They say insanity is doing the wrong thing repeatedly but expecting a different outcome. Nigeria could be in danger of missing another World Cup in 2026 if we do not put things in order in good time to achieve that set goal.
The unpardonable act of missing the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 should have opened our eyes. Yet we seem to need to realise that the same problems that led to our missing the Mundial are lurking around.
One of the main reasons we missed out on the World Cup this year was the selfish and short-sighted decision to sack Gernot Rohr in November 2021. The man had fulfilled his part of the contract by qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations and reaching the final round of the World Cup qualifiers.
But Amaju Pinnick and his board said they listened to the clamour of the people and the so-called football intelligentsia who called for the sack of the German. This ill-thought decision is still being felt as we stumbled through the Afcon and failed to beat Ghana over two legs under the interim manager Austin Eguavoen.
Nigerian international football hit its ebb this year as we all watched the best 32 countries strut their stuff in Qatar. We must avoid making another mistake with about three and a half years to the next World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Nigeria hired Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro in May on a one-year contract. His contract was supposed to see him qualify for and play at the 2023 Afcon in Cote d’Ivoire. However, the tournament’s postponement to January 2024 means Peseiro may not be at the helm after mid-2023.
Peseiro has three more games in charge of the Super Eagles in his current contract. Two games against Guinea Bissau in March and an away game against Sierra Leone in June before his contract runs out.
When I met Peseiro in Doha during the World Cup, he had yet to meet with new NFF president Ibrahim Musa Gusau to discuss plans – his future on the job and that of the Super Eagles. Mr. Gusau was busy during the World Cup and will be busy during the next African Nations Championship in January, another tournament we failed to qualify for.
“My plan is to win the Afcon with Nigeria,” Peseiro said. He sees the country’s array of talents as capable of dominating the continent and then going on to be one of the best teams in the world.
Nigerian football is at a crossroads. There is no time to lose. What do we want to do with Peseiro? Are we going to hand him a new contract so he can settle down on the job and plan for the future of the Super Eagles? How will we pay his salaries owed for almost seven months?
Furthermore, the domestic league has yet to set a start date. Will we continue to collapse the home scene while depending on private academies to send young Nigerians abroad? Or will we continue to depend on a core of diaspora-born players to fill the Super Eagles?
2023 is the year of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which we managed to qualify for after finishing fourth at the African Women’s Nations Cup, following many years of dominance.
There are a lot of activities, but there is little time. If we fail to plan, we might be here in 2026 looking at the nine or 10 African countries playing in the US, Canada, and Mexico from our TV screens.