By Paul Bassey
It was on these pages that I wrote about the avalanche of mails and phone calls I receive on daily basis regarding the Super Eagles. I mentioned the special interest of the Swedish press and the disappointment of the Argentine journalist who could not get anything from me.
Of recent the interest has doubled as the media seek valuable information regarding a competition that has been dubbed the biggest and best, outside the Olympics. What I have done recently is to refer their interests to the media boss of the NFF, Ademola Olajire. As I said earlier, there is so much interest in the World Cup, world wide and Nigeria is a great part of that interest.
Last week, after I had supplied a journalist with information on our proposed match in England, he called back to find out training venue, times of training and match time, hotel that the Eagles will stay and so on.
After frequent messages and third party texts to Mr. Olajire, I decided to secretly pass his number on to them straight. This, has been very convenient for me. Consider the situation where I told them with all amount of confidence that the Eagles will depart on Friday to London, only for me to get a call from Carl (That is one of them) accusing me of misinformation. â€œYou said to me that the team will leave on Friday but I have just been told that they are leaving on Saturday.â€
I was angry: â€œWho told you that? I am in Nigeria. I know the programme. They will be sent off by Mr. President tomorrow and on Friday they will leave.â€
He apologized, thanked me and hung up.
Something said I should double check, reconfirmâ€¦.and you can imagine my embarrassment when I was told that the Swedish journalist was right, that Mr. President can only see the team on Friday, after which they will leave next day.
I felt humiliated and small. What do I tell this journalist that may go back and swear on me that the team will depart on Friday? What if he was proceeding to make travel plans depending on the information I had supplied?
For thirty minutes I sat there looking at my phone, before I summed up the courage to pick it up, called Carl, told him he was right, that I was wrong and was sorry.
He said it was okay, and went further to ask me to confirmÂ when the team will depart on Saturday, â€œhelloâ€¦.helloâ€¦helloâ€ I feigned bad reception and dropped the line. Nobody was going to make a fool of me twice.
Despite our frantic views regarding the state and shape of the Eagles, there are views abroad that believe we stand a good chance of going far in the competition. One of those views is published in the FourFourTwo magazine, the Nigeria edition which will hit the newsstands in the next five days. Being a special World Cup edition, I took a special interest in the views expressed by journalists abroad.
The first view that appealed to me, was the one that said despite the popularity of star studded Cote d’ Ivoire and the potency of Ghana, it was the Super Eagles of Nigeria that was most likely to go far, based on the luck of the draw.
They called it the FourFourTwo top ten bets and at 6-1 conclude that Nigeria is going to be the best performing African team. I quote â€œIvory Coast are 11-10 odds on favourites in this market but they face a tough qualification group with Brazil and Portugal. It will also be tough for second favourites Ghana up against Germany, Serbia and Ausralia.
â€œNigeria, however, are fancied to advance in a group containing Argentina,South Korea and Greece.â€
The magazine goes further to suggest that Nigeria may emerge group runners up where they also expect â€œa potential group of 16 clash against a weak Franceâ€ that â€œshould not be too intimidatingâ€.
If you tend to believe this point of view, then you are also likely to go along with their position that 1) Higuain will emerge leading goal scorerÂ 2) South America to provide the winning team. 3) Germany to make the semi finals one more time. 4) North Korea to ship more goals than any other team 5) England will draw their opening match against USA. 6) Maradona to be sent off during the tournament and so on.
Then comes the very exciting preview of Group B and the magazine summarises as follows â€œ Teams from four different continents collide. Argentina have the players to win, but could be self destruct under Maradonaâ€™s leadership. Pitch this against the work rate of South Korea, experience of Greece and the solid but predictable Nigeria and youâ€™ve got the toughest group to predictâ€
Did they write â€œsolid but predictable?â€ Yes, that is their strong view. To elaborate further you quickly flip to the preview of Nigeria and the intro is very interesting if you ask me. â€œOne in every six African is a Nigerian, Nigeria has as deep a passion for the game as any other country in the world, and it has produced as many top class players as any other African country. And yet, once again, they head into a major tournament in DISARRAYâ€ ( Capitals mine ).
Reading further, the magazine explains that â€œâ€¦. this time around the task of fulfilling this obvious potential falls to former Sweden coach Lars Lagerback, who is left to pick up the pieces and try to form a coherent unit in a couple of warm up games. But nothing in football is so sure as Nigeriaâ€™s ability to shoot themselves in the footâ€.
Whereas the magazine says there is some strength in the Eagles defence, what interest me most is the perceived weaknesses. Incidentally the media is quoted as one of the minuses of the Nigerian squad. â€œâ€¦â€¦the constant pressure applied by a press corps seemingly unable to accept that the current generation is several levels below the sides of Kanu, Jay Jay Okocha and Sunday Oliseh that won the Olympics so thrillingly in 1996.â€
Also considered is a view that â€œthere is a chronic lack of flair about Nigeriaâ€™s midfield and frontline, but far the biggest problem for them are the debilitating politics within the countryâ€™s FAâ€.
These are views from abroad.
See you next week.