Former Super Eagles midfielder, Friday Ekpo, and erstwhile Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Taiwo Ogunjobi, has dismissed the target set for the Super Eagles at the Brazil 2014 World Cup, saying it puts unnecessary pressure on the team.
The Super Eagles are going to Brazil as champions of Africa and the expectations of most fans was recently echoed by Minister of Sports, Tammy Danagogo, who said that the target set for the team at the 2014 World Cup is to win the title.
“We expect the Super Eagles to go to Brazil and bring back the cup,’’ Danagogo had said.
But Ekpo, one of the most influential players in the domestic league in the late 80s and early 90s, said setting goals create pressure, especially if someone else created them.
“Setting a target puts the team to task, and I don’t want to put them under pressure,” he told TheCable.
“I just want them to take each game as it comes. They are professionals and they know what is expected of them. They should be relaxed and focused. If they train well and are physically fit, they will do well. We should stop putting the team under pressure because it could be counter-productive.
“Whether it is made public or not, every country going to the World Cup has a target in mind but here, we put pressure on the team by making such targets pronounced. What the team need is to follow the instructions of their coaches and also use their individual skill to change the course of a game. Setting target is best done by the players though that depends on the kind of relationship that exists among them.”
Ekpo went memory lane to his playing days to buttress his point, citing the example of Senegal ’92 Africa Cup of Nations, when the players told themselves they were going to win the cup.
“The talks were mainly between us during training sessions. We shared jokes and ideas on how to achieve this. We got to the semifinal and did everything humanly possible to get to the final, but we lost to Ghana. Everybody saw the effort we put up in that game, but it was just not meant to be.
“Going into the third-place match, we told ourselves we won’t go home empty-handed even though we had not beaten Cameroon for a while. That was our target after missing out on the final, and we got the desired result. So, it is better the players set a target for themselves and believe they can achieve it.”
Also speaking with TheCable, Ogunjobi, on his part said the World Cup is too big a stage to set target for a team that is developing.
“In the World Cup, the best of the best grace the event,” he said.
“We are a power-house in Africa but in the world? We are still learning. We are still developing. We are not Brazil, Argentina or Germany.
“I don’t believe in setting target for the team. They should just go to Brazil and do their best. They should try and play well so that after the competition, they will be seen as a force to be reckoned with.”
Ogunjobi, the chairman of Nigeria National League side, Prime Football Club, recalled that during his time in the NFF, only realistic targets were given to the national team.
“We did set target for the team but that when it is an Africa Cup of Nations competition; not when we are going to the World Cup,” he said.
“Moreover, the majority of the players we are taking to Brazil are not first-team players in their clubs.
“The Spanish national team had close to six players in the Champions League final match played over the weekend. Imagine that kind of experience. You can’t compare that with what some of our players have. At the end of the day, though, we will get there.”