What will it take for the Super Eagles to have a permanent home again?
Yes, once iconic because it was not only the most beautiful and the largest sporting site in the country, but also one on the African continent.
All of those memories such as the 1980 and 2000 Africa Cup of Nations triumphs fell into disrepair just as a stadium itself left that way.
Since the Abuja Stadium was built for the 2003 African Games and then fell into disrepair, the Super Eagles have revamped the game in Kano, Kaduna, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Uyo for around four years, before moving to Benin City and Asaba.
The national team were back in Lagos in 2021 after two decades, but this time at the facilities across from the national stadium at Teslim Balogun Stadium. The Eagles have played there three times against Lesotho, Liberia and the Central African Republic.
The victories were not convincing, with the latest against CAR ending in an unexpected 1-0 loss.
This shows that the Teslim Balogun stadium is not really suitable and Gernot Rohr’s men will return to the November international matches against Cape Verde in the same location.
What will it take for Nigeria to have a decent fixed pitch for all of their home games?
The Godswill Akpabio Uyo Stadium was a very good ground that served the Super Eagles well, but with political differences preventing the Akwa Ibom State Government and the Nigerian Football Federation, affiliation with this stadium had to end.
It went to the state that can bid the highest to host the national team and it was used for the political agenda as seen with the Stephane Keshi Stadium in Asaba and Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City.
It’s a shame that sport is linked to politics in Nigeria, but that’s the reality we live with.
Can there be a way out? Certainly, but this link between political actors and sport will have to be broken. It will be a tall order, but it can happen if there is a shift in focus in any way at any time.
Until then, the best solution to this is a return to the national stadium, Lagos or Abuja stadium. They are owned by the federal government and with the NFF indirectly under the authority of the federal government, there will be no such thing as highest bidder accommodation. It also means that football can be focused without too much politics.
The joyful thing is that the national stadiums in Lagos and Abuja are getting a massive facelift after years of disrepair. This is a good development because it will only accelerate the return of the Super Eagles to either site. However, this will depend on the seriousness and speed of the renovation work. It will also depend on the maintenance culture, which is a general malaise with Niger’s infrastructure.
If the national stadiums in Lagos and Abuja can come to life, surely the dead memories of the past will be rekindled again to its glory, for a bright future that will put Nigeria back on top of the African football map.
If that doesn’t happen, we can simply lower our expectations of whatever is happening to hope and hold onto any fragment of past memory that we can until it is completely gone.
Kunle is a passionate writer interested in topics on sports, politics, health, lifestyle and more. His articles have been published on Goal.com, Opera News, Vanguard News and other platforms. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in international relations and is an advocate for people living with hydrocephalus and other neurological disorders.
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