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Legs of God… Hand of God

PAUL BASSEY
Less than two minutes after we qualified for the World  Cup, I got this text from Lucky Okpodu (07056513830) “… I can’t wait to read your reaction on Super Eagles qualification congratulations Nigeria…….”

On the set for the MTN World Cup countdown programme with Folorunsho Okenla, my guest for that week, I remember joking off camera that I was told the plane the Eagles were taking to Kenya had only one first class seat and I will advise that the seat be reserved for GOD. Okenla agreed.

Unfortunately, my column had been sent a day before the Eagles qualified, so I could not react before now.
My reaction is simple. Congratulations Nigeria, congratulations Super Eagles, congratulations Amodu, congratulations NFF, well done Presidential Task Force, THANK YOU BABA GOD.

Let us not pretend about this. All those who in one way or the other were involved in our miraculous qualification deserve commendation and I am not going to take anything  away from anybody.

Take the NFF for instance, I was ready. The dictionary had been consulted for some powerful invectives. Guns oiled, matchets sharpened, I was ready to take them to pieces had we not qualified for the World Cup. Now that they have, a cease fire just has to be called as we congratulate them for this feat.

It was a reader who said to me that if this people fail, we have all failed, so we must take them to God. Then come the players. A bunch of under performers. But for the friendly against France, we cannot remember any match in which these boys played to expectations, the only exception been Osaze Odemwingie and in some cases, Vincent Enyeama who single handedly stood between us and defeat.

Talking about culprits, the most guilty were of course the established bunch of Martins, Utaka, Olofinjana, Aiyegbeni…players whose names we had presented on the court of public opinion, ready to vote out….until that miraculous day in Nairobi. Now we are stuck with Martins and co.

Shaibu Amodu. Embattled, lampooned, derided and castigated, yet he stood his ground, thanks to the support he got from the leadership of the NFF. Today, Amodu is a hero. For qualifying us for the World Cup, he stands tall. The last time he did that, he was relieved of his position and we went on to post a disastrous outing at the World Cup. Now we do not know what to do anymore. How do we get coach Amodu to continue without going through the heart attacks that we suffered through out the qualifying matches?

The Presidential Task Force. A body that we still do not understand but one that undoubtedly must have contributed positively to our qualification, given the quality of some of its members.

Then the Igwe himself, Baba God. The Alpha and Omega who prevented us from shame against Mozambique (twice) Tunisia and Kenya. It was when HE allowed us score that injury time facing goal against Mozambique that I knew HE had plans for us.

It was when HE did not allow Tunisia to beat Mozambique, a victory that would have made nonesense of ours against Kenya, that I knew HE had plans for us. But how long is HE going to hang in there? How long? Some say HE is going nowhere, that HE is a Nigerian and that he lives in Eket, a holy city in South Eastern Nigeria!

Jokes apart, Nigerians should celebrate this qualification, coming after the heart break of Germany 2006. In doing so, however, we must no fail to realize that the manner of our qualification was far from perfect needing us to cut short the party and go back to the field of play.

Here, I come to admit that we do not seem to have learnt our lessons. Whereas countries like Cote d’Ivoire (against Germany) Ghana (against Angola ) played friendly matches last week, our proposed friendly with Argentina did not hold (as usual).

Brazil within the same period has played two friendly matches…the world is preparing. Are we still celebrating? In less than 30 days, the Nations Cup will descend on us. This, is a glorious opportunity to test run our World Cup chances. This, is an opportunity to blood those players that we believe can make the difference.

If we do not do that, if we do not post a good Nations Cup result, if we do not have a good World Cup outing, all the joy of qualification would have come to nought.

That Henry confesion

Trust CNN to stay with bad news. Since Thierry Henry used his hand to help Gallas score that goal, the world has not rested. What fascinates me in the whole story is the news that the French captain admitted that he told the referee it was hand ball.

Question. When, did he make that confession? From what I saw, the speed with which Henry took to celebrate that goal, there is no how the referee would have doubted him.

A debate is on. Should we introduce video evidence in football? Can Henry be adjudged guilty, in a match where the referee has the final say? At what point does morality count in a situation like this?

The Irish have asked for a replay. FIFA may not be in a fix, but I can vouch that this is one case that will not go away in a hurry, one that may haunt Les Bleus through out the World Cup.

Funny side of life

My father in the Lord, Overseer Ikpatt of The Apostolic Church Maboju called the other day to confirm the banishment of India from world football by FIFA.

The news has it that when FIFA allowed India to play they were scoring as many as 50 goals. The opposition confirmed that whenever an Indian player took a shot, the opposing goalkeeper either saw a snake rushing towards him, or he will see ten balls at the same time. In either case, he will let go.

FIFA sat down, reviewed all this and decided to ban India, we were told.

Not true. Not true. India does not have what it takes when football is concerned. Mention cricket and you have a fight on your hands. For the 2010 World Cup, the Indians played against Lebanon. In the first match played in Saida, host Lebanon won 4-1.

In the return leg played in Goa, October, 30, 2009, India drew 2-2 with Lebanon and were knocked out of the competition.

Next time you are told that the javelin an Indian threw during the Olympics flew out of the stadium and has not been seen ever since, say “ it’s a lie”.

See you next week.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.