Why Nigeria May Not Qualify For The 2022 World Cup

Why Nigeria May Not Qualify For The 2022 World Cup

We both play tennis at the Ikoyi Club 1938. We run into each other occasionally.
Last night we did and spent some 15 minutes, or so, discussing issues around Nigerian football.

By the time Amaju Pinnick and I parted to go for our different tennis matches we had agreed that there is a need to take our short, private conversation to the Nigerian public space.

The best way, we agreed also, is to have another conversation on the Sports Parliament this Thursday night.

Every time Amaju Pinnick appears on the show it makes national news. This one promises even more because of the subject matter. 

Amongst other things we discussed Qatar 2022 and got to the point where we started the usual mathematical calculations about Nigeria’s chances of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Ordinarily, we should take it for granted that in a slot of 5 teams from Africa, Nigeria shall be one. Qualification is so important to Nigerians that a whole board of Nigeria Football Association was sacked by government because it failed to deliver on that single unofficial mandate.

The ousted Chairman said at the time that it was not Nigeria’s birthright to qualify for every World Cup.

Many Nigerians disagreed with him. They thought differently. They pointed at Brazil in South America as an example of a country that has made qualifying a ‘birth right’. Why not Nigeria in Africa?

The argument is that Nigeria’s qualification in Africa should become a routine if the country deploys its full arsenal of ‘weapons’ and resources available to her.  Is this founded in reality, or is it just another pipe dream?

Many of us insist that with 5 slots, no matter the computation, combination and permutation, Nigeria must make it to Qatar 2022. It is our birthright. But shall the country make it?

Everyone knows that a percentage of the World Cup ‘game’ is political, played beyond the football field. Once it comes to the most coveted trophy in the whole of sport, the stakes become so high that the boardrooms of national and international football federations become an extension of the games.

Towards Qatar 2022, the stakes for African slots have skyrocketed already, and on the fields and in the boardrooms a lot of ground work has started already.

Many ‘moons’ ago I was personally involved in a little of the political games behind the game, and these are surely not issues for minnows and are not open for public discussion. But they exist, whether we like it or not. And we must play the game too, otherwise we will become pawns, sitting ducks.

There are also some other important issues too that require that the public, the governments, and all stakeholders should understand, appreciate, not take for granted, and play their parts in actualisation towards a common goal – Qatar 2022.

Segun Odegbami

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