By Paul Bassey
The 27th Orange CAF Nations Cup started yesterday in Angola. By tomorrow, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will take centre stage in the only match that will, perhaps determine their fate in the competition.
It is no more news that in their last warm up match against Zambia, played under closed doors, though the match ended goalless, the Zambians through their FA boss Kalusha Bwalya have come out to say that the Nigerians were the better team in the second half, especially when Nwankwo Kanu was introduced.
Regrettably this column, coming just once a week as it were, will not be able to address events in a daily basis. We leave that to technology. All the matches will be televised live including intelligent reviews and previews from the best football journalists in the world.
Not forgetting that this is the year of the World Cup, and with five African countries involved and the draws made, Angola has become a Mecca of the sport as coaches, scouts and of course journalists have descended on this oil producing country, looking ahead to the world fiesta in South Africa. To complement all these will be the CAF online which I will be editing especially the media channel that will be dedicated to the minutest of information, advantage the media.
I will therefore, whenever I come your way, try as much as possible to feed you in on all those behind the scene happenings, tit bits that ordinarily one will tend to ignore. Take for instance the NFF who had come here, negotiated with a hotel at Cabinda for 360 US Dollars a room, but by the time they came back the room rate had gone up to 800US dollars a night.
And to think of that, I thought we were in trouble. When we arrived Luanda we were checked into the prestigious five star Convention Centre Talotana Hotel going for 600US Dollars a night for a standard room and I thought it was expensive.
The only consolation is that some of us were told we were privileged to disvirgin some of the rooms.
Opened by the Angolan President himself just last December , the hotel is still fresh, yet, that you have to pay 107US Dollars for lunch and dinner leaves a sour taste in the mouth. You have noticed that I have run away from converting the rates quoted so far because you will start to wonder why one will spend over 15 thousand naira for just a meal.
This has taken me to the all important need to tell my fellow country men who are still planning to come to please come prepared. Yes Angola is expensive. That, I can confirm. I have even told friends and family to please call me as I will be using my phones rarely.
Thursday night at the Nigerian Embassy we had to ask why cost of living was so high and we got very interesting answers that bordered on oil and gas, Gross Domestic Product ( GDP ) and per capita income. Some of the answers were too technical for me to bore you with in this column.
Let me tell you about his Excellency Layiwola Laseinde,Â Nigeriaâ€™s ambassador to Angola. Polished, unassumingÂ gentleman, and a servant of the people. Apart from graciously inviting us to Nigeria house, he made the best of Nigeriaâ€™s delicacies available to us and went about serving us in a very courteous and pleasant manner complemented by his lovely wife.
The highlight of this visit for me was when the president of the NFF Alhaji Sani Lulu stood up to not only confirm my first impression of the diplomat, but to cite instances when the man went out of his way just to offer service and guarantee an effective outing for Nigeria in the Nations Cup.
For President Lulu, Ambassador Laseinde was an embodiment of the Nigeria we are all striving to make it be. He thanked him for his interest and dedication and urged all present to be infected by the enthusiasm of the ambassador. â€œIf we do, the success that we have come here to achieve will be a realityâ€¦â€¦.â€, he concluded.
Then the birthday boy. Thursday, January 7, was the 55th birthdate of the NFF Secretary General, Dr. Bolaji Ojo-Oba, and this did not escape the ambassador who decided to mark it for him with prayers and the presentation of a gift.
An elated celebrant thanked the ambassador for the gesture, said he made history as the only one among those present to have had to celebrate his birthday in an embassy. He used the occasion to thank God for his life, to thank Dr. Amos Adamu for making him Secretary-General and to pledge his loyalty to the Lulu administration.
Whenever two or three Nigerians are gathered together, fun is always in abundance. The journey to Angola I must confess was very eventful. It was at this trip that I learnt that why Muttalab did not succeed to bomb the plane was that at the last minute, he peed into his pants out of fright and the bomb could not go off! We went through Douala, spent five hours in transit, then to Yaounde in a chartered jet where we picked the CAF president en route Angola.
If you have heard, that we had some struggles with the weather en route Angola, you heard right. We did decide at the end of the day that it was not our portion.
See you next week.