By Paul Bassey
During the Nations Cup, the call of duty did not permit me to maintain my column. The General Coordinator at the Nations Cup, or what is simply regarded as GC, runs the tournament at the venues.
As representative of the General Secretary of CAF, he holds meetings on a daily basis. Guarantees quality of team hotels and training venues, He monitors official trainings, supervises youth programmes, chairs Match Coordinating meetings, ensures the Countdown is respected as the official time keeper of matches and on match days does not get back to his room before 1am!
Starting from today, and for the next five days I intend to bring my own contribution to what has become Nigeria’s best sports moment in 19 years.
Space permitting, I will talk about the distraction called “Keshi’s resignation”, I will write on all those who are guilty of stagnating our football, yet are falling over themselves to identify with a success they knew nothing about.
What about all those products and services that are ambushing on the victory, spending millions of naira on publicity they do not merit? Do you know that the fear of the white jersey is still the beginning of wisdom in the Eagles camp?
Space permitting ( Onochie and Tony have promised there will be space) I will tell you about the Nigerian coach who drew CAF attention to the raw eggs that were broken on the Nigerian side of the field before the semi final match against Mali. Yes!
Within the week I will also share my personal view on the need to take another look at reward culture, and most importantly, the need to plot a way forward.
It was in Abuja that a reporter asked me “…the way forward and the need to build on this success”. My answer was quite straight forward. That you build on a foundation you laid. That you can only strategise on a given. But if you happen on victory, if you wake up and the heavens decide to bless you with victory, there is every need to go back to sleep to be able to try and pick up loose threads…
All these and more will come in the course of the week. For today, I want to join all Nigerians in congratulating the Nigeria Football Federation, Coach Stephen Keshi, his technical crew, backroom staff and the Super Eagles players for bringing back joy and glory to this country.
For now, I should be allowed to savour the triumph of this momentous achievement. No sooner had the Algerian referee blown his whistle than phones started ringing all over the country and beyond. The first word that you got to hear was “congratulations” my reply has always been “ To all of us. We thank God “
The calls have not ended. They are still coming. From Congo, South Africa, the US, Canada….. Ifeanyi Udeze called from Hong Kong last Friday to express his joy at what God has been able to do for Nigeria in “…the midst of crises….”
The victory of Nigeria carries with it a lot of lessons, which if not studied and analysed will throw us back to square zero.
The journey did not start today. It started as far back as the Siasia years, when the Nigeria Football Federation supported a need to look inwards at a time we could not boast quality players at the foreign scene. Keshi came and bought into this programme and countless has been the number of times the football federation has gone cap in hand to be able to make sure that ANYTIME coach Keshi wanted the local players in camp, they were camped. Sometimes the number was unbearable, yet the football federation bent over backward to make sure that the domestic league vision and programme was not derailed.
I want to be corrected that there was anytime, Coach Keshi wanted the local players in camp and the NFF declined!
I have also said on these pages that my membership of the Technical Committee apart, I challenge anyone to tell me of that football association or federation that had organised as many friendly matches for its national teams as the present board of the NFF.
WE must situate the road to this victory. The sacrifices, the sleepless nights, the behind the scene meetings and beggarly appeals for release of funds. Often, I have had to quarrel with some board members of the NFF on why Keshi and some coaches salaries are not paid as at when due. The answers are not always forthcoming because nobody wants to offend Government, point accusing fingers at a system that starves the NFF of funds, the same governments who today are doling out millions to the team, saints all, thereby painting the NFF black.
Why will the NFF not be broke when they pay the players ten thousand dollars as bonus for beating Rwanda and Malawi and Liberia? Yet President Maigari will tell you “…No regrets, everything will be done to motivate and support them….” Today history is being sacrificed on the altar of short sightedness.
You can imagine a reception for the Super Eagles at the Villa and board members of the NFF are not recognized. They begged for seats to sit………
I repeat, that today, I set out to congratulate Nigeria and Nigerians. No bellyaching. Nothing will sour my joy. Perhaps tomorrow