Psychological sessions revamp Agbim
Supersport.com can now reveal that Nigeria captain and goalkeeper, Chigozie Agbim, had to undergo two psychological sessions following his horror performances in his team's two opening games at the 2014 African Nations Championship (Chan) in South Africa.
After the first match against Mali in which Nigeria's Super Eagles suffered a 1-2 loss, Agbim came under criticism for allowing in what some football fans and enthusiasts two cheap goals.
Then things got to head in the next game against Mozambique when Agbim conceded a 40-yard free kick scored by Dario Khan and later failed to hold on to the ball to gift the Mozambicans a second goal.
Though Nigeria went on to win that contest 4-2, angry fans of the national team did not hide their displeasure with the quality of goalkeeping from Agbim.
But Agbim then put up a superb performance against South Africa in which he made a handful of fantastic saves including two top drawers from Katlego Mashego before conceding from Bernard Parker's spot kick.
However, the Super Eagles psychologist, Robinson Okosun, has lifted the lead on the routine that helped Agbim banish the demons after their opening two matches.
Okosun told supersport.com that he held "two private sessions" with Agbim to help boost his mental strength before the game against South Africa.
The Nigerian team psychologist proffered a handful of solutions that included avoid watching the game against Mozambique, staying off social media networks and the Internet as well as reducing the number of telephone calls he took.
"I had two private sessions with him. I had the first session with him in my room where we met minds after he opened up to me. I now went into the treatment.
"Of course the first thing to was to help him regain his confidence and prepare him mentally for the coaches' training programme and match selection. To enable him recover quickly I recommended he stopped watching the Mozambique game.
"Secondly I told him go get off Facebook and any form of interaction on the Internet. Thirdly, I told him not to read any of the Nigerian sports dailies and lastly he should put off his phone and take no call from nobody until after our game with South Africa.
"All of these were to prevent him getting to read or hear negative stories or comments about him which could further break him down. I then game him an assignment on mental rehearsal to be done by him before going to bed each night before the game.
"We met for the second and last time on the eve of the game by the pool side (of the hotel lodgings) to take appraisal of him. The results and his response to all the questions I pushed to him sounded so very positive and I told the coach he was ready for the game. I knew he was going to perform having meticulously gone through the psychological tuning I gave him," Okosun told supersport.com a day after Nigeria defeated South Africa 3-1.
But Okosun also believes that Nigeria head coach, Stephen Keshi deserves commendation for keeping faith with Agbim in the face of criticism and calls to drop him from the start list for the decisive game against South Africa.
"Again I must commend the head coach who despite calls from Nigeria to bench him gave the player another opportunity. This gave us another opportunity to work on Agbim," Okosun rounded off.
The man in the centre of the whole scenario, Agbim is thankful to Keshi for still showing "belief" in him in spite of pressure to try out the other two goalkeepers, Daniel Akpeyi and Dele Alampasu.
“After the last match I came under heavy criticism but I had to go into prayers and God heard me, then my family members were calling to say I can do it, some of my fans back home also called to wish me well. But most importantly my coach had the belief in me when most people wrote me off. I have to say thank you to him. My teammates were there for me all the time and that also helped me to pull through my travails,” Agbim said.
Nigeria finished second in the group stage behind Mali and will face the winners of Group B this weekend.