By Ikeddy Isiguzo
SOME time in 1985, when the debate about the ban of some New Nigerian players from the Eagles was raging, it was difficult to get a player, especially in the central defence which Stephen Keshi was dominating. Keshi was one of those banned.

The World Cup qualifiers were at hand and perennial opponent Tunisia was paired against the Eagles.

National worries about the central defence eased with the arrival of Mike Emenalo, a young player from Rangers International, who never indulged in any of the age grade competitions, but looked and played with the passion of youth. He was 20.

At the Tunis airport in July 1985, after the lost of the World Cup qualifier to Tunisia , he headed to the University of Boston with a sports scholarship. Last week English Premier League giant Chelsea , which he joined in 2007, appointed him assistant first team coach.

Emenalo was in the Eagles team that won the 1994 African Nations Cup and performed well in Nigeria ‘s inaugural World Cup appearance the same year.

His career took him through college football, he was inducted into the Boston University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998; then stints in Belgium , Germany and Notts County in England .

In the USA  he coached at the Tucson Soccer Academy and was a volunteer coach with Virginia Tech University in 2004.  He also played in the revamped Major League Soccer, before playing in the Spain and Israel where he met Avram Grant, the man who brought him to Chelsea .

Emenalo through training, comportment and dedication to the game has acquired qualities the world has noticed.

Carlo Ancelotti says his position at Chelsea has not changed despite the promotion of Michael Emenalo, right, to assistant coach.

And so has Finidi George, whose former Spanish club Real Betis has appointed to its technical crew. He is the new international director for the team. His responsibilities include scouting for new talent.

Finidi joined Real Betis in 1996 from Ajax , before moving to Real Mallorca, and Ipswich Town , in the English Premier League, then finishing his  playing days at Real Mallorca. At Ajax , he provided many memorable assists, scoring 18 goals in 85 appearances. His career began with Sharks in Port Harcourt .

He had two World Cup appearances. At the 1994 World Cup, his goal against Greece gained fame from his remarkable celebration of it. He was also at the France 98 World Cup.

Finidi was among players dropped after Eagles qualified for the 2002 World Cup.
Finidi’s appointment adds him to the list of few Nigerians who are making global impact in the technical side of the game. It is heart-warming that these are former players who have maintained relevance in the game by preparing themselves for post career opportunities.

Emenalo and Finidi present opportunities that younger players should emulate. As they pursue their dizzy careers in professional sports as competitors, they must remember that there would be a time they must move to other sides of sports  administration or technical. They cannot find a place in these areas if they never prepared fro them.

We Really Love Falcons To Dirt
NIGERIA loves the Super Falcons. It is love built on the team’s solid performance at the African Women’s Championship in South Africa .

The team won the cup and the players distinguished themselves by taking other awards: the Fair Play Award; Perpetua Nkwocha, with 11 goals was the highest goal scorer; Stella Mbachu was the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament while Desire Oparanozie got the Player of the Match award in the final.

The team scored 19 goals. Two of them were own goals in the final where Equatorial Guinea was under so much pressure that it scored twice against itself. The Falcons conceded only four goals, two of them in the finals against a team that three other teams alleged used men. The protests have been on since 2008 when Equatorial Guinea as host won the championship.

Falcons won the Cup in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. The victory in South Africa was its sixth title out of the seven contested.

With all the applause for the team’s efforts, it arrived Lagos to be conveyed in a rickety trailer that was someone’s idea of an open air vehicle. I do not know what the Nigeria Football Association wants the world to think of that dose of appreciation. It was not bothering with the feelings of the players., who after receiving VIP treatment for two weeks were lowered quickly to the reality that Nigerian officials cannot appreciate their teams.

We love the Falcons to dirt, otherwise someone would have noticed that the dirty contraption that was brought to the airport was a disgrace to the country.

Once more, the NFA has displayed the mindlessness that it applies to national assignments. If in victory it could not arrange decent transportation for the team, what would have happened if it lost? The NFA is bereft of ideas (this one is not about not having money, or not knowing that the team was arriving or had won the African Championship).

Caption :Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, sitting next to the new assistant first-team coach he did not choose, Michael Emenalo, at St Andrew’s on Saturday.

Nobody will be punished for this disgrace because even the bosses at the NFA see nothing wrong in herding the African champions into a vehicle barely fit for animals on their way to the slaughter.


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