Five Nigerian stadia that should never host the Super Eagles

There is a reason why I love Nigerians and that is simply because we always find a way to get out of every situation.

Somebody or some group of people said a few years ago that after research they found out Nigerians are the happiest people on earth and at some point in my life I began to believe it to be true.

In the last couple of weeks, the social media, radio and television sports shows have been taken over by discussions regarding the suitability of Uyo’s Godswill Akpabio Stadium to host games of the Super Eagles.

The narrative actually changed from blaming the goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi to blaming the coach, Rohr for fielding what they called inexperienced players.

Then they moved to Vincent Enyeama returning to the team as without him, Nigeria will never play at the World Cup or AFCON… As if Vincent was not in goal when we missed out on the World Cup party in 2006 and the AFCON party in 2015.

Finally, Nigerians agreed with one voice that Uyo, the town, not just the stadium was jinxed.

Now, I have decided to look beyond Uyo to four other Nigerian stadia that should never ever host the Super Eagles. Not even in a training session.

Special not should be taken to the fact that I am writing this from the Nigerian point of view.

The Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano

Nigeria’s Super Eagles were on course to qualify for their 4th World Cup in Germany. After the glorious debut in 1994 and the disasters of 1998 and 2002, it seemed Nigeria had gotten its acts together and would qualify for the World Cup in 2006.

The first game in the race was played in Abuja on the 5th of June 2004 and Nigeria won 2-0 against Rwanda, both goals scored by Obafemi Martins.

Second home qualifier was against Algeria on July 3, 2004 and this was after a 1-0 loss on the road to an Angolan team inspired by Fabrice Akwa.

Nigeria beat Algeria 1-0, Joseph Yobo, the scorer.

Nigeria went two games on the road, a 3-0 win at Zimbabwe and 1-1 at Gabon.

Next home game was in Port Harcourt on 26 March, 2005 against Gabon and Nigeria won 2-0 with goals from Julius Aghahowa and Nwankwo Kanu and at this point it seemed the Super Eagles were on course to get to the World Cup in Germany.

After another draw on the road to Rwanda, it was down to winning at home to Angola to dislodge our rivals and start preparing for the World Cup when someone at the Nigeria Football Association, NFA decided that the next qualifying game should be played in Kano.

That game ended 1-1 and put paid our ambitions of going to the World Cup even though we later beat Algeria 5-2 in Oran and then Zimbabwe 5-1 in Abuja, we had missed the World Cup.

There were lots of reasons deduced for the result against Angola, but top journalist, Clement Nwankpa still believes the draw happened because after the European Leagues went on break, the players did not report to camp immediately but stayed home for a while. He says a lot of them went partying and clubbing. He actually said he partied with some of them and by the time they reported to camp, their fitness level was low.

Another top journalist, Colin Udoh claimed the players did not show commitment and blamed this on the coach Christian Chukwu who would field players on reputation rather than form.

Udoh posted on a whatsapp group that players would party before games and arrive to camp as late as possible because they already knew they would not play as long as certain players were in camp. The favourites also knew they would start games no matter when they arrived in camp or if they were fit enough.

But because we are Nigerians, these obvious reasons for failure did not matter to us. It had to be Kano. It was jinxed. The weather was too hot. The players were not effective under the difficult Kano conditions. The man who recommended Kano was selfish. Kano killed the Eagles

The Super Eagles should never go to Kano again and they never have since then.

Abuja National Stadium

After the Abuja National Stadium was built and ‘commissioned’ with that friendly match against Brazil, many pundits thought it should be the new home for the Super Eagles.

Games were played on the ground and great wins were recorded until sometime in 2011 when Nigeria failed to qualify for the AFCON with our fate in our hands.

Samson Siasia was coach of the side, taking over from Austin Eguavoen who had started with a loss in Guinea against the Sylli Stars.

But by the last game of the qualifiers in Abuja, all the Eagles needed to do was to win against Guinea and be at the AFCON, but Nigeria drew.

According to Fisayo Dairo, Some old members of the team, most notably goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama were declared unwanted and we went into the match needing victory of any margin.

