Nigerian football fans were disappointed Tuesday when the team's final chance of advancing in the 2010 World Cup evaporated in a 2-2 tie with South Korea. At the start of the Cup, the future looked promising: Nigeria is one of the highest-ranked African teams (21st in FIFA's world rankings — second only to Egypt and Cameroon on the African continent); but the team has been burdened with setbacks, including the installation of a new coach only three weeks before the Cup and the red-carding of a star player.
For Nigeria fans, the Super Eagles’ recent performance has been vexing: The team made an impressive World Cup debut in 1994, but soon after began to slip, and have not won a Cup match since 1998. Many hoped that 2010 might be a turning point, but Tuesday's result made clear that those watching for a Nigerian football renaissance will have to wait until 2014 — if not longer.
In the blogosphere, disappointment was the prevailing emotion, though many fans were not surprised by the outcome. “They were never going to win that game,” wrote Bc Osunneye:
Failed hotel bookings, broken down aircraft, failed friendlies, shifted friendly venues, failed meetings between coach and players, shortlisting of players on paper, NFF still owing Chukwu, Eguavoen and Amodu [Former Super Eagles coaches] for work done close to 5 years [ago] now are all just a few in the catalog of ineptitude.
Adeola Aderounmu pointed to corruption as one of the grounds for the team's poor performance:
What are the criteria used for getting players into the national team? I have spoken to at least 2 ex-internationals and their responses are very heartbreaking. In some circumstances Nigerian politicians, dictators and family members have influenced the selection of players into the national team. There are stories (from the past) of bribing of coaches to get players selected into the team.
Others blamed Sani Kaita for the team's failure. Kaita horrified fans by becoming the first Nigerian player to be sent off the field during a World Cup match, after he received a red card for attempting to kick a rival player. The red card was particularly rankling as Nigeria had started the match promisingly: The score stood at 1-0 before the incident. Team spokesman Peterside Idah said that Kaita received more than 1000 death threats from fans in the wake of the Greece match.
Nigerian Curiosity found humor in the incident and coined a new verb:
v. Kai*ta, Kai*tas, kai*ta'ed, kai*ta'ing
1. To single-handedly dash the hopes and aspirations of one's nation in the full glare of other nations
2. To karate-kick your way out of the greatest stage/spotlight ever known to man
3. To destroy/zap/siphon the energies of teammates plus 140 million people through unexplainable stupidity
4. To act foolishly, unintelligently or irrationally and IMMEDIATELY regret the action by falling on your knees
1. “Please, please, do not KAITA what we have been building for 50 years o! Oloshi!”
2. “I don't care what people say, I will KAITA the multi-billion dollar plan!”
Fans also complained about the replacement of Shaibu Amodu with Swedish coach Lars Lagerbäck just three weeks before the Cup. Echoing a New York Times article, Chxta wondered why Amodu wasn't replaced with a qualified Nigerian coach:
“Why do we have this terrible inferiority complex? … I say build from the bottom up… Let's gather the most intelligent of our ex-players – I suggest Siasia/Oliseh – and get them to mould a team that fits into the character of the nation.
Max Siollun, present at the match with South Korea, lamented the annoyingness of Nigerian fans:
Right behind me was a Nigerian with a smaller flag, who kept waving it and resting it on my head. I told him several times that my head was not a flag pole and to get it off me. Yet he persisted in wrapping the flag around my head continually. At one point, he had the temerity to get annoyed with ME for complaining about having a flag draped over my head from behind. He then proceeded to mutter insults about me to his friend in his native tongue.
Finding no silver lining in Nigeria's performance, Bc Osunneye took comfort in posting photos from the team's glory days: “Would we see moments like this?” he asked.
Below the question he posted a video of his favorite moment in Nigerian Football: Sunday Oliseh's winning goal against Spain in 1998.
For more highlights of the Super Eagles’ World Cup history see here.