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Happily We Yawn

Ikeddy Isiguzo|
CHIEF Patrick Olusegun Odegbami spent most of last week talking about how tough he thought the Nations Cup that starts for Nigeria on January 12  only eights days away  would be. It must be patriotic instincts that informed his decision to alert the country that a combination of language, long distances between venues and culture could affect the Eagles chances at the Nations Cup.

I do not know why it is Chief Odegbami who raised the alarm. There are people who are paid (and in addition help themselves to the public coffers) whose responsibility it is to tackle  these decisively. They would not lift their thoughts to ways of getting better results out of Angola.

When they are out of their slumber, their interests rotate on what they can make out of the competitions   ways to fatten their purses, make a political point out of nothingness and get the rest of us to applaud their resourcefulness.

The Nations Cup has become more competitive. Unfortunately, in a  World Cup year, the Nations Cup is also a poisoned chalice. A great performance in Angola can come at an unaffordable price. Can we go all out at the Nations Cup and lose some of the key players we may need for the World Cup?

I expected that after a study of the Nations Cup in World Cup years the football association should have told Nigerians what result to expect and why. The world is growing and people want some predictability on issues. If we are investing millions of Naira in the Nations Cup is it too much to state our expectations?

For sure we are not using the Nations Cup to raise a new team. We have long stated that this team would last us a life time. The U-17 team cannot throw up new talent with most of its members on the verge of retirement. In a way, the Nations Cup is a waste.

Chief Odegbami is again over-flowing with the sort of patriotism that belongs to decades gone. When we won the Nations Cup 30 years ago, President Aliyu Usman Shehu Shagari was at the National Stadium waving his two-handed rattler in a manner that galvanised national support for the Eagles.

Alhaji Shagari’s support was so entailing, including moments when the Nigerian President jumped to his feet to the exhilaration of the country. CAF had to send word discretely, through appropriate channels, to inform President Shagari that his support for the Eagles breached protocol.

Our President was more restrained thereafter and the Eagles won the Cup.Big Sege,  as we call Chief Odegbami, a mechanical engineer, who never practised for a day because he was busy bringing fame to Nigeria through football, could have drawn some inspiration from the pure patriotism of Nigeria’s most democratic President.

All the promises the President made to the team then, he fulfilled and the rest of Nigeria fell over each other to give something or the other to the team.

For the only time, the winning team got houses in Festac Town (then Village) and cars. Nobody can say for sure how much individually the players got as cash.

Beyond these, they were icons of our national sports.
Chief Odegbami expectedly learnt to love Nigeria from one of the greatest, but under-rated Nigerians, Shagari, who attached so much unimportance to power that few realise that he is still alive. He makes no demands, not even requests for his rights as a former President. For the records, it was the former President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida who electrified Shagari Village, where he lives with the plainness available to ordinary folks.

I have digressed. I just wanted Nigerians to note that the teams that perform terrifically in the Nations Cup, dating 35 years back, when there was a convergence of the Nations Cup and the World Cup, have not done well at the World Cup.

When CAF decided in 1994 that Zaire, winner of the Nations Cup should be Africa’s representative at the then eight-nation World Cup, where Africa had just one slot, it was a shock that Zaire was disgraced notably with a 9-1 pounding from Yugoslavia.

There have been serious efforts to attribute the 9-1 defeat to the fact that Zaire’s coach was Yugoslav, but the records merely reflect Africa’s disgrace.No African winner of the Nations Cup, since then, if it managed to get a World Cup ticket, made a respectable impact.

As we want the Eagles to win the Nations Cup, remarkably, the coach has stated times over that he has nothing to prove.
With a Presidential Task Force on the World Cup, the first in our history, nothing says that we cannot start a first.
Have we paid any attention to concerns that Big Sege raised? Are we waiting to use them as the reason for failing in Angola?
We have to decide whether we want Happy New Year or just yawns.

Dialing NOC…
THE deafening silence from the Nigeria Olympic Committee about its aborted elections is of concern to me. When will the elections be held? How would they

hold?. We are waiting. This silence is not golden, it seems goaded.Please send comments, condemnations, and commendations to ikeddyisiguzo@hotmail.com


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