By Paul Bassey
It came like a bolt from the blue. After 28 matches without defeat, capped with a 6-1 demolition of arch rivals Ghana, the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria were brought down to mother earth with a thud.
It was a defeat that shocked every Nigerian especially those of us that have not failed to sing the praises of the Garba Manu tutored side.
Suddenly I thread philosophy path. That the defeat was needed and the timing could not have been better. Were our players playing god? Did they suddenly believe the cup was theirs even without kicking a ball?
I was positive they would bounce back if only their handlers would psychologically lift them from a position they never found themselves.
Saturday they came back roaring and Congo was the seven goal victim! Saturday, I remembered a column I wrote on September 16 2012 when I led out the Golden Eaglets on their first ever Continental qualifier in Niger. It was entitled
Back to the Golden Eaglets fairy tale
“When I read and listen to the moanings of my colleagues who travelled to Liberia with the Super Eagles, I thank God for diverting me as it were to Niamey as part of the delegation for the Africa U-17 Qualifier against Niger.
In Niamey I was virtually on holiday. After an initial interaction with the team at the Abuja airport where I told them to avoid the distractions of comfort and look instead at a bigger picture, I was proved right when we got to Niamey to find ourselves in a run down hotel.
My room for instance had a wooden ward robe that could take only three dresses, yet there was only one hangar available, so my bag was on the floor throughout. My air conditioner did not work, nothing like a fridge, while CNN was the only English channel we managed to get out of the miserable lot.
Others had worse rooms.
What delighted me was that I travelled to Niamey with the NFF Director of Technical Dr Emmanuel Ikpeme and Alhaji Mamza, the Finance Director and this lend credence to the seriousness of this assignment only for me to arrive Niamey and meet Dr Mohammed Sanusi, Head of Competitions (He had come in by road from Sokoto).
The powerful delegation was completed by the head of delegation, the amiable and soft spoken Alhaji Muazu, board member and chairman of the referees committee. Unlike in the past when these boys would have been abandoned to their fate, here they were, having for company board and top management staff of the NFF
Before coming back I did tell some of my colleagues that not since the China Eaglets of Nduka Ugbade have I seen such an entertaining and hope raising bunch . Yes Nduka Ugbade. It was during the team’s warm up session a day to the match that I had my first glimpse of the U-17 team.
I happen to be on the mailing list of Morankiyo Abodunrin the team’s media officer and I remember telling him that I was not impressed by the scandalous results they were reaping in Calabar and that it was only after the victory over Rwanda that I started paying attention to them.
During training, I was impressed. When you see coaches leading by example, then expect success. Garba Manu, Emmanuel Amuneke, Nduka Ugbade and Emeka Amadi are by far the best assemblage of coaches presently.
They are role models. They bond together and instill discipline. Not one day, did I see any of the players loitering around the hotel despite the discomfort of their rooms.
It was on Brila Radio that I said I was tempted to reel out the names of the players to their listeners but that it may not come to much since they cannot be traced to any league club as was hitherto the case.
ADEYINKA ADEWALE (Kwara Academy) goalkeeper of the team that won the Shell Cup and stopped three penalties in the final against Delta.
MUSA MOHAMMED (Sardauna Academy, Kano) Captain of the side, commands authority among his colleagues on and off the pitch.
IZU OMEGO (Standard Academy, Abuja) Left full back, rock of Gibraltar.
AKINJIDE IDOWU (Nigeria Soccer Academy, Calabar) very mobile and intelligent midfielder whose vision is exemplary.
WILFRED NDIDI (Nath FC, Lagos) Central Defender. Deputy captain who had to stand in on match day no thanks to the reading of the FIFA Fair Play declaration. You have to kill him to get to Adewale and he does not die.
EMMANUEL ASADU (Amuneke Academy) With Idowu, a midfield partnership that is fluid and cohesive.
BERNARD BULBWA (Amuneke Academy) winger, whose control of the ball is inborn.
ALHASSAN IBRAHIM (Sardauna Academy) A revelation. Packs shots in both legs, good dribbling skills.
SUCCESS ISSAC (Messab Academy Benin) can contest for Man Of the Match award. Natural footballer this one. Does not struggle to exhibit talent.
KELECHI IHENEACHO (NFF U-13, U-15) A product of the NFF Academies. Belonged to a team that was considered too good to be disbanded.
IFEANYI MATHEW (Sardauna Academy, Kano) utility player, nightmare to defenders, intelligent and focused.
MUSA YAHAYA (Mutinci Academy, Kaduna) Heavens, if Musa should start on the bench then talent abound here. Gifted.
UMAR AHMED (G-Lec Academy, Jos) was a natural replacement for Bernard. Flowed easily with the rest.
CHIDERA EZE (NFF) Another NFF Academy graduate whose potentials are limitless.
SUBS NOT USED.
EZEKIEL EMMANUEL (Sachim Academy, Jos)
ZAHARADEEN BELLO (Dabo Babies Academy, Kano) He was adjudged the best defender of the Airtel Rising Stars academy.
ADAMU ABUBAKAR (GK, Airtel Rising Stars)
OLUWASEUN JEGEDE (Airtel –Aspire Academy)
That completes the roll call of the glory boys waiting to bloom, boys whose crude phones reflect their innocence, who when asked by the air hostess “ Tea or Coffee?” Replied “ Yes”. Boys whose greatest asset is perhaps their near perfect understanding of each other. A TEAM this one.
It will be very unrealistic to say here that they will win the African Championship and qualify for the world cup without kicking a ball. No. what I am saying here is that if these boys are kept together, tracked and provided the best of training, they will go places to the glory of our football.”
This is what I said ten months ago and by jove I am repeating same today.
THAT FREGENE MAY BE ASSISTED
Last week I put out a teaser regarding the assistance sought by Peter Fregene, who is languishing in Sapele suffering from a spinal chord injury. I appreciate the reactions, the anger, accusations, the abuses rained on governments and individuals who are in a position to help but are not.
Straight away let me say here and EMPHATICALLY too, that Fregene has received help and lots of it. He will forever be indebted to Governor Fashola of Lagos State who he has not had the opportunity to appreciate personally. He thanks the Delta State Government. What could he have done without Barrister Victor Eburajolor, Francis German, Michael Diden of Sapele All Stars, Segun Odegbami, Tex Egbedi, Coach Tetteh….. “ After you published my phone number last week people have been calling. Bisi Lawrence called, Pa Ojidoh…….i appreciate them all.
Let them not be tired of helping me. I am down, I cannot walk, my rent has expired and I have been given quit notice. I have run out of drugs. Now that I am still alive, I need help please.
Nigeria, over to you
This was one of those disciples who still hung around believing that the day I will be translated, he will be around to inherit my cape!
Today, Kunle Alade, the amiable and ever inquisitive sports reporter is no more. That he “died in his sleep” ( Whatever that means ) after speaking to colleagues the night before.
Adieu Kunle…..words are not enough to express this mysterious loss. Adieu dear colleague and friend just as we pray the good Lord affords your wife, children and family the fortitude to accept this inevitable end. ADIEU.
See you next week.