The Super Eagles of Nigeria yesterday climbed to the top of Group E in the qualifying series for the 2019 African Cup of Nations to be hosted by neighbours Cameroon. They beat Libya by three goals to two in a match played in Sfax, Tunisia which Libya had to make their home for the match, due to the security situation in their home country.
Before this qualifying series which took off again last month after the first round of matches in June 2017, Nigeria was third on the table with no point because they lost their home match in Uyo by two zero to South Africa on June 10 last year. So they shared the bottom of the table with Seychelles who lost 5 – 1 to Libya the previous day.
Many football fans were already expressing fears that for the third time in a row, Nigeria will fail to qualify for AFCON.
When the Eagles beat Seychelles 3 – 0 last month, the doubts continued because this was the same Seychelles which conceded 5 goals against Libya and Nigeria was still third in the group anyway.
However, the turnaround and ‘BOUNCEBACKABILITY’ seemed possible when Libya came to Uyo last weekend with all the bravado and went back home with 4 goals in their net, three from an Odion Ighalo heart trick, an unlikely source of goals by that day because he had been firing blanks for the national team, even in the World Cup in Russia.
The word, ‘bouncebackability’ was only accepted into the regular dictionary about 10 years ago. It is said to have been coined by Iain Dowie, former player and coach of Crystal Palace football club, London in the 2003-04 season when describing how his Crystal Palace team had gone from the fringes of relegation in December to winning promotion through the play-offs in May. There are different versions but it is said that even in their play off match, they came from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
The Word is therefore the ability or capacity to recover from a setback; the ability to ‘bounce back’ usually implying a fighting spirit; the ability to come from a losing position and win.
Bouncebackability is still a very new word, and is still not in most dictionaries. It sounds long but if you break it up into smaller bits, i.e. bounce, back and ability, it settles in your system. The first two words constitute the phrasal verb ‘bounce back’. This means to recover from a setback or bad news, to come back after something bad has happened. Adding ability to the end of this phrasal verb makes a noun, ‘bouncebackability’, the ability to recover from a setback. Enough of that.
After Saturday’s win by the Eagles in Uyo, permutations took over. And those permutations were followed up by prayer warriors who were casting and binding that South Africa should not beat Seychelles so as to pave the way for Nigeria to do the needful against Libya.
SA and Seychelles drew zero-zero so all the Eagles needed to do was beat Libya to move to the top and have some hope of qualifying for Cameroon because only group winners can qualify. Very easy, right?
It almost looked like an easy game the first 30 minutes.
When the now usual suspects Odion Ighalo and Ahmed Musa scored two quick goals in the first half, everyone thought it was a walk in the park for Nigeria.
Then came the second half when the Libyans woke up and ran rings around the Nigerians. When they also scored two goals to level up, the spirit of BOUNCEBACKABILITY seemed to have also shined on the North Africans; only for the now impressive Ighalo to sell two dummies and slot home the winning goal for Nigeria.
So, a real bounce back it was for Nigeria. At least for now. We have 9 points against the South Africans’ 8.
The battle has not been won yet. There are two more games for the Eagles against South Africa away and Seychelles at home in Nigeria.
Can the permutations be positive to ensure qualification? Who will stick out their necks?