By Paul Bassey
It was Tony Bekeredemo of Brila FM who called to inform me about the suspension of Rangers by CAF and I felt very bad. I wondered why Shooting Stars should protest to CAF, knowing the circumstances of such a protest.

It was when Emeka Nwani, former image maker of the Nigeria Premier League and a staunch Rangers supporter also called that I understood better the situation on ground. Emeka absolved Shooting from any blame, he educated me better on the history of the fracas and also mentioned the role of the NFF and the LMC.

Those “roles” I do not understand, that is why I am calling on the NFF to institute a probe as a matter of urgency. There is no running away from the fact that this year has been terrible to us CAF wise, as all our teams fell by the way side, only for Rangers to go to Tunisia and do the impossible, and now this.

File photo: Rangers players during a match

We must get to the bottom of this, to serve as a deterrent to others. Perhaps the NFF has not been sufficiently interested in the affairs of clubs who qualify to represent us in Africa, that is why we get to hear bizarre stories that does not do our country’s football any good.

Of Heartland that could not organize herself early enough to honour a return leg in Gabon, of Lobi Stars that got spanked 7-1 in Mozambique and Pillars that lost a three goal advantage in Congo! Nigeria’s league is made of superior stuff different from what has been portrayed for this year.

With due respect to the Rangers appeal, we should get to the root of this matter and bring all the culprits to book, because as opined by Emeka, none of them will resign honourably, not even to allow a credible probe. This is an Agbim and Mbah case carried too far.

We can build on the Confederation Cup

For the past three weeks there has been shades of opinion on the Eagles and the Confederation Cup. Last week, I even went a step further to say that we should beware lest our string of defeats affect our FIFA Coca-cola standing as we move towards the September qualifiers. Last week I was proved right.

Happily, the CHAN match and the Mandela Invitational will help us stabilize, although we should expect the worst from Abidjan in a few days.

This week I have opened my column to Chinedum Emeana   a Port Harcourt based Corporate Communications practitioner whose views I consider very credible and worthy of sharing with you. He says we can build on the Confederation Cup experience. I agree. Excerpts.Enjoy.

Re: The fear of September…

At the Confed Cup, I don’t think “We Tried”. But we can build on that to become a better football team insomuch as we will learn the lessons. Before the confeds I had shared my prediction with my Facebook friends and then I said confidently that Nigeria will beat Tahiti and Spain and draw with Uruguay. I strongly believed that despite Spain’s recent pedigree the Super Eagles can beat them with the “Nigerianness” of our game and playing personnel despite their experience deficit. With Uruguay, because they are a South American team and we seem to always come up short against teams from that region, maybe because they are more streetwise than us? I felt the worst we would take from that game was to share the spoils.

Unfortunately and annoyingly we lost both games.   But I was impressed with Keshi’s “game management”, his tactical approach and response to real-time match situations. More importantly, however, I came away with the impression that Nigeria can make a big bang impression at the World Cup if we could learn the lessons inherent. For instance, after the Spain game I said, on Facebook, that Brazil will beat Spain because like us they will create chances, but unlike us, they will take those chances. The Super Eagles went behind the Spanish defence in ways that no team had done in recent times but we lacked a certain “something”, same for the Uruguayan game.

To me it goes beyond the obvious players not scoring goals even when chances are presented on a plate – we lack champions’ mentality, and this affects the way we approach games, the way we prosecute dead ball advantages and the way we “seem” to give up when the “lines have not yet fallen in pleasant places” for us.

We should also jettison our laid back attitude…we need to have this in-your-face, I must-win-no-matter-what approach, while not disrespecting our opponents.

Your suggestion that Ideye’s goal drought should see him dropped from the team is not one I agree with, with due respect. He hasn’t scored but his general industry has helped the cause of the team. Remember at the Nations Cup, his partnership with Emenike produced goals, even when both of them did not score. He unsettles defences, and helps the midfield with his seemingly untiring work rate. Left to the Brazilian public, Fred would have been kicked out of their team for long before his starring role at the Confeds. Moreover, how many goals did Hulk score at the Confed Cup?

Going forward, I think the shrill calls to bring back some players into the team, impugning Keshi’s coaching credentials by “NFF top shots who wants to remain anonymous” in the press should seize. That must remain Keshi’s decision whether we like it or not. But there should be a partnership with the NFF Technical Committee behind the scenes, not this vetting or no vetting of Eagles list in the press all the time. It is not healthy. It will be difficult for any professional coach to accept that.

Moreover, some players are out of the Eagles for now, not because of lack of aptitude but unacceptable attitude. Without disciple and gang-mentality with everyone pulling in the same direction no team, no matter how individually talented can win anything. Our World Cup team of 1994 was a team of talented players that fell short because of this. After seeing all the first round matches of that championship, I felt Nigeria should play in the final. Where did we get to? We were dumped in the second round. And people were saying “We tried”.

And I wonder why Keshi is getting a lot of flak for opening up the space to home based players…this has created more options for the Super Eagles, fierce competition for shirts and given value to the national shirt. The NFF should leverage on that to promote and raise the standard of the local professional league. We should leverage on the growing profile of the Super Eagles to enhance the brand and make money for the NFF. Stories of conflict within the Super Eagles camp, NFF disagreements with Keshi will help his cause. We need strategic communication to drive value and enhance marketability of the Super Eagles brand.

I don’t harbor any fears….we will qualify for the Mundial if we pull in the same direction, and we must unite to be more than mere participants there.

I strongly believe that the Super Eagles are on an ascendancy, but this must be carefully and skillfully managed so that we get to where we belong; one of the top 10 footballing nations on the planet.”

 

I Say Amen. See you next week.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.