So much has been written on the Nigeria-Scotland match that I rather move on.
The plans to write on Coach Keshi’s final list of 23 was not helped by the fact that by the time this column was sent in, the list had not left the coach’s head.
Susan Eshett is a manager with Mobil Producing Nigeria, a Man U supporter, a rabid believer in Nigeria who last Saturday said to me that she was sure Nigeria, this time around was going as far as the semi finals.
I tried to punctuate her enthusiasm by pointing out the victory of Bosnia and Herzegovina over Cote Divoire, the weapon called Edin Dzeko and how we do not seem to worry about them. Susan was not impressed. She is not alone.
So many Nigerians are confident that this time around, we are most likely going to progress farther than we have ever done in our four previous qualifications. On further investigation I found out that it does not have anything to do with the quality of the players, the pedigree of the coach or the potency of the team. It is just a belief.
Based on this feeling and unique conviction, I will want to address an issue that should not be allowed to overshadow whatever achievements we are likely to chalk up in Brazil.
Just before the match against Scotland, news broke that Britain’s National Crime Agency ( NCA ) had launched a match fixing inquiry and asked FIFA to issue an alert over attempts to manipulate the match. Member of the NFF Technical Committee and revered captain and coach of the national team, Chairman Christian Chukwu in a radio interview said it was “….Rubbish. Tell me why would you fix a friendly match? Why ?“ in the same interview he said how in his days footballers played for country and love of the game and that money was not a factor. Yes sir, things have changed.
What, is match fixing? The complex and international syndicate can be simply explained as “….the arranging in advance of the outcome of a match or events within that match, usually for the purpose of making money, often from betting”
In doing this, players and referees are compromised, usually by notorious match fixing syndicates that operate mainly from Asia.
In 2013, Sam Sodje came out in Britain to confess how he has been involved in fixing matches. Deliberate receipt of yellow or red cards, own goals etc . Sodje’s brother Akpo was also quoted as allegedly saying that he would be prepared to be paid to be booked, and as a Nigerian, I felt ashamed.
Immediately after the Scotland match, a video of Austin Ejide “consciously throwing the ball into his own net” went viral. The London Mirror newspaper asked why the goal was disallowed. Nigerians wonder why despite the presence of four goalkeepers in camp, Ejide was allowed to go the whole hog….
I have looked at that video again and again and every time I look, I get confused.
Back to the beginning. Three years ago, Nigeria’s name was linked to the Niger referee Ibrahim Chaibou who was fingered in the match fixing allegation involving South Africa and Guatemala and other matches leading to the World Cup in South Africa. Caught with over $100,000 which he lodged in a South African Bank, accusations led to the suspension of top South African football authorities including FA President Kirsten Nemantadani. Chaibou who worked for Wilson Perumal, refereed our 4-1 victory over Argentina in a friendly and the result was suspect.
Last April, the same Singaporean match fixer Wilson Raj Perumal in his book, came out to allege that he influenced the qualification of Honduras and Nigeria for the 2010 World Cup. How he used three players in our team, how he bribed Mozambique to stop Tunisia etc. in his words “……..My plan has worked and I was the unsung hero of Nigeria’s qualification to the final rounds of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Ferrying Nigeria and Honduras to the World Cup was a personal achievement…..I got two teams to qualify for the World Cup but I cannot tell anyone……”
Yes, the Nigerian authorities have muscularly come out to deny this position, though I have not ceased to ask myself, why Nigeria? Why did he not mention any other country? This proverb of there being no fire without a smoke should guide us as we fly to Brazil.
FIFA’s head of security Ralf Mutschke has confirmed that the Brazil World Cup is vulnerable. That there will be a conscious effort to track match fixing. News has it that there will be twelve (12) Security Officers in each stadium with the monitoring of potential match fixing among their duties.
Nigeria stands accused. The Nigeria Football Federation should consider this as very serious and draw the attention of its players and officials to this anomaly that is capable of dragging the name of this country to the mud. All those loafers, scouts, agents, journalists, relatives and fans who hang around players hotels, who sneak into lifts, should be adequately monitored and screened.
Chief Jonathan Ogufere, former West African Football Union President and President Association Of Sports Veterans Nigeria considers this as “….disgusting. We should not allow our flag to be stained in Brazil. This country is passing through a lot already and the last thing we need at international level is to be highlighted negatively” He said.
Chief Ogufere said when he heard that our friendly match was under watch, he was not too comfortable and nearly dismissed it as one of those distractions that we can ill afford.
May I implore Nigerians to be united in a prayer point that has to do with the rejection of injuries? Italy’s Ricardo Montolivo, Luis Montes of Mexico and Ecuador’s Segundo Castillo will not be going to the World Cup due to injuries sustained during friendly matches on Saturday. May that not be our portion, we pray.
See you next week