By Paul Bassey
Certainly the last has not been heard of the defeat of the Flying Eagles in the hands of France at the just concluded FIFA Under 20 World Cup in Colombia. I was a reporter sent by Champions Newspapers to cover the competition in Saudi Arabia in 1989 and we played up to the final.
Since then we also got to the final in 2005 and any result or participation that does not equal or surpass these can be considered a failure, especially when France, the team that beat us did not go ahead to win the cup.
It can be argued that even if that match was played ten times, France would have beaten us eleven times, as they were tactically and technically superior to our boys. Before the France game, the duel against England was the eye opener we needed, letting us know that we had a shaky squad.
I therefore want us to temper the flurry of celebrations that is accompanying this team as we cannot afford to celebrate failure to high heavens. Yes I agree that we cannot be winning all the time. It is the manner of losing that interests me after Nigerians had iced champagne and booked psychological tickets to Colombia for the final only to suffer emotional crashes!.
As a member of the NFF technical committee, I want to reserve my personal comments on this issue until I have had the opportunity of digesting coach Obuh’s technical report, including what must have gone wrong to a team that received the NFF’s best support and cooperation in recent times.
What I cannot reserve however is my opinion on the news that filtered out of Colombia to the effect that the white jersey we used could have led to our defeat. What rubbish. What utter rubbish.
Before a colleague in Abuja, told me how Coach Tella of blessed memory won the World U-17 trophy with a white jersey, I thought I should talk to coaches and players who at one time or the other were confronted with the colour choice. The man that made my ribs crack with laughter was Chairman Christian Chukwu…. “ Which jersey. What is our business with jersey colour? We were concerned about the match, if you like bring yellow jersey we will wear and go out there and perform” He said.
Garba Lawal was angry. According to him, the laws of the game provide for alternate colours and for Nigeria, it is green and white which implies that along the course of a competition you were not in control of what choice of colour to use.
“ In my time we did not bother with such a distraction”
Charles Bassey, member of the 1980 Nations Cup team called such a distraction, the antics of “fertilizer players”.
“ Our foreign based stars who concoct reasons for failure are fertilizer players. We used raw energy. We trained and trained until we dropped dead. There was no substitute for hard work and whether you wore a jersey or not did not matter not to talk of the colour of that jersey”
Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, said in all his life time, he has never seen jerseys playing football. “ Whenever we have a problem we quickly look for an excuse. It is a bad workman that quarrels with his tools. Our defenders were flat footed, full stop. Besides we cannot claim ignorance of the Development Programme of France Football Federation, a programme that is now yielding fruits.
“ I want to blame the officials. If at all any of those boys dared to bring up the issue of white or green jersey they would have been told to shut up, before it developed into a psychological problem.”
Which of those players do I think will develop into a CREDIBLE Super Eagles star? None.
Wonders shall never end
I do not know whether you have heard the story of a club in Imo State, ironically called Imo United that needed to score eight goals in the Amateur league to gain promotion.
Unfortunately for them, their opponents Akpabuyo United of Cross River felt there was no sense honouring the fixture and did not mind conceding three points and three goals to the host by not going.
The story has it that Imo state Football Association, ( Hosts of all football league competitions in the state ) superintended over a match that saw fake opponents in the field purported to be Akpabuyo United and hammered them 9-1! INCREDIBLE.
I do not know how the news leaked because matches in that division hardly get a mention in the media. Akpabuyo swung into action, claimed they never went to Imo for the match, petitioned the NFF and when the Disciplinary committee met, they were astounded by this unique form of MATCH FIXING…where even the referees and the match commissioner did not know that the team on the other side was not the team that was supposed to be….dont laugh.
Verdict, ONLY ONE YEAR BAN…..Something tells me it is a criminal case, a first in the history of world football, deserving stiffer punishment.
Off to Algeria
The Champions and Confederation Cup story enters Chapter four this week end as Nigerian clubs struggle to grab the first two positions that guarantee semi final placings.
Incidentally I have been forced to follow with keen interest given my appointments by CAF, as I will be off to Algeria this week for a Champions league match.
Enyimba are off to Morocco quite aware that a credible result against Raja will guarantee a semi final spot with only Hilal as foe, since Cotton Sports and Raja seem to have disappeared from the radar.
Sunshine stars host Mas Fez of Morocco in a must win match that will return them to the top of the log with nine points to MAS’s seven.
Next week, Sunshine will be away to DCMP who are most likely to get the maximum points this week from a JSK team they beat at away. Sunshine must therefore arrive Congo DR with nine points to the hosts seven quite aware that the host could go for a maximum ten, for Sunshine to wrap up qualification at home with 12 points minimum against hapless JSK, aware that MAS will battle DCMP for a standstill in Morocco in the last match.
Kaduna Utd have a bigger mountain to climb. They are lying third with two points. This week end they MUST go for five against Asec, believing that Interclubbe will climb to seven at home and leave Club Africain at five. ( Advantage Kaduna Utd )
Interclubbe will benefit two consecutive home matches when they host Kaduna Utd after that, and this is where the Nigerians must endeavour to stop the Angolans from going to 10 points at the top. If, God forbid, the Angolans beat the Nigerians, the greatest number of points Kaduna Utd will get will be eight and it may not be enough to guarantee semi final qualification except Club Africain and Asec who have two away games each in the three remaining fixtures cancel themselves out.
Good luck Nigeria. See you next week.