As the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off this weekend in Equatorial Guinea without defending champions Nigeria, soccer aficionado GODWIN DUDU-ORUMEN recalls a prophetic article that he wrote when the Super Eagles won the trophy in 2013…
Super Eagles against all odds lifted the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa, disposing of tournament favourities, Cote d’Ivoire in the quarter finals, a gritty Mali at the semi-finals and the dark horse from Burkina Faso in the finals, with whom of course the ‘ganged up’ with tzhe group stages to show out defending champion Zambia.
I am quick to add that I was one person who had reservations about the Super Eagles and their chances pre-tournament. The unsure steps and play in preparation matches and the group matches did nothing to inspire confidence in me. But Stephen Keshi and his men somehow found that inner strength, grit, commitment, sense of purpose to turn out a famous result which ended nineteen years of trophy drought. Eagles finally discarded that also-ran toga and become Super again. I congratulate Keshi and the players for giving Nigerians something good, something precious to smile and talk about again. And before the din dies down, let’s begin to ponder on how to manage this success. Let us begin the process of managing the great achievement, the rebirth of a great brand, even if the custodians of our football, NFF chose to play Nero. We must begin to take them to task over the future of the team.
Winning the Africans Cup of Nation 2013 presents Super Eagles and Nigeria endless commercial opportunities which can earn the football governing body at least seven billion naira over the next one year and more over the coming years if the success is properly managed. And it is quite possible and easy. Not rocket science. Going forward we may need to take historical stock of what we have done with similar opportunities in the past which were in fact wasted. A proper evaluation of same may afford us the right stimuli to adequately and proportionally maximize the benefits of what we have, a new brand, Super Eagles, Champions of Africa and winner 2013 AFCON.
And I cast my mind back to 1973 when the Green Eagles won the gold medal of the football event of the All-African Games. Great squad of keepers Emmanuel Okala, Eyo Essien, defenders Tony Igwe, Victor Oduah (captain), Dominic Ezeani, Godwin Achebe, Sylvester Egborge, Austin ‘Mazeli’ Ofuokwu, Tony Otah, midfielders Sanni Mohammed, Haruna Ilerika and forwards Yakubu Mambo, Mathias Obianika, Kenneth Olayombo, Sunny Oyarekhuna, Sam Ikedi, Sunny Izevbigie, Jossy Dombraye, and Gideon Njoku. Hugely talented squad but it failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup in Germany, eliminated not by football power houses Egypt, Algeria, Morocco or the then reigning African Champions, Zaire but Zambia! Zambia walloped the Eagles 4-1 after Haruna Ilerika saw red and the Eagles were down to ten men. The return leg saw the Eagles win 3-2 which was not enough to see them through. As new African Champions, the Eagles face another ‘small’ football country Uganda. So let us wash and keep away the party and campaign glasses and begin to focus on the two-legged encounter with Uganda NOW. Enough said about Keshi’s resignation and non resignation. Trifles like this tend to tarnish and or diminish the brand. A seemingly work-in-progress team shocked all and are now champion. Champion it must stay but all ingredients and the needful to keep it on top must be put into the pot so as to have a perfect brew.
Still reflecting on wasted opportunities. Super Eagles won the African Cup of Nations here in Lagos in 1980 beating Algeria courtesy of two great goals by Segun “Mathematically” Odegbami. Five months or so later, Algeria returned to the same National Stadium and beat the Eagles 2-0 and 2-1 on the return leg. Super Eagles went out of World Cup ‘82’ that easily. Miss-managed success and a diminishing brand.
More reflections, as Champions in 1994, the year of our World Cup debut, the Super Eagles most certainly would have defended the Cup and title in South Africa ’96 successfully, but the dark-goggled General gave a stay-at-home order. Thereafter Eagles did not do it again until 2013. A wasted opportunity. The brand diminished further in profile and at some point earned the unfanciful sobriquet super chickens!
One last reflection on the past. In Atlanta 1996, a set of brave Nigerian lads in the same style as the reigning African Champions have acted won the gold medal for the football event by beating Brazil and Argentina at the semis and the finals respectively. Instead of translating this new profile in football into gold, the Football Association did not engage in dollar-content matches that could have yielded tons of money.
Reporters even have it then that a certain Minister in charge of Sports at the time stopped the NFA from accepting to play a friendly match against Brazil for which the NFA could have received two hundred thousand dollars (200 USD) in addition to paid air travel cost, accommodation etc because “the Brazilians want to revenge”! Similar commercial opportunities were squandered I believe but what was more an issue for me at the time was how an U-23 team supposed to be the nucleus of the Eagles of Dosu Joseph, Celestine and Emmanuel Babayaro, Mobi Oparaku, Sunday Oliseh, Garba Lawal, Emmanuel Amuneke, Uche Okechukwu, Wilson Oruma, Austin Jay-jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Daniel ‘the Bull’ Amokachi, Taribo West, Kingsley Obiekwu, Abiodun Obafemi, Teslim Fatusi, Victor Ikpeba, Tijani Babaginda with an average age of 26 years (forget the football age in the passports) performed so woefully at the next World Cup in 1998, only two years after the Atlanta heroics. The recurring decimal is failure to use or take advantage of new found positions and honors, or outright wastage of tremendously beneficial and exponential opportunities.
It becomes imperative to sound this note of warning that there is still a lot of work to be done on and with the Eagles. From the massive commercial opportunities abound to managing the human resources, there are miles to go. Directly to the NFF, brand Super Eagles can earn 5 billion naira from the sale of one million Super Eagles shirt at N5,000 each and the ones endorsed by Stephen Keshi and players can go for N7,000 to N10,000 each and fetch more money. Quality and A grade friendly too with broadcast rights will keep money rolling in instead of the NFF going cap in hand begging for donations.
Lastly, and to Keshi, please take a look at the Nigerian players listed hereunder. They can add skill, talent and more muscle to the team: Sone Aluko (22) Hull City, midfielder/ left-winger, John Ugo (24) Portuguese-Academica de Coimbra, attacking midfield, Sidney Sam (25) Bayer Leverkusen, Winger, Carl Ikeme (26) Wolverhampton Wanderers, Goalkeeper, Leon Balogun (24) Fortuna Dusseldorf, Defense, Chuks Aneke (19) plays for Crewe Alexander on loan from Arsenal, midfielder, Tiago Ilori (19) Sporting Clube Lisbon, Central Defense, Hope Akpan (21) Reading, Central midfield.
This will be all for now on the Super Eagles, a brand which can quite become a Super brand if well managed.
–Godwin Dudu-Orumen wrote this article for “BRAND POWER” in March 2013.