August 27, 2009

What $10,000 Cannot Do!

By Ikedi Isiguzo
IT is like us, we are again throwing money at a problem that we created. The idea that qualifying for the 2010 World Cup is being pursued as if it is the major problem of Nigeria is becoming obscene. Worse still, the interventions that are coming from bodies like the Presidential Task Force on the World Cup have exposed our level of preparedness for the decisive game against Tunisia.


Any money that is paid to the team depletes the resources that are available to Nigerians for other things. The waste that is involved still fails to address the point that we have people who occupy offices and do absolutely nothing, day in day out.

Where was the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, all this while? What was the plan to prosecute the World Cup? If we pay winning bonuses of $10,000 for qualifying game, what would we pay as winning bonus if this team makes it to South Africa?

Panic has set it. It is predictable. After we failed to work hard for the game of September 6, we are thinking that money would fix the matter. We are in for a shocker.

There has to be a team first before thinking of motivating the players. How are the players in the Super Eagles for whom $10,000 would make a difference? Was it the players who asked for $10,000 or how did we arrive at the decision that with this amount they would win the important game against Tunisia?

What are the preparations we have made for the game? We are told, and the authorities agreed, that the coach has decided not to play friendlies before the crucial game. The whole reasons that have been given for this cannot make any justification except the one that the coach decides what he wants. I dare add that we bear the pain, by the time his (in)decision would have misled us.

How can a coach justify going into an important game of this nature without a game to gauge his team? The previous game in these qualifiers was when the season was ending. Between the drawn game in Tunisia in July and September 6, was the long drawn holiday that meant that the players were off form.

Back to their clubs, they are jostling for play time. It is an undertaking that is tied to the future of their careers. How would our coach know the fitness level of these players for the game that would decide if we would go to the World Cup? It is important that we put all these in perspective as w approach the final curse in the journey to South Africa 2010.

Perennial optimists are at their motivational best telling all who care to listen that Nigeria must be at the World Cup. This is sheer sophistry when the preparation does not match the ambition.

The Tunisians are preparing. They are playing; they have the added advantage of their players from this competition being mostly from their vibrant home league. The Abuja National Stadium venue of the game is waiting to host a game that should have had little importance, if we were ready for the game in Maputo.

Long breaks like the one that followed after the first leg in Tunisia, afford teams that make optimal preparations the opportunity to rest, re-consider strategy and produce a better team for the task ahead. We wasted the break.

Nigeria did not do any of these. Instead, it thinks that a $10,000 bait would turn the players to winners overnight. I want to see how this would happen against Tunisia on September 6.

For the many who have invested their emotions on the result of the September 6 game, the outcome could be as critical as staking entire life savings on a lottery – it is a gamble, anything can happen.

My Jamaica…
WE must understand there is nothing for Nigeria to learn from the performance of Jamaica (population – 2.8 million) at the World Athletics Championships. We must accept that we cannot be like the Jamaicans until we return to the foundational matters of returning sports to the schools and training our coaches in the scientific ways that the world has adopted.

There are low capacities in various spheres. The schools have low abilities to produce athletes, the country is declining in meeting the basic needs of its peoples (in health, food, ordinary running water). Decline in the quality of Nigerian life is affecting our sports, and athletics. The growing numbers of poor sports administrators who have hijacked the sports associations, would continue to produce poor results.

Years of peripheral attention to sports are yielding results. At times like this, all we can do is clap for the Jamaicans for their efforts. If anyone can remember the promise the Jamaicans showed at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, 26 years ago, it would not be a surprise that they have done very well. Where would Nigerian athletics be in the next 26 years when we do not have a plan for six months?

Please send comments, complaints, and compliments to ikeddyisiguzo@hotmailcom

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