There is a reason why I love
Nigerians and that is simply because we always find a way to get out
of every situation.

Somebody or some group of
people said a few years ago that after research they found out
Nigerians are the happiest people on earth and at some point in my
life I began to believe it to be true.

In the last couple of weeks,
the social media, radio and television sports shows have been taken
over by discussions regarding the suitability of Uyo’s Godswill
Akpabio Stadium to host games of the Super Eagles.

The narrative actually changed
from blaming the goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi to blaming the coach, Rohr
for fielding what they called inexperienced players.

Then they moved to Vincent
Enyeama returning to the team as without him, Nigeria will never play
at the World Cup or AFCON… As if Vincent was not in goal when we
missed out on the World Cup party in 2006 and the AFCON party in
2015.

Finally, Nigerians agreed with
one voice that Uyo, the town, not just the stadium was jinxed.

Now, I have decided to look
beyond Uyo to four other Nigerian stadia that should never ever host
the Super Eagles. Not even in a training session.

Special not should be taken to
the fact that I am writing this from the Nigerian point of view.

The
Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano

Nigeria’s Super Eagles were
on course to qualify for their 4th World Cup in Germany.
After the glorious debut in 1994 and the disasters of 1998 and 2002,
it seemed Nigeria had gotten its acts together and would qualify for
the World Cup in 2006.

The first game in the race was
played in Abuja on the 5th of June 2004 and Nigeria won
2-0 against Rwanda, both goals scored by Obafemi Martins.

Second home qualifier was
against Algeria on July 3, 2004 and this was after a 1-0 loss on the
road to an Angolan team inspired by Fabrice Akwa.

Nigeria beat Algeria 1-0,
Joseph Yobo, the scorer.

Nigeria went two games on the
road, a 3-0 win at Zimbabwe and 1-1 at Gabon.

Next home game was in Port
Harcourt on 26 March, 2005 against Gabon and Nigeria won 2-0 with
goals from Julius Aghahowa and Nwankwo Kanu and at this point it
seemed the Super Eagles were on course to get to the World Cup in
Germany.

After another draw on the road
to Rwanda, it was down to winning at home to Angola to dislodge our
rivals and start preparing for the World Cup when someone at the
Nigeria Football Association, NFA decided that the next qualifying
game should be played in Kano.

That game ended 1-1 and put
paid our ambitions of going to the World Cup even though we later
beat Algeria 5-2 in Oran and then Zimbabwe 5-1 in Abuja, we had
missed the World Cup.

There were lots of reasons
deduced for the result against Angola, but top journalist, Clement
Nwankpa still believes the draw happened because after the
European Leagues went on break, the players did not report to camp
immediately but stayed home for a while. He says a lot of them went
partying and
clubbing. He actually said
he partied with some of them and by the time they reported to camp,
their fitness level was low.

Another top journalist, Colin
Udoh claimed the players did not show commitment and blamed this on
the coach Christian Chukwu who would field players on reputation
rather than form.

Udoh posted on a whatsapp
group that players would party before games and arrive to camp
as late as possible because they already knew they would not play as
long as certain players were in camp. The favourites also knew they
would start games no matter when they arrived in camp or if they were
fit enough.

But because we are Nigerians,
these obvious reasons for failure did not matter to us. It had to be
Kano. It was jinxed. The weather was too hot. The players were not
effective under the difficult Kano conditions. The man who
recommended Kano was selfish. Kano killed the Eagles

The Super Eagles should never
go to Kano again and they never have since then.

Abuja
National Stadium

After the Abuja National
Stadium was built and ‘commissioned’ with that friendly match
against Brazil, many pundits thought it should be the new home for
the Super Eagles.

Games were played on the
ground and great wins were recorded until sometime in 2011 when
Nigeria failed to qualify for the AFCON with our fate in our hands.

Samson Siasia was coach of the
side, taking over from Austin Eguavoen who had started with a loss in
Guinea against the Sylli Stars.

But by the last game of the
qualifiers in Abuja, all the Eagles needed to do was to win against
Guinea and be at the AFCON, but Nigeria drew.

According to Fisayo Dairo,
Some old members of the team, most notably
goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama were declared unwanted and we went into
the match needing victory of any margin.

