By Onochie Anibeze
What could make a man remember his late parents over a football matter and say â€œthank God that my mother and father are dead?â€
That is the emotion, the passion for which I have knownÂ Clemens Westerhof when it comes to football issues concerning Nigeria.
Seconds after Spain nailed Nigeria 2-0 in Egypt in the on-going FIFA Under 20 World Cup, their second defeat after falling 1-0 to Venezuela,Â Westerhof was on line. It was a long chat that I felt I should share with you.
I said a little, just allowed the man to express himself. He felt so bad that he remembered his late parents and wondered how he would have responded to their questions on Nigeria and concluded that it was good they were not alive to see the foundation he built fall with reckless abandon.
There were times he paused, momentarily compelling me to ask â€œare you there?â€ and he would heave a long sigh and go â€œWhat is this? Itâ€™s unbelievable, unbelievable, Onoch, unbelievable.â€
I serve you Westerhofâ€™s call today. It is in his usual style of speaking:
â€œWhat is this with Nigeria, Onoch? What is this? What is wrong with Nigerian football? The Eagles are down and almost out of the World Cup, the Flying Eagles have lost two matches here. And I want to ask again, what is this with Nigeria?
Why is everything crumbling. I have a problem. I boasted so much about Nigeria and even said I would sell my house here in Cape Town if Nigeria does not qualify for the World Cup. All my friends know my position and how I defend Nigeriaâ€™s football. What do we do now? Tell me, Onoch, what do we do now? How are Nigerians taking these things?
Must we go with our heads covered with blankets? I have seen this team in Egypt and I couldnâ€™t see great passes, good runs, no two- to- beat one, no one – touch play, no runs on the wings, no crosses. No build-up from the left defence, only from the right. So many things that should make a team strong are lacking in the team.
It has nothing to do with the players. Have they forgotten all that I taught them? Samson Siasia is a good coach, but why are these boys playing like this? Two red cards in two matches and many yellow cards. Why? The problem started long before Egypt. I saw where the Under 17 trained in Abuja. And they said Siasia used there too before he travelled.
No goal posts. The pitch wasnâ€™t good. Now, thereâ€™s something about youth teams. You must look for good pitches. If they learn how to play on bad pitches they will never play well. It is only on good pitch you can play tap, tap, tap. That way you learn. If the pitch is bad and you are used to it, good pitch becomes strange to you.
A coach must insist on what he wants from the federation. If they cannot support his programmes, then he goes. It is difficult to succeed without support from the federation. What do we do now to Nigerian football?
Why is everything going down. Everything I did is gone. Every foundation that I laid is destroyed. Ha ya ya ya ya, I feel let down, Iâ€™m disappointed. I worked so hard to build the game in Nigeria and now everything is gone.
When I came, they took me to a place near the national stadium in Lagos and said I could train there. I said what? I went around looking for places. And with the help of Chris Eseka, I found the Honda Ground in Otta.
I told Honda I wanted to use the place and they cut the grass and marked the pitch, a very beautiful pitch. There, I started building local players. Keshi came from Europe and said coach, how did you find this place? I told him I do things my own way.
That is my advice to coaches who work in Nigeria. They must plan to succeed. If they wait for the federation, then they will never get anywhere. You must plan and then tell the federation, this is what I want, this is how I want to do it.
Now, Nigeria may not go to the World Cup. I hope they can still turn things around but it is no longer in their hands. It is difficult now. I canâ€™t walk the streets anymore. I have no face here anymore. Hmmmmm, Iâ€™m so disappointed, so disappointed.
I didnâ€™t see one-two football in Sisiaâ€™s team, no crosses. I saw indiscipline, I saw two red cards in two matches, I saw long passes. I didnâ€™t what Siasia did in his past teams in this team. Kevin Kpakor, the son of Moses Kpakor is good enough to play for Nigeria.
Thereâ€™s also the son of Barnabas Imenga. But they donâ€™t want players from the Kwara Academy. But these players are Nigerians. There are players in Nigeria. I donâ€™t know why they cannot work. The problem is even worse with the Eagles.
When Dr. Amos Adamu asked if I could do it again, I said yes, that I could get to the last four in the World Cup with Nigeria. But now, the same team may not even qualify. Haa ya ya ya ya, Onoch, this is painful. The World Cup is for teams that prepare well and plan well. The problem started from Mozambique.
They should have gone there to find out many things before the match. I was told Daniel Amokachi went. But I wouldnâ€™t know what happened after that. What report did he bring and what did the team do?. They play on synthetic turf in Mozambique.
You must feel it, bounce the ball on it because there are different varieties. Synthetic differs, so you must feel it to know the type of boot you can use on it. You must bounce the ball to know whether you can make long or short passes. You must feel it to know how exactly you play. Did we do all these? Now the news from Nigeria is that they now payÂ victory bonus forÂ drawn matches.
What is this, Onoch?Â What can we do now? Must we go with our heads covered in blanket so that nobody sees us? It is such a big shame. What must I tell my mother and father if they were alive? If my father was alive he would have asked me what I did in Nigeria.
Iâ€™m not sure he would believe I did so much. He might think I didnâ€™t work hard enough. I am happy they are not alive today. All my work is gone. Too bad, Onoch, too bad. (Long Pause). Send my regards to all Nigerians.