On the road to Qatar 2022 World Cup… Without Nigeria

“The Super Eagles looked too relaxed in this second half, and this may not end well for a team that is trying to overturn an away goal disadvantage.”

That was how the match commentator summerised action at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja, on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, when Nigeria played host to the Black Stars of Ghana in the Qatar 2022 World Cup play-off.

The commentator continued: “What match formation is Austin Eguavoen applying in this game? A flurry of chances and missed opportunities, which should have killed the game off in the first half, but the Eagles failed to capitalise on them.”

The match ended 1-1 and it turned out to be a longest night of lamentation for Nigerians, including those in the Presidency.

The failure to qualify marked the beginning of a long, torturous and painful wait for another four years to be at the World Cup.

By not qualifying alone for the tournament, which starts in two days, the Super Eagles lost about N4 billion. In a statement by FIFA, the body that regulates world football and organises the tournament, winners will receive as much as $42 million, the highest figure a winning Federation will ever receive. That milestone belongs to France, who received $38 million after winning the 2018 World Cup.

The earnings are as follows: World Cup winner: $42 million (more than 40 million euros), runners-up: $30 million (almost 29 million euros), third-place team: $27 million (almost 26 million euros), fourth-place team: US$25 million (nearly 24 million euros).

Teams ranked from fifth to eighth will get $17 million each (more than 16 million euros), which is $68 million in total, while teams ranked ninth through sixteenth will get $13 million per team (nearly 12.5 million euros), amounting to $104 million in total.

And then, the 17th placed team to the last team at the Mundial will get $9 million per team (almost 8.5 million euros), which is $144 million in total.

According to FIFA, the amount of $10,000 per day will be multiplied by the number of days each player will stay at the World Cup, starting two weeks before the opening match and ending one day after his national team’s last match.

The total amount will be distributed to the clubs with which the player has been registered during the last two years prior to the World Cup.

All these World Cup largesse Nigeria will miss because it is not part of the party in Qatar. Apart from players, clubs and the country, Nigerian media is also reeling from the country’s inability to make the cut to Qatar.

While the media would have been awash with adverts and other promotions if the Super Eagles were among teams going to Qatar, sports writers would also have been getting ready to board the flight to Doha.

Now, only a few organisations have the capacity to send their reporter(s) to Qatar. This is because corporate bodies, who, hitherto, sponsor journalists to such big competitions in return for media mileage through adverts and other deliverables, are not interested in such deals since the country is not involved.

And then, there are smaller business entities like jersey and other memento manufacturers, who cannot produce as much as they would have if the Super Eagles were in the game.

Ekene Romeo, a businessman who has lived in Qatar for nearly 12 years, said the Super Eagles’ failure to qualify was heartbreaking and hit him financially.

“I had placed an order for 20,000 Nigerian national team jerseys, which I knew would be in high demand. I was also making plans to host the first ever Nigerian entertainment and fashion week here in Qatar during the World Cup,” Romeo told Al Jazeera.

According to Bukola Aliu, secretary of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) Lagos zone, the team’s absence from the World Cup has affected sales and travel packages put in place since November 2021.

“Many people expressed interest in touring Qatar as well,” Aliu told Al Jazeera from Lagos. “The demand has reduced because most people are no longer interested.”

To some extent, the gaming companies are not too affected by the country’s absence as punters have enough matches from the World Cup to stake on.

Chairman of MFM Sports Club, Godwin Enakhena, said Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar is one of the biggest setbacks Nigeria has experienced as a nation across board in recent times.

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Enakhena said the media are the worst hit by Nigeria’s failure to qualify for Qatar 2022. He said: “Independent producers, like me, are still counting our losses as proposals to cover the World Cup on our various platforms have either been shredded or reduced to nothing in terms of sponsorship, which leaves one with little or no profit.

“We can’t forget members of the NFF, politicians and many more, who would have been on their way to Qatar on government patronage.

“And finally, the players, some of whom would have been going to the World Cup, or use the competition to increase their market value or seek new clubs in top leagues across the world,” Enakhena stated.

Toeing history lane, Enakhena said: “The World Cup started in 1930 and Nigeria qualified for the first time in 1994. This was when the football fraternity knew the importance of the largest black nation as a powerhouse in the game. Nigeria did not only showcase super talents on the pitch but added colour to it through our supporters club, who provided colourful entertainment in the stands.

“Back home in Nigeria, the World Cup opened doors for commerce to thrive. The Mundial was also an avenue for advertising for businessmen… it ushered in boom time for the print and electronic media.