Quite unfortunately though, the team's handlers and the NFF Technical Committee could not do their Mathematics and with Nigeria leading 2-1 in the closing stages, players were urged on to look for more goals until the Guineans pounced on the break to shatter Nigerian hearts.”

Solace Chukwu described the scenario as a seismic shock.

According to Solace, “the NFF decided to dispense with the services of Lars Lagerback after the 2010 World Cup and picked Austin Eguavoen in acting capacity.

After winning against Madagascar at home, it was a 1-0 loss to Guinea on the road and then Siasia was brought in.

Simply, the Super Eagles needed to win (by any margin) to progress to the tournament, though the manner of progression would be affected by the nature of the victory.
Unaware of this for some reason (the coaching crew would later claim ignorance), having clawed back a deficit to lead 2-1, the team poured forward in search of a third. It was with almost cartoonish glee that the bemused visitors strode forward on the counter in the final minute of the game to draw level and eliminate Nigeria from the running,” Solace Chukwu added.

Now, the change of coaches during qualifiers, the ignorance of the coaches or maybe the technical committee on what the team really needed to qualify or could it be the fact that there was so much uncertainty before the game against Guinea in Conakry where Nigeria had been reportedly banned by FIFA just before the game and it was not clear if the team could play though they continued training.

There was also the fact that first choice keeper, Vincent Enyeama was left out of the game as “punishment” for earlier spat with the coaches and some people felt Dele Aiyenugba cost us the game.

There were lots of factors involved in Nigeria’s inability to qualify for the AFCON in 2012 but why go into details when you can just blame it on the Abuja National Stadium or better still, the people of Abuja.

The Eagles had to leave Abuja and the reasons were simple- The fans did not turn out in their numbers and even when they did were too passive to motivate the national team players.

Abuja should never host the Eagles again.

Little wonder, when the team resumed for the next set of qualifying games for the AFCON of 2013, the U. J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar was the new home and not the Abuja National Stadium.

The U. J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar

The Super Eagles had found home in Calabar since Stephen Keshi became coach of the team and had fought lots of great battles there, won lots too.

Calabar had become a stomping ground for the team and one of the big advantages of playing in Calabar as many emphasised was that the fans would not just turn out in their numbers, but will remain patient until a goal was scored.

They were not as passive as the Abuja fans or as aggressive as the Lagos fans.

Finally, the Eagles had found home and it was in Calabar.

It was in Calabar that the Super Eagles qualified for the AFCON in 2013 which they went on to win and it was in Calabar that the Eagles qualified for the World Cup in Brazil.

Now the team was on the march again and needed to qualify for the AFCON in 2015 but it was disaster in the first game as Nigeria lost 2-3 to Congo.

The Eagles were quickly shipped to Abuja for their next home game, a 3-1 win against Sudan but for the final qualifier, a home tie against South Africa, it had to be Uyo that was angling to be the new home of the Eagles, with Calabar now an evil ground.

However, the Eagles drew that game against South Africa when all they needed to do was win by any margin and qualify for the AFCON and of course, Nigerians blamed the cursed Calabar Stadium.

There were lots of reasons for that poor performance and Nigeria’s inability to qualify for the AFCON.

Football writer, Fisayo Dairo told that there was a power tussle in the Nigeria Football Federation between Honorable Chris Giwa and Amaju Pinnick.

Dairo adds that on the day of the game against Congo, Nigerians watched in dismay as the president of one of the factions was prevented from performing pre-match formalities.

A bitter Solace Chukwu reacted thus, Failure to qualify in 2015 was also sealed confirmed with a 2-2 draw on home turf, and yet again the damage was done early on. The setting was eerily similar: once more, following a World Cup, there was no clear idea on what to do about the coaching situation. It is thoroughly fitting that a nation that does not regard history is tripped up repeatedly by its inability to learn from it.
As the football authorities squabbled over leadership of the Glass House, our beloved national team lost 3-2 in Calabar to the might of Congo, co-starred in a drab goalless affair in Johannesburg, and then contrived to lose away in Sudan. With 18 points at stake, garnering one from the opening nine was a complete disaster from which redemption proved impossible.”

