Alex Iwobi Receive Heavy Criticism After AFCON Announce BREAK

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    President Bola Tinubu held a grand reception for the Super Eagles at the presidential villa after the AFCON games, where he gave national honour to all squad members. The national team, who narrowly missed out on the gold medal but won silver, were each awarded a plot of land in FCT and a flat for their achievement.

    Just before the occasion, Several Nigerians took to social media to express their admiration for the Super Eagles’ performance in the AFCON match. Despite losing to the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, the Super Eagles’ victory over the Bafana Bafana of South Africa was particularly noteworthy, and many fans praised the team’s efforts.

    Many Nigerians are finding it hard to accept the Super Eagles’ loss at the tournament. Sadly, 27-year-old midfielder Alex Iwobi was singled out as the main scapegoat. Dragging him by his signature dreadlocks, netizens blamed the celebrated footballer for the Super Eagles’ loss in the AFCON games, claiming his performance on the field led to the monumental loss.

    The Fulham midfielder is currently not just mentally stressed about the cyberbullying but also fears for his life. Alex shut down his social media and announced he was taking time off. His teammates and colleagues, such as Ahmed Musa, Victor Osimhen, and Asisat Oshoala, came out to fight his battles and defend him on social media. 

    Is Alex Iwobi to blame for the Super Eagles’ loss? Or is he just a scapegoat for people having a hard time accepting defeat?

    VIDEO VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE – PRESS PLAY

    It’s no longer news that the Nigerian senior team came second place in the African Cup of Nations 2023 games. Since 2013, when the Super Eagles won the AFCON tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa, claiming the title once again for the national team has been more of a fantasy. But many hoped this year would have been different, especially after the Super Eagles qualified for the semi-finals, then went head-to-head with the Bafana Bafana of South Africa and beat them blue-black. Sadly, the game ended on Sunday, February 11 2024, when the Super Eagles faced the Elephants of Ivory Coast in the finals and were defeated 1 to 2.

    Surprisingly, some Nigerians took out their disappointment on some key players by bullying and blaming them for the match’s outcome. Alex Iwobi, the nephew of legendary Nigerian football Jay-Jay Okocha, received most of the burn. The 27-year-old midfielder, who was substituted with Alhassan Yusuf in the 79th minute, received heavy criticism on social media. Even before Alex was replaced, he was already being trolled endlessly, from hateful comments to more personal attacks. These critics refused to acknowledge that the Fulham player started six of seven matches in the AFCON games and was instrumental to Nigeria’s unexpected run to the final. Angry netizens rushed to blame him for a woeful performance, leading to many threats and insults on his Instagram page.

    The likes of Very Dark Man and Tunde Ednut were particularly accused of leading the cyberbullying trend on Alex. The influencers who recently linked up in London reportedly made inciting posts that escalated the trolling. Especially Very Dark Man; in a video, he said there is no way Alex Iwobi is related to Jay-Jay Okocha. While blaming the young footballer, the influencer claimed all his passes were not connecting on the field.

    Alex Iwobi’s family members were not spared, especially his uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha and his daughter, Daniella Okocha. Initially, the 27-year-old soccer star first locked the comment section of his posts on Instagram. But when that did not work, the talented footballer decided to take a break from the media. Alex eventually deleted hundreds of posts from his Instagram page with 1.4 million followers.

    Later, speaking with the Minister of Sports Development, John Enoh, during an interactive section, the footballer said he took himself off social media immediately after the final match due to unpleasant messages, abuse and threats directed towards him. “For me, I have taken myself out of social media after yesterday’s game,” he said.

    The minister reassured Alex Iwobi that he did his best and did not deserve the trolling: “You did your best for your country, and I am proud of you. The leadership and the rest of the country are proud of you. Those who are not are in the far minority and do not speak for the rest of our country, so just be strong…you are part of a team that brought home a silver medal, which the country last won at AFCON 2000, 23 years ago. You put in your best, thank you very much,” he said.

