Former Super Eagles defender, Celestine Babayaro has explained that the absence of several key players in Nigeria’s squad to the Stars Sixes’ competition ruined the team’s chances of doing well during the competition in London.
Babayaro was full of lamentations, after Nigeria’s participation at the first edition of the Star Sixes tournament in London’s O2 Arena came to a shuddering stop at the quarter-final stage, following a 8-1 loss to Spain on Saturday.
The Nigerian team, led by Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, qualified for the quarter-finals as one of the best third-placed finishers in the group stages, after they had been beaten 3-0 by a Rivaldo and Djalminha-inspired Brazil in the last match.
After the Brazil defeat – which was the first match of the second day of the event – Nigeria had to wait for all the other results to know if they would play in the quarterfinals later in the evening.
Spain have been one of the fittest sides from day one and their players look like they are still good enough to play at the top level, with several quality players to flaunt.
World Cup winners like Carlos Marchena, Joan Capdevilla and Carles Puyol looked at ease and they had just as fit players on the bench ready to replace tiring limbs. The six-a-side matches are intense and energy-sapping, so many players are required.
For Nigeria, Peter Rufai, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Julius Aghahowa, Garba Lawal, Uche Okechukwu, Taribo West and Okocha struggled to keep up with the Brazilians and the Spanish, but ‘Cele’ says it was due to the absence of several players who promised to be present but never turned up.
“There were players who had agreed to be here but for some reasons or the other they did not show up. I would not like to go into details but their absence showed as we had no one fit enough to come on.
“In this type of tournament you need to have fit players and it showed. We had players here who got injured and so could not come on from the bench,” the ex-Anderlecht of Belgium as well as former Chelsea and Newcastle United of England left-wing-back told supersport.com.