By Paul Bassey
Last Monday I wrote wishing the Eagles all the best in Alexandria.
I believed the unfortunate draw in Kaduna not withstanding, we had a team that was capable of turning the tide in Alexandria.
It was not to be.
In Alexandria we put up a credible display. We were not cowed nor intimidated. But football is about goals and it came to the Egyptians on the night. We lost with our heads held high.
Since then, I have read of how Victor Moses cried uncontrollably in the dressing room after the match. Strange. Very strange. Most footballers don’t have time for those sentiments. Do they ever bother? I have seen players who treat losses as norm, they file out of the dressing room singing and joking, and at the slightest opportunity sneak out of the camp for drinks “ with the boys” and other vices.
Before Alexandria, they had their Pharaohs, we had our Moses. It did not end Biblically. Alas.
I have had a lot to say about this team and I will continue to say this team came pretty late. Siasia and his colleagues came late. The damage had been done. The rescue mission was ill timed. The only way forward is to build on the foundation that has been laid by Siasia.
Foreign coach? Never bothered me where a coach came from as long as he was good, better than his Nigerian counterparts and worth the millions that we will expend on him and his assistants. Did England of all countries not contract a foreign coach in Erickson?
In going for a foreign coach we must ensure that he is not only top drawer but very familiar with the intricacies and politics of African football. Coaching in this continent is a different kettle of fish entirely, so much that even a Bertie Vogts could not succeed here.
Resignation of President Pinnick? Nigerians have a right to be angry. How can we miss two consecutive Nations Cups? That it happened to Egypt does not mean it should happen to us. In doing so however we should be careful not to cut our nose to spite our face.
We lost the Nations Cup qualification the day we drew with Tanzania in a group where we had no business dropping points to the minnows of the group.
The Pinnick regime has been a very successful one and counting. The loss to Egypt is not a reflection of the quality of leadership and the structural development that this board has brought to bear on the quality of our football in so short a time.
I remember telling a friend just last week that my appointment as Akwa United Chairman was basically to restructure the team and get it running as a professional football club on and off the field, but that my success, unfortunately is tied to the on field performance of the team ( League table), a phenomenom that most times I have no control over.
That is what the NFF must realize from now on. The NFF Board has apologized to Nigerians, they have made a case for continued stay and I dare say they have done well. They should however be very careful in making future promises in a sport where the better side, often times, does not win.
The NFF should open up. Allow committees more involvement in the day to day running of the sport. The leaders should not arrogate to themselves monopoly of knowledge, should talk less and consult more.
This country boasts technocrats, men and women with deep rooted football savvy who by current and strange legislation may never be members of the NFF Board but are definitely better blessed and endowed. We should fish them out and engage them.
The cut is deep, the wound is bleeding yet it will heal. With time it will. All the NFF and all its affiliates have to do is to start churning out those results and programmes that will help compensate Nigerians for this great loss. In football, you win some, lose some.
Back to Akwa United
The last time I wrote this column, I was in Bauchi and I remember saying though the draw in Kaduna was not acceptable to Nigerians, I will be too pleased to get one against Wikki Tourists and that is exactly what happened.
I was not very happy with the LMC for denying me the celebration of Easter Holidays with members of my family as decreed by the Federal Government.
On Easter Sunday we were in Bauchi. Easter Monday we hit the road for Katsina for a match against El Kanemi Warriors. Of course after that match which we won convincingly 3-1 we were again on the road to Abuja to catch a flight back to Uyo.
Am I still complaining? No way. That was a great Easter gift like no other. Four points from two consecutive away games? God is on the throne.
I owe this feat primarily to God, His Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel, the players and their coaches, of course my sports commissioner and all those who have decided to intercede heavenly favours on our behalf.
Will take time off to talk about that expedition around the North in 7 days from Abuja to Kaduna to Jos to Bauchi to Kano to Jigawa to Katsina to Zaria to Kaduna back to Abuja. The break down thirty minutes to Zaria and how retired FIFA referee Bola Abidoye was our saving grace as we made the flight that brought us back.
In Uyo, there was no respite as the State FA made us to play three Federation Cup matches in three days culminating in yesterday’s final against Starlets.
As you are reading this I must have won my first silverware as Chairman of Akwa United. That will be a story for another day.
See you next week.