By Paul Bassey
I arrived the country from a CAF assignment in Dolisie, CongoBrazzaville to hear that Nigerian sports writers were spoiling for war with the Nigeria Football Federation ( NFF ) over “an insult heaped on the media by the NFF over some record keeping”

The argument had to do with player Utibe Archibong of Akwa Starlets who NFF credited with scoring the highest number of goals in the Challenge Cup.

The media said no, that it was Warri Wolves player Musa Najare who should have that distinction only for the NFF to tell the journalist to go and do their home work…..whereas the journalist are insisting the NFF erred.

When therefore Godwin Enakhena sought my opinion, I said to him that the media was the watch dog of the society and the media has responsibility to not only inform and entertain, but to also educate the masses, and if the media is convinced it is right, it should press for its case.

Also the NFF should stop and review its position and if faulty should apologise and move on, after all no one is perfect, says a popular adage.

However, let it be said here, that in sports, facts are sacrosanct, sacred. In sports, timing is done to the one thousandth of a minute and you dare not exaggerate. Ask Manchester City which won the Premiership in 2011 by goals difference.

It therefore follows that if there was any tinge of controversy in compiling those points as the league ran to a close, then hours will be wasted trying to set the records straight.

I have used this example because the league table in Nigeria is still subject to the medium you are reading or hearing it from, whereas it should not be different, not even by a goal difference.

When Wayne Rooney scored his 200th goal for United, soccer statisticians were ready. They did not have to go back home to research and come back later to tell us that he has scored 200 goals.

Just yesterday, the FIFA web site informed and incredibly too, that despite Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano, they had only 45 percent match possession, bringing to an end for the first time in over five years and 316 matches, their possession dominating streak dating back to their 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid in May 2008. Wow ! Wow!

What about Mikel Obi’s first league goal for Chelsea last Saturday? After a barren run of 185 matches ?….that is sports reporting for you, embellished by records, facts and dates to the letter.

Even the NFF, realize this fact when they advised journalists not to “create artificial controversies….through needless speculations….without seeking to establish the facts……thereby filing stories of inexistent controversy….by shamefully going to the press…..” and these are the very words that the journalist want the NFF to take back.

This brings me to the subject of my topic this week. At the last meeting of the Association of Sports Veterans, Nigeria of which I am by the grace of God the Secretary General, Alhaji Demola Alli, ( Please don’t forget to spell my Alli with a double L ) alias Fireman, famed ex National table tennis player, journalist and long time serving image maker of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, drew my attention to the repeated “misinformation” by my colleagues that “Thunder” Balogun was so named because he had a killer shot. Far from it, Fireman screamed.

“ If there was anybody that had a thunderous shot it was Etim Richard Henshaw.” He said.

Fireman took me through a preview written by late Bonar Ekanem in the Daily Times (considered the greatest Nigerian sportswriter to date by Alli) before the famed UK tour of 1945.

“ I will never forget that preview because I crammed it. It was beautifully crafted. While going through the list of players selected, Bonar wrote…. “And the forwards. Ah they are drawn from the giant killers of Loco Yard. Golden Boy Okere ( captain of Railways) Diamond Toe Baby Anieke, popular goal merchant Balogun, Burma Devil Dokuboh, Silver footed Anosike to spear down any stubborn defence. Among them is that terror of all Nigerian goalkeepers H-E-N-S-H-A-W a name written with golden letters across our soccer history. His cannon shots dare not touch any goalkeeper because there is bound to be a funeral. He is perhaps the only one who can escape the law if he kills.

Our soccer crown would have sunk into the earth if Henshaw was not in the team. Now thank God he is there. And Mazembe Otu…why not Friday Okoh?”

So where did the appellation Thunder come from? I asked “ Misrepresentation,” Alli argued. “The Thunder represented his speed…lightning speed. He was so fast, like a flash, he could dart left and right in one second, confuse players and leave defenders standing. Fleet footed and scored incredible goals, but shot? No way he had no shots. Shot nothing. Rather from where you sat, you could hear goal keepers screaming “….mark Henshaw….Mark Henshaw…they were so scared of his cannon shots. He was licensed to kill.”

Receiving the support of Veterans President Chief J.B Ogufere and former NFA scribe Herbert Omokhaye alias Alibay, Alhaji Alli went on to say that “ in the trials to the Tour, it was Henshaw who retired his Marine team mate goalkeeper Tony Hart when in the match between Probables and Possibles, Henshaw’s shot hit the post and rebounded to clip Hart’s ear and blood flowed. I remember vividly Bonar Ekanem’s headline in the Times the next day. HENSHAW DRAWS FIRST BLOOD..”

Alli like the NFF wants us to be more thorough in educating especially those who rely on us for facts. Like the NFF too I wonder whether anyone will stand up to dispute this revelation of Thunder Balogun never killing anybody with his Thunderous shots as we were made to believe in a long standing fact that Alli now claims is a myth.

See you next week.


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