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Wanted, a world cup team for Nigeria

By Paul Bassey

I had planned to use today’s column to share with my readers  my experiences in Angola. Concrete experiences that is. While I was in Angola, I could not write freely on hard news and some experiences that had to do with the teams, especially the Super Eagles.

As CAF website editor, I owed allegiance first and foremost to the site and was not supposed to use my privilege position to enrich my medium, so I had to settle for those experiences that normally will not be of interest to the website.

So, here I am, ready to share with you my experiences with the team, in Lubango, the Eagles lived just four minutes away from the CAF hotel, so I was able to interact with coach Amodu, the players and officials. When the team was travelling back to Luanda we had the opportunity to travel in the same plane back, and I was able to use my journalism instincts to the fullest.

On july 31st, the Nigerian Ambassador in Angola rounded up his unparalleled duties in support of the team, when he hosted the officials to dinner  and again I was there. These are the experiences I want to piece together today in discussing the need for a world cup team for Nigeria.

I start by repeating that when coach Amodu was first reported as saying his players were average, we thought he should not have said so. There was a view that while we could say his players were not good enough, he should not have said so. Question is, did that stop the players from being average?

If I am given an opportunity to choose a world cup team, I will not take up to seven of the players that went to Angola. Don’t ask me where I will get the players to complete the squad. While preparing his team for Angola, coach Shehata, came out emphatically to declare that three of his top players were not fit and he was not going to take them to the Nations cup. Nigerians celebrated, that Abou treika, Zaki and Mido will not be lined up against us.

One of those the Egyptian coach picked, Gedo, did not only emerge the highest goal scorer of the competition,  scoring every time he came on from the bench. What Shehata did, we should have done with Obafemi, Yobo,
Aiyegbeni and Kanu, but we did not, and this is where Coach Amodu comes in for criticism. As he carries the can, we should also be in a position to ask why it has not been possible to sideline the so called star but faded players.  Does playing for Everton and scoring two goals in over 15 matches make you better than a player who in Denmark has scored over 24 goals in 20 matches?

After  the match against Benin, I was discussing with Samson Adamu and I told him my favourite analogy. That if I gave him one million dollars he could not make the 100 metres in 15 seconds because there was a limit to his capabilities. The young man looked at me for some seconds and replied. “ Oga Paul, I may not make 15 seconds but I will try. Believe me, I will try. The problem I have with the Eagles players is that they do not try. They just stroll without a will ”

I also mentioned that I had some useful chats with Amodu himself and found a man so embattled that he did not know who his friends were. Before the Nations Cup, I did write that Coach Amodu was so busy fighting off the field wars that his on -the field duties were seriously  affected. I talked about Amodu’s wars with the press, even in Angola, a reporter told me how Amodu refused to answer his question, asking him instead where he was
when he talked to editors in Lagos.

Amodu has battles with the NFF, he has issues with the PTF, with the National Sports Commission and  as I later found out, also has problems with the players and this was amplified recently when Osaze and Obafemi chose the pages of newspapers to castigate his tactics.

When I met Amodu, he did concede that the Angola outing was far from ideal. He said he was condemned to going back to source for fresh legs to replenish his ailing stock, that is why I was shocked to hear that he told the NFF leadership that the Angola squad was the best he could have for the world cup, leading me to believe that there is more to Amodu’s reaction to issues than ego and stubborness .

In Angola, I also met a team that is embroiled in so much politicking that Amodu believes he is a victim of political manouvres. That a lot of people who want President Lulu out will go to any length to do that  and one effective way was to plot the bad run of the national team.

The administration of the Eagles in Angola was far from perfect. There were too many distractions. The Eagles hotel lacked the enabling environment for professionalism. Any Nigerian who hit Angola wanted to stay in the Eagles hotel and those who were debarred from staying there packed their bags and returned to Nigeria in annoyance, threatening fire and brimstone. I was particularly not happy with the media philosophy around the Super Eagles as an example.

Players that were in a major competition were denied the necessary media outlets, gagged like secondary school boys while the rumour mill was allowed to thrive because there was no media windows for journalists.

At the Ambassador’s residence, I was asked to give a vote of thanks and one of the things I said was that while I was lamenting the bronze medal, a colleague from Mali was aghast, saying they would have celebrated all night long, if they had won bronze. I struggled to explain that for us, it was not really the bronze as the manner it was won. I said the way the team played, even if we had won gold, Nigerians would have protested the nature of our victory and this is exactly what happened after, when Nigerians in Angola took the opportunity of Lulu and Ojo Oba’s presence to register their displeasure over the manner our Nations cup campaign was executed.

So far, I have been struggling to say that removing coach Amodu is NOT the solution to our problem. I am struggling to say that we should be more pragmatic in the handling of this issue as the World Cup is barely five months away.

Can we learn from past mistakes? Did Bora in France and Vogts in Ghana give us the results we needed?  With only one FIFA window between now and the world cup, which coach will best get the team revamped? Given that we had to get Globacom to pay the last coach, is the National Sports Commission ready to foot the bill of the new foreign technical adviser?

I do not envy the Football Federation one bit. This is the proverbial case of being between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Yes, we need a sound technical bench for the World up, just as we need younger and fitter players, and above all a proactive and intelligent management structure. I pray the technical department of the NFF will oblige us a working document.

Let coach Amodu accept that the team was far from perfect. Let him agree to changes that could be effected including  the call up of not less than four established home based players. He can ask the first vice president of the NFF for some of these names.  Let him agree that the coaching crew needs an injection of fresh brains and we can start to talk.

Who says a new coach will not need Amodu? With just six months to go, I bet  that , will be one hell of a herculean task.


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