By Paul Bassey
If you expect me to write today about the Abuja dis grace last Saturday, then permit me to disappoint you. First of all, at the time that match was going on, I was on CAF duty in far away Tunisia.
The first hint of disaster was when I tried to get in touch with FIFA Referees Advisor Linus Mba. I got back a terse text reply “ The match has ended 2-2”!
“CATASTROPHY” I replied. He must be joking, I thought. Quickly I sent a mail to Onochie Anibeze and Anietie Iyoho, only for them to confirm what can be regarded as the worst year in our football history since 1986.
On Friday while talking to NFF board members Deji Tinubu and Felix Anyansi I remember signing off by asking them to pray for the Super Eagles, because I did not feel too confident. It was also before these two gentlemen among others that I said three weeks ago that I had no problem with the Guineans that my problem was with the Super Eagles, our own team.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles in a group that had Guinea, Ethiopia and Madagascar could not qualify for the Nations Cup? Wake me up somebody.
So, until I see the video of the match, until I get back to the country and be properly briefed, NO COMMENTS.
I may as well also say that with the Super Eagles ouster from The Nations Cup (Which also puts us in a fix given the qualification procedure for the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa ) fear now reigns supreme as regards the chances of our Olympic Squad and the Falcons.
Perhaps the only area where there is hope for now is in club football and that is why we must queue behind Enyimba International and Sunshine Stars, who this week end have important semi final assignments to undertake.
Out of the one hundred clubs that entered for this year’s CAF Champions League and ninety two in the CAF Confederation Cup, Enyimba and Sunshine stand proud today as one of the only four left, respectively
Enyimba, gratefully can be considered to have one leg in the final, given what I will regard as an impressive narrow 0-1 loss in Morocco against Wyddad Athletic Club in Cassablanca. However, football being what it is ( Ask Siasia ) Enyimba cannot afford to go to sleep and assume she is in the final, until the final whistle is blown.
Unlike the foreign based mania that has become the hallmark of our football, the Moroccan national team that played Tanzania yesterday in Marrakech had four Wyddad players namely goalkeeper Lamyaghri Nadir, defender El Khaliqi Ayoub and midfielders Said Fatah and Berrabeh Mohammed.
This is the team that has realized that in Aba it is a do or die situation and that in football, anything can happen, that is why Enyimba should be spared the distraction and suffocation of domestic league matches this week to allow it concentrate for a match that will help raise the respect of our football in the continent, a respect that has fallen flat on its face.
Sunshine Stars on the other hand, surprise semi finalists in its debut in Africa, also has a testy tie against a Tunisian team that is laden with tradition and garlands in African football.
In coach Faouzi Benzarti former national team gaffer, Club Africain has perhaps its most potent weapon. Just last Thursday Club Africain was in Saudi Arabia for a friendly against Al Hilal and it came out with a confidence boosting 0-0 scoreline which they will be bringing to Nigeria, a country where they triumphed over Kaduna United in an earlier round.
On Saturday the traditional chances wasting Sunshine attackers have to be told that in a cup, knock out format, if you do not score as many as three goals when you are hosting the first leg, you can as well kick the second leg bye.
The story of Sunshine stars in Africa is that in which they rarely score goals even when countless chances are created. At this stage of the competition it is as good as telling them ‘score less than three goals and consider your dream go up in smoke’ against a team that emerged leaders in Group A losing only a match in six.
The people of Ondo state should also consider drumming up support for their darling team by putting scores of buses on the road from Akure to Ijebu Ode. The stadium ambience and crowd support so far in Ijebu Ode even when top teams in Africa come calling is cause for concern.
In Algeria, Kinshasha and Morocco, Sunshine played with spectatorship of not less than 40,000 yet Ijebu Ode stadium has never recorded attendance of more than two thousand, fifty percent of which are always complimentary.
All we are saying is Enyimba, Sunshine please provide the hand kerchiefs that we need to wipe away our football tears. PLEASE.
That Referees and Coaching courses
One of the greatest achievements of our football is the CAF coaches course that qualifies our sweat merchants to CAF coaching licences. I really have coach Onigbinde to thank for his perseverance in getting that programme started even though countries like South Africa have gone far while we are still in the C licence category.
While it was quite refreshing seeing a lot of our coaches ( Over 70 ) come out to benefit from the exercise I have heard about the pride and boast of those who believe that they already know it all.
Let me repeat here that by the next football season, CAF says if you are not in possession of any of its category of licences YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO SIT ON THE BENCH FOR ANY OF ITS COMPETITIONS, so go ahead play god, be the superstar that you are not.
Also within the week and for the first time ever in this country, Linus Mba anchored a FIFA-CAF Referees Assessors and Physical Fitness Instructors Course.
Felix Tangariwa, Kalume Jumna and Mademba Macke were all here to help us develop a panel of assessors with the level of knowledge and experience to participate positively in the training of Nigerian referees through the assessment of their matches.
All, is not lost. The future beckons, positively
See you next week.