By Onochie Anibeze
I’m caught up with the fears Paul Bassey expressed in his Monday column here in Vanguard last week.
I was so disturbed that I had to call Samson Siasia for a chat and some exchange of ideas.
On June 1, Nigeria will take on star-studded Argentina in an international friendly in Abuja. Thereafter, they will fly out immediately to meet Ethiopia in another Nations Cup qualifier in Addis Ababa June 4 or 5.
Bassey, says the Argentina tie is a good event that has come at the wrong time. His fear is that the Eagles may put in so much in the tie that they may be tired and may not give their all against Ethiopia where they will face altitude problem. Bassey is also afraid of injuries on our players. His fear is compounded in the fact that Guinea still leads in a group that will produce one qualifier even if there’s a chance for best runner-up.
Playing in Ethiopia could be difficult for our Europe-based players, Bassey reasoned. Argentina has always had upper hand against Nigeria. Only recently, in the 2010 World Cup, the super star performance of Vincent Enyeama on the day stopped them from a goal feast. They still won 1-0.
The tie against Argentina is a friendly but there’s so much at stake. Samson Siasia played against Argentina when they beat us 2 -1 in USA ‘94. In fact, he scored Nigeria’s only goal. He is the new Nigeria coach who is building a new team. He hopes to take Nigeria to a respectable height with time. He would not want to lose to Argentina.
The players would also want to prove a point-that they can beat Argentina. All these are good. But at what expense? Bassey hopes it will not be at the expense of the qualifier coming up three or four days after the big friendly.
“I’m working it out in my brain,” Siasia told me in our chat. He may use players sparingly. One or two players who will play against Argentina may not even travel to Ethiopia. A player who starts against Argentina may not necessarily start in Ethiopia. Siasia exuded confidence in our chat. This made me recall some of the things we shared on the night he beat Kenya 3-0 in a friendly that followed the 4-0 drubbing of Ethiopia.
There was nothing out of the ordinary. But I saw in him a burning desire to change things. Certainly, he agreed that in the building process some players will make way for new ones to join the train. It is normal.
Siasia wants to play attacking football. He wants to play pressure football. Defending will be collective and on winning the ball the character will be an explosion into a blistering attack with such a pace that opponents will find difficult to contend.
He is thinking of crosses from the wings and good follow-ups. He has an idea of what he wants the team to look like. And the search for the players to fit in, according to him, is continuos. And going by the performance against Ethiopia and Kenya it was clear Siasia will continue to search and inculcate into them his concept of attacking football so that those who will continue to kill the pace the way Obinna Nsofor and Peter Utaka did will fall by the way.
Those who will unnecessarily pass the ball back the way Okoronkwo did will be left out. Siasia agreed on all these and added something that boosted my confidence.
“Onochie,” he repeated for emphasis; “I’ll not succeed without discipline. I’m ready for this work and I’ll do it. I will not look at faces. If I do I’ll fail. A player (name withheld) was not happy that he didn’t get a chance to play.
But he was not 100 per cent fit. Even at his club he gets 10 minutes or sometimes 20 minutes of play. I knew I was doing the right thing so I didn’t look at his face. I want some discipline, some unity and good rapport with players.
I also want high comradery among players. This will make us a strong family, a strong unit. I respect players and I expect them to show high sense of dignity and discipline. If a players breaks camp or behaves in a manner incompatible with our norm some sanctions may follow otherwise others may follow suit and we will have a loose team. I’m determined to work.”
I felt good hearing Siasia bare his mind. I also felt good knowing that he knew that people knew (apology Paul Bassey) that he still had a long way to go and that the pressure football he preached with his deputy Simon Kalika has neither been imposed on the team nor inculcated into them. Time will tell.
Harry Iwuala: Thanks to Chief Mike Adenuga Jr
Just last week, a friend called to inform me that Harry Iwuala has left telecommunication giants Globacom. I immediately called Harry and he confirmed it. After discussing with him I felt I should thank Chief Mike Adenuga Jr for the opportunity he gave our colleague to prove that some media men can distinguish themselves outside the newsroom. Many disappoint when given media jobs outside the media.
But Harry excelled. Harry joined Globacom about eight years ago from Post Express where he had risen to the post of Sports Editor. His move to Globacom appeared one of the pointers of what Chief Adenuga had in store for sports.
Harry fitted into Adenuga’s plans to invest so much in Nigerian sports. The poor sponsorship culture in Nigeria was further compounded by many challenges. Organisations lose sight of terms of contracts. They forget that sponsors deserve to enjoy great mileage and that they should protect sponsors from ambush marketers.
These challenges appeared not to bother the NFA, the League Board and others that Globacom dealt with. Sometimes problems arose from sheer ignorance on the part of their clients. Sometimes the problems arose from mischief or incompetence on the part of the parties. But Globacom was always unscathed. For purposes of Patriotism they moved on with Nigeria and Harry never failed in his media work.
Modele Sharafa Yusuf was also in this team. I commend them for the work they did while at Globacom. I also doff my hat for the man who recognized their potentials and hired them. Thank you, Chief Adenuga Jr.