FINALLY, EAGLES BATTLE COLOMBIA
Barring any last minute hitches, the Super Eagles of Nigeria is expected to file out against the national team of Colombia this evening in an international friendly, which has left sour taste in the lips of most Nigerians.
In recent times, no friendly game has attracted so much controversy and uncertainty like the Nigeria-Colombia game.
From the date of the game to its venue, the match has been subjected to all forms of ridiculous speculations bothering on the possibility of it holding at all.
The first shocker emerged few weeks ago, when West Ham United, owner of the Upton Park, which was originally slated to host the much-talked-about friendly, threatened not to allow the game to hold on its ground. The reason was that the organisers of the tie failed to fulfil the contractual agreements they reached with the management of West Ham within the stipulated time.
As the buck passing game continued, the firm that was packaging the match, in its defence, alleged that the failure of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to come up with the agreed mobilisation fees, led to its inability to pay West Ham for the venue.
While this lasted, some officials of NFF quickly dashed to London in a spirited attempt to salvage what was remaining of the friendly. After spending some days in London, the officials came back with the news that they had resolved the brouhaha and that the game would go on as initially planned at the Upton Park ground. But that turned out to be another ruse considering that the friendly was later moved to the Luton Town pitch.
Few days after settling down for the Luton Town ground, the organisers and the management of the club fell out again. The club was said to have hinged its pullout in hosting the game on the premise that its pitch was in bad shape and would soon undergo re-grassing. Just last Thursday, the NFF was able to secure an obscure Kenilworth Road Stadium to eventually host the game, but not without another round of controversy.
All the other friendly games that have taken place preceding this year's World Cup, had always had fans at the stands cheering their teams, but the NFF declared last Thursday that today's game between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Colombia would be played in an empty stadium.
On the field of play, Eagles' performance has been as shambolic as the way the NFF had arranged the team's friendly games en route the World Cup. In the only serious friendly the Eagles had played in more than a month, a lacklustre display ensured a goalless draw against Saudi Arabia in the game played in Austria in a venue that looked like an amusement park.
If eventually the Colombia tie holds today at whatever venue, it would be another opportunity for Lars Lagerback to assess whether he has a team to prosecute the World Cup billed for South Africa or not considering the shocker he got after the Saudi friendly.
Whatever happens, Lagerback is already condemned to name his squad in two days time, as FIFA's deadline for submission of all participating countries' 23-man lists will expire on June 1. His prayers would be that his players' performance against Colombia today would not prolong his nightmares.