By PaulÂ Bassey
First ,the good news.I am writing this column on a Thursday night. Against all expectations, the Falconets have just qualified for the final of the FIFA U_20 Women World Cup and there is joy all around me. The girls are hailed, the failures of the Super Eagles are remembered just as some go back to the â€œbad luck â€œ of the last administration.
â€œOga bassey, how much will they give these girls for doing this country proud?â€ I said I was not in a position to answer but that I believe they will be well catered for. The answer does not go down well. â€œThese girls have reached the final of a FIFA world cup and you say they will be well catered for? Please translate it into concrete termsâ€
I said I could not, that I do not know what was budgeted for them and so on. That too did not go down well. They reminded me that for mere qualifying for the second round, the Super Eagles were induced with 30 thousand dollars EACH.
I said that was the world cup, and that for crying out loud, this was a developmental competition, an age group experiment. I was really getting them angry and they all spoke simultaneously. They told me we should place more emphasis on development, nurture the future stars rather than waste money on spent forces.
Then I added another blow. I wanted them to wait till the final. I said we should leave reward yet and wait for them to win the cup. They would not hear of it. What the girls have done so far, according to them was enough. Whether they win the cup or not was immaterial. That we should start thinking of how they will be welcomed home as the heroines that they are.
Someone even went as far as saying that the 5_1 demolition of the Koreans by the host Germans was frightening and that he does not think our girls stand a chance that is why he does not even bother about the final match.
That view point sparked another controversy, as some of my friends believed that with the determination and never say die spirit displayed by the girls, even the Germans would find us a hard nut to crack.
â€œSports Bassey let me tell you what will happen. Just like what we saw today, the girls will score a surprise goal and the Germans will struggle to score, to no availâ€ I said AMEN.
After that, I put the column together and sent. The girls played Sunday. As you are reading this you know the result already, whether we won or lost is immaterial. Nigerians are saying that the girls have done enough to deserve all the honour that this country can bestow on them for wiping our tears and restoring that Nigerian pride that was lost on the fields of South Africa.
For in the Falconets can be found true ambassadors of the African continent.
Things are getting better.
Now, the sad news.
That the likes of Chief Onigbinde and Aisha Falode, long standing FIFA and CAF members risk the chance of not being available for fatherland despite their desire so to do.
It is only in this country that FIFA and CAF members ARE NOT INTEGRAL PARTS OF THE RUNNING OF FOOTBALL.
I want to start with Chief Onigbinde, Segun Odegbami, Aisha Falode, Linus Mba Dr. Obafemiâ€¦â€¦. No, keep Paul Bassey out of it.
That Chief Onigbinde declared an interest in the board membership of the NFA was to me very pleasing and worth commending only to be told that he could not even emerge from his own state of Oshun. When I put a call through to Chief Onigbinde, he confirmed it and went ahead to add what sounded like a fairy tale.
First, he said that despite his governorâ€™s intervention, Chief Ogunjobi said he was not going to be endorsed. And that even if he was, there was no way he was going to win, because they ( Ogunjobi and co ) knew those that will succeed them!
The next day the drama played out exactly as Chief Onigbinde had said, because the Osun State FA under chief Ogunjobi now met and empowered a local government chairman, someone whose face we are struggling to place given the football history of this country
I now understand and strongly too why there is a strong call for the holding of state FA elections before the national election. A situation where chief Ogunjobi and Chief Amanze Uchegbulam ( FA Chairman Imo ) are still eligible to vote in this election by virtue of their positions after they had been impeached at the national level does not make sense.
Not only should the state elections hold now, but those not qualified to stand should be compiled and told so.
This brings me to the very relevant issue of Chief Ogunjobi who was indicted and banned from holding any public office in this country, yet is still holding sway. There are others like him that believe we have forgotten and have surfaced again to lead us astray. If ever in the past, we did neglect such vital developments, never again.
Just as this was playing out, Aisha Falode got a call from her home state of Edo to come and be derobed as it where given a new directive from the electoral committee. Aisha was bold enough to take the case to the peopleâ€™s court through the media, and I am told the issue has been redressed.
Please let us be careful. Very careful about this election that is expected to restore sanity to our deranged football culture. I was in support of getting a new NFF as soon as possible, yet I am retracing my steps. I do not mind the former October date, if only to ensure that we get all our priorities right.
Electoral committee chairman Mustapha is one person I know too well. One person that will want to add the success of this election to his CV and no matter how hard he tries the â€œNigerian factorâ€ may well derail his lofty ideals.
That is why he must also readjust to the current trend. An election under the Lulu regime would have been a fait accompli, with everyone coming in unopposed. This is different, very different.
When our boys won silver at the IAAF junior championship in Canada, they had no flag to celebrate with, whereas their American counterparts had four and to spare. I was happy to see our girls on Thursday waving the Green White Green in Germany for all to see.
With the African Athletics Championships in Kenya, I hope there were enough flags for victory laps. Please.
With the shame in South Africa still enveloping us every thing should be done to get back our pride.
See you next week