    Asisat Oshoala was not happy about the bullying towards her colleague. Speaking out, the famous Agbaballer dragged Tunde Ednut, saying there was nothing inside his coconut head.

    “Tunde is such an asshole! Guys contribute money for a giveaway, and he’s pretending to be a god. Old fool. Who the heck do you think you are? Stupid fool. You failed in your field and gave up, yet you dare criticise someone striving for improvement. You should have continued if it were that easy — useless idiot. If Tunde has issues with women, all he does is body shame them. There’s nothing inside that coconut head of his. We welcome constructive criticism, but that guy is a damn bully,” she wrote.

    Further shaming Tunde Ednut, Asisat said. “He’ll use a giveaway as a cover-up again, as usual — Agbaya buruku. I’ve been a victim of cyberbullying, and I know damn well how it feels, especially when you’re being singled out, like the whole team lost,”.

    Very Dark Man was not left out; the top female footballer renamed him Very Dark Idiot. But trust Very Dark Man, he has fired back, too.

    Also defending Alex Iwobi, the captain of Nigeria’s national team, Ahmed Musa, also spoke out and pleaded with fans of the Super Eagles to stop the cyber attack on the player. Ahmed Musa said it’s wrong to single out one person because they win and lose as a team.

    “Losing a game is undoubtedly tough, but targeting a single player for the team’s shortcomings is unfair and unjust. We win as a team, and we lose as a team. Alex gave his all on the field, just like every member of our squad. They need our encouragement now more than ever. Let’s uplift each other and stand united, both in victory and defeat. Thanks,” he wrote.

    Victor Osimhen also spoke out and asked Super Eagles fans to do better. “We win together. We lose together. We are all one. Some of our fans should do better. @alexanderiwobi,” he wrote on X and said it during an interview with Symfoni news.

    Jay-Jay Okocha has also spoken out and sent love and light to his nephew. The football legend also prayed that Nigerians learn to treat others how they want to be treated.

    “I pray for my country, Nigeria and the people that can only hate and see nothing good in others; when effort counts for nothing, treat people the way you want them to treat you; all we have is this life is each other. We love you, Alexander Iwobi, and we keep going no matter what they say; the lord is good all the time, and we trust that he will be done in our lives, amen,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

    Other Nigerian celebrities have also been putting up solid defence for Alex Iwobi. Falz D Bhad Guy posted Alex Iwobi’s picture on his Instagram in solidarity. The self-styled Bop Daddy kicked against cyber-bullying while expressing his love for the player with the caption;

    “We win together, we lose together. Every single player that puts on the green white green to represent us, is making an immense sacrifice and does not deserve to be treated with this much disdain. We speak a lot about cyber-bullying, but we are so quick to turn against our own. @alexanderiwobi Love you, bro! Thank you,”

    Alex Iwobi is not the first Super Eagles player that Nigerians cyberbully. Goalkeeper Maduka Okoye suffered the same fate after the Super Eagles’ disappointing exit from the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon. Disappointed fans blamed the starting goalkeeper for failing to save a crucial shot. The abuse only got worse by the day, forcing Maduka to withdraw from the Super Eagles team over online threats to his life and family.

    First-choice goalkeeper Francis Uzoho also faced threats and criticism for his goalkeeping style, highlighting specific errors like conceding a long-range free-kick against Zimbabwe in November 2023. This forced Francis to deactivate his social media accounts and take a break from the Super Eagles. As a result, Super Eagles Coach José Peseiro scouted for a new goalkeeper, Stanley Nwabali, who took Nigeria to the finals.

    Also, Nigerians have been calling on the Nigerian government to sack the Super Eagles Coach over his performance at the AFCON.

    Is he to blame for the Super Eagles’ outcome, or do you agree that the team wins and loses as a team? 

    Finally, do you think the cyberbullying will force Alex Iwobi to abandon the national team, as some people have done in the past?

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