The above was the title of Onochie Anibeze’s column,last week, Friday, April 13. If the column was in another paper and not the Vanguard, I would have adopted it wholesale to further preach the gospel of development in our football.
Incidentally, Onochie is one of my biggest critics. Vice versa. We read each other religiously and most times agree on a lot of issues.
When two weeks ago, I wrote that it did not make sense Siasia and Eguavoen fighting over players who as far as I was concerned had no business in the U-23 squad given their exposure in Europe, Onochie called to agree intoto.
His Friday’s column was a continuation of the argument for the development of football in our country.
As I am writing this, (Friday, April 15) Three of our teams are abroad in search of trophies and honour.
The Falcons in Namibia, Flying Eagles in South Africa and the Olympic Team in Liberia. By today the results of two of the matches must have filtered in while the Flying Eagles will just be starting their two week campaign .
I am sure the lads of Eguavoen and Eucheria would have won, prompting the question, so?
What use the victories? It will be very difficult to advance the argument beyond the oft repeated boring stance of “national pride”. I am saying this because I do not understand the problems we went through in getting Ahmed Musa to play in the U-20 in South Africa.
Ahmed Musa who has already established himself in the Super Eagles? Ahmed Musa now has to play for his club, fly to South Africa, play two matches, fly back to his club and plan to return to South Africa……How ridiculous.
Two weeks ago, I gave the example of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere who his coach believes had no business playing in the European U-20 competition because among other arguments he was likely to burn out faster after establishing himself in the senior squad!
Pray, where are all those young men and women Under-20, who abound in this country seeking an outlet for their God given talents?
Onochie in trying to make a separate case for the U-23 squad as the team likely to take over the Super Eagles mantle, approved a certain number of professionals to be used by them.
Where I differ is where the Super Eagles and the U-23 squad should be fighting over players. If at 23 you are not a member of your countries national team, then the U-23 platform may just be the last chance you need to attract the attention of the senior national team handlers.
In other words, any player already penciled down for the senior team cannot afford to go back down, depriving others the opportunity of having a look in, except, where our football as presently constituted, is just for the purpose of winning ephemeral trophies that have no bearing on the future and the development of the game.
On the eve of our team’s departure for South Africa there emanated the rumour about some of our players being over aged to the point where the coach was worried that the accusations and allegations came too late. He wondered why the accusers did not surface earlier than this and ended by being helpless in the effort of determining the correct ages of the players in a country where parents shamelessly connive with their wards to lie about their true ages.
Where are those parents, (especially fathers) who will pay their way to Abuja and wherever their children are camped and order them out of camp for lying about their correct ages?
Where are those parents who will call press conferences if need be to protest the inclusion of their children in age group competitions below their ages?
I quote Onochie “ …A country that has won FIFA Under 17 World Cup three times, played in the final of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup two times, won the Olympic gold and silver all within 26 years and cannot have a shot at the World Cup (Senior) must have a story to tell about how they get it wrong ……”
The story we all know. It is the story that rules Africa, of allegations of age cheating, how players cannot naturally graduate into the next age grade simply because they had passed their age and peak by the time they were believed to be young.
For crying out loud, how can we field a professional player with a top clubside with over three seasons behind him for an Under-17 competition?
What about all those Shell Cup graduates, bonafide secondary school players who are oblivious of tactics and formations, who bow their heads, hands behind their backs when referees chide them, who go back to the dressing room weeping profusely when they lose matches?
Not so here. Here, Under-17 players drive to training and share senior jokes with their coaches.
The Aminu Maigari Board will write their names in gold the moment they place emphasis on the development of the sport, advantage youth and continuity. It will be a shame as usual if in five years the boys that coach Obuh used to get to the final of the FIFA Under 17 Championship do not graduate wholesale into the Super Eagles.
In doing so the NFF will definitely rely on the media, the parents and the football public to partner in sanitizing the game.
Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney will play forever because they were discovered at youth. Nadal is 24 and at the head of world tennis because of a youth programme that brought him to limelight ten years ago.
Our aim should not just be in winning competitions and queuing up for Presidential cash that evaporates as quickly as it is received, but in building enduring structures for our youth as we progress.
A VOTE FOR AKPABIO, FASHOLA
As you can see, I am hindered by INEC. I will not be caught for double registration. However, if I had the opportunity, I would have voted twice, for my state Governor Godswill Akpabio and the governor of my state of domicile Raji Fashola.
The combination should also tell you a thing or two about me not being a politician. No I am not. I am a professional, one who believes in service, not partisan and sports provides that platform that cuts across all sorts of imaginary divisive lines.
These two gentlemen have won my heart regardless of the party they belong.
In Lagos Governor Fashola is working so hard to bring back the glory of sports to the state, especially in the provision of infrastructure and institution of grass root competitions.
A fantastic football player Governor Fashola has not spared any kobo in preaching the gospel of sports in the state, ditto other area of human existence.
In Akwa Ibom, I happened to visit home the day Governor Akpabio campaigned in Eket and my Jeans trousers contributed in stopping me from seeking the microphone to put in a word for a man who has so far delivered on his promises, different from prototype politicians.
The people of Eket I would have echoed, are grateful to a governor who unlike his predecessors has delivered positive dividends of democracy to a people often ignored and marginalized.
That delivery for me also extends to his forth coming tenure where the people of the state will benefit an Olympic sized stadium.
EKO ONI BAJE. AKWA IBOM IS OK
See you next week.