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Four days in Abuja…

By Paul Baseey
What is peculiar about spending four days in Abuja? Nothing spectacular except that I have not gotten myself to accept that Abuja is the place to be.

My friends believe I am old fashioned. They look at me in dismay. Lagos? God forbid they say. The day they go back to Lagos is the day they will suffocate.

I tell them the same thing about Abuja. That three days in Abuja is like the world has passed me by. Whenever I am in Abuja, the hurry to get back to Lagos is frightening. Last week was not an exception.

As a member of the NFF Technical Committee, I was expected to arrive Abuja and spend one week, monitoring the national teams in camp and contribute towards the preparation of our teams for scheduled friendlies and pending competitions.

I thought one week was too much, that in the case of the Flying Eagles as an example I did not have to endure three training (Screening) sessions to make up my mind on who I believe to be a good player.

The Head, Technical Department of the NFF Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme, said “ Oga just come……even if you want to spend one day, just come”. That is how I boarded a plane and landed in Abuja and from the airport drove straight to the Goal Project where Siasia and his assistants were drilling the home based Eagles.

Went back there in the Afternoon to partake in the Flying Eagles screening/practice session under John Obuh and the next morning was at the practice pitch of the National Stadium to assess the girls of Eucharia Uche in a practice session with a boys Under 16 squad.

Let me quickly say that my monitoring report is strictly for the consumption of the Technical Committee through the technical department of the NFF. However, i  mention in passing that for the Federation to camp three teams at the same time (Eagles ,Falcons and Flying Eagles) is not only tasking and sapping but a money guzzling experiment that unfortunately cannot be avoided.

The  Eagles for instance spend as much as 12million naira for every week that they stay in camp preparing for the Obama Cup and Guatemala friendly.

The NFF  could breathe a sigh of relief in that the Flying Eagles are accommodated at the Goal Project ‘resuscitated” for the purpose. When I took a look at the wasted infrastructure called the Goal Project, I wept.

But for the artificial turf, the whole structure is sitting on an environment of filth and cob webs. I must thank the technical dept of the NFF for trying to put that place to proper use.

The Flying Eagles are already behind schedule as regards preparations for their African Youth Championship in Libya in March, while the Falcons need all the time in the world to integrate new players and prepare for Germany if they must live up to the high bar raised by their U-17 and U-20 counterparts.

In Abuja I had the rare privilege of stealing time out of a very important meeting Chief Patrick Ekeji, Director General of the NSC  had with the Nigeria Premier League Board to remind him of an impending issue involving Nduka Ugbade and the historic Under-17 squad of 1985. That those boys (Now men!) have not been compensated 26 years after they put Nigeria’s name on the world football map is sad.

Happy that Dr. Ekeji has promised to handle the issue and bring it to rest once and for all.

In Abuja, I ran into the issue of the NPL, MTN and Globacom. Came across so many versions of the story, allegations of fraud, bribery, corruption, interference, unwholesome dealings and so on.

I recall what I told my colleague Linus Mba as we drove to the airport on our way back, that some of us look at issues on face value.

That we will not regret taking a position that we believe is in the interest of Nigeria football until proven otherwise. Because I still do not understand why an issue that was considered closed by the former sports minister should be reversed by his successor in office.

That is when I was flooded with documents and stories of what is believed to be the “true position” of how due process was not followed in the bid process.

I marvel at how a league considered “worthless” can suddenly become a beautiful bride worth fighting for.
In Abuja I saw Nigeria football on the floor grounded by selfish interests, by greed and by pretenders.

In Abuja I got a call from Mike Itemuagbor thanking me for “ The best article he had read on Dr. Amos Adamu….” But that I should have gone further to expatiate on why it was wrong for Alhaji Galadima’s name to be put forward when Dr. Adamu’s case was pending.

Mr. Itemuagbor believed that Nigeria behaved amateurishly and that we should be more versed in the politics of football both at FIFA and CAF level. He added that “ …If, God forbid, Adamu fails at the appeal level, he still has a recourse to the Court Of Arbitration for Sports  (CAS). …..”

In Abuja I came across Coach Gabriel Okon sweating it out with some national athletes in anticipation of a loaded world athletics calend. I thought this was strange but commendable moreso when it was not a one off, but a regular programme.

On enquiring further I discovered that Okon and his lads not only sweat out daily but on Tuesdays and Thursdays they put in more than four hours including a session in the weight room.

Present at the national stadium was Chinoye Ohadugha, national record holder in  triple jump, Onyeabor Ngwogu, Samson Idiata, Chris Nwanze, Innocent Attah…..With a coach assisting him the former nationa track star works with about 16 athletes and was excited to tell me that Gloria Alozie will be joining him soon.

I was told he also monitors three athletes in Spain including Doris Jacobs, Gladys Stephens and Nakami Edu.
I was watching the Falcons play when Gabriel suddenly ran into the football field. In the heat of tracking and timing his athletes in motion he did not know when he left the tracks, strayed into the field screaming and nearly caused a commotion.

Watching Okon and his lads sweat it out daily, with so much passion, dedication and professionalism, one is left with a solid hope of a bright future for track and field.

I left Abuja knowing that I will be back….after a month, that is. As you are reading this, I and Linus Mba are off to Sudan, as members of the CAF delegation to the 2nd Orange African Nations Championship  (CHAN) which will kick off by the Grace of God in four Sudanese venues from February 4 and end on February 25.

We  will be in Sudan without any pressure whatsoever because Nigeria, like in the first edition in Cote D’Ivoire did not qualify.
However, given the seriousness of the Siasia experiment in Abuja with the home lads and the ability of the NFF to sustain same, we will certainly qualify for the next edition.

See you next week


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