The 2018 World Cup in Russia may have come and gone, but it has left behind a big tussle in the Nigeria Football Federation. While other serious countries have started evaluating their team’s performances in Russia and looking for ways to improve on the next edition, Nigeria is busy fighting over who takes over the leadership of the football house. There is, however, a silver lining in the offing as Super Eagles’ Ahmed Musa could have one of his goals at the tournament voted as the Best Goal ahead of more established players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Writes Kunle Adewale
Continuity has never been the watchword as far as Nigeria’s football is concerned. After every World Cup campaign, it is a ‘norm’ that the head of the football governing body and sometimes his cohorts must go. From Ibrahim Galadima, to Sani Lulu, to Aminu Maigari and now Amaju Pinnick, who however is enjoying the support of the world football governing body- FIFA, ahead of his challenger Chris Giwa, who is being backed by the Youth and Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung and indeed, the Supreme Court ruling, a situation that has thrown the football house into a real mess.
However, until Monday when FIFA would pick the 2018 World Cup’s best goal, in which Super Eagles’ Ahmed Musa is in contention, the crisis in the NFF would be secondary.
The Super Eagles’ pacy winger, Musa is in contention for the ‘best goal’ of the World Cup finals which was rounded up last Sunday in Moscow. With FIFA’s launch of a poll on Monday to pick the best of the 169 goals scored at the World Cup, Musa’s classy goal, the second against Iceland at Volgograd has been shortlisted among the tournament’s best 18 goals.
The speedy and mercurial winger now has a great opportunity to put himself in the record books if his goal is eventually picked as the best.
The goal contending to be the best for Russia 2018 was scored in the 75th minute. It was a fine individual effort as CSKA loanee outpaced Iceland’s Kari Arnason before rounding goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson who sprawled helplessly on the turf to double Nigeria’s lead in the classic encounter and was eventually voted as the ‘Man of the Match’ and put the country back in contention to qualify from the group which Nigeria later relinquished to Argentina in the last Group D match at Saint Petersburg.
Musa’s shortlisted goal is contesting with 17 others scored by notable players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Germany’s Toni Kroos among others.
The poll presented by Hyundai will be open for a week till Monday. Nigeria with its huge population can help Musa achieve success by voting for his goal which is listed ninth among the 18.
Before Musa’s goal was shortlisted, the former Kano Pillars striker had already made history for himself with his two goals against Iceland by becoming the first Nigerian player to score at two different World Cups, and making him the second African player to score two World Cup braces, after Roger Milla in 1990.
Many would have expected that his first goal against Iceland did not make the cut as it was another superb goal good enough for exhibition on television.
At the 2014 Mundial in Brazil, Musa was on the score sheet, scoring twice in Nigeria’s 2-3 loss to Argentina in an encounter Lionel Messi also scored twice.
His feat against Iceland also goes into the history books in England as Musa also becomes the first Leicester player to score in a World Cup.
Leicester City confirmed Musa’s record-breaking achievement when they posted a message on their official Twitter account which said, “#lcfc’s first-ever #WorldCup goalscorer”
Musa moved to Leicester City in the summer of 2016 for a club record £16m after the then Premier League champions initial January bid was bid turned down by CSKA Moscow.
“Leicester City is delighted to announce that they have reached an agreement for the transfer of striker Ahmed Musa from CSKA Moscow for an undisclosed fee, subject to Premier League and FA approval,” a statement on Leicester’s website had read.
“I feel very happy joining Leicester City, for me, it’s one of the best clubs and I feel very happy. I joined because it’s one of the best clubs in the Premier League and they are like a family. That’s why I joined Leicester City and I’m very excited. I look forward to seeing the fans in the new season and I will do my best to make them happy,” he had said on signing for Leicester.
However, it was not to be as Musa who was coming with a profile of 13 goals in 29 Russian Premier League matches in his last season at CSKA could only manage two goals in 21 appearances for Leicester and it came as a little surprise when he was shipped back on loan to Moscow.
Before his return to CSKA, Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr had hinted at an impending move for Musa, positing that the move to Russia will be beneficial for the player and the Super Eagles as a team.
“Musa is going back to Russia and it is very good news that he will be playing there. Musa playing in Russia is a positive development so that we will have the sympathy of Russian fans. We have seen that when Brian Idowu was introduced in the game against Argentina. The fans encouraged us and he scored, this can be a good reason to get support from Russian fans because of the people there like Musa. Also, Musa knows the people there because he is familiar with them, he knows the weather condition too,” Rohr had said.
Meanwhile, Musa is said to be close to agreeing on a big money move to Saudi Arabia Side, Al Nassr Riyad. Musa initially turned down the chance to move to the Middle East but he was swayed into considering the offer when the club increased his wage to an amount that will possibly make him the highest paid African player.
OwnGoal reports that a fee of around £30m has been mooted as what the club wants to pay Leicester City for his transfer, an amount which many believe the Premier League outfit will gladly accept, considering Musa’s failure to make a mark since his move to the club from CSKA Moscow two years ago.
Musa began his career in the GBS Football Academy and in 2008, he moved to JUTH FC where he played 18 games, scoring four goals in his first two professional seasons for the Healers. He was subsequently loaned to Kano Pillars in the 2009-10 Season where he set the league record scoring multiple crucial goals as Pillars finished second.
Musa held the record for the highest goals ever scored in one season in the history of the Nigeria Premier League until November 2011, when Jude Aneke of Kaduna United set a new record of 20 goals.
He transferred to Dutch club VVV-Venlo in summer 2010, but the move was held up because he was only 17 years of age and therefore not eligible for an ITC in accordance with the current FIFA rules. He was officially eligible to play for VVV-Venlo in October 2010 when he eventually turned 18 years of age.
In 2010, Coach Lars Lagerback invited Musa for camping prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa after helping Nigeria win in the 2010 WAFU Nations Cup. He was however forced out of the Super Eagles’ 30-man World Cup provisional team due to an ankle injury.
Musa, however, made his debut for the Nigeria senior team in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match against Madagascar and scored his first goal for the Super Eagles against Kenya in 2011, in a friendly game and he has continued to march on from then.
The whole world is, however, waiting to see if Musa would beat more established players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric to the ‘best goal’ of the 2018 World Cup.