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Jay Jay Okocha and other stories

By Paul Bassey

I believe it was in this column I wrote last week that I do not envy the Nigeria Football Federation ( NFF ), one bit. To lend credence to my fear, the President of the body is reported to have said that the Federation had to bow to the yearnings of Nigerians in choosing a foreign technical adviser for the Super Eagles World Cup campaign. I hope that statement, (if he said it,) will just end there, because no Nigerian will be held responsible if the coach they bring, fails to deliver.

I also wrote that I was not comfortable with their manner of going about the search of the coach, especially the short listing process that has exposed us to ridicule with those penciled down either refusing to be part of the process or saying they were not available!

The  “short listing” that I am comfortable with, is the one in which people are either approached, or declare interest in which case you have more than one willing candidate, and you proceed to evaluate them for the purpose of employment.

What we have had so far is a funny incident where coaches are randomly mentioned, even without as much as finding out from them or their agents whether they will be interested or free to take up the job either in the short or long term.

In other words, the NFF was supposed to sit down and bounce off names, work the phones or mails, talk to them and their managers and arrive at a list of those interested in the job. Then and only then could the list have been made public, if need be.

I would even have recommended a situation where even after  the contact, the NFF would have entered into negotiations directly with the available coaches, arrive at a decision, before forwarding same to the National Sports Commission. This is where I even had a good laugh. It will interest Nigerians to know that the NFF does not even have the resources and the capacity to employ a foreign Technical Adviser, a prerogative of the Sports Ministry.

What this means is that the sports ministry may decide for one reason or the other not to employ any of the coaches submitted to them. Enter the Presidential Task Force, that supervisory body that is in a perpetual cold war with the NFF. I have been told that should the ministry not have enough funds, the issue may be transferred to the task force and here again can be found some mines. Peopled by those who know much about football, the task force may decide to pick a coach not in total agreement with the NFF, after all, he who pays the piper, dictates the tune. (Remember Bertie Vogts and Globacom?)

At the end of the day we will not be able to hold the leadership of the NFF responsible because blames will keep on shifting.

If we must get a coach by the first week of March, the NFF must stop all this shortlisting drama, pick a coach, call him or his agent, talk to him, agree on terms and present him to the ministry or the Task Force as the case may be, for employment. To send NAMES to the ministry or the Task force is to court delay by allowing them to further deliberate on the names so submitted.

I have had people asking me which coach I prefer and so on, as if my views matter. It is unfortunate that the NFF even shortlisted some of the journey men and football mercenaries I met in Angola. Jobless coaches who besieged team camps waiting for teams to fail and coaches to be sacked for them to throw in their applications!

If I was put in charge of sourcing for a coach for Nigeria, given the limited time at my disposal, I would have put a call through to Stephen Keshi immediately and asked him to work with Amodu in which case my only headache would have been deciding who the boss will be, quite aware though that there is no how Amodu would shun Keshi’s contributions. (At this point I want to be excused for dropping Siasia. He has been so critical of Amodu that apart from being in the black book of the NFF, there is no how both of them can work together.)

If, on the other hand according to President Lulu, I am  forced  to go for a foreign coach, I will pick up my phone, call the Chairman of the Egyptian Football Federation and hand over the phone to Alhaji Lulu, tell him to ask for the release of Shehata. Or, did someone say the Acting  President loves sports? Then he can be persuaded to call his Egyptian counterpart and strike a bilateral deal.

This is the sort of thing that the Angolan President would have done. Not only did he bring seven heads of states to Angola for the opening ceremony of the Nations Cup, he watched ALL the matches in Luanda even after his team had been knocked out.

I may sound defeatist if I say whoever we bring, may not win the World Cup, not with the current crop of players we have. All we are looking for is a team that will not be disgraced or scandalised in South Africa. All we are looking for is a team that will at least get to the quarter-final (A feat already attained by Cameroun and Senegal)

After Shehata and the World Cup, I will come back and take another look at………… the  Zambian coach for a long term development of our football, taking into consideration the need to pay special interest to the domestic league by a national team coach that spends months not doing anything.

That Jay Jay declaration
Let me take out space to pity Jay Jay Okocha for coming out to declare his intention to be on the board of the NFF. No sooner had he opened his mouth than Nigerians quickly reminded him of his “sins”, that of boycotting the national team when they needed him most. It was also a period his charm came to naught as Nigerians wildly condemned what at that time amounted to a coup d’etat against the state. Lack of patriotism. Nigerians have not forgotten.

I may not be thinking along those lines. Rather I want to find out whether Jay Jay has bothered to go through the new electoral code and the Statutes of the NFF. It will do him a whole lot of good to study those documents before running into the field of play.

Meanwhile, I want to be spared all the trite talk about ex- footballers abroad who are “holding such positions”. How many of  our past stars can  compare to the Beckenbaurs or Platinis of world football? People who not only paid their dues on the pitch but off it? Forget about the quality of some of the people who are managing  our football presently (that is why we are where we are) being in the NFF is more than reading a prepared speech at a press conference. If Segun Odegbami, Christian Chukwu , Mutiu Adepoju, Felix Owolabi among others, who played and managed the game come out to tell me they want to go to the Glass House, I will spare an ear.

Ninety eight per cent of those managing football all over the world were not football superstars like Okocha. All they have and need is sound managerial qualities, business acumen and knowledge of the subject matter. For now my advice to Jay Jay is, perish the thought.

The first captain of the pioneer national team, the famed UK Tourists has passed on at the age of 89 and will be buried in his Calabar, Cross River State home this weekend, after a service of songs was held in Rowe Park Yaba, last Friday.

Two years ago I was in a powerful Chief J. B. Ogufere-led Sports Veterans delegation that paid him a courtesy call in his Egerton Street home. That delegation also included Dr. Amos Adamu, Sani Lulu and Dr. Bolaji Ojo-oba. We were thrilled to have met him and spent quality time reliving old times and the need to cater for our heroes past. That was to be my last encounter with him.

Today, I join millions of Nigerians in bidding Adieu to who the Veterans referred to as “ A true servant of the round leather game”.

Adieu A. K. Amu
He was athletics personified, lived it from school to national fame and when I wanted to establish a secondary schools track and field competition in Akwa Ibom State, he was one of the ones I ran to for advice and you could see him coming alive as I lay my proposal before him. I hardly finished when he obliged. Today, he runs the heavenly race. Adieu. A. K. A.


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