“Since 1994, Nigeria has only missed out on the World Cup just once and this was 2006 in Germany. The football loving people are soaked in the frenzy that comes with the football fiesta because their darling team, the Super Eagles, is involved, and it is all that matters, as long as the team remains in the competition.

“Playing at the World Cup is a big boost to the country’s economy and we all know this.” One of the players, who featured in both legs of the qualifiers for the Super Eagles, Southampton midfielder, Joe Aribo, said Nigeria’s failure to qualify for Qatar 2022 remained the lowest point of his career.

The former Rangers of Scotland star would now wait for another four years before fulfilling his dream of playing at the global soccer fiesta.

“I will say probably one of my lowest moments in football, not just because we are not going to the World Cup but in the manner it happened against Ghana,” Aribo told Southampton’s official website.

FORMER Super Eagles captain, Obi John Mikel, said he is yet to overcome the disappointment of the country’s failure to qualify for Qatar 2022 World Cup.

“It was really painful that we did not qualify because it’s been a long time, we experienced non qualification (Germany 2006 finals),” Mikel said. “It was strange and I felt really sad because I can’t imagine watching the FIFA World Cup without Nigeria and it is even more painful to lose the chance of qualification at home.

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“I remembered the last edition in Russia, when we qualified with almost three matches to spare in the qualifying series. We were motivated… we had a leader on the pitch. All the 11 players listened to only one man on the pitch not many.

“We need a leader on the pitch for others to follow. You don’t need five leaders, but just one because when you have four or five people giving instructions on the pitch that is not a unit.”

For former Green Eagles striker and member of the 1980 Africa Nations Cup winner, Segun Odegbami, it will take a long, tortuous and painful forensic investigation to unearth the full extent and implications of Nigeria’s failure to make Qatar 2022.

“The defeat to the Black Stars of Ghana in Abuja was a monumental catastrophe.
To start with, and ironically too, the Super Eagles did not actually lose the match. They did not lose the first match in Kumasi either. In both matches, they did not play as if their lives depended on it, so they did not win. They were not psychologically primed enough. The Black Stars were the worst I have seen of the Ghana national team since I have been watching or playing against them from the early 1970s to date.

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“In Abuja, they were simply lucky. The only single shot they took at the Nigerian goal throughout the 90 minutes duration of the match, a half-chance from outside the box that should have been easily dealt with by any average goalkeeper slipped through the hands of Francis Uzoho. That single shot produced Ghana’s only goal. It must now rank among the luckiest goal in Ghana’s entire football history.

“After that, the match could have gone on for the next year and the Ghanaians would not have scored a second goal. On the other hand, the Super Eagles also had only one clear chance at their goal, besides the ball that Victor Osimhen scored but was eventually ruled offside by VAR.

“Otherwise, the only other ‘threat’ posed by the Nigerian team was the tireless but harmless running at the Ghanaian defence by Osimhen. He was the thorn in the flesh of the Black Stars’ defenders, keeping them busy with his pace and physicality and aerial contests. Kicking high balls upfront to him was the only system the Eagles played in the absence of players withholding, dribbling, passing and creative skills in the midfield players. The Nigerian players could not play with the physical tackles and close marking in the little space the Ghanaians gave them.

“That is why, when the two countries came out of Cameroun and saw they would be meeting each other for the two-legged qualifying matches, the Ghana High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Rashid Bawa, called me up that night and confidently boasted that notwithstanding Ghana’s weaker team, Nigerians would be making the greatest mistake if they took the Black Stars for granted. He said, unequivocally, that Ghana has Nigeria’s number. He was right, as things have now turned out. We are not in Qatar,” Odegbami lamented.

For former Super Falcons coach, Ismaila Mabo, it will be frustrating to watch live games from Qatar without seeing the Super Eagles in action.

“It is now that many Nigerians will feel the agony of Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for the World Cup,” Mabo said.

“If someone had told me that the giant of Africa, Nigeria, would fail to qualify for Qatar 2022, I would have tagged such person a prophet of doom. But that is the reality. We are not in Qatar. The standard of the Super Eagles has dropped so low and the former NFF board, led by Amaju Pinnick, did not help matters. Something urgent has to be done to revive the team.

“The Coaches Association, Sports Journalists and other relevant bodies must take the Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for Qatar as a big challenge. Even, if it is called revolution in Nigerian football, I don’t care. A situation, where players and coaches were no longer picked on merit, while friends and relatives of board members strolled into the team is worrisome,” he stated.

