AFCON 2019 Daily Diary – Day 17

It is Monday morning, the Super Eagles are preparing to head to Cairo.  The team’s itinerary is to travel to Cairo this morning, settle down in their new base, and train this evening.  It is not clear if the team will be flying to Cairo, or travelling by road through the 250 Kilometres that takes almost 3 hours by coach.  Beyond that Gernot Rohr will follow the pattern of preparation that worked for the Eagles against Cameroon – keep the players away from distractions, provoke their psyche, make sure they have their financial entitlements, and maintain their focus till the moment of the match.  That’s what seemed to have worked in the match against Cameroon. There is absolutely no sense in changing a working formula.
So, yesterday, Gernot gave the team some time off to recover from the knocks and bruises sustained during the Cameroon match, plus the hang-over from the celebrations that followed.  Sunday was a very quiet day.  They had a very light training session in the morning. They lounged freely for the rest of the day around the hotel. A few of them attended to the media hanging around the team that they believe could be possible winners of the Championship in the absence of defending champions, Cameroon, hosts, Egypt, and a few other previous pretenders.   Incidentally, one team that has managed to avoid a lot of attention but is solidly on ground with their sterling performances are Algeria.  They have not dropped a single point, have not lost any match and are playing some of the best football so far in the championship. With Egypt out of the way, and Arab solidarity definitely impacting on the rest of the championship, their chances seem brighter now than ever.  The most dangerous team to Nigeria’s ambition are their next opponents – Bafana Bafana. They have a big psychological advantage over the Eagles with their recent dominance of the matches between them.  They even inflicted a very painful defeat of the Super Eagles on home soil in Uyo, to make matters worse.  So, with their confidence level soaring high, and their natural ability to run endlessly without tiring, coming from the high altitude of South Africa, plus their defeat against all the odds of the host nation, Egypt, their confidence level has justification for soaring.
They surely are a very dangerous opponent for Nigeria now.  Gernot Rohr and the team know this too. That’s why, yesterday, the Super Eagles and the technical crew met behind closed doors and discussed the importance of the South African match.  The team goes to Cairo this afternoon to train their eyes firmly on that match. There will be a training session later this evening.  The Fly on the Wall has found a new habitat in Cairo and will start doing its job as soon as the team arrives. Watch out on this platform.

By the way, the last time I visited Cairo, I was a member of the Players Committee of CAF.  Egypt and the surrounding environment always held a fascination for me – the Pharaoh’s, the River Nile, The Pyramids, The Sphinx, The Red Sea, sand dunes, etc.  When I departed, Egypt Air flew out of Cairo in the afternoon.  On the flight, I sat by the window seat.  After we took off I looked out of the window.  For almost two hours after that, I could not look away, as my eyes were riveted to the awesome scenes below. I captured the experience in words that I published then in my newspaper column. This morning, the piece popped up on my Facebook page as a memory.  In my world, that interprets as a prodding to put it up again, so that those that did not read it then can do so now.  It makes an interesting read trust me.

But to do so and enjoy it,  you must view it in my new and expanding website

The piece of literature titled ‘The Frozen Sands of the Sahara Desert” will be uploaded today.  Don’t miss it.