By Paul Bassey

Just before I left the country Thursday for Algeria via Morrocco, I was fascinated by media reports and insinuations that Coach Samson Siasia was accusing the Technical Committee of the NFF of interfering with his team list drawn up for the all important nations cup qualifier against Madagascar in Antannarivo in a fortnight.

Fascinated because some of the stories I read and heard were definitely out of this world, manufactured in space.

I was, like all members of the technical committee invited to Abuja Friday before last, to parley with the National coach on his plans for the Nations cup match. Surprisingly we all arrived Abuja to discover that Coach Siasia had gone to Lagos “to treat his injured knee”.

We had no choice but to accept the apology, but wondered why we were allowed to embark on a futile trip. The reason being that we COULD NOT DISCUSS THE LIST SO PRESENTED IN HIS ABSENCE. Talk of barbing a man’s hair in his absence, apologies the late MKO.

Before leaving for Abuja, some of my colleagues in the media had called me to find out why we were “insisting on vetting Siasia’s  list” as they put it. I want to believe that by now the coach would have come to accept members of the Technical Committee as comrade in arms. If, on the other hand he prefers to play to the gallery, arrogate to himself the monopoly of knowledge and go solo, good luck to him. I can recall so many times in the past, that Committee has risen to his defence.

This is coach who few days ago was in tears decrying the attitude of his players, one who needs the technical committee peopled by men who had seen it all, on and off the field. The committee is advisory. The final decision lies with him. That, has always been the posturing.

I was one of those who advised my colleagues to steer clear from the brewing storm. That we and the nation were not ready for any excuses and should therefore not create room for any. Since coach Siasia had decided to take his battle to the media it will be wise for us to surrender and let him be.

Before rising from that meeting in question, we did tell the Technical department to remind him that it was very rare to see a team WITH NINE ATTACKERS AND ONLY FOUR MIDFIELDERS, THREE OF WHOM WERE DEFENSIVE.

We also thought it was not proper to put players under the sub head of WAITING LIST  given the psychological implications etc. What about the players we knew were injured and unfit yet could be found on the list, and others not on the list that were in form? Unfortunately, it was a trip wasted, both in human and financial resources, and we left.

Unfortunately, I have had to return to this topic because of my experience enroute Algeria for a CAF assignment. At Cassablanca, Morocco, were I spent a night in transit, there was nothing on sports TV than the Nations cup preparation.

Despite their leadership of Group D with 7 points, coach Eric Gerets is leaving no stone unturned and his 29 man list has nine home based players, three of whom are sure of starting places.

The match at away against Central African Republic is considered so crucial by the Moroccan people that nothing is left to chance including early departure in a chartered plane and the airlifting of 3,000 spectators to cheer the team to victory.

On getting to Algeria Friday morning, I met the same scenario on the ground. Despite being last of their group with 4 points and a goal difference of -5, the Algerians under new coach Vahid Halihodzic believe they can go to Tanzania get the maximum points and challenge Morocco and Central Africa who may cancel themselves out.

In order to realize this, the coach has called to camp ( They resumed yesterday )  twenty five players including 4 home based “…… who believe in themselves and in their country”

Algeria has also cancelled henceforth the staying of the team in luxurious five star hotels. They resumed at the National training camp in Sidi Moussa.

To also stress the importance of training for the Nations Cup, the players will not be allowed to go home to their families for the Muslim public holidays. “ We will spend it here. The national team is their family “ President of the Algerian Football Federation Mohammed Raouroua was quoted as saying.

Permit me to also draw some lessons elsewhere. Serbian coach of Ghana Goran Stevanovic has called 23 to camp including three debutants. He can afford to relax and experiment, see new players, because Ghana has one leg in the final and is facing  an opponent, Swaziland, that is yet to garner a single point in four matches with a goals difference of -9!

What about the Elephants of Cote Divoire who have already qualified in Group H,, yet they are off to Amsterdam to camp for a match against bottom of the log Rwanda that will not count for anything even if they lose by twenty goals?

Here we are, desperate and unsure. Here we are hanging on a cliff yet we appear to be the most unserious! I have looked at Madagascar again and again and I want to believe that there is nothing to worry, YET…..

Madagascar lost their first match 1-4 at away against Guinea, lost at home 0-1 to Ethiopia, lost 0-2 away to Nigeria and drew 1-1 at home to Guinea. This team is beatable at home….yes,

BUT……
Our situation is not helped by the fact that we are trailing Guinea by THREE POINTS and they have a TWO GOAL superiority over us. I can bet my lap top that Guinea will beat Ethiopia at home to maintain that three point gap and we are not only condemned to beating Madagascar at away, but doing so with a comfortable margin preparatory to the ULTIMATE DECIDER in Abuja on October 8.

Goodluck Nigeria. YOU NEED IT.

See you next week.

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