What had been going round as speculations have now been declared official. The Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles will face Atletico Madrid in a friendly match in Uyo later this month. One considers this absurd, very absurd. It is a devaluation of the brand, Super Eagles.
While South African club side, Mamelodi Sundowns will about the same time play against a far higher brand, the runaway La Liga champions, FC Barcelona, the lead brand of Nigerian football will be attempting to match La Liga runners-up, Atletico Madrid.
It is absolutely absurd for anyone to pitch any club side, no matter the pedigree of such club, against Nigeria’s lead football brand, the Super Eagles, even if it is called the ‘home-based Super Eagles’.
We must retain our dignity. South African Football Association did not make a mistake of matching FC Barcelona with their national team, but a club. They would rather pitch their national team against fellow national team as they did in late 2013 when Bafana faced the then World Cup holders, Spain.
They did the same matching their national team against Confederations Cup holders, Brazil in Johannesburg. When Spain visited South Africa in late 2013
Even decades ago when lead clubs all over the world visited Nigeria, they were pitched against our top clubs and occasionally, what the then football administrators ingeniously tagged the NFA XI.
Note, they never made the mistake of pitching our national team, then called Green Eagles, against such clubs that came with global legends like Pele, Marinho Peres all World Cup heroes. Yet, they played in their club games against Stationery Stores and other Nigerian club sides.
Manchester United and Portsmouth as premier league champions and FA Cup holders visited Nigeria in 2007, they played against our club sides, even if our teams were beaten silly. FC Barcelona, perhaps the greatest club at the moment visited Egypt, they played against Al Ahly. Why then will anyone conceive the idea of matching our national team against Atletico Madrid? Despite the pedigree of FC Barcelona, will England ever agree to a friendly match with the club?
If our dream is to see the Super Eagles become a global super brand, the earlier we make everyone to treat the team with respect the better. Super Eagles have absolutely nothing to gain playing against Atletico Madrid or any club side. Yet, they have everything to lose in such an ill-conceived idea.
Only Atletico Madrid and the marketing agents have anything to gain in the proposed fixture. Should the Super Eagles beat the club, are we going to beat our chest for achieving a feat?
On the other hand, should the club beat the Super Eagles, the brand equity of the team is further devalued.
Any result obtained from this ill-conceived friendly match will have no positive impact on the ratings of the Super Eagles. It will not count in the number of caps that the players would have chalked up.
It might be argued that the team will gather experience, featuring against players in the La Liga
A friendly match against the neighbouring Benin Republic or Togo is more beneficial to the Super Eagles than playing against Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, FC Barcelona, Chelsea or Manchester United.
Recall that in 2001, Inter Milan invited the 2002 World Cup bound Senegal for a match to mark the return of Ronaldo, the West African side declined to have their national team play a club side and Enyimba was then invited instead. Does that not say volumes on how some countries jealously guide the pride of their national teams?
Recall that six years ago, attempts were made to match the Super Eagles with Arsenal in Nigeria. The argument then was that it would make our national team players gather experience. I argued then asking the for the type of experience the then NFF wanted the likes of Osaze Odemwingie and Joseph Yobo and others to tap playing against Arsenal players after most of them had been playing against them and other European players in Europe.
Before the proposed Arsenal visit in 2012, then forthcoming visit to Nigeria, Arsenal were to be in Malaysia and China. Malaysia did not agree to match their national team against Arsenal. Rather, it was the Malaysia XI.
In China, Arsenal played against fellow Premiership side, Manchester City and then faced Hong Kong club side, Kitchee FC.
Are we saying that Malaysia and China have a higher standard of football than Nigeria that we have to match our national team against European clubs?
It would have been better to match the visiting Atletico Madrid against Enyimba, our only continental flag bearer or a combination of Enyimba and two other clubs.