Although many Nigerians are not comfortable with the travel arrangements made for the Super Eagles to fly into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the 2014 World Cup playoff, football authorities in Nigeria say there is no cause for worry
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Oct. 7, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THERE is a general fear that the travel arrangement made by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, for the Super Eagles to travel to Ethiopia for the 2014 World Cup palyoff on October 13, may affect the chances of the team. According to the NFF, the Super Eagles will travel to Ethiopia on October 12 as part of plans to avoid the effects of weather in Addis Ababa.
Some sports analysts believe that arriving late in Addis Ababa portends danger for the Super Eagles. It may negatively affect the chances of the team qualifying for the World Cup considering the hours the players would spend on their way to Ethiopia. Kingsley Onye, ex-international, said he is worried about reports he has been reading from Nigeria on the arrangements for the 2014 World Cup palyoffs against Ethiopia.
“The reactions that I read daily from Nigeria on the World Cup draw scare me. I’m even more worried now than the day the draw was made. Nigerians are easily writing off Ethiopia. May I strongly tell Nigerians that anybody who thinks the tie with Ethiopia will be a walk-over for the Eagles should have a rethink. Nigeria will be missing the point to think that it is in Brazil already. The country is not there yet and it will not get there easily. I played against the Ethiopians and I know what the weather is like there when you are playing. Your throat is dry and you burn out of energy easily. Aside from that, the Ethiopians we watched in the Nations Cup are better now. They have improved. They are hungry and determined. Money will not motivate them. What motivates them is the fact that they are playing Nigeria.
“They are hungry, determined and will not be exhausted at home or in Nigeria. They can pass the ball. They can hold the ball and that could be a problem. I want Stephen Keshi and his technical crew to disregard the comments of those who have predicted an easy ride. Ethiopia will not be easy to beat. For a team to qualify after losing three points for defaulting means that it is strong. We saw the resilience of the players during the Nations Cup. We saw their passing game. What they lacked then was shooting. They are better in that area now. They play collectively and they are very hungry. That makes them dangerous. They may not be stars but they are a good team that may surprise any team including Nigeria. Let’s not allow that to happen,” he said.
But Emmanuel Ikpeme, head, NFF technical department, said it is common knowledge that there are two ways of counteracting the effects of high altitude. Either you travel at least two weeks in advance, or go there 24 hours before the game. “Obviously, we cannot have all our players for two weeks before the game, so they will all report in Nigeria, train here and then fly to Ethiopia on a chartered aircraft that will convey our entire delegation. That will give them a chance to train on the pitch the day before and then play the game the next day,” Ikpeme said.
Ademola Olajire, NFF spokesperson, said that playing against teams in high altitude regions is not new to the Super Eagles. Most of East Africa is mountainous and Nigeria frequently travels there to play games and the various national teams have managed to cope. “This is not the first time we will be paired with teams from such regions and we have always excelled. We have played against Kenya severally in a high altitude environment and even Ethiopia during the qualification for the 2010 World Cup. The NFF has its game plan that it will not want to make public. So, the weather condition in Ethiopia should not cause any panic and the players are ready and they know what is at stake,” he said.
Stephen Keshi, Super Eagles coach, said his players are aware of the challenges ahead and would make sure they qualify for the World Cup. “I have a lot of respect for the Ethiopians and all the teams that made it to the last round of the qualifiers and I am certain that it will be tough, unpredictable and exciting for the so-called big teams and the minnows. The last time we played the Ethiopians, it was quite tough and I know when we meet next it’s going to be the same thing. All we need to do is to be focused, concentrate and pray for good health for our best players and the rest will be history,” he said.
In 2011, the Eagles met the Walia Antelopes in an African Cup of Nations qualifier and adopted this same tactics, coming away with a 2-2 draw. In that match, however, the team arrived just hours before the game as the plane carrying them stopped over for refuelling at Entebbe in Uganda.
To avoid any similar problems, the NFF will charter a direct flight that will not need refuelling and which will land in Ethiopia a day before the match, so the players can rest and train ahead of the game. NFF officials are confident that with their plan, the high altitude in Addis Ababa will not affect the Super Eagles.