LAGOS: AS the continent’s biggest football tournament approaches, Africa’s most populous country as well as neutrals are struggling to come terms watching the Africa Cup of Nations without their much-loved team.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles, the holders of the coveted trophy, will not feature in the tournament after failing to qualify for the tournament they are so used to being perennial favourites.
Chaos characterised the Super Eagles’ qualification campaign as Stephen Keshi side failed the test in a seemingly negotiable Group A alongside eventual winners South Africa and Congo, who progressed to the tournament set for Equatorial Guinea, as well as Sudan.
Nigeria, who won the last edition in South Africa, were first humiliated at their own backyard by Congo Brazaville 3-2 before being held to a 2-2 draw by South Africa in the final match, which cost them a place in the event that starts next week.
Several Nigerians interviewed by CAJ News, said they were still hurt following the failure. Emeka Okwonkwo of Abuja said the Super Eagles’absence from the Afcon 2015 was a “disgrace” for the nation and the entire African continent.
“I’m still in great shock! It still feels like a dream. I can’t believe that the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the Afcon yet we are the defending champions. This is unbelievable,” said Okwonkwo.
Obriel Babangida of Port Harcourt echoed Okwonko’s sentiments.
“Nigeria is a superpower for Africa in all aspects ranging from football, politics and economy. I cannot just stomach the shame and humiliation brought to the nation by the Super Eagles head coach Stephen Keshi and his players,” Babangida said.
Okeke Lawal of Lagos said Nigeria to miss from the 2015 Afcon action was like taking the sting away off the tournament.
He argued the nation of more than 170 million people would support neighbouring West African nations such as Ghana, Cameroon and Ivory Coast among others.
“While I appreciate that football is fast developing in the African continent, I cannot just believe Nigeria losing in the qualifying rounds. That’s unheard of,” he said.
He added, “The Super Eagles is our Pride, so is oil resources, but this squad of Stephen Keshi made a mockery of every Nigerian from across Africa,”Lawal said.
Ikena Nwora said he would feel relieved when the head coach and his players were taken for questioning “at either the military barracks or police station.” “Failing to qualify for the Afcon is murder! The national team that failed the nation be likened to the enemy of the state, which is Boko Haram. From now onwards, I remove the title Super Eagles of Nigeria and replace it with Boko Haram of Nigeria,” said an angry Nwora.
Hordes of other Nigerians based in South Africa, Europe, America and Asia expressed concern over the team’s failure to qualify. Nigeria are three-time winners of the Afcon having also won it in 1980 and 1994.
SOURCE: CAJ NEWS AGENCY