Everything That’s Happened Since The Super Eagles Lost to Ghana

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It’s the season of first times for Nigeria’s Super Eagles: For the first time since 2006, they’ll not play in the FIFA World Cup. And for the first time since 2010, they’ll not play Argentina in the Mundial’s group stage, a matchup both countries’ fans have since accepted as a quadrennial ritual – they’ve played each other five times in the World Cup, the first in 1994, with the Super Eagles losing all, each time with a goal difference.

The Super Eagles will not play at the 2022 Qatar World Cup because the team, coached by Augustine Eguavoen, failed to beat the Black Stars of Ghana in the final World Cup Qualifiers’ game played at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja on March 29. The first leg, played at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi, ended goalless. In the second leg, Nigeria’s captain William Troost-Ekong netted a penalty in the 22nd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Ghana’s Thomas Partey, whom question marks have haloed since his transfer to Arsenal FC in 2020, gave doubting Thomases the finger, sending the ball on a wild errand from outside the eighteen-yard box. The round object breezed past a plumage of Nigerian players and the slippery gloves of Francis Uzoho. Partey’s away goal gave the party, the Qatar plane ticket, and the bragging rights to the Ghanaians. 

Between the two West African countries, it’s a daily one-upmanship: Nigerians routinely coin wicked sarcasm about the Ghanaian English variety — Teh-mess Partey; Ghanaians claim their jollof rice is sweeter and never miss the chance to jibe at Nigerians over the incessant power cuts harassing the Buhari-led nation. On a fateful night, however, it was Ghanaian football that proved superior. The 1-1 scoreline allowed Ghana to become the first African country to secure a place in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Like all high-pressure games, the match produced some dramatic moments, some of them outrightly shameful. Let’s have a look.

  • Riot in the Stadium

George Orwell proves deathless yet again. Whatever misgivings he had about football, he encoded them in his 1945 essay, “The Sporting Spirit.” There he fingers football as “an unfailing cause of ill-will,” which he believes, in turn, is caused by a dyspeptic nationalism. Orwell is right. As the final whistle went off in the Nigeria-Ghana game, the 60,000-capacity Abuja stadium, housing over 60,000 fans, became Hell’s town. Nigerian fans, disgruntled with the result, invaded the pitch and threw objects at both the visiting fans and the Ghanaian players. Both the Nigerian and Ghanaian players barely made it to the tunnel. Cars parked outside the stadium were vandalised and tear gas smoke fogged the air, dispensed by security agents in a belated quest to check the disarray.

  • FIFA Bans Abuja Stadium

Following the MKO Abiola Stadium riot, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has banned the infamous stadium indefinitely. This means the venue cannot, in the meantime, be used to host international football matches.

  • Eguavoen Resigns

Two days after the match, Augustine Eguavoen resigned as head coach of the Nigerian football team, bringing his three-month stay in office to an end. This is his third stint as Super Eagles’ coach.

Eguavoen’s resignation was confirmed by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). In its statement, the NFF said it has withdrawn the two-and-half-year coaching contract initially offered to the 53-year-old. It also said a new technical crew will be appointed to lead the Super Eagles. 

Eguavoen had originally been hired as the Technical Director by the NFF. But he replaced Gernot Rohr as coach in December 2021, about two weeks before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

It’s not yet known if Eguavoen would remain as Technical Director.

  • Technical Crew Sacked

Failing to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the NFF has sacked all the members of the Super Eagles’ technical crew. In that number is Emmanuel Amuneke, who enjoyed 27 appearances for the Super Eagles, playing as a winger, from 1993 to 2001. Joseph Yobo who was the Super Eagles captain until his international football retirement in 2014. Others include Salisu Yusuf and goalkeeper trainer, Aloysius Agu. 

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