AFCON 2013: LET THE EAGLES SOAR!   2 comments

The AFCON 2013 has finally gone underway and Nigeria’s Super Eagles are set to begin their campaign today in a charity-begins-at-home fixture against their West African neighbours, Burkina Faso. One can only hope that the Eagles will proceed to get the better of their other group opponents, Ethiopia and Zambia, from East and Southern Africa respectively, and then go ahead to conquer Africa!

After a string of bad results at recent AFCON tournaments, with disappointing quadruple bronze medal standings between 2002 and 2010 and a disgraceful absence from the 2012 edition (a first since 1986), the mood in the Eagles’ camp is now that of a team braced up for nothing less than the ultimate prize! A number of semiotic underpinnings can justify this claim. To begin with, and on a light note, the 2013 AFCON marks the tournament’s return to odd number years. Perhaps, the Super Eagles were waiting for odd number years to make things even!

On a more serious note, there’s plenty of wisdom about eagles from wildlife science, in favour of the Super Eagles’ getting victorious at the AFCON 2013. For one, wildlife science has revealed that eagles perch on top of tall trees and watch for the direction of the wind before engaging it for a stress-free flight. Similarly, by thrashing Liberia 6-1 in their final qualification match for the tournament, the Super Eagles can be said to have psychologically perched on their highest score in the process from where they can now engage themselves in the direction of a triumphant AFCON 2013 pursuit. Supersport described that victory saying, “Nigeria’s Super Eagles were ruthless en route securing a ticket to the 2013 AFCON.”

Secondly, wildlife science has also revealed that the mother eagle takes its eaglets on a number of trial-flights before it eventually releases them to begin flying on their own. Incidentally, the captain (leader) of the Super Eagles, Joseph Yobo, can be rightly considered the ‘mother eagle’ in our present context. That he has featured in five previous AFCON tourneys and that he’s likely to not feature in any again is sufficient reason to spur him to give his best and mobilise the relatively younger Eagles, with a good majority having less than 20 caps each and no previous AFCON experience, to go for the kill! On January 17, upon the Eagles’ arrival in South Africa, Yobo said “I want to leave the stage by winning something for the team… I believe in this team… this is a good team going into the tournament…”

In addition and most importantly, wildlife science equally demonstrates that eagles engage in partnerships to hunt and share the spoils of their kill. In fact, the Bible in Matthew 24:28, attests to this: “For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” The relevance of this to the present crop of Super Eagles is that team spirit must be their safeguard. Thankfully, for the first time in a while, there has been little emphasis on key players and rather, greater emphasis on the team as a unit. On October 18, 2012, Sports Motivation (@Sports_HQ), an entity that shares insights on the ideals for sports excellence, tweeted thus: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” Hopefully, the Eagles will draw inspiration from their creative attack led by the likes of Ahmed Musa, Ike Uche and Victor Moses as well as their midfield commanded by the experienced John Mikel Obi with ‘mother-eagle’ Yobo, skipper Enyeama, Kenneth Omeruo and co, guarding the back.

It is interesting to note that the AFCON 2013 hosts, South Africa, and the defending champions, Zambia, both specifically wished to avoid playing Nigeria in the group stages. The Zambian coach, Hervé Renard, said: “If I can avoid Nigeria [in the AFCON draws that were then pending], I would be very happy.” Likewise, South Africa’s coach, Gordon Igesund, said “To be honest, I want a favourable draw. I’m not going to declare I want Nigeria in our group. I would prefer to avoid them.” When coaches, especially of other respected teams speak of the Super Eagles in this manner, it is because they acknowledge the high level of confidence with which the team currently plays. Meanwhile, as a token of the confidence he has in his boys, Nigeria’s coach, Stephen Keshi, said “I am not scared of any country. Let’s be put in any group.”

It was precisely this confidence that resulted in the Eagles not losing any warm-up game ahead of the AFCON 2013. In fact, though pundits and many fans wrote them off, they were quite impressive against an FC Barcelona star-studded Catalonian side in that January 2 friendly which they drew before defeating a Dutch top-flight team 1-0 on January 12 and wrapping it up with a 5-0 thrashing of Portuguese club, Farense, on January 15. Alluding to this, Mike Umeh, the NFF’s first vice-president said, “The victory is a morale booster for the team. It shows that the Eagles are consistent.”

After their first training session in South Africa, Super Eagles’ striker, Victor Moses, stated that “The boys are looking sharp. We are looking forward to the tournament.” Moses had previously passionately declared that “…I look forward to making Nigeria proud at the AFCON 2013. I want to give everything in all the [AFCON] matches.”

On his part, soon after the final qualifying match for the AFCON 2013, midfield maestro, John Mikel Obi said “I am very happy that the Eagles have returned to winning ways in grand style. I am happy that we won the game in the manner we did, it was great… [The fans] haven’t seen anything yet from me and the Eagles. They should wait till the Nations Cup…” Mikel later touted coach Keshi as being capable of making history by winning the AFCON as a coach after having won it as a player, in 1994.

Furthermore, in December 2012, Nigeria’s former captain and football ambassador, Nwankwo Kanu, declared that the Super Eagles will win the AFCON 2013 if they have the belief. Kanu said, “We should all believe in this; the players should believe that we can achieve it…”

From the foregoing, there is clearly no shortage of motivation for the Eagles to cruise to victory at the AFCON 2013. The very idea that the winner of the trophy will feature as Africa’s representative at the 2013 Confederations Cups in Brazil, alongside world-class teams, in what will amount to an acclimatising dress rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup, is a very great incentive.

Moreover, one of Nigeria’s best-ever strikers and the first Nigerian to receive CAF’s African Player of the Year award, Rashidi Yekini, passed on in May 2012, at the age of 49. An AFCON 2013 victory will be a great posthumous golden jubilee honour to his memory. The victorious AFCON 2012 Zambian team was inspired, in part, by the tragic loss of their forebears in 1993. Here’s to hoping Yekini’s death, also in tragic circumstances, would inspire the Super Eagles with the élan to aim for nothing short of the AFCON 2013 trophy!

In all, as they get their AFCON 2013 underway, the Super Eagles must work hard whilst firmly holding on to their confidence and determination to win. Belief and determination made the difference for Zambia in 2012. Belief and determination will make the difference for Nigeria in 2013. I have the conviction that the Super Eagles will do Nigeria proud by winning the AFCON 2013!

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2 responses to “AFCON 2013: LET THE EAGLES SOAR!

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  1. dis is d spirit we should all hv…a positive and result oriented spirit…putting absolute faith in God and having complete belief in ourselves

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