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Red card from the gods

By Tony Momoh
Someone told me that it is what the country did to Amodu Shuaibu, displaced Super Eagles coach, that God rewarded us for in South Africa.  Was it not clear that something mysterious was happening to us?  Argentina scored a goal that was queried after the event!  But it led us nowhere. 

We would thrash Greece that South Korea, in our group, had humiliated with a two-goal advantage.  Hadn’t we beaten North Korea in the friendlies?  Is Korea not Korea, North or South?  So having been undermined by Argentina, there would be room enough to make up for the next two.  We did not bargain for Kaita losing his temper when he did!  But were  the gods  after us?

“The gods were angry with us for what we did to Amodu,” said a friend who had told me earlier that we must pray for Nigeria to lose so that the raw deal Amodu had had should be payback time for us.  But I had said then that although Amodu is my townsman,  I believe Nigeria is greater than any part of it.  So we must pray for Nigeria to
make it.

But Greece beat us when they had no business doing so, even when our number had been reduced to 10.  Then the time for computations and analyses came.  We had been beaten by Greece and Argentina but not disgraced.  With Greece having three points, South Korea with three points and Argentina with six points, all we had to do was to humiliate South Korea and we would be home and dry because there was no way Argentina would sell out and fall to Greece.

Lars Lagerback said he believed in his boys and they would beat South Korea.  We played our hearts out or didn’t we?  But the many chances we lost were to blame. I asked, “including that sure goal that Yakubu missed? “  We drew with Korea and were at the bottom of the B Group, and out of the contest.  Anger of the gods?

And what did we do in response to the horrible performance which was a predictable outcome of lack of adequate preparation?  On June 30, we struck.  We disbanded the Eagles and suspended our participation in international competitions for two years!  We would go back to the drawing board and in two years, we would have a football house, train coaches, build a brand new team!

I do not doubt President Goodluck Jonathan’s ability to turn things around for the good, even the better, but history is always my witness when we take action in the heat of the moment. And this decision is action taken in the heat of the moment; and I know it is that set of people who should be sacrificed that remain to programme and witness the sacrificing of the innocent.

When the president’s spokesman Ima Niboro had given us the news that would seemingly calm the nerves, for a very short time, of our angry and never patient  countrymen, I heard myself laughing.  Oh yes, laughing.  I reached out for Volume 1 of Democracy Watch,  A Monitor’s Diary and read from pages 347 – 350 to remember what I said  in that piece, dated February 17, 2002 and published in my Point of Order column in the Sunday Vanguard.  The title of the piece was Must Amodu Die?   I said, “We have acted in panic in the past and opted for foreign coaches who made no difference.

The last panic action was the appointment of  Jo Bonfrere who did not stay for up to one month at a time throughout the period he was here. Bonfrere was a disaster, as disastrous in his outing as we were in either not paying him regularly or meeting his basic needs for accommodation and allowances. We threw him out and in desperation, we asked Amodu to take over. With our hearts in our mouths, Amodu and Stephen Keshi supervised the last qualifying matches and won for us our ticket to the World Cup.

The President’s reward for their effort was that Amodu would lead the Eagles to the World Cup. It was the same group that qualified us for the Nations Cup. We know that the Nations Cup is no longer for local teams. A large number of the players play for a living. And when they are brought home to play for their countries, they are catered for, and where there are lapses, the players react even more violently than our own sons have ever done and can ever do.

If we accuse them of lacking in patriotism, would they be wrong in asking what we have done as a country to make them love us? How much training opportunities have we given to our coaches and other members of the technical crew?

”Let us hit the nail on the head. We are not serious with sports, or with anything as long as government does the co-ordinating. But how serious are we to get government off our backs? If government must quit, why ask government for money? And if we must earn our keep, what programmes have we designed and what long-term proposals have we made for restructuring the country and therefore sports generally?  One serious man who would have had something to offer us was Kojo Williams. He had a programme for development of football at all levels, including improving our coaching capabilities.

He had more. He wanted football to be taken as a serious business. He spoke confidently, and boldly. He said what he wanted to do, and how he would go about doing it. He was not going to beg for money from anyone because he had plans to earn it. His bold assertion of independence earned him a red card, and this was an audible and visible pronouncement, even if embarrassing to us all, that in a polity that subsists on fraud, servitude and servility are the qualifications for taking office. Anyone who wants to be anything must learn the rules and abide by them.

Sports,  least of all football, was not expected to be independent of government funding and control! The returns have come from Mali and must come from Japan/Korea. We can start seriously today to do something about sports, about football. We will be starting badly, and with unpardonable lack of insight and foresight, by killing Amodu and Keshi.

They are not the problem. They are some of the consequences of our monumental lack of foresight.  The way to the solution of our problems of whatever description is straight. We must deregulate government and governance. Political deregulation is the starting point and the settler of our major problems. “

If you read full the piece under reference, you will see the suggestions  made on developing sports on senatorial district lines and organising competitions at those levels and in the geo-political zones, too. The details will be included in this piece which is repeated in my Blog on my website, www.tonymomoh.com on Friday.  I can assure you that in another two years, we would be where we started because NFF, PTF and the NSC would be doing what they know best, wrangling.


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