By Patrick Omorodion
Since this is a period of granting of amnesty or presidential pardon by those in authority, I beg today to make a case for one who has no godfather but worked tirelessly to place Nigeria’s name on the continental podium in 2004 in far away South Africa.
Coach Godwin Izilein has been in pain since 2004 after leading the Super Falcons to win the African Women Championship, the same feat Stephen Keshi achieved by leading the men, the Super Eagles to their third title last month.
Izilein’s feat may have not been taken seriously because the Falcons have been a dominant force to reckon with in Africa, winning the African title as if it was their birth right. It seemed so at the time until Equatorialm Guinea, Cameroon and lately South Africa’s Banyana Banyana started inflicting pain on the Nigerian girls.
If Izilein were to be in-charge when the Falcons lost their supremacy to the Equatorial Guineans or the Cameroonians who denied them the 2012 London Olympics ticket, then the injustice meted out to him and his other technical staff would have been understandable.
I don’t want to bore Nigerians with what happened in South Africa in 2004 with the Falcons but the bottomline was that the girls protested the none payment of their accummalated allowances. Even assurances from top government officials that they would be paid their money fell on deaf ears.
It however, took the effort of Izilein who was almost on his knees appealing to the players who are young enough to be his daughters for them to agree to suspend their protest and agree to return home.
Trust Nigerian officials, someone must lie to shift the blame of international embarrassment from the managers of football and so they found a scape goat in Izilein, who was reported to the authorities as the ring leader of the protest and infact allegedl encouraged the girls to carry the Biafran flag.
They knew that then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was one who didn’t want to hear anything about Biafra in his war against MASSOB and sold the lie. No one has however come out to tell Izilein, Mrs Lizzy Ogiemwonyi, Assistant coach then and former Falcons captain and goalkeeer, Mrs Ann Chiejine who served as Welfare Officer of the team then, their offence and why their entitlements were denied them.
The affected officials have written several letters of reminders to the NFF but till date nothing concrete has come out of the appeal. In one of the letters written to the current NFF president, Aminu Maigari in February 2012, Izilein stated that Maigari’s predecessor, Sani Lulu Abdullahi promised to pay them but he couldn’t fulfill it before he left office.
He has also written to Godfrey Gaiya, Chairman of the House Committee on sports, stating their plight, but whether Honourable Gaiya even acknoledged receipt of the letter is another matter entirely. May be the lawmaker is not bothered that people who worked for the country are being denied their legitimate wages.
Asccording to Izilein, the accummulated unpaid bonuses to him and his two colleagues totalled $12, 750. His is $12,000, double what the players received as is the practice while Mrs Ogiemwonyi and Mrs Chiejine are owed $9,250 and $7,500 respectively.
On the presidential largesse given by the government for the Falcons triumph, the players got $1 million each. Mrs Ogiemwonyi and Mrs Chiejine were supposed to get N1 million each while Izilein was to get N2 million. All that have remained a mirage.
If one may ask, was Izilein found culpable in inciting the players to protest in South Africa? If yes, who investigated him and why was the result of the probe not made public? If there was no probe, why then is the man and his colleagues being punished unjustly?
This injustice is too much and should be looked into with a view to correcting it and compensating the affected oficials with an apology. If they were found guilty of inciting the players, I don’t think it will be wrong to ask for pardon for them as this is the time for pardon for wrong doers in our country. What is good for the goose, is also good for the gander.
Still on Mba
Warri Wolves boss Amaju Pinnick said during the week that for maligning the club’s name, Rangers of Enugu must offer them apologies in two national newspapers and television stations respectively. That is before they can start talking about the real owner of Sunday Mba.
When the league opened last week, Mba could neither play for Rangers nor Warri Wolves. Despite being invited to camp for the impending World Cup qualifier between the Eagles and Kenya in Calabar on Saturday, Mba risk losing his place in Stephen Keshi’s plan.
Keshi has said he may be forced to drop Mba as the ownership tussle may affect his concentration in camp, stressing that he only needs players who will be mentally and physically ready to deliver the three points against Kenya for him. Here is calling on the NFF to act fast to settle this matter. Pinnick has said that the NFF should act fast to declare their findings after the investigation it carried out. I believe that is the wise thing to do in the interest of both Mba and the nation.