Sports Bassey

June 22, 2009

Story…. Story… Stooory ……

By Pual Bassey
I  thought this was an introduction to a moonlight setting in the village where  kids gather to listen  to elders sharing out words of wisdom, only to be told that  it could also mean a fabrication of lies, it could mean a reaction to what you believe is not  true.

Whatever it means I have stories to tell and I want to tell them, whether you believe them or not.

Never again
Thursday, after a fruitless wait for a visa that was to take them to Malta to join other members of the Super  Eagles, the trio of Yobo, Utaka and goalkeeper Aiyenugba took a flight to London from where they had to charter an  aircraft to take them to Tunisia. I do not want to know who will bear the cost of that charter.

My first reaction was, why the charter? These are players who for over  three weeks had not trained with their colleagues, who by all technical calculations are not supposed to be part of the Tunisian squad yet we allowed them to charter a plane to Tunis. Fo what?

The Yobo story is an extension of the mess we found ourselves where the NFF could not guarantee visas for players on national duty. If this could happen to the Super Eagles, I  can imagine the fate that is awaiting the Flying Eagles and  to a lesser extent the Falcons.

More than that, the National Sports Commission should move in and stem once and for all the recurrent penchant for embassies in Nigeria to frustrate and humiliate our  athletes when they are picked as ambassadors of this country.

It is  high time we laid to  rest the issue of our sportsmen and women not being able to  travel out for international competitions because one embassy or the other decided that we should not go. I am waiting for the federal government to protest and in strong terms the events that led to the non-issuance of visas to Yobo and co.

In doing  so, I am aware that  most of the problems we encounter emanate from the  maladroitness of our sports administrators. There are embassies who stipulate three weeks for submission of  visa applications. We should be able to respect such.

Exceptions to some of  these stipulations emerge when a team like the Super Eagles needs to add and subtract players up to the last minute in which case the embassies concerned have to be put on alert, very much in advance.

It is only in this country  that I hear embassies refusing to grant visas to athletes and teams duly qualified to represent us at international level without any reason whatsoever. Please, never again.

The Magic at Zamfara
Last week I told you how I was in Minna to superintend over the final league match  between Niger Tornadoes  and Heartland. It was a match that could determine the  league winner outside the cracker at Oleh where Bayelsa were also in contention against Warri Wolves.

Though the Nigeria Premier League board took precautions by sending experienced match  commissioners, top referees, assesors and board members to the matches, emphasis was on Minna and Oleh only for the abracadabra to be played out in Gusau.

I had  the singular honour of sitting next to the executive secretary of the league board  when the drama started unfolding. By the time the scores got to five, Yakmut Alhassan said and I quote “if they score eight goals, I will resign”.

I quickly told the young man  that he will not resign, that he will have to hear out the case and take a decision. Alhassan will hear nothing of it. He spoke about MORALITY and ETHICS.

He sermonized on the need for probity and so on. That if  Zamfara needed Nine goals to escape relegation and they scored NINE, there was  nothing anybody was going to tell him.

The executive secretary has since gone back to Abuja to discover that “it is easier said than done”, the chairman of the league board, has since said that going by the experience of two seasons ago, he was not ready to waste millions of  naira and valuable time to pursue what will turn out to be a worthless exercise.

Who perfected the deal? When was it done? Where? These are the questions that Chief Obaseki believes have to be answered before he can venture into a probe and because nobody is likely to do so, he will sit down and watch.

Since we are so helpless, I  need time to go back to my village and consult, ask for that Dele Giwa type  scenario where the gods of the land decreed that whosoever killed the ace  journalist will run out onto the streets, naked. I want to  consult and get assurance that if Akwa United two seasons ago and Zamfara now did fix their matches, soon, very soon, let them come out confessing. I will wait for that to happen.

On a serious note, after Akwa United two seasons ago, after all the upheavals and shame, after the league board had done nearly everything to stem a reoccurrence, here we are back to square one.

It pains me that we have to go back to this path of shame…it pains me that we are saying “you aint seen nothing yet”.

That  Bayelsa captain’s murder
The African tradition forbids the speaking of ill about the death.
However,  let what happens to the dead be a lesson to the living.
The death of the Bayelsa United captain can only happen here.

Of a young man who has just led his team to a league crown, who should relax, party and savour the joy of a historic achievement only for him to decide to hit the road so late at night.

No I will not talk about the menace of armed robbers who daily terrorise us. Am I not a victim? Over five years ago armed robbers stormed my house and killed my son. Today no one has solved the mystery. We are our own security.

Some call it predestination, others call it fate. That the young man was destined to die  the way he did, existing in glory as it were. I think differently, that a little bit of discipline would have kept him alive.

For  Linus Mba
The news that Mr. Linus Mba will be writing for the Vanguard pleases me no end. This is a man I can vouch for, one I have interacted with over the years, especially outside the shores of this country.

Linus Mba is one man that can change for the better, the  fortunes of referees in this country. I have in my  possession, a comprehensive  assessment of all the referees and match commissioners in  the current Globacom Premier League.

This document is a classic one which if adopted will more than sanitise our league for  next season. I intend to write on this later. For now, I welcome on board, FIFA Referees Advisor, member CAF Referees Committee and above all a gentleman. Welcome sir, looking forward to your first piece.

For  Fortunatus  Dawodu
I got this interesting text  “Getting old, no problem at all o….with Fortunatus Dawodu scoring diamond we turn to God on 15.06.09 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church EB Lagos. 11 a.m. To God be the glory”, 60 years and still kicking.

Congrats to a great journalist, a professional to the core, silently effective. Felicitation mon frère. Felicitation.
See you  next week.

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