Mabo, who led the Super Falcons to the quarterfinal at USA ’99 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the best record for Nigeria added: “We have to get something right in our football administration to achieve good results. Elections into the NFF board should be on merit, and not who you know at the Presidency or being close to a rich man. I won’t forgive the NFF for our failure to be in Qatar.”

COULD the setback have been averted? Yes, if the declaration by former Super Eagles head coach, Gernot Rohr, are anything to go by. Rohr carpeted the immediate past NFF boss, Amaju Pinnick, for the team’s failure to pick a ticket to Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The German endured a frosty relationship with Pinnick during the later part of his reign in charge of the Super Eagles. He was fired last December after guiding the Super Eagles to the playoff round.

Thereafter, the Super Eagles wobbled through the qualifiers, losing at home to Central African Republic and were also forced to a draw at home by Cape Verde.

Austin Eguavoen later took charge of the Super Eagles and the team eventually failed to qualify for Qatar after losing on away goal rule to the Black Stars of Ghana.

“Pinnick said my dismissal will avert a disaster, but in the end he created the disaster that cost Nigeria the ticket to the World Cup,” Rohr told Eagle7FM Sports Radio in an interview anchored by Osasu Obayiuwana.

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“I regret that I did not take my team to win the World Cup, I regret that my players will not be at the World Cup even though they deserve to be there,” Rohr stated.

Nigeria will not be missed
THE Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for Qatar 2022 notwithstanding, the Chief Executive Officer of MultiChoice, Mr John Ugbe, says Nigerian soccer fans will enjoy the most exciting and memorable football experience at the World Cup.

Speaking at Eko Energy City, Victoria Island, Lagos, during the launch of the official campaign for Qatar 2022, Ugbe said: “Though the Super Eagles will not be at Qatar 2022 World Cup, MultiChoice will be there to bring all the 64 games to Nigerians.”

Ugbe stressed that the absence of the Super Eagles in Qatar should not prevent football fans and lovers from having a swell time during the World Cup. He charged Nigerian soccer fans to support African teams, as well as players of Nigerian descent, who will represent other countries at the World Cup.

“Africa is one. We should enjoy ourselves, and good football despite the fact that the Super Eagles will not be in Qatar. Nigeria will be well represented in music, culture and other areas as well. We have Nigerians who represent other countries too. We wish them all the best. Let us support African teams and African players to do well in Qatar,” Ugbe said.

On MultiChoice’s plan for the World Cup, Ugbe said that all 64 matches would be on DSTV and GOtv in high definition with expert analysis and magazine shows.

“For the first time ever, our customers can listen to match commentaries from the World Cup in the three major Nigerian languages and pidgin English. Matches will be preceded by a two-hour preview and analysis by some carefully selected sports personalities from home and abroad. The commentaries for the matches will run in Pidgin, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, concurrently.”

For the betting companies in Nigeria, Qatar 2022 World Cup will be special despite the absence of the Super Eagles.
An official of Bet9ja told The Guardian during the week that some of their customers are already planning ahead by placing odds on their favourite players. “Some of our customers have placed 9.25 odds on France striker, Kylian Mbappe, to win the Golden Boot in Qatar.

Mbappe will lead France attack in the defence of their title, with Erling Haaland failing to qualify with Norway and Robert Lewandowski playing for a less fancied Poland.

To Bet9ja customers, Mbappe presents them the best chance to win money from betting option at Qatar 2022. The 23-year-old Mbappe has already scored 19 goals for his club, PSG, this season, and would be looking to replicate such prolific goal scoring in Qatar in a relatively easy group that includes Austrailia, Tunisia, and Denmark.

Bet9ja customers have also placed 8.25 odds on England captain, Harry Kane, to win the FIFA Golden Boot. Kane, winner of the 2018 World Cup golden boot, would be looking to defend his award in Qatar as he leads the Three Lions.

Kane is averaging almost a goal every game in the league this season for Tottenham, and he is still the undisputed penalty taker for England, a role that helped him to the award in 2018.

“Some of our customers have placed 13.00 odds on Brazil’s striker, Neymar, to win the Golden Boot,” the official said.

“Neymar has proven this season that he is more than just an entertainer many critics consider him. He has already scored great goals for PSG this season.
Neymar leads the odds on favorite to win the Golden Boot, and would score for Brazil, making him an interesting pick to stake on.

“Some others have staked 12.00 odds on Argentina striker, Lionel Messi, to win the Golden Boot. He has announced that this would be his last World Cup, and it will be wise to expect a big one from him. You can see that some Nigerians are not thinking of the absence of the Super Eagles in Qatar. Rather, their focus is on how to pocket some millions of naira through betting at the World Cup,” the official said, pleading anonymity.

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