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If Not For Those Two Goals…

By Ikeddy I siguzo
SOUTH Korean coach Lee rendered one of my most favourite World Cup quotes 120 years ago in Italy after Belgium humbled his team 2-0. The media was bombarding the Korean with questions on what he thought of the game.

After some silence during which he must have been putting his thoughts together he thundered, “If not for those two goals, it would have been a draw”. It was the type of quote that was bound to lift him to instant fame for his ingenuity in untangling a situation that appeared so obvious, but was beyond the understanding of the media.

Years after, some defences that have whittled down Lee’s profundity included ones that blame what some now consider a banality on language challenges on the part of the coach and his translator, such that the coach having spoken in Korean, translated into Italian then English, could have been misunderstood.s

I doubt this. Nigeria was four years away from qualifying for her first World Cup when Coach Lee had his headlines. The sort of things we hear about the Eagles, 20 years after Lee, make wonder whether we were re-inventing Lee, or have just acquired a coach in similar hue.

We are only eight days away from our crucial World Cup opener against two-time-champions and one of the favourites for the title Argentina . For the records, our first game eight years ago in South Korea was also against Argentina and since then, the Argentines have denied us the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2008 Olympic title in Beijing , known as Peking to the natives.

As we say in these parts, we have scores to settle with the Argentines who are dead silent about this game. In the same group are Greece , 2004 European champion, whose national team football, like the economy, seems in tatters, but can overwhelm us and ferocious South Korea , without Coach Lee, but with an amazing pace.

When they want to humour us, these countries speak glowingly of Nigeria ‘s football prowess. Remarkably, none of the references would be of the present, unless they want to prick our sores with those extensive tributes about our youth football.

They know we are talking about the World Cup. They want to remind us that we are a country whose growth stops at potentials. The experts see our young footballers, they marvel and project that the world would be under their feet some years down the line. These youngsters just disappear.

Our concern about them is tainted with the knowledge of what happened. We are the world’s number one country when it comes to potentials. We have held the unenviable record for years for no one else is in contention for a title built on emptiness.

If not for the time exhausted in managing the Hampshire Hotel affair, if not that other countries are too scared to play friendlies against the Eagles, if not that our players are  too old, too professional to report to camp on time, if not that we are uncertain about why we are going to the World, we would have won.

June 12 is about an Argentine called Lionel Messi, star of the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which Argentina won at Nigeria ‘s expense, 2009 FIFA Footballer of the Year, the same player who denied Nigeria the Olympic title in Peking .

He is now so world famous with his business in FC Barcelona that few remember that he was barely known five years ago, though a disappointment at the 2006 World Cup.

Messi beat Mikel Obi, Nigerian, one of Chelsea ‘s valued players to the second place as the best player in the 2005 FIFA contest. Mikel wept. We can assume that he is searching for the opportunity to get even, if not better, with Messi – he lost it again in Peking .

For some curious reasons, the media has started celebrating the futility of Nigeria ‘s 23-man squad being selected without Obi who is injured and who Chelsea , with eyes on the next season, is reluctant to release for the World Cup, claiming he was not properly mended. Obi wants to play and should be good reason for everything.

To the ordinary Nigerian who follows these bewildering affairs and their painful consequences, you have been served advance notice of Mikel’s injury. What do you make of it?

Something tells me that the threat not to accept any result less than a semi-final ticket from Coach Lars Lagerback can now be easily explained.

If not for Mikel’s injury  he was not match fit on time – we would have won the World Cup. Anyone who does not understand this is unpatriotic and deserves the curses of the 37 FA chairmen (we are really gender insensitive), and others who sponge on Nigeria, whose expense free trip to the World Cup would not for a moment suffer any glitch for the scores are always in their favour.

As a member of the global village, I suggest that you adopt a corner of the globe that can give you a more exhilarating view of the games, injuries like energy (electricity) and fuel scarcity permitting. Enjoy your World Cup you deserve nothing less.

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