Nigerians, most of them have been huge disappointments when it comes to supporting the national team, the Super Eagles.
For more than twenty years, the national team have not had the kind of support it needs especially when the coach is not popular amongst certain elements in the country especially the media.
Shaibu Amodu’s glory years
Shaibu Amodu qualified the team for two World Cups and won the AFCON bronze but to the average critic he was clueless.
The tirade against Keshi’s Eagles has seemed like the coach is not Nigerian, the team is alien and they are playing for the glory of, say, Ghana or Cameroon.
Nigerians have hardly believed in Stephen Keshi and like me or hate me, I’ve got to say it is because a lot of people preferred Samson Siasia who was a colossal failure with the national team.
Failure because the minimum requirement should at least be to qualify the country for the AFCON but he didn’t.
Keshi has been hounded at every turn from Nigerians who feel he had little or no technical knowledge of the game, to the fact that he cannot read matches and makes wrong substitutions and some even say he only invites players he can sell off to bigger clubs to make a profit for himself.
During the qualifiers for the AFCON of 2013, Keshi was insulted for not inviting John Mikel Obi to the team.
It didn’t matter how much Keshi explained that he was in constant touch with Mikel, Nigerians insisted Mikel had been frozen out by Keshi and there was this insinuation that Keshi could not work with big name players hence his decision to freeze them all out.
They didn’t realize what Keshi was trying to achieve with the team.
Eventually, at the AFCON, certain big name players in the team were Vincent Enyeama, Joseph Yobo, John Mikel Obi and Ikechukwu Uche.
But by that time, Nigerian now realized that there were players like Kenneth Omeruo, Godfrey Oboabona, Ogenyi Onazi, Sunday Mba and Emmanuel Emenike who could also play football.
I remember how the coach was abused by Nigerians including the sporting press of killing Nigerian football by taking the likes of Omeruo, Oboabona, Mba, Uzoenyi and Rueben to the AFCON. They wanted to stick with the old order who had previously taken the country nowhere.
The general consensus was that the country would be disgraced and even the NFF bought return tickets for the players just before the quarter final game against the Ivory Coast thinking Nigeria would lose.
The rest as they say is now history
The Confederation Cup
With a difficult run of games, the coach of the national team prioritized the games.
He said most importantly was the World Cup qualifiers, then the Confederations Cup and the friendly games, but Nigerians obviously thought the Eagles were good enough to win the Cup and they didn’t slow down on their expletives when the Super Eagles did not win.
A player like Gambo Mohammed, for failing to score against Spain got the abuse of his life from Nigerians fans, some taking it a bit too far.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
It is one thing to get angry over a poor performance and it is another to predict doom for your national team, just to say, I told you so.
A lot of Nigerians, especially the sporting press are guilty of that and it has not helped the Eagles because of the negative energy they send through to the players who read their comments, especially online.
Before the World Cup, most felt Keshi should not pick the players alone, but needed all 160million Nigerians to help out and when that did not work, they felt he needed a foreign boss.
When that foreign boss thing didn’t work out the country rose in “one voice” to demand a foreign technical assistant, forgetting that he already had a foreign technical assistant in Valere Hoaundinou who is from Benin Republic
Or isn’t that foreign enough.
When Keshi stood his ground that he was sure of his team and would work with them, the next step was propaganda that Nigeria would fail at the World Cup.
He was second guessed at every stage and the draw against Iran last week was the height of it.
It did not matter that the game had not been played but suggestions in the Nigerian media showed that the country would fail woefully against Bosnia
Keshi now angry with Nigerians
After the Iran draw, the social media and radio/ television sports shows went wild with suggestions that the Eagles were not good enough.
Certain players like Juwon Oshaniwa, Rueben Gabriel, Babatunde Michael and Shola Ameobi were targeted and called names.
Shockingly these four have been outstanding so far at the World Cup.
Before the game against Bosnia it was obvious to Nigerians that the Eagles will get a spanking but after the game the same Nigerians said the Eagles were lucky.
How England, Italy, Spain and Ivory Coast would have wished they were as lucky as the Eagles.
In Keshi’s anger, he spoke these words after beating Bosnia
“We saw England out and nobody killed them. We saw Spain out and no one died. It is not good.”
When asked if he wasn’t used to it after what has happened since he became coach in 2011, Keshi said
“How can you be used to a thing like this? How does this help morale when your own people are killing you?
You have to support your team to the end not abuse them and what we do here is not support.
“You have to support your team to the end. How do you motivate them if all you do is abuse them?
“They thought Iran was a small team and they saw Iran against Argentina.
“They have gone ahead to even abuse the parents of my players
“How can you play for a country with all your heart if the people you play for are abusing your parents?”
Stephen Keshi has just said it all. While it is okay to criticize your country if they do badly, it is totally wrong to wish failure on them and go on to heap abuse on them even before a game has been played.
Nigerian fans should learn from fans in England, Brazil and Ghana. To support your team is simply just to believe in them even though results do not go your way.
Greece got a fortuitous penalty at the death to win against Ivory Coast and make it through to the 2nd round; if that was Nigerians they would not celebrate and rather call the Eagles a useless and lucky team.
Nigerians need to change the way they support the national team