By Emeka Obasi
This ‘Musa Must Go’ campaign must stop. The Super Eagles captain, for all I care, is still relevant to desired goals. He is not the problem, singling him out on account of age is nauseating.
Musa has not slowed down the team in any way. He has not usurped anyone’s position. The so-called younger players have not been able to acquit themselves creditably. Let them score goals before disgruntled fans start searching for a scape goat.
There are many bench warmers getting invitations. Ahmed Musa is not inactive. Turkish side, Sivasspor cannot be dumb to keep fielding the Nigerian captain.
Jose Peseiro has given younger strikers opportunities to sell themselves. In Eagles last two matches, Musa did not have considerable playing time. In his absence, the team could not score. Guinea Bissau were victorious in Abuja. They only fell in Bissau through a penalty kick.
I wonder why Nigerians are heaping their frustrations on a player who carries the country on his head and has even endured humiliation in the course of duty.
In 2011, Musa was a Flying Eagle and struck a deal with his Dutch club, VVV Venlo. At the African Youth Championships hosted by South Africa, he flew in to play against defending champions, Ghana in the opening match. At the end, he was in the air again, back to serve the club.
Some of us may not remember that Sunday Oliseh chose Musa as Eagles captain in October 2015. In 2016, Samson Siasia handed the band to Mikel Obi. There was no Civil War over that decision.
Super Eagles would have left the Russia 2018 World Cup without winning a match. Thanks to Musa, they defeated Iceland 2-0. Both goals were scored by the player some armchair analysts have chosen to pillory.
He got his first World Cup brace at Brazil 2014 and against almighty Argentina, commanded by the Lion of Pampas, Lionel Messi. Musa remains the only Nigerian with four Mundial goals in his name.
When the Eagles captain ejected from Saudi side, Al Nassr, many ruled him out completely. They were worried that an inactive player was still considered for a place in the Super Eagles.
Musa was not finished. He returned to the Nigerian league to play for his old club, Kano Pillars. He joined in April 2021 and stayed till the end of the season, 2020/ 2021. The captain was still good enough to be signed by Fatih Karagumruk, another Turkish club.
I choose to defend Musa because, at the moment, he is the only Eagle that can die for the people. That never say die spirit which has departed from the national team is still burning inside this star.
Alright, let me add Alex Iwobi. He understands what football means to his country men. The others are either too Europeanised or are quarelling with our shoddy style of running soccer. William Troost Ekong and Leon Balogun are also in the class of Iwobi but were out of action against Guinea Bissau.
Musa has nose for distress and comes around with succour. He cares not about tribe or tongue. The Eagles captain has helped out in Kano with sporting facilities worth over 500 million naira. Widows on the Plateau have adopted him as a helper. Kingsley Obiekwu felt the Musa balm.
Managers have their reasons for keeping captains who may look slow in the eyes of fans. Jorge Pena held on to Gowdin Achebe as non playing captain and the Green Eagles won All Africa Games gold at Lagos ’73.
Victor Oduah who was captain was so decorated because he led Benin Vipers to Challenge Cup glory in 1972. There were players senior to him in the Green Eagles 1973 squad.
Kenneth Olayombo and Tony Igwe were at the Mexico 1968 Olympic Games and should have been considered ahead of Oduah that was why Pena retained Achebe, the most senior of them all.
Pena had known Achebe, the ‘Ide’, from the Ghana 1963 African Nations Cup. The Brazilian was Eagles manager. Achebe came from Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) alongside Paul Hamilton, Shedrach Ajaero, Joseph Bassey, Burniston Olayombo and Augustine Oduah.
Burniston was Kenneth Olayombo’s elder brother. They were Aba Boys although their father hailed from Ife in the West. Igbo was like a first language to the Olayombos.
Stephen Keshi enjoyed similar privilege. He first captained the national team in 1984 under Adegboye Onigbinde. By 1984, Clemens Westerhof still found him useful. At the Tunisia 1994 African Nations Cup, Keshi was like Achebe while Austin Eguavoen acted Victor Oduah.
Big Boss had patriotism flowing in his veins. I was so proud of him after a chat with Indomitable Lions keeper Joseph Antoine Bell in Dakar, during the Senegal ’92 African Nations Cup.
Bell narrated how Keshi exuded confidence during a radio show with Roger Milla and two other Cameroonian players shortly before the grand finale between the Eagles and Indomitable Lions.
According to Bell, “Keshi was proud to announce that he would go back to Nigeria with the trophy because the team made that promise before departure. Milla and I looked at ourselves wondering why this small boy spoke like we were pushovers. From that day, Keshi became my friend.”
Skippo so loved his country that for choosing Nigeria over his French Club, Strasbourg, Gilbert Gress stripped him of the captain’s band.
Keshi told me this story at the Gateway Hotel, Otta, in 1993 shortly before he led Nigeria to Cote D’ Ivoire for a USA ’94 World Cup qualifier.
He said: “You won’t believe it, Coach Gress dropped me as captain because I left Strasbourg to honour Nigeria. It was painful because I looked up to him as a father.”
Gress had signed Keshi from Anderlecht Belgium and the Nigerian was central to the manager’s plans.
Ahmed Musa has shown as much patriotism. And he is not a bench warmer in Turkey. For a man whose dad was Kanuri from the North and mom, Afenmai from the South, the difference he is making is clear.
Musa plays with Nigeria written all over him. He has done so much for the Eagles and I expect him to keep uniting the younger players and teaching them some old tricks that you do not find in the manager’s books.