2020 was a year of lows for Nigerian football- although the beautiful game was affected worldwide by the outbreak of the coronavirus.
It was a year which forced football to take a backseat with leagues taking an enforced break for almost three months while international competitions such as the Euros and Copa America were shifted for a year.
2020 was a year where the usual became unusual. Pre-match handshakes were cancelled, football stadiums became silent like graveyards as matches were played behind closed doors. While the pandemic shut down almost all sectors worldwide, football resumed again in May. Still, there were not too many positives to take from Nigerian football.
The Super Eagles played four matches this year but failed to win any, including Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Sierra Leone.
Following football’s resumption, Nigeria played two international friendly games against Algeria and Tunisia respectively. It was also Gernot Rohr’s first game since he signed a new two-year extension as the national team manager.
The renewal was not without drama, but eventually, the Nigeria Football Federation decided to extend the German’s deal for another two years. However, for Rohr and his boys, their first game in almost a year ended in a disappointment, losing 1-0 to the current African champions.
Although they managed a 1-1 draw in their second game against Tunisia, it was still an average performance from the three-time African champions.
While their performances against the two North African nations could still be excused given it was a friendly, the Super Eagles display against Sierra Leone in the doubleheader AFCON qualifier took the country’s football to a new low.
The three-time African champions failed to beat the West African minnows in back to back Group L AFCON qualifiers. Nigeria blew a four-goal lead in the first leg at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin before playing a drab 0-0 draw in Freetown.
The result rounded up a truly disappointing year for the senior national team, and the whole squad deservedly came under harsh criticisms following the two games.
Aside from the Super Eagles, the youth teams also failed to meet expectations with Nigeria’s U-20 team failing to qualify for the Africa U-20 championship.
The Flying Eagles failed to win any of their two matches in the WAFU-B tournament, which served as qualification for next year’s Africa U-20 championship.
The return of Ladan Bosso attracted a lot of flak, a man who had once been given that responsibility but failed in the past.
The question remains why Bosso again? when there are so many ex-internationals who are now trained coaches and better equipped seeking ways to help the country’s football? Why does the NFF keep recycling coaches instead of trying new hands who may have new ideas?
Although they knew their fate last year, both the male and female football teams failed to qualify for the football event of the now postponed 2020 Olympics.
The Nigeria Football Professional League (NPFL) also went on a nine-month hiatus- although the new season kicked off on December 27.
Last season saw the league came to an abrupt end due to the coronavirus pandemic. League places were determined on points per game (PPG) basis. However, after the decision was reached, the players were inactive for the next nine months before the new season kicked off last Sunday.
The new campaign has started on a good note, though, with some of the matches televised on national tv and the new NPFL.TV.
Nonetheless, it was a disappointing year in general for Nigerian football, but hopefully, 2021 will bring many positives.
Nigeria’s biggest breakthrough in sports was recorded in basketball where both the male and female basketball teams qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. The first African country to achieve that feat.
Aside that eight Nigerian born basketball players were selected in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The NBA Draft is a process through which elite players in the American University system are selected by teams playing in the National Basketball Association for a chance to earn a living in the NBA League.
It has never happened before in the history of NBA draft where a single African country produced such a huge number of drafts. – usually two or three and mostly from Nigeria, Senegal and lately Cameroon.
Vanguard News Nigeria