Afcon 2023: FG N12b and Caf N10b motivation for Eagles, Peseiro a darling and lessons from of South African league
Before the Super Eagles embarked on the journey to Cote d’Ivoire, the Federal Government approved the NFF’s budget of N12 billion, which it said was for the campaign in Cote d’Ivoire and payment of the coaches’ 15 months outstanding and other allowances, as well as clearance of the debts owed players and officials of the other national teams.
On the eve of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced that the winner of the championship will get $7 million (approximately N10.15 billion), while the runner-up will take home $4 million (approximately N5.8 billion), with the semifinalists taking $2.5 million (N3.6b) each, while for qualifying for the quarterfinals, a team will earn $1.3 million (N1.8b).
The amount announced by CAF signifies a 40 percent increase from the previous prize money for the championship, with the confederation’s president, Patrice Motsepe, saying that “a portion of the prize money will contribute to developing football and also benefit all the football stakeholders, as well as assist our Member Associations with their administrations.”
Both motivations combined to ginger the boys, such that their ratings, in just two weeks, went from zero to hero in the minds of Nigerians at home and abroad.
In the build-up to the Nations Cup, Coach Jose Peseiro was one of the most vilified football tacticians on earth. While some Nigerians called Peseiro a ‘scam’, others simply tagged him a failed and clueless coach.
It got to a stage that some Nigerians told the NFF, to do away with the Portuguese when his contract expires after the ongoing Afcon. Even the NFF came out to assure football fans that no matter what happened in Cote d’Ivoire, they would not renew Peseiro’s contract.
But the coach kept his cool and even accepted a pay cut just to prove his ‘many enemies’ wrong. Peseiro landed in Cote d’Ivoire with the Super Eagles ranked outside the favourites for the Afcon title.
Now, the Portuguese has succeeded within 30 days to reverse the negative opinions of Nigerians about his ability. His tactical innovation of a fluid five-man defensive formation is bringing the desired victories, though with narrow margins.
Peseiro has said repeatedly that the Super Eagles ‘is still a work in progress.’ But, at least, many Nigeria football fans can confidently say that he is building his core structure around Stanley Nwabali, Williams Troost-Ekong, Semi Ajayi, Ola Aina, Calvin Bassey, Saidu Zaidu, Frank Onyeka, Alex Iwobi, Ademola Lookman, Moses Simon and Victor Osimhen.
It took coach, Clemence Westerhof, five years to perfect his formidable arsenal of Peter Rufai, Austin Eguavoen, Uche Okechukwu, Uche Okafor, Ben Iroha, Sunday Oliseh, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Emmanuel Amunike, Daniel Amokachi, Rashidi Yekini, and George Finidi.
One of the biggest revelations in the Super Eagles’ march to the Africa Cup of Nations final is goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, who before the competition started, had only had four caps for the country. His confidence between the posts is phenomenal and his saves are astonishing.
One of the unexpected outcomes of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations is the case for Africa-based players made eloquently by the Bafana Bafana, who came to the championship with 80 per cent home-based players.
The fact that the South African team has players from only four teams in the country’s league shows that investment in the local league helps to build quality players, who will find it easy to blend and play as a unit given the enabling environment.
While most teams at the championship relied heavily on players based in Europe, South Africa stands out in having an almost entirely home-based squad with coach Hugo Broos leaning heavily on the Mamelodi Sundowns side that dominates domestically. Ten members of the Bafana Bafana squad play for Sundowns.
Egypt is the only nation that came close to South Africa, but they still had a significant sprinkling of foreign-based stars beyond talisman Mohamed Salah.
It is something that gives South Africa coach Broos an obvious advantage over many of his counterparts, who saw most of their players leave their clubs in the middle of the European season and had just a few days to train together before the AFCON began.
“When you watch these guys play you can tell they have been playing together for a while,” former Cameroon defender, Aurelien Chedjou, who played under Broos for the Indomitable Lions, told broadcaster Canal Plus Afrique.
“They can find each other almost with their eyes closed and that makes a difference.”
Broos has no choice but to rely on a core of Sundowns players, given how few leading South Africans play abroad.
Percy Tau of Egyptian giants, Al Ahly, has the highest profile, and the little forward is a former Sundowns player, featuring in the team that won the CAF Champions League in 2016.
Beyond him, there is Lyle Foster of English Premier League side Burnley, but the striker was left out of the squad due to mental health issues.
Sundowns, who were bought two decades ago by current Confederation of African Football president Patrice Motsepe, have won six consecutive South African titles