By Paul Bassey
As you are reading this, the World Under-17 championship is grinding to a close. Whether we like it or not, it will go down on record that we hosted. Leave all this argument of hosting well or not. We are hosting and it is going on, iced by the gradual success of the Eaglets.
I have heard and read about the drainage problems, heard and read about the floodlights that failed and the tear gas that sent players and officials scampering, yet none is reflected on the FIFA website.
On the FIFA website are results, analysis of matches and pictures, chronicling the second out of the three unprecedented World Cups that Africa will be hosting.
This, I want to believe is a feat that the NFF will chalk up as one of the achievements under the administration of Alhaji Sanni Lulu, who incidentally is the Chairman of the LOC Nigeria 2009.
This dramatically brings me to the recent arguments by Dr. Bolaji Ojo-Oba, Secretary General of the NFF. In a widely publicised protest, the PHD holder does not understand why other sports are not receiving the type focus football is receiving.
He says he believes if other sports get a quarter of the attention football gets, they will sit up and deliver. For now, he believes they lie comatose because the media especially has refused to look into them like they do football.
He went further to say that from all available statistics, the present NFF board has more than justified its tenure and went ahead to enumerate sameâ€¦â€¦..
Dr. Ojo-Oba is one of those you can refer to as â€œa football personâ€. One who, if he does not perform, you can conveniently scream at because you believe he should know. There are those who fail to perform and you do not bat an eyelid, because you did not expect them to perform, in the first place.
I am one of those who devote more than 80 per cent of their column to football, not because I want to, but because studies show that the moment you start talking about cricket, nobody will read you to the end. In those days of Todaysports, we were quite conscious of this and no matter how good a story was on tennis, basketball and boxing, it played second fiddle to a weaker football story.
In Nigeria, football is king. In Nigeria, regrettably, there is no other sport, that is why other sports can afford to go and flounder in international competitions, come back and nobody loses sleep. Last week at the Johannesburg airport in South Africa, I got to talk to the president of the basketball association who regretted the challenges he was facing, trying to turn the sport around.
Truthfully, I told him I did not even know they were out for a competition and but for the chance meeting could not have known they were on their way back in.
If this tallies with the NFF secretary generalâ€™s assertion, fine, but who is to blame? Let me not take up the cross of other sports, but I can conveniently say that whereas football has benefitted billions of naira and continues to benefit, none of the associations has seen a hundred thousand naira in the last four months!
Please I am not exaggerating. You have associations who have received approvals, sourced money and travelled out, only to come back and watch in horror as interest keeps on piling on the loans they got.
The system does not encourage the existence of other sports. We will not tire to drum out the fact that whereas one athlete, can win as many as six gold medals in an Olympic swimming competition, it takes more than forty people (players and supporting staff) to get just one gold in football.
As for the so-called achievements of his board, I want him to place it side by side with the achievements of other boards, especially those that were faced with a World Cup qualification.
I quickly add that no matter what Dr. Ojo-Oba and his board would have achieved, it will pale to insignificance if we do not qualify for the World Cup, so in the midst of the distraction called the U-17 championship, we should not lose focus of the big picture, the real thing, that is the World Cup qualification, ominously coming up in a forthnight.
Some secretaries have told me they will gladly swap places with Dr. Ojo-Oba, not minding the so-called media attention, critisism and the like.
Much as we will not mind some focus on other sports, which will further expose their sorry state, that will in no way, reduce the attention on the beautiful game called football.
â€¦.That the NFF is sober
Was reading my colleague Mumini Alao talking about a rejoinder from the NFF that came in hushed tones.
After what was supposed to be a love letter to the NFF President, Mumini got this call from the image maker, returning the Presidentâ€™s love and going ahead to explain the position of the federation.
Mumini added that the posture was quite different from the combatant NFF he knew, one that will always stock pile ammunition, ready to declare a full scale war at the slightest hint of a provocation.
I say to Mumuni, wait. Just wait until they qualify for the World Cup, and the leopard will reappear with the full complement of its spots. In the first place, why did the NFF president himself not take up his phone to call Mumini and touch base with him? How many journalists does he care to interact with, come down from his exalted throne to mix with his subjects?
I should know. I have been a subject of poisonous attacks, where a view in my column became a subject of a press conference, addressed in gutter language without even the courtesy of copying me, the culprit. My respect to those colleagues who drew a professional line, insisting that they will not publish an issue they knew nothing about, and the rejoinder should be addressed to the newspaper concerned.
If only some of my colleagues will be able to appreciate the scandal that goes on in the name of their name, they will be the wiser. All the free pittance flying around does not belong to anybody. Nigeriaâ€™s money, budgeted for and released for journalists yet not paid them in full.
Some few years ago, I stumbled on a swindle sheet in the form of retirement, where it was claimed that journalists were given $2,000 (Two thousand dollars) each during an international competition.
One of the journalists whose names I saw swore he only got $350 (Three hundred and fifty dollars) in two separate occasions. Not to talk of those whose names appeared on the retirement list, yet never travelled out of the country.
The NFF is sober? They are now addressing people with respect? Wait until they qualify for the World Cupâ€¦.just waitâ€¦..
Funny side of life
I leave the space this week to Umoh Bassey one of the finest midfielders east of the Niger who as a student in the University of Calabar was in the Acada United team that beat Calabar Rovers 1-0 to the Cross River State Challenge Cup final in 1984.
Telling his story, he said Rovers took them for granted only for the undergraduates to dominate play as the minutes ticked to 90 and Rovers could not cancel the one goal lead. A fidgetyÂ coach Charles Bassey (MON) was seen desperately trying to light a cigarette on the touch line.
After fruitless attempts, it was noticed that he had turned the stick around and was trying to light the filter endâ€¦..
See you next week.