Super Eagles in the Decade: Our Writers have their Say
2010 to 2019 has been quite the rollercoaster decade for Nigerian football. Peaks and troughs, and peaks and troughs. From a jaw-dropping miss to continental triumph; from a glamorous kit to continental embarrassment, all amid the constant managerial upheaval and federation kerfuffle; it’s Nigerian football all right.
With the decade coming to a close, our writers give us their two percent on what has been quite the ten years:
Player of the Decade
Idris Shehu: Ahmed Musa. Is there any other contender? Since coming on for John Obi Mikel against Madagascar in 2010, he’s blitzed his pint-sized figure into the fore-front in the assembly the biggest Eagles to ever soar to “Arise O’ Compatriot.” Missing out on the South Africa 2010 World Cup due to injury, he scrawled his autograph of excellence on the other two World Cups of the decade; becoming the first Nigerian to score braces at consecutive World Cups, and also becomes the highest-scoring Nigerian at the World Cup. He’s also shouldered his way up the ladder of the All-time Super Eagles’ goal scorers, overtaking legends like Mudashiru Lawal and Nwankwo.
Honourable Mentions to John Obi Mikel, Odion Ighalo, Vincent Enyeama, and Joseph Yobo.
Ola Fadahunsi: Ahmed Musa’s availability, numbers (appearance and goals scored), and big-game turn up in this decade betters his closest rivals in Vincent Enyeama and Mikel Obi.
Trust Shawn Inonse: Ahmed Musa. I wish there’s a rival but unfortunately Musa left us questioning the saying, “a tree can’t make a forest”. Although he’s witnessed a bit of a decline in the past few months, whenever he’s on that field donning the Nigerian colours, the average Nigerian football lover feels a moment of magic is on its way.
Kunle Ajao: Definitely John Obi Mikel. In this part of the world, where extremism is rife, it’s easy to get burned by the most trivial slight in Nigerian football, just ask Yakubu. Mikel has managed to live through the entire decade in terms of playing, and has been integral to every success the senior side has shared. Plus, he’s done this amidst family trauma, and even questions about his own importance in the team.
Goal of the decade
Idris: Sunday Mba’s volley against Burkina Faso in 2013. The occasion and importance is significance to this selection. An AFCON final, when everything seemed not to be working, GBAAAM, Mba struck. It brought our first Nations Cup in almost 20 years, and has the imperial right to stay above any other goal. That shouldn’t discredit technique with which the goal was scored. The touch that scooped the ball over a rushing Burkinabe and the following touch smacking it home despite being closed down by flurry of defenders, without breaking strides or the ball getting cold. It was a move that even a ballerina would be proud of.
Ola: Nosa Igiebor’s wonder strike in a friendly game against Venezuela in 2012. That was a goal and a half.
Trust: The confident strike by someone I never quite believed in, Sunday Mba. The skill in executing the goal was fitting for the magic of the occasion. In a game in which someone needed to grab things by the scruff of the neck, Mba stood up and was counted.
Kunle: Ahmed Musa’s first goal in last year’s World Cup against Iceland. In a match that seemed like a bore, just minutes after halftime, an immaculate control and an affirmative finish seemed to jerk that entire game out of its slumber. Brilliant.
Match of the Decade
Idris: That heart-breaking match against Argentina in Russia. The Eagles played like we’ve always wanted them to: unbent, unbowed, against the one of best sides in the world. They could have won it. They probably should have. Then Marcos Rojo happened again. I’m yet to recover from that heartbreak.
Ola: Nigeria v Iceland at the 2018 World Cup. A dour first half was met by a magnificent second. After a game and a half being a non-event in the World Cup, Musa stole the show after the break, and our tournament was alive and kicking.
Trust: Nigeria v Iceland. The first time a while I had seen Nigerians united in hope and expectation after the last whistle of that game. From Lagos to Kano to Imo, the song was similar; ‘We can beat Argentina’ (we didn’t). The tactical masterpiece by Rohr, and the fantastic display from the players were simply sublime.
Kunle: I’m not picking a senior team game here: Nigeria 5-2 Croatia at the 2011 Under-20 World Cup. Nigerian teams don’t regularly give us complete performances, and the fact that this came on an early morning with sleep having been sacrificed made it all the sweeter. From well-crafted goals to barnstorming shots, and solo efforts, the Flying Eagles – in particular, Musa, Olanrewaju Kayode, and Terna Suswam – ran Croatia ragged and offered (futile) hope for the future.
Disappointment of the Decade
Idris: Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for two consecutive AFCON tournaments. Twice! One is even unforgivable, but Eagles did it twice. The nadir. It felt very much like rock bottom.
Ola: Kelechi Iheanacho falling way short of expectations. He started so brightly, making his dip all the more painful. He’s been bright for Leicester of late, and hopefully he sustains that resurgence.
Trust: Isaac success. Success, who started as a huge…well, success for the Under-17s was expected to be the rave of the decade. But one injury and that was all it wrote. Anytime I think of the young lad I feel pain and I’m heart-broken. I still wish he gets back on track.
Kunle: When Samson Siasia was appointed as manager back at the start of the decade, I was so optimistic. It felt so right; he’d done wonders at youth level, and deserved his chance. That it all went south really did a number on me.
Highlight of the Decade
Idris: Winning AFCON 2013! The only trophy I’ve celebrated with the Super Eagles. Tension. Goosebumps. Elation. I almost jumped into the fast-moving blades of a ceiling fan in celebration. Thank you, Stephen Keshi. Thank you, Emmanuel Emenike. Thank you, Sunday Mba. Thank you, everybody in that squad that let this poor boy witness such awesomeness.
Ola: The fan-fare around the Super Eagles’ jersey for the 2018 World Cup, even though afterward I started to get sick of it.
Trust: The emergence of Joe Aribo. After the retirement of our dependable Mikel Obi, the question was who will step up? This young lad has proven he is ready to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians.
Kunle: It’s hardly any gain saying that this was the decade when my love for the Nigerian national team took quite a deep dive. But the Super Eagles beating Tunisia (last June at the AFCON) always gives me pleasure.
Wish for the Next Decade
Idris: The Eagles in the semis of Qatar 2022 World Cup, and winning at least three of the decade’s five AFCON tournaments. Yes, really.
Ola: It’s been 20 years since a Nigerian (Nwankwo Kanu) last won the award for the best player on the continent. It’ll be a disappointment not to see a player from Nigeria win the gong, especially with an array of talent the country currently possesses.
Trust: Dominating Africa and becoming a force to reckon with in global football. Is that too much to ask? (Yes it is).
Kunle: A functioning professional club football league, please. Failing that (inevitably), make the upcoming Women’s Under-20 World Cup mean something.