Quite
unfortunately though, the team’s handlers and the NFF Technical
Committee could not do their Mathematics and with Nigeria leading 2-1
in the closing stages, players were urged on to look for more goals
until the Guineans pounced on the break to shatter Nigerian hearts.”

Solace Chukwu described the
scenario as a seismic shock.

According to Solace, “the
NFF decided to dispense with the services of Lars Lagerback after the
2010 World Cup and picked Austin Eguavoen in acting capacity.

After
winning against Madagascar at home, it was a 1-0 loss to Guinea on
the road and then Siasia was brought in.

Simply,
the Super Eagles needed to win (by any margin) to progress to the
tournament, though the manner of progression would be affected by the
nature of the victory.
Unaware of this for some
reason (the coaching crew would later claim ignorance), having clawed
back a deficit to lead 2-1, the team poured forward in search of a
third. It was with almost cartoonish glee that the bemused visitors
strode forward on the counter in the final minute of the game to draw
level and eliminate Nigeria from the running,”
Solace
Chukwu added.

Now, the change of coaches
during qualifiers, the ignorance of the coaches or maybe the
technical committee on what the team really needed to qualify or
could it be the fact that there was so much uncertainty before the
game against Guinea in Conakry where Nigeria had been reportedly
banned by FIFA just before the game and it was not clear if the team
could play though they continued training.

There was also the fact that
first choice keeper, Vincent Enyeama was left out of the game as
“punishment” for earlier spat with the coaches and some people
felt Dele Aiyenugba cost us the game.

There were lots of factors
involved in Nigeria’s inability to qualify for the AFCON in 2012
but why go into details when you can just blame it on the Abuja
National Stadium or better still, the people of Abuja.

The Eagles had to leave Abuja
and the reasons were simple- The fans did not turn out in their
numbers and even when they did were too passive to motivate the
national team players.

Abuja should never host the
Eagles again.

Little wonder, when the team
resumed for the next set of qualifying games for the AFCON of 2013,
the U. J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar was the new home and not the
Abuja National Stadium.
The
U. J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar

The Super Eagles had found
home in Calabar since Stephen Keshi became coach of the team and had
fought lots of great battles there, won lots too.

Calabar had become a stomping
ground for the team and one of the big advantages of playing in
Calabar as many emphasised was that the fans would not just turn out
in their numbers, but will remain patient until a goal was scored.

They were not as passive as
the Abuja fans or as aggressive as the Lagos fans.

Finally, the Eagles had found
home and it was in Calabar.

It was in Calabar that the
Super Eagles qualified for the AFCON in 2013 which they went on to
win and it was in Calabar that the Eagles qualified for the World Cup
in Brazil.

Now the team was on the march
again and needed to qualify for the AFCON in 2015 but it was disaster
in the first game as Nigeria lost 2-3 to Congo.

The Eagles were quickly
shipped to Abuja for their next home game, a 3-1 win against Sudan
but for the final qualifier, a home tie against South Africa, it had
to be Uyo that was angling to be the new home of the Eagles, with
Calabar now an evil ground.

However, the Eagles drew
that game against South Africa when all they needed to do was win by
any margin and qualify for the AFCON and of course, Nigerians blamed
the cursed Calabar Stadium.

There were lots of reasons for
that poor performance and Nigeria’s inability to qualify for the
AFCON.

Football writer, Fisayo Dairo
told Naijafootball247.com that there was a power tussle in the
Nigeria Football Federation between Honorable Chris Giwa and Amaju
Pinnick.

Dairo adds that on the
day of the game against Congo, Nigerians watched in dismay as the
president of one of the factions was prevented from performing
pre-match formalities.

A bitter Solace Chukwu reacted
thus, Failure to qualify in 2015 was also
sealed confirmed with a 2-2 draw on home turf, and yet again the
damage was done early on. The setting was eerily similar: once more,
following a World Cup, there was no clear idea on what to do about
the coaching situation. It is thoroughly fitting that a nation that
does not regard history is tripped up repeatedly by its inability to
learn from it.
As
the football authorities squabbled over leadership of the Glass
House, our beloved national team lost 3-2 in Calabar to the might of
Congo, co-starred in a drab goalless affair in Johannesburg, and then
contrived to lose away in Sudan. With 18 points at stake, garnering
one from the opening nine was a complete disaster from which
redemption proved impossible.”

