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Soldier on Warriors

I READ Darlington Majonga’s article “Show us what you learnt in Tunisia”, on the website of your newspaper, (Zimbabwe Independent, September 3) and somehow felt your pain even though I am not from Zimbabwe.

face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>I am a Nigerian – a soccer enthusiast and an avid supporter of the Super Eagles.

We all watched the match live in Nigeria and were very proud of our team even though some people back home (you won’t believe it!) still felt it is not yet Uhuru for our team.

The background to the display you saw on September 5 was like we needed to win away or kiss goodbye to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The World Cup to us is an addiction of some sort. The day Nigeria fails to qualify for the greatest sports fiesta on earth, a lot of my people will commit suicide. We are that passionate about this game.

Coming to Majonga’s analysis, I must say I got the drift of his arguments. Zimbabwe must start to believe in the youths – especially the local ones.

I must confess that we expected a much tougher encounter from your Warriors. I was not just watching our Super Eagles, I was equally watching to see how your players would react.

I must confess I was disappointed by your Peter Ndlovu, and Benjamin Mwaruwari – one player I used to like and respect.

The Mwaruwari of these days seems a bit sluggish and a shadow of what he used to be.

For Ndlovu, we can understand he’s past his prime; if not he would still be plying his trade in England.

The difference with our team is that we are investing in our youths.

Can you believe that Nigeria had the luxury of dropping big-name players like Sunday Oliseh – who is still playing some good football in Germany – Nwankwo Kanu, Celestine Babayaro, Wilson Oruma etc. These are players that would walk into any African side.

But Nigeria chose to drop players who have seen it all. Usually there is no more motivation for some players after some time.

Jay Jay Okocha is still the only “old” player of those wonderful years when even the Europeans dreaded us. He is still posting good performances as you guys found out on that Sunday. He wasn’t even at his best!

This game is played by the youth and make no mistake about that – teens and those slightly above 20.

Finally, the game is equally played in the head and the heart before the physical meeting. We knew we needed a favourable result in Harare and decided to go for it.

Perhaps your people put too much pressure on the team. Besides you must respect the opposition’s strength.

We used to fall to Cameroon at will until we decided it must stop in Tunisia.

First, the players resolved among themselves that for all our conquest in African football, they always came out second-best to Cameroon. You saw the result. From there we took it on. We also found out that each time they beat us, we played the better football, therefore it must be the mental strength of our players.

When next you play a team like Nigeria, the players must believe in their ability to take on the opponent. Respect the opponent, but do not downplay your ability to upstage him.

Do you know why only Nigeria and Cameroon seem to do well each time they go for competitions outside Africa? It has to do with mental toughness of both nations’ players.

Our team lost to the Angolans in Luanda through a 90th minute goal even when we did not go there with over 60% of our best players.

The players entrusted with the execution of that match – though not the best – believed they could do it and nearly pulled it off. That defeat became a tonic for both players and administrators that we must put our act together if we want to be in Germany 2006.

The players will benefit more from participation because that is the highest level for any player. The country would continue to benefit because we would be among the “big boys”.

Shake off the effects of the defeat against Nigeria and go to work. Let your players wear their jersey with passion and pride. The attitude must be “die man die” for the flag.

Ogugua Osakwe,

Lagos, Nigeria.

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