World Cup: Eagles don’t know extent of damage losing to Ghana means – Etim Esin

Ex-international Etim Esin blasted the Super Eagles, saying the three-time African champions didn’t play like a team willing to feature at the global showpiece in the second leg of their World Cup playoffs against Ghana at the Moshood Abiola Stadium on Tuesday. The former Calabar Rovers midfielder in this interview with AJIBADE OLUSESAN also called for the resignation of the chieftains of the Nigeria Football Federation following the failure.

Just like many Nigerians, you will still be feeling sad about the way the Super Eagles lost the 2022 World Cup ticket to arch-rivals Ghana in Abuja on Tuesday…

I was at the stadium live and that created extra pain for me. It is disheartening that we lost this ticket right here on our home soil. Perhaps it would have been less painful if we had lost the ticket in Accra or Kumasi but to have thrown it away right in front of our fans is almost unbelievable. Ghana coming here to pick the ticket is damaging, these players don’t know the extent of what they have done to our pride and image as a footballing nation in Africa. I didn’t believe we could play the way we did; we never behaved as if we wanted the ticket, our attitude right from the bench to the pitch did not suggest we wanted it. Ghanaians were more determined, they were purposeful and we saw it in the way they played. There is no excuse for us losing that ticket, we had everything; the players, the atmosphere because we were playing at home; the fans came in their thousands to support the team. I think we can say that man proposes God disposes. How can you make five changes, almost half of the team for the second leg, you even kept Kelechi Iheanacho on the bench, this is one of the players that Ghana feared. I think we really deserved to go out.

Many pundits and fans have blamed the tactical blunder of Coach Austin Eguavoen for the loss, do you agree with them?

He made a tactical blunder, you put players who could give you the result on the bench and you had five players who had not been part of the team for some time in the starting lineup in a crucial game like that. I am even more shocked to see him drop Iheanacho; I was asking ‘what was Eguavoen thinking?’ He just lost that opportunity to become a World Cup coach; he was just a few hours away from reaching that goal and he messed it up. Now the party will start soon in Qatar and we will not be there, we will have to wait for another four years. This is sad. You are telling me that you are taking orders from your employers; does the man dictating to you, know anything about football technical matters? Did he play at the World Cup? Did he win the Nations Cup like you Eguavoen? And you allowed him to mess you up this way, who is now a loser? It is you Eguavoen.

Sometimes it is hard to defy such orders, they are the ones paying his salaries, if you were in his shoes, would you have done something differently?

Of course, I would go ahead with plan and I will take responsibility for the consequences; I am the coach, I will have to stick to the players that will give me results. I will have to let them know that if things go wrong I will be held responsible. So, how come he didn’t even revert to his plan when the plan they gave him wasn’t working? He should have changed the game from the bench too. Was he too afraid of losing the job? Now I doubt if he would be able to keep the job and you can see what this has done to his career and even reputation. There were rumours that some officials actually mandated him to start players such as Ade-mola Lookman and Emmanuel Dennis… Don’t you know why they dictate to coaches? Why they insist that some of these players must play? Usually, they do rackets with some of these players; officials and agents of these players usually strike deals. If they give the players such an opportunity in the national team they could be entitled to some money if these players move from their clubs to bigger clubs and in most cases, we are talking about thousands of pound sterling. Don’t think these people care about the country going to the World Cup or not, their priorities have always been what they will make out of such opportunities. Eguavoen was fired by his employers on Thursday, isn’t that the right thing to do? Of course, that is their plan right from time. He has failed, they set him up for failure and now they have got what they wanted and he has been sacrificed. He is my former teammate, I know him to be a brilliant person but I don’t understand why this thing happened. Nigerians wanted the indigenous coaches to handle the national team and now that Eguavoen-led technical crew has failed isn’t that enough impetus for the NFF to go for a foreign coach? I told you they set Eguavoen up for failure; they did it to achieve this, getting a foreign coach has always been their target. He decided to work with the NFF, I call them a department of failure and Eguavoen played into their hands. How can they ask you to field players that could not give you the result and you as a technical person agreed with them? You knew the combination of players they have suggested was wrong, you should have stood your ground, that is my position and if they can’t agree with you, you are at liberty to walk out on the job even at that crucial time and everybody would have respected you. Emmanuel Amuneke was brought into the technical crew to shore up its capacity but it looked like the former African Footballer of the Year didn’t bring anything concrete to the squad… Did they allow him to even contribute anything? We know how these people behave. Come to think of it, why did you have to bring in Amuneke as an assistant to Eguavoen? If you want to give him the job of the head coach, go ahead, you shouldn’t have put somebody with that pedigree under another coach. We are talking about somebody who qualified Tanzania for the Nations Cup, who works with FIFA, you are telling him he can’t manage the national team. You should have just handed the job to him and told Eguavoen to continue with his technical director role; in most cases too many cooks spoil the broth and that is what happened to our World Cup dream.

What are the roles of the technical department and technical committee in all of these?

What do they do? Are they contributing anything? Look at somebody like Michael Emenalo, why can’t we go for somebody like that? Here is somebody who has worked at a big club like Chelsea, leading them to great success and he has also worked in other big clubs in Europe. He was in Abuja for the Eagles match; we spoke at length about our football, he told me many things. There have also been calls by Nigerians for the NFF chieftains to resign… Is it something they will never do? We don’t do that in Africa no matter the situation; these people can stay there till eternity regardless of what happens to our football.




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