Could the power tussle have affected the team? What of the fact that the NFF technical committee was always at daggers drawn with the coach, Stephen Keshi over team selection?

But again, we are Nigerians so we cannot attribute our failure to qualify for the AFCON to anything that makes sense. It had to be the Stadium in Calabar that jinxed us.

We should never go back to Calabar to play a match and we haven’t since that loss to Congo. And maybe we will never.

Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna

After the late Stephen Keshi was finally sacked by the NFF, the president, Amaju Pinnick soon introduced Sunday Oliseh as the new gaffer of the team, describing him as the African Pep Guardiola.

But not long after, things began to go awry within the ranks.

First, in a game played at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, John Mikel Obi was kept on the bench all of ninety minutes while Sunshine Stars’ Paul Onobi bossed the midfield and the rumours made the rounds that Oliseh wanted to slowly do away with the older/ senior players in the team.

In Belgium during a training camp he reportedly engaged captain of the side, Vincent Enyeama in fisticuffs that got really ugly and Enyeama quit the team soon after.

Then Mikel Obi allegedly turned down the captainship position of the team.

Something was not right and we knew it but with two important qualifiers left to play, Oliseh resigned and in Kaduna, with Samson Siasia in caretaker role, Nigeria could only draw 1-1 against Egypt then lose the return leg 1-0.

Did the coaching crises and changes affect performance? Did the infighting in the team between coach and players change anything? Maybe they did, but Nigerians were more concerned with the venue of the game and Kaduna took the fall.

It suddenly became jinxed, unsafe and overcrowded so the Eagles had to move yet again.

The Ahmadu Bello Stadium should never host the Super Eagles again and maybe it never will.

Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo

With Stadia in Abuja, Kano, Kaduna and Calabar proving that they had sinister forces around them that had affected national team performances, the venue changed again to Uyo.

In spite of the fact that Uyo hosted the team for the ill-fated 2-2 game against South Africa that sealed our inability to go to the AFCON in 2015, it was agreed that the damage had been done earlier and Uyo had to be given another chance.

Uyo had turned out home to the Eagles once again. This time, under Gernot Rohr.

In a "meaningless" game against Tanzania, we won 1-0 and then we won against Algeria, the top ranked team in Africa, scoring as much as three goals.

Surely, the Eagles were back and Uyo had to be the new spiritual home of the team.

Suddenly, Gernot Rohr and his handlers felt as though he was no longer mortal and would succeed, no matter what he did.

He had some injury concerns like Victor Moses, Leon Balogun, Mikel Obi and Carl Ikeme affecting the core of his team that gave him an unbeaten run in his first few games.

He went on to leave out the likes of Odion Ighalo and Brown Ideye, while John Ogu and Kenneth Omeruo did not get to play against South Africa.

Other players who were in form around the time of the game like Jamiu Alimi of Kano Pillars and Stephen Odey of MFM FC were not even considered.

That game had been over analysed so it makes no sense trying to do that anymore, but after the 2-0 home loss to Bafana Bafana, the above mentioned factors plus the fact that the Nigeria Football Federation had to borrow match balls from their opponents were not considered when Uyo suddenly became an evil place to play.

According to current reports, the Uyo stadium is jinxed because the original owners of the land the stadium was built on placed a hex on the Eagles since they were not compensated by the State Government.

Reports also said the Meridien Hotel, where both the Eagles and Bafana stayed is too far from the stadium (as if it was closer before the game).

They also said lots of prostitutes flood the hotel there by distracting the players… Hmmm.

In any case, Uyo should no longer host the Eagles. We will wait and see on this one.

Who then can host?

After successfully knocking off Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Calabar and Uyo, it seems Nigeria has just one stadium left that can host the Eagles when you consider the grass pitches in the country and their current state.

At least the Eagles have never lost on that ground and qualified for one World Cup playing there.

But how soon will it take for Port Harcourt to become a cursed ground?

We wait and see.

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