AFCON 2019 Daily Diary – Day 25

It was not all bleak and gloom at the Le Meridien Metropolis Airport Hotel in Cairo yesterday.  True, the number of delegations left in Cairo had dwindled in size since the Eagles were defeated by Algeria two nights ago, but, contrary to what used to happen in the past, there was a throng of visitors to the camp.  It was a media beehive.  Journalists swarmed the hotel from everywhere.  The ‘fly on the wall’ learnt later that the air was pregnant with the rumour all over Cairo of an impending Tsunami – a tumultuous and imminent shakeup in the Super Eagles team.  Would Gernot Rohr resign or would he be sacked? Would one or two players announce their final retirement? Those were the nectar attracting the bees to the hive.  Every journalist wanted to be a part of the scoop yesterday.  So, they came in numbers, asking questions.  The camp security was not as tight as it used to be since the team lost.  The primary interest in the Eagles had waned.  But yesterday, the journalists came hunting for news. They had a field day with the team and their coaches.

Unfortunately, there was no bombshell.  At an interview granted Osasu Obayiuwana by the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, earlier, Amaju Pinnick announced that Mr Rohr had fulfilled his mandate to his board by getting to the semi-finals and that the coach would not be fired.  So, yesterday was a day for the news scoopers. They asked any and all questions, and the players and coaches obliged.  Interestingly the players were in high spirits.  Earlier, the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation had met with the team, and by the time they left, it was obvious that whatever transpired had a profound impact on the players, for they came out with their spirits lifted and cheers on their faces.  The players went for their usual training session in the evening after which they retired early to their rooms to refocus for their final game. There seems to be a desire to make amends and regain any modicum of respect the team once enjoyed lavishly.

This morning, they are sending two of their representatives (Coach Rohr and a player) to honour the official and compulsory press conference.  According to the team’s itinerary, there shall be a final training session this evening, to be followed by dinner, prayers, and retirement to their rooms.  The team appears to be taking the preparation for what they consider a prestige match tomorrow very seriously. Will that compensate Nigerians for the pain of their exit? Only time will tell.   Meanwhile, back home in Nigeria, a large number of fans have just been given their Egyptian visas to enable them to travel to Egypt to attend AFCON.  Can you believe it? Visas after three long weeks of waiting and the team they are going to support has been beaten?  The unhappy contingent may be leaving Lagos tomorrow for Cairo, to arrive there just in time to catch the third-place match.  That should be another interesting historic battle between Nigeria and Tunisia.

Visit www.mathematical7.com.  My 1992 interview with Chief MKO Abiola, uploaded on the site, has gone viral. Unfortunately, credit for the work is not given to me or my organization (our fault for not watermarking the footage).  Although we have uploaded two other parts of the interview, we intend, by popular demand, to upload the full, 22-minute version of the exclusive conversation.  Tunde Kelani, TK, was behind the camera whilst I asked all the questions. Watch out.