Yesterday, I was at the Super Eagles’ hotel in St.Petersburg at the invitation of the NFF President, Amaju Pinnick. I was humbled by the opportunity to share a few minutes again with the team on the eve of another great encounter here at the World Cup. It was an experience I will never forget.
I am looking back at history to find out a more challenging match than this one..ever. The expectations are extremely high.
A victory will be an additional soothing balm to the unprecedented pain, suffering and uncertainties in our country – senseless killings, extreme poverty, ugly politics, a wasting and idle generation of youths, in a country so endowed with resources and talent that could make Nigeria one of the greatest countries in the world if only we take lessons from the example being innocently and simply set by the Super Eagles here in Russia before a global audience.
I told the players that they carry a huge responsibility on their shoulders that is hardly recognised beyond the demand for them to win a match.
This responsibility could become a burden if not handled correctly and converted into positive energy, determination, patriotism, the will to win, discipline, fighting spirit, driven by the kind of spirit that has made Nigerians the most passionate football followers in the World today.
Winning today’s match is very very important for the simple reason that it will serve as a reminder that together as a people, united behind a common cause that keeps religion, tribal considerations, status and other divisions aside, Nigeria can become the greatest Black country in the world within a short time.
The Eagles must imbibe that knowledge and spirit now, demonstrate it for all Nigerians to see tomorrow and then demand from all of us love, unity, friendship, merit, justice, fair play, excellence and the will to succeed as a nation against all odds.
The Eagles are Nigeria’s greatest ambassadors of the possibilities of the country – Mikel, Moses, Musa, Omeruo, Balogun, and the other great heroes. I went there to thank them for what they have done so far, and then to challenge them to do more today. That whatever happens Nigerians love them and appreciate the country’s cross that they carry into the battle. It will not be easy but it can and will be done!
These were the thoughts I shared with the players and I could not believe the fire in their eyes. They were cool and supremely determined and confident to give their best performance so far. Pray for them please so that the elements conspire with us and give us sweet victory.
Chief Segun Odegbami, former national team captain, also won the 1980 AFCON with Nigeria