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Nigeria and the world cup -Thisday Editorial

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The relevant authorities should start preparations for the football fiesta

Thanks to the goal by Alex Iwobi, Nigeria last Saturday became the first African country to qualify for the 2018 football World Cup tournament to be hosted by Russia. But beyond the thrills and euphoria, what the victory of the national football team has revealed is that if we put the right people in the right places, there is nothing that we cannot achieve as a nation. From the coaching crew to the composition of the team, and even the line up, the selection was right. In a plural society where variables like religion, ethnicity, federal character and even political inclination define, in most cases, who gets what, merit was the only consideration in the selection of the national team. Expectedly, the result was good.

By all accounts, the Super Eagles surpassed the expectations of a nation whose football fortunes had dwindled in recent years, and with that, helped to lift the mood of pessimism that pervades our country today. The victory also brought back the sense of pride, confidence and self assurance, all of whichdescribe the nation that we once were and should reclaim.

However, as cash donations, material gifts and encomiums continue to pour in for the victorious eagles, we call on government, corporate citizens and well-meaning Nigerians not to limit their support to the victory celebrations. There is also an urgent need for a comprehensive reform that would fully bring back the glory of the local league as a breeding ground for national players. And there can be no better time than now to begin preparations for theWorld Cup tournament.
 
Meanwhile, to qualify for the global football fiesta with a game to spare, the Super Eagles earned 13 points without losing any of their five matches. Nigeria defeated Cameroon at home and played a draw game away. Nigeria had earlier defeated Algeria and the return match has now become purely academic. It is a remarkable feat that deserves commendation, a moment that united all Nigerians.
  
As we therefore felicitate with the players, officials and Nigeria as a whole over the triumph, our football authorities must begin their preparations in earnest so that we do not repeat all the embarrassments of the past when our national team entered the competition as a house divided against itself.
For instance, despite the match bonus of $10,000-a-man for a first round match win, announced ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Super Eagles players reportedly made demands for “appearance fee” before playing for their country. A similar rowderailed the Super Eagles at the 1998 World Cup in France and almost caused the country to miss out on the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, also in Brazil,before the Presidency intervened to avoid an international embarrassment.
 
While we therefore congratulate the Super Eagles for the early qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, it is a shame that bonus payment has over the years resulted in avoidable crises which sullied the image of the country. From the 1994 World Cup when Nigeria was having a good outing until the players began to demand for higher bonuses above what was officially agreed and the consequent distraction that led to our ouster; to the 2002 African Cup of Nations Cup tournament in Mali, leading to another disappointing outing, it is almost as if the managers of our football never learn.
 
Therefore, as the football authorities prepare for the tournament, the expectation is that these issues will not recur. But beyond the issue of bonus, there is also a lesson for the nation, especially at this period: if we pull together and maximise our potential, there is no limit to what our country can achieve.
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