By Paul Bassey
Time was when the South African football league was not worth even the effort Supersport was putting into popularizing same.
Then came the World Cup, the construction of world class stadiums and the putting forward of a wholly local league players for the World Cup and South African football took a turn for the better.
Today, I get a lot of excitement from the South African league. The ambience is extraordinary thanks to the massive turn out of spectators well attired and excited especially when teams like Kaiser Chiefs,Orlando Pirates and Sundowns are on display. The organization is near perfect and the sponsorship out of this world.
Here, spectatorship is an apology. Even a mouth watering CAF Champions league match involving Sunshine Stars and Libolo of Angola could not attract two thousand spectators with the gates thrown open free of charge in Ijebu Ode.
On Saturday I happened on a Nedbank Cup match between Kaiser Chiefs and Free State Stars and was reluctant to move on. Then it struck me. By the way, what is the name of our league? Besides that league, what other competition do we play?
In South Africa under reference, whereas the Nedbank Cup has entered its semi final stage, the Absa Premiership is also on, running at the same time. In England with five weeks to the end of the Premiership, the FA Cup has reached the final stage .Pray when will our Confederation Cup start? In the midst of all shades and colours of national teams’ qualifiers, do we have a committee saddled with the organization of the Confederation Cup for this year?
The Nigeria Football Federation is now basking in the euphoria of commendation given the support that has been given to the domestic league players under the tutelage of Stephen Keshi. It must be emphasized however that the same players need a lot of competitive atmosphere for their skills to be honed and fitness guaranteed and this comes with a busy environment.
Back to South Africa, there are the Absa Premier League, the Vodacom League and the Nedbank Cup for the big boys. Then there is the Absa Women League and Sasol league for women, SAB Regional League and the FNB League for U-17.
You cannot count on the fingers of two hands, the suppliers and partners of South African football and these include Coca Cola, BSN Medical, Avis, Vodacom, Mercedez Benz, South African Airways, Southern Sun, IS ( Internet Solutions ) Puma and Net Care, Castle Beer and DSTV etc.
Four years ago, it was mooted that the NFA and MTN had finalized arrangements for the kick off of the MTN Cup, a competition that was set to revolutionise football in this country, thanks to its organizational structure and financial reward mechanism that was ready to benefit all those who participated.
Where, is the MTN Cup?
Rumour has it that a competing brand fought tooth and nail to kill the MTN Cup at birth, arguing that it was a marketing faux pas to have two contending brands sponsoring the same association, and the NFF fell for it.
Can we quickly run to Ghana? Just yesterday in an explosive Glo Ghana Premier league match played at the Babayara Stadium in Kumasi, between Hearts of Oak and Ashanti Kotoko, the Porcupines came out emblazoned in MTN kits. In Nigeria we would have been told that because it is a Globacom sponsored league, MTN should not be allowed miles near the stadium not to talk of surfacing within same by way of shirt sponsoring one of the teams.
Still in Ghana, look at all the sponsors falling over each other to identify with football…Unilever, through Close Up and Daily Need, Frutelli, Interplast, Azar Gloss paints, Latex Foam, LG Electronics, Voltic Water and Rice Master to mention but a few.
Here we are even talking of a different competition entirely, here we are not having enough funds to run our football yet we are ignoring those willing to participate.
THE UDUAGHAN SCHOOLS EXPERIMENT
I hail Governor Uduaghan of Delta State on the introduction of a Governor’s Cup for Secondary Schools in the state.
I am excited by the quality of personnel put together to realize that dream, including our own Onochie. Add to that Austin Okocha, Victor Ikpeba, Davidson Owumi and Pinnick Amaju and you can be rest assured that success is around the corner. For eleven consecutive years, thanks to Mobil Producing Nigeria ( MPN ) I have been championing the discovery of track and field talents in Akwa Ibom Schools and colleges convinced that if we do not lay solid foundations today the house of sports is bound to crumble tomorrow.
Thanks your Excellency for sowing in season and may you reap, soon.
THANKS GOVERNOR IMOKE
I also take space out to thank Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River for appointing Patrick Ugbe Sports Commissioner. Talk of the proverbial round peg in a round hole.
In future I will tell you why if given the necessary cooperation, given his sports background, sports in Cross River is about to bloom.
I thank all those who through calls and text messages have shared with us the sudden passing on of my driver and friend, Felix Adekanye.
I urge you to continue to pray for the family he left behind, including a six month old daughter.
FIVE POINTS CLEAR…
After the Wigan misadventure, “they” prayed for us to falter again. “for where”. IT IS FINISHED.
See you next week