By PAUL Bassesy
I am one of those who can write authoritatively about our Golden Eaglets. From the very first match they played together as a team in the African Qualifiers in Niger, to their camping in Calabar, African finals in Marakech Morocco……….I have been a disciple of a team I believe promises positive vibes for the future of the game in Nigeria.
Yes, the Nigeria Football Federation and the Cross River State Government should take a bow for investing in these boys over time. The coaches and other back up staff of the team also deserve mention for the work, tireless work they have put in to get the kids to the standard where they have been rated as one of the best, if not the best team in the world, going forward.
I know how difficult it is to coach boys in this age category, boys who enjoy to play their game and believe that the only attribute in football is score goals and in the process shun tactical inputs for their God given techniques. To Manu Garba, Nduka Ugbade and Emmanuel Amuneke, I doff my hat.
Two weeks ago I wrote here that I will be happy if this team gets to the final, but I see already a team that guarantees ten years of our football if well managed. I said this team is one that plays good enough to receive commendation, even if it loses. It appears though that losing is not in the dictionary of these glory boys. Against Sweden, it was a never say die attitude that brought them from the brinks of defeat to a deserved draw.
Next came Iran and the Eaglets stamped their superiority. Uruguay was the dreaded team, a country that had dealt us severe blows at the senior and Under 20 levels. Saturday, the South Americans came calling and as expected gave us some moments of concern, but the Nigerians took control of the match and by the second half were in charge. But for lack of marksmanship and youthful exuberance the Uruguayans would have fallen by no less than five goals.
I commend these youngsters who have given us cause to be proud at world football stage because like I did say, at knock out level, the best do not normally win. Ask Japan, ask Brazil.
Tomorrow is another day. This time a reenactment of the group match that gave us the biggest scare of our lives. This time a draw will not be okay. An outright winner will have to emerge. Yes the coaches must have revisited the former match and made amends, just as the Swedes bemoaned the loss of an unprecedented opportunity, first time out.
It will not be easy, but with these boys it may be very easy. It is a team on rampage, one in which only the goalkeeper has not taken a shot at goal. Like a friend said to me, if the Uruguayans were not able to stop us, is it those Swedes that will? According to him the Swedes were lucky first time out. this time, there will be no hiding place. I say AMEN.
BACK TO THE LEAGUE
Last week I wrote that I was very happy with the league and the way it ended. I said I was very confident that our representatives in Africa ( Pillars, Enyimba, Warri Wolves and Bayelsa ) will give a good account of themselves…A reader wrote in, very angry with me. Chris Djeniko ([email protected]) said there was nothing to celebrate about the league. I quote “.
“Sir, I quote you from the above subject of your Monday Vanguard blog:“. . . in all my years I have associated with football, I have never come across a situation where, in any league in the world, over ten teams were available for the drop with just one match to spare. . . In all of these, I feel proud that the days of state hosting AGMs to overturn league tables are over. I am happy that today we have leaders who are honest, disciplined and focused not getting themselves in messy situations that posterity will record negatively against them..
”If you had read the observations made on the league log table in different websites especially www.kickoffnigeria.com, you wouldn’t have expressed your happiness in this blog. Apparently you were proud.
Perhaps you wouldn’t have submitted it for publication. The summary of what these websites (I guess you would have read them too) are saying that the home teams were winning almost all their matches and the away teams were losing almost all. Even those that are for the drop!! Not so in Europe and other leagues.
They use so many terms to describe our league table- ‘laughable,’ ‘disgrace,’ ‘absurd,’ ‘funny,’ ‘match-fixing table.’ I was ashamed that others are seeing our league in such a light. These websites reproduced the log table from www.fifa.com. So it means fifa is also looking at us with one kind eye like that. I tell you something. This is what our football administrators have turned most of us into. No trust in them. Our administrators must make some changes so that our league will not be ‘laughable’ anymore.”
I promised Chris that I will share his thoughts with us because this page is held in trust. I am not going to join issues with Chris, tell him why he cannot compare our league with Europe, not at this stage, not even issues of security and live telecast of ALL matches that impact directly on the performance of referees.
I swear we will get there. We will.
See you next week