By Paul Bassey
A small story. Tuesday I was in the office of the NFF Deputy Secretary General Technical, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme with Chief Onigbinde, and Chairman Christian Chukwu when a colleague ( Journalist ) walked in.
After some exchange of pleasantries, the young man tarried and Dr. Ikpeme exploded, literally ordering him out of the office.
Dr. Ikpeme spoke about the atrocities of the media, how official documents were leaked, officers were quoted out of context and so on.
The young man did not take it well, made to exchange words with the NFF official, but decided to give peace a chance with respect to those of us present
Unknown to the young man, before his ill fated entry we had discussed at length on how the “….media of today was not a correct representation of the good old days” Chairman Chukwu in particular spoke of the good old days of the press and accused me of not contributing enough to bring up the young ones.
“ Sometimes a reporter calls you, asks after your health and that of your family, then he hangs up. The next day you see a funny story in the papers. When you protest, they ask you whether you talked to the reporter. When you say “yes” they just conclude that you must have granted him an interview” Chukwu said
Chief Onigbinde remembered when two full pages of question and answer was credited to him, whereas he had never set eyes on the reporter that did the story. He went on to cite a case where a newspaper did an editorial on him, only for the editor of the paper and the sports editor to claim ignorance of the article.
My only defense under the circumstance was to ask for a more polite way of asking the reporter to leave the office.
Two hours later, in the thick of the meeting of the Technical Committee the issue of the media and football development reoccurred. Under scrutiny were the stories allegedly credited to Samson Siasia.
Siasia has had cause, severally to deny talking to the media ( Though some of us are still not convinced ) last Tuesday, he repeated the claim and even went further to warn his assistant Kalika “ ….for talking too much. You will sign an undertaking and should you flout it, off you go” he told Kalika in the presence of the Technical Committee.
Many believe that Siasia is a product of the media, which is not very complimentary. That he rode on the back of the media to stardom and that the “demon” he has created has broken free from his leach.
Without going too far, back let me examine the latest cases. During the interview to pick a coach for Nigeria, Siasia was told that should he pick a foreigner as his first assistant, the NFF will be left with no choice than to appoint a Nigerian as his second assistant.
He said there was no problem ( Last Tuesday, I reminded him) since then, the Technical Committee has had no peace. The media has been awash with news of the NFF trying to “force a coach on Siasia”. What pains me is that such accusations are not even handled professionally as my colleagues even allow misguided information to fly around especially the ones that say “…. we all know that Siasia has been working with Kalika, they should allow him to pick the man”
Such arguments are not only misleading but very annoying. I am waiting for the journalist that will inform that Samson Siaisia will be part of the search for his assistant and that there is no way he will be saddled with a coach he does not want.
Let me also inform that the Technical Commitee is appalled by the quality of coaches we have in this country and is putting a machinery in place to educate and grade the coaches that we have. You can then imagine a situation where a national coach will sentimentally pick an assistant and the Technical Committee will just fold its hands just because the press was barking.
It is only in Nigeria that we have not acted on a CAF directive requiring coaches to undergo training. The directive goes further to stipulate that coaches without requisite qualification will not be allowed to sit on the benches of national teams.
I move from there to the issue of a car for Siasia. Again the press went to town. At the Technical Committee meeting we asked questions, wanting to find out about the car, and where the problem was, yet we met a blank.
Let me quickly say that if, on the other hand, the media did scoop that Siasia was to be given an old car and reported, only for the NFF to back down, then that is the media that we need.
I want to commend those reporters who sat tight at the NFF until we rounded up our meeting around 9pm. What I will forever condemn was the type of story I read the next day, that Siasia’s request for a foreign trip was halted because there was no money for him to go. Very far from the truth.
The committee came across the request for the first time last Tuesday. besides it was not properly applied and routed. When Siasia proposed that he could use his own funds to proceed pending when money was going to be released, I rose up to say NO. that I could imagine the headlines the next morning, so we mandated Chairman Green not to leave Abuja until he had discussed with the NFF President and secured funds for the trip which we considered important.
Imagine that we rose on Tuesday night and by Thursday Siasia was on his way to Europe, yet the media was ready for a non existent fight.
The meeting did not end without a proposal that the media should be properly handled in the current dispensation. Sports cannot exist without the media. After the players, the next most important group in any sports culture is the media.
The NFF must therefore ensure that the media is briefed at least twice every week. Those seeking “ exclusives” can pass their questions through the head of media who will guarantee answers and exclusivity to such privilege demands. So deflated you will not see the reporters running wild, looking for those to unquote.
I am happy that my colleague on the board Deji Tinubu has decided to take up this all important issue of the media in which his Vice President, I heard is in court over what they said he said.
It is also the wish of the Technical committee to draw up a code of conduct, not only for the coaches and players, but also for members of the committee. The tendency for all of us to want to speak on behalf of the committee has led to some misconceptions in the past, ditto members of the board of the NFF who must learn to be cautious whenever they are confronted by intelligent members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm.
I will sign off with an advice delivered by Chief Onigbinde to Siasia that we ( Technical Committee) brought him on board and will do everything possible to make sure he succeeds. “If you fail, God forbid, we would have failed, so we will not allow you fail, that is why we will be very interested in everything that you do”
Thank you all
I had sent this article to the press before yesterday’s rumble that must have left the bridge crumbling as the Red Devils march on.
Meanwhile I want to thank all those who through text messages, mails and calls rejoiced with me over the dislocation of Arsenal. It was so professionally done that the boys of Arsene Wenger were left groping all over the place, picking balls with their hands and kicking legs anyhow.
And to imagine that their coach came out the next day to say that the Old Trafford pitch was bad? Haba Megida.
The God of soccer
I thank my son Enobong for this joke.
He said there was a discussion going on about the best footballer in the world. Then someone said “The god of soccer said Ronaldo is the best player in the world”
Messi replied “ I did not say so”
See you next week.