By Paul Bassey
As you are reading this, I am transiting in Cairo.
I left Algiers yesterday, after Coordinating the CAF Champions League match between Mouloudia d’Alger and Esperance of Tunisia.
That match gave me the opportunity of seeing live, two opponents that Enyimba FC may encounter in the course of this year’s campaign, should they progress to the semi final stages of the competition. That, is the future.
Most importantly, it brought me in contact with an opponent that Sunshine Stars, one of the clubs flying Nigeria’s flag in the CAF Confederation cup, will meet, NEXT WEEK.
Question. “Are you sure they are coming here? I have no information, as I am talking to you “
This is coming from His Excellency, Jeremiah Yakubu Hassan, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Algeria! Oh yes.
The ambassador is one very versed in the emotions and culture of Algerian football. He definitely has a lot to offer any team that is scheduled to play here. He is in a position to advise Sunshine which route ( Flight ) to take, what food, what clothing…..all that is to be expected.
Before I go further, let me narrate an incident that happened here Wednesday afternoon. JSK were billed to fly out ( By chartered flight ) for their encounter in Morocco against MAS only to get to get to the airport to discover that pilots of the national carrier Air Algerie were on strike.
It took less than two hours and the intervention of the Ministry of Aviation and the Ministry of sports and an exception was made and the pilots association agreed that the JSK flight should take off.
The pilot was reported as saying that anything that has to do with patriotism cannot be toyed with.
True, about five or six years ago, the Nigeria Football Association as it was addressed then, had decided that clubs that qualified for Africa had to take care of themselves financially and even those NFA officials that contributed technical and linguistic assistance including board members who acted as leaders of delegation.
This decision was accepted in principle but let it be said that the NFA was condemned to taking vital decisions on behalf of the clubs as CAF only deals directly with Football Associations.
It is the Association that has to inform the clubs about the appointment of referees, match commissioners and coordinators to enable the dispatch of tickets and payment of indemnities.
It is the association that superintends over pre match meetings, it is the association that guarantees the proper interpretation of the rules and regulations including the provision of balls, flags, hymns and anthems etc at the pre match meeting.
Going a step further, article 36 of the regulations of the CAF Champions League stipulates that it is the association that is fined if for instance referees appointed for matches do not get to go for matches etc.
No wonder the Associations under CAF are entitled to a percentage of the monies earned by their clubs in the course of their progress in CAF competitions.
Back to Algeria. By direct interpretation, the Embassy here may not honour any letter emanating from Sunshine concerning their match here except it comes from the Ministry of External Affairs which in turn must have been contacted by the Federal Ministry of Sports.
The Embassy here is waiting for such a letter in order for it to put some logistics in place for a successful campaign here which includes and not limited to the fact that the match will hold on the artificial turf of Tizi Ouzou, a distance of 120 kilometers by bus from Algiers.
At this time, Tizi Ouzou is always very hot, so, long sleeve jerseys should be avoided. What about tapes of the team, support by the Nigerian community, food, transportation etc?
Despite its charged programme, the NFF must find time for assignments such as these. At the beginning of its CAF campaign I was one of those Sunshine invited to lecture its players and officials on the challenges that clubs face in continental assignments. Methinks it is a function that the NFF would have undertaken for all the clubs in one sitting.
Even now that the three clubs have qualified for the all important money spinning group stage, there should be a refresher course for all the teams.
What for instance is the duty of the General Coordinators?
Why is it that whereas Clubs pay the indemnities, flights, board and lodging of the match commissioners and referees, they are told not to touch the Coordinators?
What important role does an accompanying referee play in a situation where designated officials fail to turn up in an away match?
Let us take the unique case of the second week end when Kaduna Utd will be heading to Tunisia and Sunshine to Algeria. The NFF must be ready to furnish both teams with accompanying secretaries that are bilingual.
As the Air Algerie pilot said, flying out JSK was a national assignment. When Enyimba, Sunshine and Kaduna Utd play, it is the flag of Nigeria that is flown at such venues. It is the name of Nigeria that that they represent and all glory or shame is borne by the country.
The Canaris as JSK is known, flew out to Morocco under the blaze of a new Equipment sponsor ( Umbro ) with a new coach, Moussa Saib, former international who has already declared that he will be playing a 4-3-3 formation, just as the players were banned from travelling with their cell phones…….i can go on and on.
See you next week.