Former Sports Minister Solomon Dalung appears to have laid the blame for the Super Eagles recent struggles at the feet of successor Sunday Dare after he said “an absence of political will” is to blame for the team’s failure to beat Sierra Leone.
Nigeria gave up a four goal lead at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin, last Friday to draw with the Leone Stars in the first leg of their Group L 2021 AFCON qualifier before playing out a barren draw in the return leg in Freetown four days later.
It meant the Eagles failed to win a game in a calendar year for the first time since 1974 after a loss to Algeria and a draw with Tunisia in friendlies played in October.
While Nigerians have been ferociously critical of the team and head coach Gernot Rohr, with Dare suggesting recently the Franco-German could be sacked imminently, Dalung who was minister when Rohr was appointed believes “there’s more than meeting the eyes” about the team’s current woes.
“As it is our camp is in disarray while the [technical] team is on a blame game but the truth remains that there’s absence of political will to drive the team to victory. We planned to failed so bad pitch in Freetown is no reason for poor outing,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
Dalung’s reference to a lack of political backing for the team appears to be a shot in the direction of his successor Dare whose opposition to Rohr is public knowledge and who, on the back of the team’s showing against Sierra Leone, has all but announced the firing of the former Gabon coach.
While maintaining that qualification for the AFCON is “nonnegotiable” Dalung wondered how possible it is for “individual players whom we know well” to become bad overnight.
With several reports suggesting the Eagles are being owed several match allowances and bonuses, the former sports minister appeared to lend credence to that claim by suggesting the team’s woeful performances are more likely due to a lack of motivation over their welfare than any other factor.
Nigerians, Dalung said, “should interrogate their welfare” before broaching any other explanations for the team’s underperformance.
“To qualify for AFCON is non negotiable, those responsible must purge themselves of usual abracadabra by facing the situation honestly otherwise we may have another crisis on our hands this time it may not tolerate hypocritical explanations.
“When the Super Eagles performed abysmally, we should interrogate their welfare before any explanation. To me there’s more than meeting the eyes about the situation in our camp. Something is fundamentally wrong with the team and not the individual players whom we know well.”
Not that Dalung is particularly enamored with the choice of Rohr as Eagles boss, with the former minister faulting the two-year extension handed to the former Bordeaux coach earlier this year as he believed Rohr “was overdue for retirement” at the time.
“We do not believe in ourselves which explains why we patronized foreign coaches, if we do then we should have realized that Rohr was overdue for retirement, but the primordial considerations beclouded the sense of judgement against national interest, its time to look inwards,” Dalung wrote on Twitter.
But not withstanding his opinion about the suitability of Rohr as Eagles manager, Dalung was in no doubt about where the blame lies for Nigeria’s horrific capitulation in the first leg.
The former Sports Minister made clear that Dare and Nigeria Football Federation boss Amaju Pinnick bore responsibility for the Benin debacle after widely ridiculed photos showed the duo and the Edo State deputy governor participating in the team’s training ahead of the first leg against the Leone Stars.
“I reasoned with those who located the blame on the coach because he didn’t utilized his substitution powers effectively. He should have introduced the politicians who trained with the team, may be there would have been political magic to turn the tide in our favour.
“Even though opinions differs as per the performance of the team, but no doubt we couldn’t have expected anything less than our bargains, our opponents trained technically for victory, while our training was political jamboree saturated with non team members.”
This isn’t the first time Dalung would be taking pot shots at his successor, most notably ridiculing Dare’s attempt to permanently resolve the slew of corruption allegations and court cases against the NFF which were mostly the initiated during Dalung’s tenure minister.