The constant calls and promises of cash rewards from top government functionaries and prominent Nigerians distracted the Super Eagles which contributed to their ultimate defeat and exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, a former goalkeeper of the Super Eagles has said.
The ex-goalkeeper, Peterside Idah, said on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ programme on Monday that it was wrong to have allowed the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Onyema; and the President of the Nigerian Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, to address players during halftime.
Barely six hours before the game, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), made a video call to the team.
The CBN governor had also visited the eagles at halftime during a previous match where he relayed a message from business tycoon, Femi Otedola, promising them $250,000 (N104m) if they won the cup. Onyema had also promised to give the team N10m for each goal scored.
Idah maintained that when people who are not part of the coaching team are allowed to address players during halftime, promising them cash rewards, the players get distracted.
The retired goalkeeper said the next coach of the Super Eagles must ensure that he is given full authority and does not permit such behaviour.
“We can’t have the President of the NFF addressing the players in the second half. That is not his responsibility. We can’t have the CBN governor addressing the players at halftime. That is not his responsibility. We can’t have the owner of Air Peace addressing the players at halftime. What time will the coach have?” Idah asked.
The former Nigeria international said the Super Eagles were overconfident and were already being addressed as champions when the tournament itself was still in the early stages.
He added that the government officials also did not help matters because of the incessant calls to the players.
Idah added, “We had won the gold in the bedroom. We had already started calling ourselves champions when we had not even qualified. I said it the other day that officials would begin to travel to the Super Eagles’ camp to make promises. ‘If you win the cup, this is the money you will get’. I mentioned this before.
“There is a psychology of football. When you go to play football, you start from zero. You don’t go as a winner because you underestimate your opponent. I said this before that in our dressing room, we had officials that were not football coaches going to address the players and I said this over and over again. The mindset of a player is very fickle.
“He has to think of the match 100 per cent. He doesn’t have to think about money; he doesn’t have to think about family problems or women. He has to think about football.”
The ex-goalkeeper said there was a time when government officials interfered to the extent that they demanded that the Super Eagles team reflect federal character.
He said the white coach, however, ignored this order. Idah, therefore, stated that this is the sort of attitude the next coach must have.
“I remember the coach we had in Nigeria. I have worked with the FA in Nigeria. And when we were there, they brought a team list for him and they said you have to put two Hausa, two Yoruba, 4 Igbo and he looked at the list and they said submit a team list.
“And he put two Yoruba, two Hausa, two Igbo and sent the list to the government. When he sent the list, during the match, he changed it. This was a white coach and the officials in the office compared it with their list and started complaining. Everything about Nigeria is wisdom and the next coach must lay down his rules,” Idah said.
The ex-goalkeeper said Austin Eguavoen was qualified to continue as coach but advised him to be firm and make his demands upfront before signing any contract.