Delivering Innovation

The history of world football can never be complete without Nigeria, due to their great deeds in the world of football. The African giant has achieved what so many countries (developed and underdeveloped) have not been able to achieve. FIFA therefore needs to support it in the steps it has taken to reform the game of football and make its national teams once again a force to be reckoned with.

Recent performances by Nigerian teams in both continental and world football have been appalling considering the nation’s rating and previous achievements in both men’s and women’s football. For example, the Nigerian Golden Eaglets were the first team in the world to win the under-16 world cup (China ’85); they have now won a total of three editions and have also played in three other finals.

The U-20 team has also played in the final twice (Saudi ’89 and Holland 2005), and staged the biggest comeback in U-20 history, coming from 4-0 down to beat the USSR on penalties. The Under-23 team became the first African team to win a gold medal at an Olympic Games (Atlanta ’96), after beating Brazil and Argentina in the semi-finals and final respectively.

The Super Eagles participated in the FIFA World Cup for the first time in USA ’94 and were voted the most entertaining team, after gifting the world with great football art. They were even rated as the fifth best team in the world (FIFA ranking). So far, the Super Eagles have won 2 African Cup of Nations titles (1980 and 1994), 4 silver medals (1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000) and 7 bronze medals.

The women’s national team (The Falcons) have won 5 consecutive African Women’s Championship titles (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006); She has participated in all women’s world cups to date, and has also participated in all women’s Olympic football competitions. They even made it to the quarterfinals of the US Women’s World Cup ’99, where they were eventually beaten by the Samba girls from Brazil. The women’s under-20 has also been to all the women’s under-20 world championships.

The country has also hosted 2 nations cup tournaments (1980 and 2000); it hosted the U-20 world championship (1999) and the U-17 world championship (2009), and did remarkably well as host.

However, the fortunes of the Nigerian national teams have recently declined; in 2008, the Super Eagles had their worst ever Nations Cup showing in Ghana, where they failed to win silver for the first time since 1984. The U-20 team failed to advance past the second round in Egypt (2009); while the U-17s failed to qualify for the African championship, having been eliminated by the little-known Republic of Benin in the qualifiers (they only participated in the world cup as hosts in 2009).

Our women’s team (The Falcons) lost the last edition of the women’s African championship against Equatorial Guinea; and they even failed to reach the final.

At South Africa 2010, the Super Eagles failed to advance beyond the group stage, losing to Greece and Argentina, thus seeing Greece win a world cup match for the first time. The team’s performance was less than impressive and has actually drawn condemnation from football fans around the world.

Therefore, the governing body of world football should support the effort being made by the Nigerian government to reform its football, instead of declaring war on the nation. We understand that the tournaments would not be exciting without the best team in Africa; we must at the same time remember that it would be ridiculous if we participated and lost outrageously. So it makes sense for the country to go back to the draw board for some time to try and find a way to improve the fortunes of their teams.

When they’ve completely reorganized themselves, they’ll come out more entertaining, more results-oriented, and better focused. They would add colors to tournaments organized by FIFA and help attract more fans, which would translate into better profits for FIFA. Africa would be happy to see Nigeria bounce back and win more trophies for themselves.

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