Could the power tussle have
affected the team? What of the fact that the NFF technical committee
was always at daggers drawn with the coach, Stephen Keshi over team
selection?

But again, we are Nigerians so
we cannot attribute our failure to qualify for the AFCON to anything
that makes sense. It had to be the Stadium in Calabar that jinxed us.

We should never go back to
Calabar to play a match and we haven’t since that loss to Congo.
And maybe we will never.

Ahmadu
Bello Stadium, Kaduna

After the late Stephen Keshi
was finally sacked by the NFF, the president, Amaju Pinnick soon
introduced Sunday Oliseh as the new gaffer of the team, describing
him as the African Pep Guardiola.

But not long after, things
began to go awry within the ranks.

First, in a game played at the
Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, John Mikel Obi was kept
on the bench all of ninety minutes while Sunshine Stars’ Paul Onobi
bossed the midfield and the rumours made the rounds that Oliseh
wanted to slowly do away with the older/ senior players in the team.

In Belgium during a training
camp he reportedly engaged captain of the side, Vincent Enyeama in
fisticuffs that got really ugly and Enyeama quit the team soon after.

Then Mikel Obi allegedly
turned down the captainship position of the team.

Something was not right and we
knew it but with two important qualifiers left to play, Oliseh
resigned and in Kaduna, with Samson Siasia in caretaker role, Nigeria
could only draw 1-1 against Egypt then lose the return leg 1-0.

Did the coaching crises and
changes affect performance? Did the infighting in the team between
coach and players change anything? Maybe they did, but Nigerians were
more concerned with the venue of the game and Kaduna took the fall.

It suddenly became jinxed,
unsafe and overcrowded so the Eagles had to move yet again.

The Ahmadu Bello Stadium
should never host the Super Eagles again and maybe it never will.

Godswill
Akpabio Stadium in Uyo

With Stadia in Abuja, Kano,
Kaduna and Calabar proving that they had sinister forces around them that had affected national team performances, the venue changed again to Uyo.

In spite of the fact that Uyo
hosted the team for the ill-fated 2-2 game against South Africa that
sealed our inability to go to the AFCON in 2015, it was agreed that
the damage had been done earlier and Uyo had to be given another
chance.

Uyo had turned out home to the
Eagles once again. This time, under Gernot Rohr.

In a “meaningless” game against
Tanzania, we won 1-0 and then we won against Algeria, the top ranked
team in Africa, scoring as much as three goals.

Surely, the Eagles were back
and Uyo had to be the new spiritual home of the team.

Suddenly, Gernot Rohr and his
handlers felt as though he was no longer mortal and would succeed, no matter
what he did.

He had some injury concerns
like Victor Moses, Leon Balogun, Mikel Obi and Carl Ikeme affecting the core of his team that gave him an unbeaten run in his first few games.

He went on to leave out the likes of Odion Ighalo and
Brown Ideye, while John Ogu and Kenneth
Omeruo did not get to play against South Africa.

Other players who were in form
around the time of the game like Jamiu Alimi of Kano Pillars and
Stephen Odey of MFM FC were not even considered.

That game had been over
analysed so it makes no sense trying to do that anymore, but a
fter the 2-0 home loss to
Bafana Bafana, the above mentioned factors plus the fact that the
Nigeria Football Federation had to borrow match balls from their
opponents were not considered when Uyo suddenly became an evil place to
play.

According to current reports,
the Uyo stadium is jinxed because the original owners of the land the
stadium was built on placed a hex on the Eagles since they were not
compensated by the State Government.

Reports also said the Meridien
Hotel, where both the Eagles and Bafana stayed is too far from the stadium (as if it was closer before the
game).

They also said lots of
prostitutes flood the hotel there by distracting the players… Hmmm.

In any case, Uyo should no
longer host the Eagles. We will wait and see on this one.

Who
then can host?

After successfully knocking
off Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Calabar and Uyo, it seems Nigeria has
just one stadium left that can host the Eagles when you consider the grass pitches in the country and their current state.
At least the Eagles have never
lost on that ground and qualified for one World Cup playing there.

But how soon will it take for
Port Harcourt to become a cursed ground?

We wait and see.

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