Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) chiefs will have to shift forward by 24 hours all the plans they have put in place for the Super Eagles to play the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia in the first leg of the 2014 World Cup play-off.
The reason is because the Ethiopians who have the right to pick the exact date for the crucial first leg match in Addis Ababa have picked Sunday, October 13 instead of the Saturday, October 12 that the Nigerian football officials believed is the day. General Secretary of the EFF, Yigsaw Bezuayehu, confirmed yesterday that the match will be played on October 13 and not October 12.
"We have played our home games on Sundays and the match against Nigeria will not be an exception," said the EFF top official. "Going by this revelation, the chartered flight arrangement earlier planed to airlift the Eagles and Nigerian delegation to Addis Ababa on Friday, October 11 would have to be shifted by 24 hours to Saturday. All other plans as regard beating the effect of the high altitude of Addis Ababa remain intact," revealed a football top official from Abuja last night.
Nigeria have picked Saturday, November 16 as the date for the return leg match at the U.J Esuene Stadium in Calabar. The overall winners of this playoff matches will qualify for next year's World Cup in Brazil. But retired Nigerian FIFA badge referee, Dr Alex Mana, dismissed plans by the NFF to storm Addis Ababa less than 24 hours to the crucial world Cup play-off, insisting it was not enough to solve the high altitude problem.
Mana took a swipe at the decision insisting that the football body is unwittingly shortening the Super Eagles' survival opportunities against their Ethiopian counterparts, the Walya Antelopes.
"The 24-hour arrival plan is obviously laughable, we're giving Ethiopia undue advantage, we won't even gain much with weeks of acclimatization not to talk of one day acclimatization.
"It's bad not to acclimatize at all. There is a disadvantage there already due to the high altitude but if you acclimatise you can chance to bend the minuses a little.
"I know the NFF has a handicap, as majority of our players is everywhere in the world coupled with clubs varying restriction on the release of players for their national team assignment.
"That's why it's good for a country to have the nucleus of their players in one region not as it's in our case our players are virtually everywhere in the world thereby making it a daunting task to get the players together on time.
"Egypt dominated the continent for a long time before the recent crisis because majority of their players play on the continent," said the don of the National Institute for Sports (NIS) to supersport.com.
Though Mana is positive Nigeria will come out of the Addis Ababa duel unscathed he will prefer the nation queue behind Eagles manager, Stephen Keshi to get more domestic players on board of the national team. "Of course, the high altitude in Ethiopia will surely play its pranks on us but with little doggedness on the part of the players we may survive the scourge and emerge unscathed.
"But we can manage similar incident in future on permanent basis by encouraging the ongoing effort by Keshi to bring in more local lads in the team so that we'll depend less on the foreign-based players," Mana said.
Both sides will meet in the return leg in Calabar, Nigeria in November for the decisive leg in which the winners over the two legs will qualify for the quadrennial global football fiesta coming up in Brazil next year.