By Eddie Akalonu
Despite doubts being expressed about the Eagleâ€™s ability to pick a ticket in the on-going 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, football enthusiast and former technical committee chairman of the Nigeria Football Association, Brigadier-General Gregory Adebiyi (rtd), has firm belief that the team will qualify when the last round of matches hold next weekend.
Stressing that the â€œSuper Eagles will qualify for the World Cup,â€ General Adebiyi said â€œFirst I donâ€™t see Tunisia beating Mozambique by as much as 2-0 in Maputo nor Nigeria losing against Kenya in Nairobi.
Mind you this is the same Kenya that was one of our hurdles on the way to qualifying for the Franceâ€98 World Cup. They did everything and we still qualified, despite the fact that the took the match to a pitch filled with pot-holes to slow down the ability ofÂ our Europe based players.
I was then head of the FAâ€™s technical committee and despite all they did we could not be stopped in the group and I see a similar thing happening,â€ he said, adding â€œI see our players playing the cards well and spinning a joker.â€
Adebiyi, who during his military service held the post of Physical and Health Education trainer of the Nigeria Army stressed that â€œIâ€™m of the strongest belief that Mozambique will not play to fall to Tunisia in their place. A worse case scenario is for that game to end in a draw and Kenya does not have the liver to beat Nigeria although they will try to do something such as fighting hard but my belief is, Kenya has nothing to fight for really.
And that is the match I think would draw out the best of ability in our players. They will fight like they have never done before to win. Itâ€™s the match the Eagles are going to use to make a difference on the public perception held about them and now go to the World Cup to make a difference also because that is the platform to turn the tables,â€ he averred.
On what is happening to football presently with the national teams not having good returns in international competitions, General Adebiyi blamed it on the countryâ€™s very poor sports development policy saying â€œ real sports development has to start from the top and flows downwards.
Sadly over the last couple of years, since 1999 to be precise, itâ€™s like sports has become and is used as tool of rehabilitation for political associates and party men. I can say among the last ten sports ministers or so, seven fall into that category.
This means there have not been any effort to ensure that past sportsmen and women are named sports ministers, orÂ there has not been sportsmen and women who go into party politics with the aspiration to go to the Sports Ministry with the aim of projecting sports and giving it a pride of place in governance.â€
â€œTherefore when it has become the norm to relegate sports by sending somebody who knows nothing about sports to head the place, what we have now as downward returns would continue.
To football, General Adebiyi said â€œthe slide began shortly after France â€˜98 when the signs reared up but no attention was paid to putting a check to it. So, today, when we lost leadership of the African Women Championship, our Eaglets could not qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup from Africa and this was a title we dominated in the past, the Super Eagles did not qualify for World Cup inÂ Germany in 1996, these were all signs that something had gone wrong but went unheeded.
So, everything is wrong with our sports policy and if you ask me how to correct the wrongs, we have to start from the top,â€ he affirmed.