Lagerbäck upbeat as Nigeria crash out

Nigeria coach Lars Lagerbäck praised his team's performance in drawing with South Korea on Tuesday but expressed disappointment at crashing out of the World Cup at the group stage.

The Super Eagles drew their final match 2-2 against South Korea, not enough to salvage two opening losses to Argentina (1-0) and Greece (2-1).

In an entertaining clash, Nigeria scored through Kalu Uche (12) and a Yakubu Ayegbeni penalty (69), with South Korea responding through Lee Jung-Soo

and Park Chu-Young either side of half-time.

“I have responsibility for the results,” said Lagerbäck, who guided his home nation Sweden to the second round of the World Cups in 2002 and 2006, but has only been in charge of Nigeria for five months.

“I’m the one doing the gameplan and the one training the team. Maybe with a little more time it could have been a little different.

“I have felt privileged to be the coach of Nigeria. It’s been a fantastic journey in many ways.”

“As for the future, I don’t know, the focus has been on the World Cup,” he said, adding that there would be a full post-mortem on Nigeria’s performance before any decision would be taken on whether he stay on or not.

Lagerbäck added: “I’m disappointed. It’s very disappointing for the Nigeria team.”

“I’ve been really impressed by the players’ professionalism. But results speak for themselves and we didn’t qualify for the second round.”

“We started (the game against South Korea) really well, but we made a little mistake and it was 1-1.”

“We played rather well and had chances to win but we didn’t find that last goal.”

Lagerbäck also said he thought his team had defended “mostly well” at the set-piece despite conceding the first goal from a corner and the second a direct free-kick.

“Goals from set-pieces happen. It’s about 25 to 30 percent of all goals come from that,” he said, also defending the choice of the coastal city of Richards Bay as the team’s training camp as opposed to a high-altitude one.

Training at altitude, he argued, “has a marginal effect and we took the decision because of other advantages to staying in the Richards Bay area”.

Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu, whose appearance against South Korea was his first after missing out on selection for the first two games, added: “We’re not happy. One more goal and we could have qualified.”

“But we’ll take the positives. We played well but we as everyone knows, if you don’t score goals you don’t win matches.”

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My Swedish Career: ‘You need to win the hearts of the Swedish people to be able to succeed’

After moving from Nigeria to Sweden, Arinze Prosper Emegoakor struggled with adapting to life in Sweden while staying true to his cultural roots. Now he's starting a business with the aim of telling stories about his African culture and identity - through socks.

My Swedish Career: 'You need to win the hearts of the Swedish people to be able to succeed'
Photo: Maria Stenström

Arinze had tried living in Sweden before returning in 2011, but it was only on his second stint in the country that he felt able to settle down.

“When I was 20 years old, I travelled to the Netherlands and met my ex-wife there who is Swedish”, he recalls. “I lived in Sweden for a short period, but I couldn't stay. It was too difficult for me to adapt to the environment. But I came back, and since 2011 I have been living here in Malmö.”

After joining a kickboxing-gym in the southern city and going out every night to build a social life, Arinze joined the Pan African Movement for Justice. The organization aims for equality for people of African descent in Sweden, and it was here that he found a purpose in his adopted country.

“I got involved in the Pan African Movement for Justice and became a board member of that organization. That provided me with a strong network of people that motivated and educated me. These people are doing something positive in society. That started my journey in Sweden,” he says.

After moving, Arinze remembers struggling with his identity and finding a balance between staying connected to his roots and adapting to his new environment.

“Being raised in Africa and having lived most of my life in the western world, there was a constant struggle about what I believed in and who I was”, he notes.

“The environment in which I was raised and the Swedish norms are very different in terms of how people express [themselves] and how they see things. I want to be a contributor to this society. I don't want to sit and observe. How do I do that and still keep to my core values? How do I adapt and not attract any unnecessary attention? Being an African man while also being a member of Swedish society was hard at first.”

It was all about finding a comfortable balance, something he now thinks he's achieved: “What I did was accept who I am and who I have become. Through my journeys and my stay in Sweden, I've become a hybrid of culture and identity.”

“I cannot completely behave or act like I was in Africa because of the culture and norms in Sweden. But I still have my original values. I mixed my values with the norms of Swedish society. That is the balance.”

During his childhood in Nigeria, Arinze spent a lot of time with his grandmother, who he credits with introducing him to the power of storytelling.

“I found that the people don't usually say 'do not steal' or 'do not lie', but people tell you stories”, he says. “In this story, the thief will get what he deserves. There's a powerful message there. Through storytelling, you take up these values automatically.”

His roots in the Nigerian Igbo culture inspired Arinze to start his own sustainable bamboo sock company called Akụko. And he has put the power of storytelling at the core of the company.

Through the colourful collection of socks, he hopes to start conversations and tell the story of his culture.

“Through storytelling, movement and style esthetics, we make people curious to find out more”, he says. “The design of my first collection is inspired by a musical instrument called ogene, which is a kind of gong. In my village, it is used to call for meetings. When people want to call for a meeting they tell the town crier, and he will go around to play the ogene to gather people.”

Akụko isn't the first business Arinze has started. He learned valuable lessons after starting up an entertainment company for Afrobeat music in 2014.

“We had shows in Malmö and Stockholm. It was fun, but we failed financially”, he says. “I started to wonder: why did we fail? I found that the Swedish people aren't easily impressed, especially when you're an outsider. You have to be humble and connect to them. Win the heart of the people, connect with the society and community around your brand. Go for value and the money will come.”

Arinze hopes that his work on his second business, and its roots in his native culture, will inspire more people of African descent to follow their goals and dreams. “

If they want to start their own business they should go for it”, he says.

“They need to see more people who are like them doing positive things. We can inspire the next generation to do so, be role models. I have documented the blueprint of my journey, and I'm ready to share it with anyone that needs tips about how to crowdfund or how to start up a business. People can always contact me for support on how to realize your their goals in Sweden.”