Sports Guard: Between Ikhana and NFF Technical Committee

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By Patrick Omorodion

Whenever I read my good friend and image maker of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Ademola Olajire or Paul Bassey, a member of the NFF technical committee, writing how well the federation is doing with our football, or hear the technical committee chairman, Chris Green shout to roof tops the federation’s achievements, I get worried and pinch myself a little to know whether I am in a dream.

So when Bassey, a veteran and respected sports journalist who has joined the league of football administrators locally and continentally, wrote in his column in the Vanguard of last Tuesday, blaming Kadiri Ikhana for Falcons woes, I felt disturbed because he should know and say the truth too.

Yes, Ikhana failed because, for the first time in the history of the African Women’s Championship, the Super Falcons lost to South Africa. Not only that, for the first time also, the team came back from the competition empty handed, having lost the third place to Cameroon.

Bassey, while castigating Ikhana, wrote that the NFF did everything to guarantee the team’s success. And one of the things it did, according to Bassey, was “appointment of a top coach” for the team, which of course was Ikhana.

As a top coach, Kadiri was expected to lead Falcons to crush every opposition on their way to retaining the trophy and  grabbing their seventh title out of the eight editions decided so far. Their only loss before this year was in 2008 to host, Equatorial Guinea on the same soil.

The NFF told us Ikhana was the best among those who indicated interest or who were available. So it was baffling after Ikhana failed for Bassey to tell Nigerians that the committee later found out after hiring him that it made a mistake in engaging the Edo-born CAF Champions League winner as Falcons’ coach.

That is an indictment on the committee headed by a lawyer, Chris Green ahead of a Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, who has or still serves in both CAF and FIFA Technical Study Group. Rather than call on Ikhana to resign or be sacked, it is the committee members who should tuck their tails behind their legs and quit.

What on earth were they thinking when they hired a coach they knew did not have the requisite qualities needed to handle a female team? Rather than ask Ikhana to apologise, it should be the technical committee and the NFF Board which endorsed its decision that should apologise to Nigerians.

When people or officials of the NFF say the federation is doing well because our national teams are winning matches, I laugh and feel sorry for our football because it will get worse than it is now.

An NFF that regales in promoting football by attending competitions only, without giving a hoot what happens to the nursery from which future talents are discovered and groomed for the national teams, is not one Nigerians should be proud of.

An NFF that turns blind eyes whenever grass-root football competitions are going on in the country but quickly rushes to teams in the various cadres of the league to ‘recruit’ players for the U-17 and U-20 competitions, is not the one Nigerians should look forward to in saving the game from total collapse in the nearest future.

I expect Bassey to be telling the NFF president, Alhaji Aminu Maigari and his co-travellers on the NFF Board who are more interested in hopping into every plane to watch all manners of competitions, including inconsequential friendly matches abroad, that they should concentrate on grass-root development by ensuring that we have a strong and viable female league to churn out young players instead of relying on mothers who can hardly run on the pitch.

Nigerian female administrators who fight themselves over who should be in control over the female national teams should ensure sponsors are got to revive the comatose female league in the country without which the Super Falcons may get worse off by not even qualifying for the 2014 edition of the competition. That is the only sure way to see the Falcons return as continental queens again and push for a world title sooner than later..

Calling on Gov. Oshiomhole

It is a few days to the  National Sports Festival tagged EKO 2012 and Edo State which used to be the number one sports State in the country may find out that the third position it took at the last Festival  in Port Harcourt in 2011 may not be within its reach.

Part of the problem may be the non release of funds on time for the athletes to begin camping. As you read this, the N120 million reportedly approved for the athletes’s preparation and participation by the Comrade governor, who was sworn in for his second four year term last Monday, may not have reached the sports council officials who will need the money to prepare the athletes.

The other reason and may be the main one is the putting of a square peg in a round hole. The governor did sports, Edo State’s main stay after, arguably agriculture, a disservice by appointing someone who had to learn the ropes about sports right on the job. If General Samuel Ogbemudia had done it that way, Midwest or later Bendel State wouldn’t have been a model it was in the country.

So, as the Peoples’ governor begins a fresh tenure, Edolites are begging him to comb the State and root out a seasoned administrator as sports commissioner. No to the idea of giving sports, the remnant that is left after the governor would have filled the ‘key’ ministries. Sports is key in Edo State and he should realise this today.

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