NOT many Nigerians would be surprised  about their wasted optimism in the Eagles at the 2010 World Cup. All that they took to the World Cup was baseless hope and deceit of the Nigeria Football Association, NFA that the coach would deliver a semi-final ticket.

The hope was built on nothing. Coach Lars Lagerback never met his players until weeks to the event. The Swiss also played the game by assuring Nigerians that he would deliver, though he was evasive on what score.

For a country, whose leaders at all levels have accepted minimal standards as the best, the result from South Africa would be rated respectable. It started with the glowing tributes paid the team for containing Argentina.

Nigerians were thinking that the other two teams, Greece and South Korea, would be easily taken after what was considered a gallant effort against Argentina.

None of these positions tallied with the brazen deceit of a World Cup semi-final ticket being in the horizon. The NFA claims that the details of Lagerback’s contract had a clause on this. The NFA, however, is silent on the sanction it would impose on the coach for the failure and the commitment of the players at the World Cup.

After every World Cup since 1998, a call for the overhauling of our football follows. None of those exercises, normally executed without thoroughness, have produced the changes that would make Nigerian football to operate with globally acceptable standards.

Calls are on again to change the administrators as well as the players, but we have to be more serious. In addition to this administration producing Nigeria’s worst Nations Cup result in 26 years at Ghana 2008, it placed its return to office above Nigeria’s World Cup interests.

Other countries concentrated on the World Cup. The Nigeria Football Association was busy in South Africa with activities for its elections that are scheduled for August. The desperation of the NFA leadership to remain in office led it to release criteria that have excluded others from the elections.

It set June 21, a day before Nigeria’s last World Cup game as the closing date for return of forms. With all NFA and State Football Association officials — the ones who could endorse forms are away in South Africa — the elections were primed to favour only those who made the trip to South Africa. A belated extension of the date does not absolve the NFA of this act of desperation and apparent illegality.

One of the things the sports authorities must do is to reach a fair judgement on what happened at the World Cup. An issue like the fine Nigeria had to pay for breaching a contract on the Eagles’ accommodation should be visited for it provides a precedent that can hurt us in future.

The only thing that hurts is not Nigeria’s poor performance at the World Cup. We need to pay attention to the activities of the rudderless leadership that propels our football, especially its determination to continue in office.

The 2010 World Cup is lost. We cannot afford to compromise the 2014 World Cup.


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