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Football tournaments: Why we fail

THE  great musician, Fela Ransome Kuti in his song, “Buy Africa” sang thus: “Africa man no go do him own thing, he no go buy him own thing. “ How true his lyrics in the context of the Nigerian football.

The Nigerian Press in reporting football matters, has raised foreign Leagues above ours, (for legitimate motive of profit as a business entity) to the admiration of our footballing audience of 15 -30. The Nigerian league is no longer accepted.  The 2018 World football draws has just been released and all you hear from the Press is that Nigeria has been drawn in the “group of death”, just to create belief that we are already out of it before it begins.

But who are the ones to defeat the Super Eagles according to them: little Cameroon, under populated Algeria and poor Zambia? These are the killer countries we must fear? If this is true, why must we waste our resources to participate in the mundial aware that Argentina, Cote d’Ívoire, “German machine” will be in it? Is football not anymore a universal game? Isn’t it the place of the football authorities to make the public look inwards, again, through the press, and pay for it?

The press will weave awe around our opponents and call it “balanced reporting.” They nicknamed  the German team the “German machine” and each time our teams face the Germans, as in the just concluded Olympic football tournament, they get  jittery and lose. Are machines not precision equipment that give you mechanical advantage, or don’t we know? In the last world cup, the Germans could only make a draw with Ghana who knows nothing about this “machine” made in Nigeria.

Of course, the Europeans played better football those days when football was budding here. Now it is universal and every nation plays to win. In those days we joined in competitions for its participatory content, not for the honour of winning laurels and this philosophy still pervades our games. All we hear now is Ronaldo, Mesi. The consequence of this is that the  footballing age is bought and sold to the foreign Leagues where is found “sweet” football. Talk of the Nigerian Premier League, they laugh and stuff their ears. On a radio broadcast not long ago, a listener phoned in and was asked who the current League Champions of Nigeria football is?  He conked out and could not be reached again.

I recall that in the 1998 world cup in which France, the host country, reached the final with Brazil; the half time score was 3:0 against Brazil. The TV commentator, the late Yinka Craig, said, in his unhidden admiration of Brazil, the “gods of soccer”, that she will come back after the interval and show the French how to play the game. His prediction failed to his shame as Brazil was hammered 3: 0. Also in 2014, we saw the same Brazil fickle to a 7:1 defeat by the Germans.  A young Nigerian proudly consoled himself that Brazil lost because they did not present their full standard team.

The 2014 world cup squad of the Super Eagles was probably the best chance we ever had to win the world cup, if we believed, but the Nigerians were busy predicting doom for the Super Eagles and that they will be the first team to be bundled home. This was before the game even kicked off. Thank God it wasn’t our Supper Eagles that was first to go but the Europeans! The Super Eagles played the next round without them! We forget they represent Nigeria and whatever we do to them, we do to ourselves, but who cares?  Not even the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF!

At the 2013 Nations cup tournament in South Africa, the Super Eagles were abandoned when they were to face the Ivorians, they lamented: “Oh Drogba, oh Toure, oh we are finished. They have reached their end. We nicknamed them “the super chickens” and disowned them; even the NFF joined in the slavish stupidity. Lambs and Chickens all, who want to win without a fight, the “Naija made”. However, the lads rejected by their own, raised their “fighting spirit” to win the tournament and we shamelessly rejoiced. They played for their coach, Stephen Keshi, and as a reward, Keshi was sacked because he is not Oyibo? In his place was Sunday Oliseh who, for fear that if he succeeds, will be sacked also, abandoned the NFF job for all it is worth. The administrators have no place for “National pride” as they have secured an Oyibo coach who “rightly” should take the victory parade when won, not home coaches.

Also In the 2014 World Cup tournament, we deserved to be ousted; failure of the entire football public, not Keshi who was still the best we had before his demise; a prophet at home though, but was he not better than Scolari who led Brazil to their 7:1 whitewash by Germany? So we lost when we ought not. If we laid off Argentina on that day, as we showed ability to (at least for the first time) who survived us because they possessed two vital victory qualities, namely; National pride and a winning mentality, and threw spanner into the imaginary “German machine” we created, the World Cup could have been ours, the first African nation to win the Senior World Cup, hitting world headlines; after all we once won the Olympic football gold, and six times the U17 World cup Champions of the World!

Therefore, we only need three things to excel and win: National pride, a fighting spirit and a winning mentality. With these qualities, no advantage is seen in the opponent, be they “machines or tools”. “Oyibo coach” is no better than a homer, equally paid and respected, at least by half. Is the NFF for us?

Mr.  Chioke Hanum, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.


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