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Rough road to Rio

By PAUL BASSEY
I DO not think Nigerian coaches and players know my age. If they did, they would not have conspired to send me to my grave before my time.

After the Federation Cup Final, I told a colleague that I cannot count the number of matches I have watched, a situation that should save me from unnecessary tension and fear, yet the last five minutes of that match was hell for me as Lobi Stars were on the rampage threatening to draw level.

Yesterday I was all nerves as Manchester United struggled to ward off an ambitious West Ham team, preventing us from going top of the table ( Yes “us”ahahahahaah)

I remember Pointe Noire and the struggle to qualify for the CAF U-23 Nations Cup and how we sweated, waiting anxiously for the referee’s final whistle.

Of late,the National teams have also not helped me. Imagine our U-2O girls leaving it till the return leg in South Africa to qualify for FIFA. What about the national team? The unexplained woeful outings against Tanzania and Swaziland?

Perhaps the one that beats them all is the current “Dream Team” campaigning in Senegal. I watched the team take a commanding three goal lead against Mali, only to leave me a nervous wreck at the end of the match with Mali at the point of coming back.

Then came the Egyptians, two penalty goals in the first half and before we knew it, Egypt was on the verge of beating us after drawing level

Despite Coach Siasia’s assurances that they were going to make amends ( Said the same after the Mali match ) yesterday I told my wife I was not going to watch the match against Algeria. I told her I was certain Egypt will go all out to beat Mali, while we could not swear on our team anymore, so she should keep me posted.

The first good news I got from her was that Mali were leading the Egyptians and they maintained the position till the end, while we struggled to hold the Algerians thanking God for the draw that has exposed us to a possible ouster by the host.

When God damned kidnappers held Siasia’s mother hostage, my heart bled for him. I knew there was no way he could concentrate on the job at hand and I feared for the worst. As God would have it, his dear mother was released in time to allow him face the task at hand. With the current results however, I am led to believe that Siasia could not do much while the mother was in captivity.

That brings me to the Amuneke example. Last week I received a call from him and in the course of our discussion , he was grateful to all those who stood by him in the course of his travails. He was particularly pleased with the NFF leadership for believing in him after he could not pick even a bronze in the African U-17 qualifiers. Today he is a World Cup winning coach.

Siasia has wobbled and fumbled into the semi finals. He is one match away from a Rio ticket and the challenge are the rampaging Senegalese complete with home support.

On paper we are as good as the third place match against South Africa and a remote chance of smuggling ourselves to Rio.

Let it be said however that you underrate a Nigerian team at your peril. It would have been okay for them if they had bundled us out. Now that they have given us a window to peep in, we are set to open the door wide and walk in, boldly.

That was the nature, character and spirit of our youth and women teams. Now, things seems to be falling apart. Eagles free fall, All Africa Games disaster, and Olympics miss by the women…..time to arrest the situation. Over to you Sia Sia, another chance beckons.

History… Honour… Houses… Money… God… Thanksgiving… Africa…

Yesterday, the Government of Akwa Ibom State went to church to give Thanks to the Almighty God for the success of Akwa United.

Quoting Governor Udom Emmanuel the Thanksgiving marks the end of celebrations. “ Back to business. Africa calls.” He ordered.

Represented by the Sports Commissioner Sir Monday Uko, Governor Udom thanked Akwa Ibomites for their prayers and promised that the Federation Cup was just the beginning of a greater future for the state.

In his sermon, the Field Superintendent of the Apostolic Church in Akwa Ibom State apostle Ime George attributed the victory to God’s favour and acceptance of the leadership of the state. To the delight of those present, he chronicled the history of Challenge cup from inception to the present day and thanked God for making His light to shine on Akwa Ibom.

In his own speech, the Chairman of the club, Akparawa Nse Ubeh gave God all the glory for the victory. He said left for the team alone, there was no how the team could have won the cup but that with God all challenges were surmounted.

He thanked the state Governor, the Commissioner for sports, his board members, management, staff and players for making him an history maker, while promising that with God on the side of the team and the state, Africa will be conquered.

The service was marked with songs and dances galore. See you next week.


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