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Nigeria hero blames President Tinubu’s ‘abnormal’ gift for Super Eagles’ decline after AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire

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Legendary Nigerian forward Segun Odegbami has pointed out the reason behind the Super Eagles’ recent pitiful showings, Soccernet.ng reports.

Odegbami noted that the Super Eagles poor performances in their four games since their participation at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations could be traced to the royal treatment showered on the team by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

It would be recalled that the Super Eagles finished in second place at the AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire, after losing 2-1 to the hosts in the title decider.

However, despite not lifting the title, President Tinubu gave the Super Eagles a hero’s welcome.

The President hosted the Nigeria national team at the state house in Abuja where he conferred the players and coaches with the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) – one of the highest honours of the land.

Each member of the Super Eagles playing and coaching staff also received a flat and a plot of land in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

None of the Nigerian team that won silver medal at the 1984, 1988, 1990, 2000 AFCONs was so richly rewarded for not emerging African champions.

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Odegbami is convinced that handing the Super Eagles gifts that were ‘out of character with the norm’ possibly made the team feel special and could account for their below-par displays since. 

“Some 5 months ago, Nigeria broke its own standards. The country rewarded ‘second-best’. She rewarded a team that did not win the trophy in a way such as the world had never seen before,” Odegbami wrote as per Vanguard.

“In history, Nigeria had lost, rather painfully, several finals of previous AFCONs. Twice, in 1988 and 2000, great squads of the Eagles’ that were even glaringly ‘robbed’ of their moments of glory were not welcomed with blaring trumpets, and no celebrations were held to honour or reward their valiant efforts.

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“Put that side-by-side the Super Eagles of AFCON 2023. No one had confidence in the team. For almost one decade before, they had won nothing, had not impressed very much, had not produced outstanding performances and performers, and so on. All of this under the tutelage of foreign White coaches.

“Then, Cote D’Ivoire in January of 2023 happened and the same players that broke the hearts of Nigerians with a lethargic performance in the final match were accorded a heroes’ welcome, feted, honoured and handsomely rewarded by the government.

“That gesture was totally out of character with the norm. It must have come with a consequence or a price, as an impetus or a depressant. The players may have concluded they were special indeed.”

Since returning from the AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire, the Super Eagles have won one and lost two of their four games in all competitions.

The team’s 2-1 loss to Benin – the first time Nigeria’s senior national team will lose to the Cheetahs – may be the most damaging as it left Nigeria’s hopes of qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in tatters.

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