â€¢ says of coaches, administrators, players
By John Egbokhan, Calabar
Technical Committee Chairman of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Taiwo Ogunjobi, has described Saturdayâ€™s deciding 2010 World Cup clashes in Nairobi and Maputo as the most traumatic period for the fedreation.
Nigeriaâ€™s Green Eagles and Tunisiaâ€™s Carthage Eagles are locked up in a two-way high octane race for the sole qualifying ticket available for grabs in Group B to be part of the 32 teams, whose flags would flutter proudly in the night and day skies of South Africa.
Though Tunisia hold the advantage with a two-point cushion on the Nigerians, the final round of games in Nairobi, where Eagles face Kenyaâ€™s Harambee Stars and Maputo, where Tunisia go up in arms against the Black Mambas of Mozambique, guarantees that the pendulum could still swing in any direction, depending on the outcomes of the fixtures in question.
But what is clear is that the fixtures hold more significance for the Nigerians, who must not only beat Kenya but also hope for a Mozambique favour and this point is not lost on Ogunjobi, a former Secretary-General of the NFF, who told Sports Vasnguard that the future of Nigerian football hangs precariously in the balance this weekend.
â€œWe are at a crossroads and whatever happens on Saturday in Nairobi and Maputo would determine the future of Nigerian football, in terms of what next for the administrators, the coaches, the players and the fans support for the game.
â€œI have been having sleepless nights in the last weeks because of the impending date and it has been one of the toughest period of my romance with football administration, since I started working as an administrator.
â€œGoing to the World Cup in South Africa is a national project, which cannot be toyed with and it is sad that we are in this tough position, with one match to go. It is true that our destiny is not firmly in our hands but I strongly believe that we would qualify for the 2010 event.
â€œI draw my hope from the last minute goal we scored against Mozambique in Abuja because it appeared that we had missed out of the tournament until God came to our rescue and that chance is not going to pass us by on Saturday.
â€œWe are working hard to turn things around because we understand the implications of not going to the World Cup for all the actors of football admistration. Fans would call for our heads and even go as far as stoning us and calling us unthinkable names on the streets.
â€œI am mindful of the reactions of the fans to whatever happens on Saturday, that is why we are working twice hard to ensure that the Eagles qualify.Â The success of the Under-17 World Cup in Abuja on Sunday would be determined by the success of the Eagles on Saturday.
If we qualify for the 2010 World Cup, you can be sure that the Abuja Stadium would be filled to the brim on Sunday for the final of the Under-17World Cup, irrespective of which teams are playing because Nigerian fans would come out to celebrate the qualification of the Eaglesâ€, added Ogunjobi.