It is the day after the day after the day after AFCON 2023 ended.

For some altruistic reason, far from how the generality of Nigerians felt, I believed, even before the championship started, that Nigeria’s chances of winning it were very bright. I said so severally at many fora. I also wanted to be a major part of the journey to that historic achievement, particularly since very few people gave the country any chance.

By road to Abidjan.

The idea to travel by road to Cote D’Ivoire was so that I could document every part of that journey and the experiences of winning AFCON 2023. I managed to convince a few persons and organisations that partnered me. I thank them all without mentioning them specifically.


Compared to several previous AFCONs, the organization of the 2023 championship was not top notch. There were very serious issues about access to broadcast rights, accreditation of the media, transportation to Cote D’Ivoire, accommodation, ticketing, and the general ambience in the country. 

I remember Ghana 2008. Every inch of that country in that year reeked of ‘AFCON’. Everything imaginable was branded in the colours of Ghana. You saw and felt it at the airports, around the towns on taxis, in the shops, on street kiosks, etc. Even some houses were repainted in national colours, as were souvenirs, clothes, flags, and small take-away items on the streets. There was not such an ambience and citizen-participation here.  Until towards the semi-final matches, interest all around the country was rather subdued.

Having said that, the championship ran well and produced some of very high quality of football. Sadly, it also came with some tragedies. At least 5 Nigerians were reported to have died whilst watching some of the matches involving their national team on television.

Facilities and infrastructure

Cote D’Ivoire invested well to provide some excellent facilities for the championship.

As a result of the excellent grounds, lush green natural grass turfs, the football matches played throughout were of very high standard, delightful to watch, and perfect for television coverage. Accompanied by the unprecedented drama that ended most games, the sheer unpredictability of matches till the very end, the matches became a great advertisement for ‘the beautiful game’ as well as the best of African football.

With most of the players at the championship playing in European leagues, they were at home on the pitches.

The biggest challenge for the players was also the discomfort for all spectators – the scotching temperatures during the day as a result of global climate change. Despite that, the competition was high, the playing standards were high, and every match saw the very best of adulterated attacking football.

So, in a transformation never seen before, ‘minnows’ became ‘giant killers’, escalating the level of competition, and creating unprecedented drama, global interest in each match and some of the most unexpected results in AFCON history.

The state of the pitches alone has taken AFCON 2023 to a level different from all others before it.


Generally, the level of officiating was very high. Even Europe can take lessons from the African experience in the usage of the VAR. In the final match, the officials may have succumbed to the pressure of the electricity in the air.

There was a ‘threat’ in the air, a fear of what could happen should Ivory Coast lose the match. That ‘threat’ hung over the Olympic stadium in Ebimpe and all around the country, like an Albatross.

It was a huge relief that most persons, that the Ivorian team, buoyed by the support of the over 57,000 spectators in the stands, rose to the occasion, played the better football on the night, and won the final match deservedly.

The Super Eagles!

For most Nigerians, that the team even got to the finals is a big surprise. The team had been written off as a result of not been impressive for several years despite the abundance of good players in the team with most of them playing in big teams in Europe.

The players needed time to blend and become a team. That was the missing ingredient that AFCON 2023 offered them, from one week of serious training and the relatively easier group stage matches.

With a little bit of luck added, the team’s simple tactics worked.

Jose Paseiro

He adopted a simple strategy throughout the championship. It came straight from page-one of Jose Mourinho’s handbook of football. Understandably, the more famous Portuguese coach confessed that Jose Paseiro is his closest friend in football. Nigerians cannot also forget that Paseiro got the job of handling the Eagles only because he was recommended by Mourinho.

It is easy to understand how the Nigerian team played so defensively throughout the championship. What is not easy to understand is why they did not change tactics when the opposing teams decoded their tactics. In the semi-final and final matches Paseiro’s limitation as a knowledgeable football tactician was exposed. He did not know the strength of his players enough and did not know how to deploy them. His substitutions were bizarre to say the least.

Nigeria had the final match under control and could have won the final match with a more experienced coach, and a better psychology for the players in the difficult final match.

Without any doubt, for the immediate future beyond AFCON 2023, Nigeria must shop for a better coach. This time, it should be a Nigerian.


The reaction of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the performance of the Super Eagles is very commendable. It sets up a new dimension in rewarding performance of athletes in even without winning a trophy. It lends credence to the spirit of Olympism that: “In sport, you do not have to come first to be a winner”.

The performance of the Super Eagles provided a soothing balm for the political and economic pains Nigerians are going through, bringing the entire people around the values of patriotism and service, setting aside differences and unifying the entire country around a national cause.

The Federal Government has set a new barometer to measure achievement.

Most valuable player!

William Troost-Ekong was the ‘discovery’ of the championship. He emerged from the shadows to provide the much leadership for the Nigerian team, marshalling the players from defense and leading by example. He distinguished himself both on and off the field, even playing through half the matches with a lingering injury.

Outstanding players.

Until the final match, where he switched off for some reason, Ola Aina owned the right wing- back position (the right full-back). His tackles, his dribbles, his runs down the flank, his ball control, some of his crosses and confidence were truly masterful.

Nwabali, in goal, was a breath of fresh air as last line of Nigeria’s defense. His improvement from match to match was remarkable.

Victor Osimhen.

Everybody wanted to see Osimhen perform and justify his crowning as Africa’s best. The audiences at every match throughout the championship cheered and hailed him even as he did not put up anything near spectacular. The people waited for that moment that never came.

However, his work rate, his passion and his energy were a model for young footballers.

His greatest failing was that he never deployed what was considered his greatest weapon, his head. He has a lot of work to do in the following months to win back the support so lavishly lavished on him during AFCON 2023.

The duo of Simon Moses and Demola Lookman played very well. They could have punished defenders a little more by driving more into the box if only the coach navigated.

The Roadshow

I sincerely believed the Super Eagles would win the championship.

I proclaimed it loudly even before the championship started. I demonstrated it by travelling over 2500 kilometres by road, 11 hours of daily driving for 6 days (to and fro) to attempt to document that history, and advance my 20-year dream that West Africa should bid to host the football World Cup and use the event to institute the fastest regional development program in the world. I drove through parts of the West African sub-region and experienced, first-hand, the beauty, and the challenges that lie in this beautiful and enchanting part of the world.

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