The 2018 World Cup will kick-off in Russia from June 14 up till July 16, with the Super Eagles of Nigeria and teams from 31 other countries battling for the biggest laurel in world football.
Since the first edition held in Uruguay in 1930, the World Cup has evolved to become the biggest global spectacle – a sporting fiesta that unites the world across political, racial, cultural and religious divides.
Russia 2018 will mark the sixth time that Nigeria’s flag will be hoisted at the round leather competition. Nigeria made her historic appearance in the FIFA World Cup in 1994, the year that the fiesta was staged for the first time in the United States of America.
Football, just as other sporting activity in general, is big business. However, aside from the actions on the field of play, the game has over the years, remained a unifying factor that brings all Nigerians together irrespective of religion, creed and tribe. The unifying power of sports, especially football, is evident in the massive support Nigerian teams enjoy during any international football championship. Whenever Nigeria is playing against another country, the entire citizenry are united in support of the national team.
Nigeria’s best result at the World Cup was making it up to the round of 16, achieved during the Super Eagles debut in USA 1994, again in France in 1998, and also at Brazil in 2014. It is worthy of note that the USA 94 adventure bears the hallmark of history that announced Nigeria as a respectable football nation in the world. The Super Eagles were superlative as they shocked Bulgaria 3-0 in their first Group match, humbled former world champions, Argentina 2-1 and overran Greece 2-0 to top the group and qualified for the Round of 16 in a grand style. Nigeria came very close to qualifying for the quarter-finals after taking the lead against almighty and rugged Italy in their Round of 16 game, losing 1-2 in the pulsating 102 minutes cracker. Interestingly, Nigeria was adjudged the most entertaining team of the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
This explains the fever-pitch passion, excitement of Nigerians as they anxiously wait to watch the Super Eagles against their opponents in Russia 2018, albeit with great expectation and improved performance beyond the second round achievement.
The Super Eagles will begin their campaign in Russia 2018 on June 16, against Croatia in a Group D fixture. And later meet Iceland and then against one of the championship favourites, Argentina.
There is no doubt the Super Eagles are psychologically prepared and adequately motivated to make Nigeria proud. The Eagles have never had it so good preparing for the World Cup. They played quality friendly matches. It is also gratifying that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has taken some bold steps to make the outing a successful one. It is also of interest that NFF Executive Committee have paid all coaches of the Super Eagles team their salaries up to the end of the championship, thereby lifting the morale of the team ahead of the Mundial.
It is heartwarming to note that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has garnered the goodwill of the Federal Government and corporate partnerships that translated into several billion of Naira, aside the $2 million from Confederation of African Football (CAF) to the national team, FIFA also paid $1.5 million to each of the 32 teams taking part in the championship, as preparation fee.
We advise NFF to ensure proper management of the all money earmarked for the World Cup and avoid a repeat of the embarrassing crisis in previous appearances, arising from match allowances and bonuses rows.
Although the NFF has taken some proactive steps to ensure a successful outing, the president of the Federation, Melvin Amaju Pinnick, should ensure that all agreed terms of payment of players’ allowances and bonuses are observed diligently by both parties to avoid developments that may cause distractions to the team.
The players must be fired by patriotic zeal and the privilege of carrying the emotion of 800 million Nigerians on their shoulders on and off the pitch in Russia.
The Super Eagles are without doubt very eager to make Nigeria proud; it is also instructive to admonish them not to allow monetary gains that come with participating in the World Cup event to becloud patriotism and commitment to national duty as worthy ambassadors of Nigeria.
We wish the Super Eagles a glorious outing in Russia 2018.