By Patrick Omorodion
As Nigerians continue to express fear over the Super Eagles chances against a slippery Lionel Messi in their June 12 crunchy tie at the World Cup, former president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, Mr. Dan Ngerem has doused their fears.
According to Ngerem, Messi may be a very good player but he may pay the price of stardom, for being a mercurial player for his club, FC Barcelona in the just concluded 2009/2010 season where he played so many matches.
â€œAnalysis of the World Cup matches could be tricky. For example, everybody is expecting (Lionel) Messi to be mercurial but there is a price for this. Messi, I think has played too many matches this season, will he be at his best during the World Cup, I doubt it,â€ he said, stressing that most star players may be injury prone or fatigued.
Pitching Nigeria against Argentina, Ngerem, who most former athletes are clamouring for his return to the AFN, said that while the South Americans have technical debt, the Eagles are still struggling with their coaches and may not stand a chance against the former world champions.
â€œAt the moment they (Eagles) donâ€™t stand too good a chance not because we donâ€™t have the players but simply because our preparation was a little poor, a little fractured with too many distractions that should really not be there.
Take the issue of friendly matches, look at the match we played against Saudi Arabia, look at the stadium we played the match in, it was like a secondary school pitch. Compare that to the England match. Despite the fact that they did not play with most of their players, but you could see the energy.
If nobody isÂ watching an athlete, they donâ€™t really rise up to the occasion. So for me as a big football country in Africa, going ahead to play the first World Cup in Africa, I think we are deficient.
Speaking on Nwankwo Kanu, Ngerem said he might have been included for psychological reasons as a cohesive and bonding factor among the players, comparing him to Roger Milla who was invited for Cameroonâ€™s 1994 World Cup campaign.
â€œKanu will be like a stabilising rod in terms of psychology,Â that is where I see his importance. But on the field of play, itÂ now depends on how fit he is and how the technical crew feel they will use him. But I think given our circumstances, he might actually be in the team,â€ he said.
He lambasted the Nigeria Football Association, NFA for constituting 14Â sub-committee for the World Cup, describing the decision as wasteful and a means to fritter away the money raised for the Eagles campaign.
â€œThe NFA has raised substantial money ahead of this World Cup. Donâ€™t forget, it is arguably over N1 billion they have raised outside what FIFA has given them and what the government has budgeted for them. That N1 billion has to go somewhere and orchestrating some of these committees are some of the thing they are going to use the money for.
And this is a legitimate way to also give opportunity to some people to go to the World Cup. There are just too many people that will add to the distraction to the overall strategic plan and focus of the team. And this has also been the bane ofÂ Nigeriaâ€™s sports. For me, it is job for the boys that is totally unnecessary.
If they have too much money like I think they have, they should actually use that money for good development, they should also use it to prepare for the qualification for next World Cup,â€ he stressed.