Of Super Eagles and flight fright

Friday 10 October 2014

/ by Colin Udoh
Super Eagles board plane to Khartoum

Deja vu

That's what it felt like sitting in the Sudan Airways Boeing 737-400 that was to convey the Super Eagles to Sudan for Saturday's 2015 African Nation's Cup qualifier.

From the moment the players stepped on the aircraft, the scent of trouble was evident. And it was not long before things boiled over.

Vincent Enyeama walked to the front of the plane where Stephen Keshi and some of the officials were seated.

Enyeama had barely returned when Mikel Obi and Emmanuel Emenike also made trips to the front. They were joined by Austin Ejide.

All went to speak to Keshi about the poor condition of the aircraft.

In fairness, they had had a good point. The inside of the plane did everything but instil confidence. Some of the arm rests were falling apart, a few seats would not recline and the cushions looked threadbare.

Mikel, whose fear of flying is legendary among the players, looked like he would sh*t bricks. Enyeama, similarly unenamoured of flying local, looked a nervous wreck, as did Azubuike Egwuekwe, whose own undisguised flight scare rivals only the absent Nnamdi Oduamadi.

Needless to say, the players were unimpressed by the state of the aircraft. Keshi was forced to leave his business class seat and come to the main cabin in an attempt to pacify the discomfited players.

A loud and heated conversation followed, with both Enyeama and Mikel pointing out that this was not the first time they had had issues with travel arrangements.

Keshi tried to assure them that this was a new board which had hardly settled down and would try to effect changes.

Apparently, he did enough to defuse the situation, with the help of NFF Vice President and Leader of Delegation Seyi Akinwumi as the players returned to their seats.

Akinwumi then took time going around to sit with each player and reassure them of impending changes.

The newly elected NFF executive committee member then spent the rest of the flight in the economy cabin with the players, leaving his business class seat (one of only eight) empty for the four-hour flight. 

It allowed him to observe the trio of Ahmed Musa, Efe Ambrose and Juwon Oshaniwa prank the flight-scared pants off Egwuekwe. 

As is his custom of dozing off during flights, Egwuekwe promptly stretched on three seats and drifted away immediately after takeoff. Ambrose, egged on by his co-conspirators, simulated turbulence by slamming into the back of his seat.

The Warri Wolves' defender's reaction was worth his weight in gold. 'Blood of Jesus' was already complete before his eyes flipped wide open as he made a grab for the seat in front of him. Except that what was in front was the bulkhead.

If looks could kill. . . 

As it turned out, the flight proved to be one of the team's smoothest ever, with even Enyeama commending the trouble-free trip immediately on landing.

But that is one immediate area the new board will have to deal with. And fast.

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