Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa, delivered a speech in Lagos on Friday during a ceremony to unveil the team’s ‘Let’s Do It Again’ mantra in their bid to win a fourth AFCON title at next year’s edition in Ivory Coast. ‘TANA AIYEJINA brings you excerpts from the speech
In the beginning
It was a big privilege working under my former coaches Stephen Keshi, Daniel Amokachi and Samson Siasia and my former teammate and captain Joseph Yobo. I want to thank them for all the words of encouragement. Whenever we were in camp, Yobo never wanted to stay with anyone except me because I was the youngest player on the team at that time. At that time, I did not only play for the Super Eagles, I also played for the U-23 and U-20 teams. I played for the Super Eagles, U-20 and U-23 teams in one month. So, it’s a privilege each time I wear the green and white jersey. That’s why I give my best even when I have just two minutes to play.
My first home game was in Calabar and it was just five minutes, but it has kept me on in the Super Eagles till today. The words of encouragement that I had from Yobo and most of my coaches here has kept me working so hard.
For the former President of the Nigerian Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, I can remember when I was at Leicester City and I was not playing. He called the Eagles coach (Gernot Rohr) and said, ‘no matter what, Ahmed Musa must be invited to the team.’ And I went to the (2018) World Cup and was one of the best players at the tournament. Why? Because he (Pinnick) believed in me.
When I was playing for JUTH FC, he was the first person that wanted to sign me for Warri Wolves back then because he knew what he saw in me when I was playing in Nigeria. I will say thank you very much sir. Also, Aisha Falode always supported us, she’s not just about women’s football. She always encourages me and gives the team the moral support that we need.
NPFL stars in Eagles
From the video that I just watched here, most of these Eagles players don’t stay in Nigeria.
In 2013 (AFCON), nobody believed in us. Before our game against Ivory Coast, our ticket to return back to Nigeria had already been booked because nobody believed that we could win.
We had seven home-based players in the team and five of them were starting. This happened because the former coach, late Stephen Keshi and Amokachi believed in the home-based players. I know this because I worked under him in the home-based team when I played for Kano Pillars.
We need to go back to that starting point again and have our local league.
I started from the local league and if nobody believed in me I won’t be where I am today. So, we have to return back to our local league because we have a lot of players there. What are they playing for if we don’t call them to the Super Eagles?
That will not encourage them because everyone will want to go to Europe. They believe Nigerian football is no longer lucrative but for me, you remember I rejoined Kano Pillars from Europe. If these players receive let’s say N500,000 (monthly salaries) they won’t think of leaving the local league because they have their families here. But over there (in Europe) most players stay alone, earn good salaries, listen to music and watch Netflix. The life there is boring with all the money.
Eagles vs Lesotho stalemate
The result against Lesotho was not what we wanted, but that is football, you either win, lose or draw.
And to the media, please, we have a young team. A lot of them cannot take that pressure. Why? Because whenever you are playing you’re thinking of the reaction you will get on social media after the game and most times I see a lot of insults like ‘Ahmed Musa should not play for the team again, he should retire.’
We have a lot of players who should not have retired from the team when they did but it was what the media reported that forced them out.
As you can see, we still need someone like Mikel Obi in the team, we still need Victor Moses. It’s not all about young players in the team because you need players to take them along, but right now we don’t have that.
A lot of people have been saying, ‘oh Musa is old.’ No, I’m not. I started playing for the Super Eagles since I was 19 years, so, I’ve been here since and that is why everybody is thinking Musa has been in Eagles for long. Whenever I wear that jersey it’s a privilege and pride to me.
I love this country and I know whenever we lose, I have a family back home, I know the pressure they face when we lose. When we are on the pitch, they say ‘na him mother be this, go insult am (this is his mother, insult her). So, I know that I must put in everything I have so that people don’t insult my family.
Nowadays, with the players we have in the team, none of them stay in Nigeria. They don’t know that anger that most of us, who have families in Nigeria, face when the team loses.
I cried a lot when we didn’t qualify for the 2022 World Cup. I know what our former NFF president (Pinnick) did at that time. Players stayed in hotel rooms which cost about N500,000.
He did his best so that we qualified for the World Cup. We lost a lot of money and that is why most of our players right now are facing challenges because we failed to qualify for the World Cup. So, we as players lost so much money.
No matter where you are playing you always go down into your corner to think when you lose money. Nowadays I understand what football is and the anger of the fans. Most of us don’t support Super Eagles because we like them, they will say, ‘hey dem don cut my ticket, give me my money’ (hey they’ve spoilt my ticket, refund my money). You’ll see on most of our DMs ‘you cut my ticket, you no sabi play’ (you spoilt my ticket, you don’t know how to play), its because they are bettors. Before, you’ll see the love and passion for the team but nowadays, betting has spoilt everything.
So, please I am begging the media to please take it easy with these young boys, they can’t take too much pressure. That is why whenever they go onto the pitch to play they panic because they are thinking about what they are going to see on their accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
What do you think forced Odion Ighalo out of Eagles? They threatened to kill his family and he had to quit.
Why will you threaten to kill my family just because I play for my country. When you go outside you see how they worship us, but when you come back home they treat you like nobody.
Plight of ex-footballers
Look at most of our ex-footballers, how they are doing. We understand we live big lives, but some of us don’t have that money to support them and this is why I’m going to plead with my father, the sports minister.
We need something from you (sports minister) that is going to take care of our old players because we always see a lot of people complaining. Please, look into this matter because we understand what is going on. That is why most of us now think of a business to invest in after football because that is when life starts.
So, if you don’t plan well, we understand what happens. You need to enjoy, but some of us don’t have that privilege to play for big clubs and earn that big money.
‘Let’s do it again’
To the NFF president, please we are begging. I need this video (Let’s Do It Again documentary) please. This is what most of our players need.
We need this encouragement because most of us don’t stay in Nigeria. I always come to Nigeria. I have to fly from my club to come here. I will say thank you very much to the organisers for giving everything, my ticket, everything, thank you.
I am taking all these to my teammates to tell them 2024 is for the Super Eagles and for Nigeria. Let’s do it again.
I am promising we will do all our best to make Nigeria happy because I remember that celebration in 2013, when we landed at the airport. There was no road for us to pass for over two hours and this is the only sport that makes us one in Nigeria. Nobody thinks about Musa as a Muslim or (Kelechi) Iheanacho as a Christian. I can remember after the World Cup in Russia, when I arrived Nigeria, people were saying ‘Ahmed Musa for President’ because of just two goals, so, you can see how Nigerians love football.