Malawian Bag of Tricks

Super Eagles Team

Out of morbid fear of the Super Eagles, the Football Association of Malawi and its chief coach, have resorted to outright falsehood against Nigeria in order to mislead FIFA to order a shift from the Calabar venue of the September 7, qualifying match

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Sep. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IN A space of six months, the Super Eagles of Nigeria lifted a second trophy on South African soil after the defeating the host, Bafana Bafana of South Africa 2-0 in the 2013 Nelson Mandela Cup on August 14. The first trophy was won in February when the Super Eagles emerged champions of the African Nations Cup under Stephen Keshi, coach of the team.

The August 14, victory, no doubt, has put the Super Eagles in a better shape ahead of the make or mar FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifiers against the Flames of Malawi on September 7, in Calabar. The win is an indication that Keshi and his team are ready to qualify the country for the Brazil 2014 World Cup. A win over Malawi, means that the Super Eagles will go through to the final rounds of the qualifications. Keshi has released the list of players for that encounter. They include 24 home-based and 18 foreign-based players.

But the recent call by Tom Saintfiet, chief coach of Malawi, for a change of venue for the World Cup qualifying match has been described as a reaction of a scared team looking for excuses before its defeat by FIFA. Malawi had requested FIFA to force Nigeria to make a change of venue for the crucial game, citing insecurity in Calabar.

According to Walter Nyamilandu, president, Football Association of Malawi, FAW, the FAM is asking FIFA to seriously consider changing the venue from Calabar to either Lagos or Abuja on security grounds because of Boko Haram terrorist attacks in Nigeria. “We have a valid case because there are security concerns in Calabar which is flagged as one of the high-risk security zones. So, we are not comfortable with security arrangements and would want to play in an area where the security of our team will be guaranteed,” he said.

The FAM president also alleged that Nigerians are also very hostile to visiting teams. For this reason, the Malawians, according to the FAM president, plan to camp either in Cameroon or Ghana until 24 hours prior to the match to avoid psychological warfare to our players because Nigeria is well known for giving hostile reception to visiting teams. “They are likely to set the intimidation wheel spinning as soon as we jet in such as detaining us at the airport or not providing us with a training ground. There will definitely be a battle off the field to distract our players.”

Ademola Olajire, media officer, Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, said that the federation has sent a detailed security plan for the 2014 World Cup qualifying match to FIFA. “The 12,000-capacity stadium has hosted several international matches involving Nigeria in the past, including previous 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Namibia and Kenya. It also hosted 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Rwanda and Liberia. But the Football Association of Malawi, inexplicably, scurried to FIFA to express unfounded fears,” he said.

On its part, Keshi said that neither Malawi nor Saintfiet can determine where Nigeria will play its crucial World cup qualifiers in September. He also took time to once again reiterate his often repeated mantra that he was, indeed, building a team rather than depending on a collection of stars or depending on any specific players. “I miss John Obi Mikel, Emmanuel Emenike and Kenneth Omeruo and numerous other players, and my players miss them too but the good thing is that we are not building the team around individual players but rather as a unit. Our team has been evolving for awhile. We played with a couple of players who haven’t been with the team for a while like Victor Obinna Nsofor and Shola Ameobi who didn’t quite get into our movements of the ball and on the ball but will be gradually re-integrated as we go on. Bafana players were expecting them in the first half, so I kept them to see how they measured up. They are not here to eat, so I had to put Uche along with Moses and Musa and they delivered,” he said.

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