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‘Keshi’s work-in-progress’

By Paul Bassey
I seek permission from Demola Olajire, the NFF Media officer for using his coinage as the title of my column today. Saturday evening, when I got Demola’s lengthy and exhaustive report from Blantyre, the phrase stood out, first as excuse for our not getting the maximum three points at stake, then as a commendation for the draw.

This may not have been his motive, yet somebody needed to remind us that Keshi was building a team for the future and there was need to give the coach and the team a chance.

In the last two months that reminder has come so often that I wonder at what stage we will stop reminding ourselves and get down to business. Sometimes people give us the impression that football is not played in this country at all. Going by some of the things I read there is this false impression that our play in the domestic league is something else than the round leather game and the actors mere neophytes devoid of the basic rudiments of the game.

I beg to disagree.

I often say that as a Nigeria Premier League Match Commissioner I have watched and seen some great matches, appreciated some naturally gifted and talented footballers and  applauded some excellent goals that regrettably could not be captured on camera and ‘frozen’  for posterity.

As a CAF General Coordinator I have seen a lot of clubs in Africa play and come out convinced that despite the lack of matching infrastructure and organizational savvy, our players and clubs rank among the best in the continent!

For those who say that perhaps Keshi has not even selected the best there is in the domestic league, I may agree with them. But for how long are we going to camp and be in trial? Since Keshi and the NFF have decided to make the domestic league the bedrock of our Super Eagles development, when will the Technical Committee organize a meeting between Keshi and his crew with the domestic coaches with a view to guaranteeing that no stone has been left unturned?

It does not take a coach to create a good footballer. He can only discover him, perhaps improve him and use him to build a good team. What is happening to us now is very akin to what used to happen in the past. We will be drawn against the likes of Ethiopia, Benin, Niger, Kenya, yet we struggle to qualify.

The major difference now is that thanks to Keshi, instead of importing twenty four big headed players and waste  huge amount of money on transportation, accommodation etc now we are limiting ourselves and wisely too to a maximum of five or six at a time.

With due respect to those who say there are no minnows in football, how could we not qualify and easily too from a group that has Malawi, Namibia and Kenya? While Nigeria is ranked as the 60th football playing country in the world, Malawi is 107, Kenya 111 and Namibia 134 ( Rwanda is 119 ) FIFA in its review wrote about “GIANTS dropping points on the road”

Besides  the real fight was  not supposed to be here, the real fight commences when all the group leaders qualify and go into the second round.

Back to Malawi. That the Malawians played well, that we missed some chances, managed to go ahead in the 89th, only for the home side to equalize with the last kick of the ball. Now we are all moaning, that we should have won, that Enyeama made a mistake….. a Malawian friend thinks differently, that they were a better side, that the Eagles scored against the run of play and that the god of soccer would have been very unfair if he had allowed Nigeria to win that match.

I wish I can have an independent opinion in a country where we rarely watch our teams live when they play at away. Enyeama by all accounts is being crucified for what Chief Onigbinde considers “ …two points lost…” yet no one has imagined that if at the 89th minute we were leading 2-0, then the mistake would have been irrelevant, points wise.

We appreciate the four points so far, points that will help to boost our confidence and gauge our performances till next year March when the qualifiers will resume….by which time there will certainly be no more room for excuses.

Keshi’s work in progress, yes, but with too many distractions along the line. Today the chief coach says, yesterday the technical committee member said, while tomorrow a former player will say…….Wanted, a sign board that will say SILENCE: WORK IN PROGRESS. Then and only then will we be guaranteed quality from the workshop.

Relegation of the Falcons

Heard that because the Super Eagles are now to play Rwanda on Saturday instead of Sunday, the Falcons will have no choice but to play same day, perhaps same time against Zimbabwe!

I believe I heard wrongly. For us to play two matches like this same day, then the lesser one (Sorry Aisha)must come first and afford the fans about four hours difference to go back home and watch the other, which incidentally will be aired live. To do otherwise, will be to subject the Falcons match against Zimbabwe to the mercy of empty seats devoid of ambience and the atmosphere needed by the country’s senior women team, and this could smack of neglect and disrespect to women football that has brought us so much glory in the past.

Security… Security… Security

No sooner than the match involving Rangers and ABS ended yesterday in Enugu that fans flowed freely into the field most of them having direct access to the players and the match officials while security personell stood and watched…, please security.

See you next week


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