The disappointment of Nigeria not qualifying for the World Cup, which kicks off tomorrow in Qatar, has hit home for Nigerian fans as they have been far removed from the usual countdown to the biggest football event in the world.
Ghana qualified for the World Cup on away goals thanks to this 10th minute Thomas Partey strike vs. Nigeria 💥— Yahoo Soccer (@FCYahoo) March 29, 2022
The fans of the Super Eagles have added colour, fanfare and drama with their talking drums, trumpets and costumes at six previous World Cups their darling team have featured.
In March, perennial rivals Ghana eliminated Nigeria in a final World Cup playoffs on the away goals’ rule after both teams recorded a goalless draw in Kumasi before a 1-1 draw in Abuja.
“It’s now a reality, a bad dream, that we will not be at the World Cup,” lamented Segun Olayinka, a fan based in the Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos.
“Our best players like Victor Osimhen and Wilfred Ndidi have been doing great at their clubs in Europe, but now they can only watch the World Cup on television, just like me.
“From what I have seen on television and the internet this will be a great World Cup, a spectacle, going by how far and how well Qatar has gone to make it so.”
Journalist Ayo Owolabi said he is pained that Nigeria will not be represented the first time an Asian country will stage the World Cup.
“Qatar will make history as the first Asian country to host the World Cup and sadly the Super Eagles will not be there,” he lamented.
“I believe they will great host despite some of the apprehension being expressed by some people.
“They have already gone out of their way to make it one World Cup to remember with the wonderful stadiums they have built and the technology they have employed.”
Gernot Rohr was sacked midway through the World Cup qualifiers and the coach said that was partly to blame for the team’s failure.
“(Amaju) Pinnick (then president of the Nigeria Football Federation) said my dismissal will avert a disaster, but in the end he created the disaster that cost Nigeria the ticket to the World Cup,” Rohr said.
“I regret that I did not take my team to win the World Cup, I regret my players will not be at the World Cup even though they deserve to be there.
“It was not my decision, it was a decision by Pinnick and his board.
“He was punished for this as Nigeria lost the chance to win the Africa Cup of Nations and did not qualify for the World Cup.”
“We’re a big football nation and the players are all disappointed they will not be going to the World Cup,” said team spokesman Baba Femi Raji.
“We now have to look ahead.”
Will Nigerian fans now switch their support to ‘Old Enemy’ Ghana?
It does not appear so going by the heated banter on social media, where many fans have predicted the Black Stars will soon be back home in Ghana after an early exit.
Ghana are drawn in a tough-looking group that has Portugal, Korea Republic and Uruguay, the team who stopped them from becoming the first African team to reach the semifinal of the World Cup in 2010.
Since qualification at the expense of Nigeria, they have strengthened their squad with the likes Mohammed Salisu and Tariq Lamptey from the Premier League as well as Spain-based forward Inaki Williams.
Who will score their goals in Qatar could be their biggest concern.
If only they could borrow the firepower of the Super Eagles – Osimhen, Terem Moffi, Paul Onuachu.
Nigerian fans will most likely be cheering other teams to victory at this World Cup because of the long-standing rivalry between the two west African countries.
Before the Super Eagles made their World Cup debut in 1994, most of these fans supported Brazil at world football’s biggest feast.
They play a beautiful game, The Samba, they are the most successful team of the World Cup with five triumphs, the only team to play in every World Cups and they produced some of the best players in the world – Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho.
However, they last lifted the World Cup 20 years ago.
Brazil class of 2022 will have Neymar and as many as 11 players from the Premier League, which is the best followed league by Nigerians.
So, club allegiance could see these fans rooting for Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus because they support Arsenal or Vinicius Junior because you support Real Madrid.
The Three Lions of England could benefit from such allegiance as well as it is packed with Premier League stars and, of course, they also have Bukayo Saka.
The parents of the Arsenal forward are Nigerian, but they are still many fans who have not forgiven him for opting to play for England instead of the Super Eagles.
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