AFCON 2023: Nigerians turn on Alex Iwobi after final heartbreak

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FOOTBALL AFCON 2023: Nigerians turn on Alex Iwobi after final heartbreak

Joel Omotto 17:27 - 13.02.2024

Nigeria midfielder Alex Iwobi has become the subject of online abuse from Super Eagles fans after their country’s loss to Ivory Coast in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final.

Nigeria fans have made midfielder Alex Iwobi the poster boy for their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final failure following a series on online abuses directed at him.

Iwobi became the top trending name on Monday and Tuesday following the Super Eagles’ 2-1 loss to hosts Ivory Coast in the AFCON 2023 final on Sunday night.

Iwobi, who was an ever-present member of coach Jose Peseiro’s squad in their run to the final, started Sunday’s match and managed 79 minutes before he was taken off for Alhassan Yusuf.

By that time, the scores were 1-1 after Franck Kessie’s 62nd minute goal had cancelled out captain William Troost-Ekong’s 38th minute header.

However, two minutes later, the Ivorians took the lead when Sebastien Haller turned in Simon Andingira’s delicious cross and the hosts held firm to win the match and claim a third African title, equaling Nigeria’s haul.

Disappointed Super Eagles fans have, however, singled out the Fulham midfielder for blame, claiming his ‘below par’ performance is the reason their team lost.

Vile comments were directed towards Iwobi on social media with some calling on him to quit the national team while others wanted him to retire altogether.

The abuses forced Iwobi to delete all photos on his Instagram account but that did not stop the criticism that was extended to other social media platforms such as X and Facebook.

It has forced Nigeria players to rally behind their team-mate, calling on the supporters to stop the cyber bullying.

“Dear fans, I want to please urge you to halt the cyber-bullying directed towards Alex Iwobi. Cyber bullying is not just a violation of decency but also a serious crime. It's hypocritical to claim that football unites us while engaging in such behavior,” Nigeria captain Ahmed Musa posted on X.

“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.

“Instead of spreading negativity, let's show genuine love and support to our players. They need our encouragement now more than ever. Let's uplift each other and stand united, both in victory and defeat.”

The message of support was echoed by star striker Victor Osimhen.

"We win together. We lose together. We are all one. Some of our fans should do better @alexanderiwobi," said Osimhen via a social media post.

Nigeria and Barcelona superstar Asisat Oshoala also waded into the issue, calling out the online bullies.

“I'm a victim of cyber bully (sic) and I *uckin know how that *hit feels especially when you're being singled out yoooo d WHOLE team LOST,” the six-time African women’s player of the year wrote on her Instagram story.

Nigeria Sports Minister John Owan Enoh, meanwhile, met Iwobi and offered him support.

While fans have turned on Iwobi, the stats show Ivory Coast were the better team on Sunday.

Nigeria only managed one shot on target to Ivory Coast’s eight, which saw Super Eagles goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali forced into some brilliant saves, while the home team had 62 per cent possession to their opponents’ 38.

The Ivorians also had an expected goal ratio of 1.56 to 0.24 for the Super Eagles.

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