Head coach of the Nigerian Amputee Football team Victor Nwenwe says the lessons from their hurried preparations and rushed trip to the World Cup in Mexico shows that the team must “start now to prepare for the Nations Cup” coming up next year or else “we’ll still have ourselves to blame” if they don’t do well.
The Special Eagles returned to the country yesterday from the World Cup in Mexico where they won one and lost three of the four games they played.
Their attendance had been in doubt right up to the start of the tournament due to a paucity of funds with the team eventually resorting to crowdfunding to raise money. Interventions from the Nigerian Football Federation, Super Eagles, Atiku Abubakar and Mikel Obi helped bridge the cash shortfall and they eventually made it to Mexico a few hours before their opening match against Brazil after travelling for 55 hours.
“That was one of the factors that affected us mostly,” Nwenwe told busybuddiesng.com, “the whole uncertainty affected us and towards the tail end of our preparations, most of the players got involved in the fundraising so it did not give them enough time to train. So that’s one of the factors that affected us also.”
Inadequate preparations for tournaments is an ingrained Nigerian trait. There is often a misplaced belief that the famous Nigerian resilience, grit and determination provides an effective bulwark against what in Nigeria is known as ‘the fire brigade approach’. It is a self-belief that flies in the face of reason, but one which Nwenwe was imbued with, even with the prospect of facing defending champions Russia, powerhouses Brazil and El Salvador in Group E.
“Initially, I thought it was an easy task,” Nwenwe says, “but when I got there I experienced a lot of things.
“I observed that we are so backwards in the game in terms of organisation and the new rules of the game. Even what really affected us most is the equipment. My players were using obsolete crutches, players from other countries they make use of modern crutches that is now the trend and it affected us seriously in the games.”
Having qualified but failed to make it to three previous editions of the World Cup, just getting to Mexico was a triumph in itself for the Special Eagles and the experience of being exposed to modern aspects of the game on the global stage is one Nwenwe believes will help him take the game in Nigeria to a new level.
“I learnt a lot about the organisational and other modern aspects of the game. With my experience there, it would go a long way to help the team in terms of restructuring the developmental plan to raise the game in the future.”
Next up for the Special Eagles is the Nations Cup coming up next year, and while the talent and ability of the team has never been in doubt, Nwenwe says that preparations must now start in earnest if the shoddy preparations which affected the team in Mexico are to be avoided.
“My expectation is that we should start now to prepare for the Nations Cup. If we don’t do that we’ll still have ourselves to blame next year.”