At this time of a World Cup year, players are cut as the Manager makes decisions on the final 23 players that will represent the country at the World Cup. There is nothing new here in terms of the process. Of course, it is a major interest for the fans as they try to guess who makes the team and who does not.
This year, the Nigerian media have developed numerous stories pertaining to this activity. What is rarely mentioned, however, is the real (italics for effect) human toll that these decisions have on affected players.
Reading the quotes in the media from players who did not make the team including likes of Uche Agbo, Stephen Eze, and Henry Onyekuru reminds us that these players are human. No matter how you slice it, making the World Cup team is huge and focusing media reports on coaching decisions without reporting the human toll, the emotions, the disappointments is to ignore reality.
Think about this? The World Cup is not just any event. If you are a truly great player you may make it to this event just three times in your career like Augustine “Jay Jay” Okocha and in many cases some great ones do not even get there once in a career.
Yet, it is an event that often leads to a big payday because a player’s performance may lead to a big and new contract, after the event, with interested clubs. Thus, getting there is a high stakes event. Everyone wants in.
Thus, it is understandable that there may be cut-throat practices, back biting, conspiracies, and everything else that you can think of. Do not for one minute think that this only occurs among African teams. It certainly occurs elsewhere considering the high profile of the World Cup. The difference is probably how these things are handled behind the scenes and outside of it.
To be sent home from the party as the team list is cut down to 23 players has to be one of the biggest heart breaking events for a footballer. Never mind the public relation activities and niceties that one reads from players after they are cut. That is certainly for the public’s consumption.
Behind those are grave disappointments. It is only human. Here you are having prepared for an exam and yet judged to have failed. That is exactly what a cut must feel like. No one likes to fail, believe me. Failure leads to self-questioning, conjuring up reasons why.
In such situations, your target for blame has to be the decision makers even though that is never mentioned in the public relations piece that the players spew upon being cut. Of course, such public relations piece assures that the player remains in the good books of the decision makers, particularly if the player hopes to get back into the national team.
This, to me, explains the drawn out dispute on whether Moses Simon is injured and whether or not the injury is long term. Forget the medical reports. That can be questioned too. In Nigeria, one can also claim conspiracy for such medical reports. After all anything is possible with the right price. I hope you understand what this means.
The Uche Agbo interview presented in one of the blogs points to Agbo showing no disappointment that he had been cut. Believe that and you will also believe that I own the world. In that blog are quotes from Agbo that clearly provide clues that HE IS disappointed. If not, why then the pointed statements about his quality? His achievements this past season in Belgium? Obviously, it is a dig that he has been cut and several of those who made the team barely achieved what he did at his club in Belgium. He must, surely, wonder why he has not been deemed good enough. This has to be his personal viewpoint.
Never mind what you may think. It does not matter. What does; is his perspective.
We are informed that after the England game, there are a few more cuts expected and required by FIFA rules. Some players are surely petrified. They do not want the manager to come calling on them for a brief discussion, believe me. Those have to be dreaded discussions.
Of course, we would learn afterwards and publicly, about how thankful a player is for training with the team even though they had been let go. Really? I want to know what they feel behind the scenes, away from the media. That is what is closer to the truth. It is what makes them human.
If Aina is cut, what really would he think? Would he question his decision to switch from England to Nigeria? Would he question fairness? Would he blame himself or the decision makers? Put yourself in his shoes. How many times do you blame yourself for failing an exam that you had prepared so hard to pass? Did your angst not focus on exam conditions, the teacher, or anything else but yourself?
For me, this season of cuts is not just about numbers, it is about the human angle. I understand it and I can feel the emotions. The behind the scene stories need to be told and understood. These guys are not machines, they have blood in their veins and they stress and sweat. These are very tough times, to be sure.