Governor David Umahi among other soccer fans in Ebonyi, have congratulated the Super Eagles over the team’s qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
The Nigerian team on Saturday drew 1-1 with hosts South Africa in Johannesburg to qualify for the competition billed for June.
With the draw, the Eagles have garnered 10 points and would be making another appearance at the continental soccer fiesta, having last featured in 2013, when it incidentally won under the late Stephen Keshi.
Umahi, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, said the Eagles had met the yearnings of Nigerian soccer fans.
He said that many Nigerians had virtually lost interest in watching AFCON matches since the team’s last qualification five years ago.
He said: “On the behalf of the government and people of Ebonyi, I congratulate the Super Eagles over this qualification and urge Nigerians to continue praying for the team to excel at the competition.
“Coach Gernot Rohr has revived the team since assuming responsibilities, and the high level of commitment and discipline on the part of the players made the job easy for him.”
The governor, however, urged the team not to be complacent with the qualification, but re-double its efforts in ensuring it wins the coveted prize in Cameroon.
“The players and officials would, no doubt, savour the euphoria of this qualification for long, but they should realise that the team needs to work harder for a credible performance in the competition.”
Charlse Akpuenika, Commissioner for Youths and Sports in the state, also congratulated the team, noting that the glamour of the AFCON would be enhanced with the Eagles’ return.
Akpuenika said: “It was disheartening for Nigerian soccer fans to watch the last two AFCON editions without Nigeria, and the team should be commended for halting the trend.
“The young players groomed by the coach to achieve the qualification have proven the vitality in youths and attested to the technical input impacted in the team by Rohr.
“I want to assure Ebonyians that by the time facilities at the Pa Ngele Oruta stadium Abakaliki are upgraded as recommended by the Nigerian Football Federation, they would be watching the Eagles in Abakaliki.”
Chief Osita Nwinya, a businessman, commended the players for their tenacity in earning the needed point despite the antics of the match officials.
Nwinya said: “Both linesmen denied the Eagles two goals scoring situations; firstly an opportunity of scoring a goal and a legitimate goal ruled for offside.
“Video replays and expert analyses indicate that both situations were not offside as this same scenario forced the Confederation of African Football to order a replay in a Russia 2018 qualifier between South Africa and Senegal in 2017.”
Mabel Isiugo, a teacher and football enthusiast, thanked God for the qualification and noted that she was eagerly waiting for the commencement of the 2019 AFCON.
Isiugo said: “I did not watch matches in the last two editions of AFCON due to Nigeria’s absence but the passion I have for the competition has returned with this qualification.
“I urge the team’s coaches not to experiment with the final qualifier against Seychelles but use it to improve on the technical capabilities of the team.”