As the 24 teams continue to compete amongst themselves in the qualifiers, fans eagerly watch as the Super Eagles lead Nigeria to greatness.
Nigeria Has Hope, But Not without Hard Work
Despite the devastating loss to Tunisia at the 2021 AFCON, Super Eagles fans still have high hopes for their beloved team in next year’s tournament. The outcome came as a great surprise, as Tunisia previously did not have the reputation of a great team. However, a series of factors including winger Alex Iwobi receiving a red card early on in the game hindered Nigeria’s ability to win. Finally, when Tunisian forward Youssef Msakni shot his goal and tipped the score, it sealed Nigeria’s fate for AFCON.
Many fans were shocked because the Super Eagles have won the AFCON cup three times and when they haven’t won, always make it quite close to the finals. The Nigeran team has also done quite well in the World Cup and FIFA, so the loss to Tunisia came as a shock to many, except for the more seasoned and knowledgeable experts.
One of those experts is the Nigerian football legend, Emmanuel Okala, who has made sure that both the Super Eagles and fans understand that to get to where they want to go, the Super Eagles cannot simply assume they will breeze through “easy” match-ups. Okala mentioned that now, there is no such thing as a good team or a bad team. Instead, there are just teams that put in the work at the right moment, so the Super Eagles have to give all their effort at each game to be successful.
So far, it appears that the Super Eagles have heeded Okala’s advice. With several wins out of the last five matches so far, their hard work seems to have paid off well. Now that Sao Tome and Principe have been disqualified, Nigeria is set to play against the Mauritius Dodos on June 13th. Time will tell if the Super Eagles will make the cut with their match, but first, the Super Eagles must defeat Sierra Leone days before, on June 9th.
The Importance of AFCON
Over the sixty-five years that the tournament has been active, AFCON has changed a great deal and tournament organizers have always sought to make the cup the best it can be for everyone involved.
AFCON is no stranger to criticism, with questions arising about health conditions, organizers have been quick to fix such issues in order to ensure the players can have a great time on the field. One of the main complaints was about fixture congestion, which happens when matches are scheduled too close together, resulting in heavy tolls on players’ bodies and ultimately causing a team to fail to deliver. The problem is that fixture congestion doesn’t give players enough time to recover, but because AFCON coincides with the English Premier League, and many of the AFCON players also play for English clubs, they need to find a solution to perform well in both tournaments.
Organizers have offered solutions such as starting the recovery process as soon as possible. Players must stretch, hydrate, and consume carbs and proteins to take care of their bodies. So far, players seem satisfied and happy to be participating in the matches, so hopefully, no more problems will arise from fixture congestion or scheduling issues.
For both players and fans, AFCON is more than a regular football tournament. Many viewers have described the tournament as a validating source of representation for Africans, who tend to play for other teams outside their homelands. Especially for Africans who have migrated to other parts of the globe, seeing their countries perform on the world stage instils a certain pride in their heritage. The same goes for the children of migrants, who only have their parents’ memories of their native lands and diaspora communities as a representation of their culture.
Many fans have also described how nice it is to see how tournaments work in Africa, where the crowds are lively and respond to matches differently than in European or Latin tournaments, which tend to get more visibility.
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