failure to qualify for the 2022 Qatar World Cup came less than three months after the Super Eagles were knocked out of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). The team lost their Round of 16 match to Tunisia. The sad incident was still fresh in the minds of all before this latest disaster. With these two big disappointments, 2022 has been a nightmare for Nigeria’s football.
But all of these embarrassment could have been avoided if those saddled with the responsibility of managing our football have not implemented the hasty decision of sacking former coach, Gernot Rohr. The 68-year-old German was sacked as Super Eagles head coach a few weeks before the start of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, in Cameroon.
There is no need crying over spilled milk, it is time to move on but as we do, we must avoid mistakes of the past and begin early preparations for subsequent tournaments. The first step towards that is to get a good coach with the requisite experience. Be it local or foreign coach, we need only but the best. The coach should be allowed to choose his team without interference. He must be supported to succeed.
While we mourn our absence at the next World Cup, we should take solace in the fact that Nigeria is still represented at the global football showpiece because of the raw talent of David Adeleke aka Davido. The multi-talented singer is one of the artists that sang the theme song for the 2022 World Cup titled ‘Better Together’.
Davido performed the trending soundtrack alongside 22-year-old American-born singer, Trinidad Cardona and a local artist, Aisha. That, certainly is some level of comfort and succor for our collective pain.