Nigerians were hoping to see their National team perform remarkably right from the initial stages of the 2013 African’s Cup of Nations (AFCON) football tournament.
To most lovers and analysts of African football, foretelling that Nigeria and Zambia would top their group ahead of Ethiopia and Burkina Faso was a certain prediction.
Based on historical records, chances were high that Nigeria and Zambia would exceed the group stages. However, the millions of Nigerian fans who were watching AFCON 2013 from all around the world were shocked to see events unfold differently. Most of them were grossly disappointed at the poor performance of the Super Eagles as the team played its first two matches.
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After playing consecutive draws against Zambia and Burkina Faso, the Nigerian Super Eagles were only able to secure two points. This seriously alienated many Nigerians in Lagos city. Disparaging the name Super Eagles,some Nigerians quickly nicknamed our boys Super Tasty Fried Chickens. More derision came from a Super Eagles joke that emerged and permeated the clouds of social media. The original joker had claimed on Facebook and Twitter that 17 years ago, while he was still a kid, he learned Mathematics by having to evaluate the qualification chance of the Nigerian team if helped by the poor performance of their group mates in most football tournaments. Before noon, the joke had swept the network of Nigerians on the internet.
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Meanwhile a disgruntled fan called to a Lagos radio show to express displeasure after Nigeria drew her group match against Burkina Faso. According to him, he had endured traffic, struggled to buy fuel for his generator, starved himself of his wife’s aromatic dinner and settled down to watch our boys play. Then, as they did against Zambia, the Super Eagles ended the match in a draw, gaining one point from the encounter. The young man was sorely vexed that he lost his appetite for a full wrap of pounded yam served with Ugwu soup. But he was not alone. Many fans were disappointed, and many more could not sustain their interest in the Nigerian team.
However, things turned around in subsequent matches as the Super Eagles exceeded the expectations of most Nigerian fans with consecutive wins. From beating Ethiopia and defeating Mali to evicting the former champions, Ivory Coast, the Super Eagles gained gallant victories into the finals of AFCON 2013 and redeemed their name. Yet in the finals, the Eagles did not hesitate to torture Burkina Faso opponents with a dramatic 1-0 win. That night, all Nigerian fans celebrated the return of the golden cup to Nigeria. In Lagos city, several youths even held various victory parties.
This is the lesson to learn from the experience of the Nigerian Super Eagles in AFCON 2013:
When you want to achieve something and you keep trying with unequalled determination, the process may cost you time and the confidence of special friends; but when you eventually succeed, you will win all of them back and emerge a champion.
This article was first published on Commonwealth's Youth Correspondence web portal under a different title.