With a third-place finish in the Africa Cup of Nations standing as their best performance on the international stage since 2019, Nigeria’s Super Eagles haven’t had much to celebrate recently.
Ironically, recent results in AFCON qualifying, like the 3-2 win over Saudi Arabia or the 6-0 victory over Sao Tome and Principe, seem only to shine a brighter light on something gone wrong.
Nigeria have only just (October 16) snapped a fifteen-game loss streak in friendlies, when they beat Chiquinho Conde’s 10-man Mozambique.
Considering that The Mambas haven’t qualified for the Cup of Nations since 2010 and have never played at a World Cup, that solitary win isn’t so much an endorsement as an obligation, even a chore.
The Nigeria Football Federation is desperate to replicate the Super Eagles’ 2019 (or 1980, 1994) victory at the Africa Cup of Nations, despite the team’s obvious issues. Both defending and goalkeeping have been called into question by pundits.
Nigeria is now a bit of an outsider in the biennial event, behind Senegal, Algeria, Morocco, and three other teams in the bookmakers’ estimations. It might not be the Super Eagles’ year once again in 2024.
A Global Pastime
While the real world might sometimes be disappointing, ‘footballers’ from Nigeria continue to make history. The eSports outfit Sidizens Gaming became the first team from the country to compete in the 2023 FIFAe Club Series Africa back in March.
A form of competitive video gaming, eSports has become a global pastime since its inception in South Korean PC bangs, otherwise known as LAN cafes.
Football clubs like Manchester City, Barcelona, Villareal, Ajax, and Galatasaray all have eSports teams competing at the highest level, staffed by video gamers rather than traditional athletes.
All this means that football eSports, which is based around the EA Sports FC franchise, has come to resemble the form and structure of its real-life counterpart.
Stadia, big money prizes, and even sports wagering are all present in eSports circles. In the latter case, the Sportingtech company has engineered its betting software to take advantage of video game contests.
There are more than 35,000+ eSports events every month that have some relevance to wagering, according to Sportingtech. While that’s only a fraction of the 500,000 events in conventional sport, its growth has so far been meteoric.
Due to its young population, Nigeria is a potential Eden for eSports. The Medium website reports that interest in video gaming in the African nation is rising in tandem with access to high-speed internet and smartphones.
Sidizens Gaming is a product of this development. With just three players joining since late 2022, namely, The_Arogs, Imaji, and Iamdrsid, the current squad has managed to place Nigeria on the eSports map.
Unfortunately, connectivity remains an issue. Before the start of their solitary 2023 FIFAe Club Series Africa appearance, Sidizens Gaming expressed concern about latency on African servers, especially the connection to South Africa.
Perhaps that’s why Sidizens Gaming have lost their last three FIFAe Club Series games, scoring just two goals to their opponents’ 21. Perhaps it’s just too early in Nigeria’s history of eSports to be thinking about world domination.