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Aiyegbeni on Calabar tracks

By Paul Bassey, in South Africa
Calabar has become a sweet experience for the Athletics Federation of Nigeria and Mobil Producing Nigeria, operators of the NNPC/MPN Joint Venture.

After 20 years of hosting their flag ship competition in Lagos and Abuja, a decision was taken to take it round and Calabar occupied a pride of place as first host outside the capitals. Fast track, wonderful ambience and the ouster of the super Eagles from the world cup meant there was going to be some attention paid to track and field.

Trust Nigerians however not to forget that soccer still occupies pride of place in their hearts. 10,000 metres women final saw a dismal performance by an athlete ( Names withheld) who was gapped by everybody necessitating her to do the last lap alone. As she struggled, the crowd burst into a chorus “Aiyegbeni, Aiyegbeni, Aiyegbeni, Aiyegbeni, Aiyegbeni”

That miss…that miss will live with us forever Asian revolution
I have come across colleagues abroad who have covered their sports for as many as 40 years. These are the veritable veterans of the profession and when they speak or write, it is with authority.

Unfortunately, these are the people that are considered enemies of progress, hated by administrators and labeled saboteurs.

A few examples. When coach Marcello Lippi put together a squad to defend the world cup, the Italian media cried foul. They said the team was too old to be able to create any impact. The media was shunned.

In France, Raymond Domenech was a self destruct button. The French media could not place him. They wondered why he was the choice of the very intelligent football federation. Domenech went from one calamity to another and finally crashed out of the world cup.

In Cameroun, a coach who had endeared himself, suddenly developed a brain wave, dropped key players and instituted a system that was alien to the country. The press rose in battle. No one listened.
I will not repeat the Nigerian example.

In all these, the story of the world cup for me, so far has been the Asian revolution. Start with North Korea who held the world attention when they played Brazil to a standstill, not minding that they finally crumbled against Portugal.

Then comes South Korea, a team we believe got to the semi final in 2002 because they were host. In South Africa South Korea has played some interesting football including the crushing of Greece and the exposure of Nigeria’s tired legs. that has rightfully propelled them to the second round.

In a group that had Holland, Cameroun, and Denmark, Japan was destined for an early return home, only for them to hammer Cameroun, lose narrowly to Holland and clinically demolish Denmark.

Every time I see Honda’s clever footwork that bemused Rommedahl and Sorensen before finding Okazaki, for the third goal, against Denmark, I doff my hat. Such moves can only be found in Brazilian football books.

I pity CAF President Hayatou whose quest for the increase of African slots in the world cup has to be substantiated with results…….for now, nothing to lean on
See you tomorrow.

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