By Paul Bassey
When I started this column Thursday morning the working topic wasÂ â€˜On and off the fieldâ€™
On and off the field, for me was a need to remind us that though performances on the field could be key, off the field bungling could cost a team dear.
I remain grateful to FIFA for the experiences garnered as member of delegation to two world cups and one junior world cup. How can I thank CAF for having me as a permanent fixtureÂ as member of official delegation to ten consecutive Nations Cups? These were experiences that exposed me to invaluable tutelage regarding the organization of the round leather game.
In Korea- Japan for instance, I was the only Nigerian in the official delegation of FIFA and I remember serving in the same centre with South Africaâ€™s Danny Jordan who today occupies a prime place in the world as chief organizer of the FIFA world cup 2010.
As a member of the FIFA delegation, your plane ticket is confirmed and issued to you weeks before you travel. As a member of the FIFA delegation, you arrive at an airport straight into the waiting arms of a hostess and you are chauffeured immediately to an hotel where at the reception you do notÂ wait for a minute before your key is set and a bell boy is shepherding you to your room.
The moment you open your door and step into your room, on the bed can be found your packet of documents complete to the last letter. The operating word here is ORGANISATION.
It has become customary in Africa to deride the organization of Nigeriaâ€™s football. I have heard it said so many times that if our organization could match the quality of players on the field, then we can easily become world beaters.
At France 98, based at the Marseille centre, I left with the FIFA general coordinator to do a check of Brazil and what I saw will live with me forever. I saw a team that came down for lunch clad in the same apparel from head to toe, so much that you could cut the pervading atmosphere of unity and discipline with a knife. I saw the kit manager who handled jerseys as if they were sacred objects. I saw the doctorâ€™s room that could compete with the best theatre in any Nigerian hospital. I saw a team that was ready to take on the world.
I had the same experience when we went to the German camp, the only difference being that whereas the Brazilian players did not hesitate to sing, dance and make merry, the Germans filed pass like robots, stern looking, focused.
All these came back to me when I saw our national team alighting in Durban in the same T shirts they used for the dinner against President Jonathan! Some of them like Skipper Kanu even used a different colour. Play this side by side with the well suited English team that dropped into SA in style and you are wont to console yourself with the adage that a hood does not make a monk.
Before moving on, let me thank the Honourable minister for the use of the Arik Airline. I do not know how many of us saw the camera beaming on the inscription WINGS OF NIGERIA as the plane taxied to a stop.
It is unfortunate that all off the field and administrative duties of the Nigeria Football Federation have so far ended in disaster. Imagine the hiring of a plane that not only cost us a lot of money but 24 hrs in preparation time. What about the nearly botched friendly match against Colombia that also saw the NFF throwing in millions of unbudgeted naira? ( Or is it Pounds Sterling? ), The scandalous Hampshire base camp in Durban and very interestingly, the formation of committees to operate at the World Cup?.
One special feature of these committees was that instead of names, we had appellations like â€˜FA Chairman Bauchiâ€™ â€˜FA Chairman Enuguâ€™ putting anybody anywhere, sending â€˜come lets chopâ€™ signals.
Then the composition of the committees was also a study in laughter. Demola Olajire, media officer of the NFF is not a member of the media committee. His name is found in the Medical committee. Yes Medical.â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..
As CAF Webmaster at the Nations Cup in Angola, all attempts to deal with Demola became herculean until I found out that he was not even a member of the official Nigeria delegation and this also meant that he could not be found in the Eagles hotel. Is he suffering the same fate in South Africa?
Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme is the head of the technical department of the NFF, boss to James Peters, yet none of them is in the technical sub committee. Whereas James Peters is in the Accomodation sub committee, Dr Ikpeme is dumped in the Media sub committee. Donâ€™t laugh. Meanwhile, Dahiru Saidi is in the media committee! Yes the same Dahiru former eagles player. I can go on and on, forcing me into the above stated belief that the committees are just paper creations not expected to produce any impact, advantage the Super Eagles.
Football has gone beyond the pedestrian kick and follow pattern. It is now an art, a science that necessitates the South Koreans to train with oxygen masks. Football legacy transcends the borders of culture, education and medicine.
Football according to the legendary Bill Shankly of Liverpool, â€˜is not a matter of life and death. It is more than thatâ€™Despite all these, Nigerians expect the best from the team that has been haphazardly assembled. In the last one week, I have come across Nigerians who have put everything behind them to queue behind and support the green white green. I have been sent sms by young men insisting that Argentina will not beat us. That Messi is but a player and not a god, and that the worst result we can get out of Ellis Park, with President GOODLUCK Jonathan watching, is a draw.
I say AMEN.
That when Cote Dâ€™Ivoire won the Nations Cup in 1992, the credit was taken by two local witch doctors. But when they were not paid, they cursed the team. Since then, the Elephants duly struggled until 2004, when the government settled the bill with $2000 US and a bottle of whisky. Cote Dâ€™Ivoire promptly qualified for their first world cup.
See you next week