President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau announced on Saturday that visible total commitment implying patriotic fervour will now be a key factor, apart from competence and current form, for any football player who wishes to wear the nation’s green-white-green jersey at any level.
Gusau’s words, spoken to players of the Super Eagles on Saturday morning, was a direct reference to Friday’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying defeat to Guinea Bissau at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, which pushed the Eagles down to second place in their qualification group.
Mama Balde’s 29th minute goal was the only strike in the encounter, condemning the Eagles to defeat in front of fervent home fans. The Eagles created a dozen chances in the second half but failed to get the ball into the Wild Dogs’ net.
“Let us be very clear about one thing: no player will ever be encouraged against his wish to wear Nigeria’s colours at any time. If an invitation is extended to you at any time but you are not physically, psychologically or mentally up to it, you are free to decline.
“Nigeria demands good performances and positive results from any of the teams going forward. I was sorely disappointed by your performance against Guinea Bissau and I know that Nigerians at home and in the diaspora are more than disappointed. Things must change starting with the return match in Guinea Bissau on Monday. Our country is too big to be getting these poor results at international level.”
Recalling that the U23 Men Team, Olympic Eagles, also failed to score against Guinea in a Africa U23 Cup of Nations qualifier at the same venue on Wednesday, Gusau said the message is for all the teams, down to the U15 side known as Future Eagles.
“Total commitment that we can see in your body language and output will now be a key factor in who wears Nigeria’s jerseys. If some players are not ready to give their all at a particular time, others will be and will deliver for our country.”
Team captain Ahmed Musa apologized to the NFF and Nigerians for the defeat and assured that the players are ready to redeem themselves in the return match on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria delegation to Monday’s match in Bissau will depart from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja at 7am on Sunday aboard a chartered flight. The match comes up at the Estadio 24 de Setembro starting from 5pm Guinea Bissau time (6pm Nigeria time) on Monday.