Pride, agony of Super Eagles fans at Cameroon 2022
Despite Super Eagles’ elimination in the round of 16, GOWON AKPODONOR continues his coverage of the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroun. In this report, he captures the mood of some Nigerians on the day Tunisia’s Carthage Eagles forced bitter pills down the throat of Coach Augustine Eguavoen and his players in Garoua
Long after the Senegalese referee blew his whistle to end the Round of 16 tie between the Super Eagles and their Tunisian counterparts, Muyiwa Sadiq, a Nigerian football fan based in Lome, Togo, sat quietly in a corner of Stade Roumdi Adjia, with his eyes glued on the scoreboard.
He looked so worried. On his right hand was a small green-white-green flag of Nigeria. And on his left was a match ticket stamped 10,000 francs.
Sitting behind Sadiq was his 14-year-old son, Suleiman. Both father and son flew from Lome, Togo, to watch the AFCON, and also support the Super Eagles since the Hawks of Togo could not qualify for the biggest African football showpiece in Cameroun.
Other Nigerian fans, including Camerounians, who supported the Super Eagles throughout the match, began to troop out of the stadium wearing long faces. On their heels were flags-and-banner-waving members of the Supporters Club, whose different factions closed ranks in Cameroun for the Super Eagles to do well. Their drums had gone silent. It then dawned on Sadiq’s son, Suleiman, that the Super Eagles journey in Cameroun had ended.
“Daddy, is the Super Eagles out of the tournament? Suleiman asked, adjusting the small bag on his shoulder to a new position.
“Yes, Nigeria is out,” his father replied, stretching his right hand to draw his son closer. There was a moment of silence between father and son. Tears began to roll out from Suleiman’s eyes.
“Stop crying my son. Football is a game. It could favour you today and turn against you the next moment. Irrespective of this defeat to Tunisia, I am proud of the Super Eagles. They gave their best in this tournament. I never knew they could beat Egypt in their first match, not to talk of topping the group,” Sadiq said, using a white handkerchief on his right hand to wipe out tears from his son’s eyes.
He turned to The Guardian’s reporter: “My only regret is the long journey we have to make to Yaounde by road. It took us almost three days’ road trip to Garoua after paying heavily for flight tickets from Togo. We even spent two days waiting to connect local flight from Yaounde to Garoau, but it was not possible. I am sad the Super Eagles couldn’t make it to the quarterfinals stage after raising our hope. We will be in Accra to support them in the World Cup playoff against Ghana.”
Sadiq and his son were not the only ones left in agony after the Super Eagles were sent packing in the round of 16.
In many years to come, some Nigerians won’t forget the agony they experienced in their bid to support the Augustine Eguavoen-led Super Eagles.”
Many Nigerians, including the various state FA chairmen, supporters club members and many journalists, who covered the tournament, came into Garoau through Yola in northern Nigeria. Some spent hours navigating their way through water before boarding vehicles to Garoau.
To some individuals, Super Eagles’ poor performance in Cameroun could have been avoided. Former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu, feels coach Eguavoen did not fail.
“I think within the short time that Eguavoen took charge, he did his best and that is relative,” Adelabu stated, while analysing the performance of the Super Eagles in Cameroun
“The question is whether he (Eguavoen) has the right kind of players to deliver the result we all expected or he has the technical ability to use the players available to get the result we desired,” Adelabu, a sports scientist asked.
The former IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan player added in a message to The Guardian: “We have to take a cursory look at other matches we played in Cameroun. The Crux of the matter is when we win, nobody cares to analyse how we won.
“Eguavoen has done his best and I think we need to revisit and re-evaluate our football philosophy. The home-based players need more football education so that we don’t totally rely on the foreign based stars to build our team.”
The 33rd Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroun will go down as one of the most controversial tournaments. From poor officiating, which witnessed seven red cards in the round of 16 games alone, including the one to Alex Iwobi, to poor organisation, which led to the death of eight fans during a stampede in the game involving Cameroun and Comoros.
CAF has shown clearly it still has some distance to cover to bring the tournament a par with what is obtainable in Europe and other parts of the globe.