By Paul Bassey
Two news pieces last week have influenced this column which incidentally is the first in the new year.
Before I continue, I want to wish all of us a prosperous, healthy and sports success filled year. I also want to thank those readers who helped to keep us going through constructive criticisms, with respect for a view point different from theirs.
I have come to encounter some who believe that without them the world will stop going round. There are those who believe they are sports experts and have no respect for the opinion of others. When they disagree with you, they use very uncouth and derogatory language that only helps to expose their intolerance.
Let 2014 be a year of respect, give and take, patience, tolerance and love. Most times you will discover that we are all going towards the same destination, but from different directions.
The victory over Ethiopia notwithstanding, Coach Stephen Keshi has been quoted severally in the media as saying that he has had to put in too much work to be able to bring the CHAN Eagles up to scratch.
My deduction from the above is that even one month of stiff competition in South Africa may not be enough to get a world cup candidate from the present squad.
If that is the case, then he may be forced to look a bit further to discover additional stars for Brazil if he will not have to take whole sale those that helped him to win the Nations Cup and effected World Cup qualification.
Can he afford to do that? Is his army intact? Are their guns blazing?
Some news stories last week end, have motivated this week’s column. One of them has it that Juan Mata wants out of Chelsea to a club where he will be involved in regular play. He has taken this decision conscious of the fact that despite his pedigree, he needs to play regularly for his club in a World Cup year to be able to attract the attention of his National team handlers.
He is not alone.
The same news applies to controversial attacker Brown Ideye who is not happy that the arrival of Dieumerci Mbokani has robbed him of first team appearance at Dynamo Kyev.
Fast forward to Gabriel Reuben whose demand for the termination of contract has been accepted by Kilmarnock.
Midfielder Oduamadi is not in the plans of Brescia and he wants to move on, just as you need a microscope to trace Victor Moses in the stands whenever Liverpool is playing. The same can be said of Shola Ameobi in Newcastle.
For Victor Anichebe it is an injury jinx that has kept him out of the West Brom starting line up. While Mata has played 11 out of 26 matches this season, what can we say of Kenneth Omeruo, whose continued stay at Chelsea will not see him kicking a ball all season?
Since his World Cup qualifying match injury we are not in position to determine the recovery history of Obinna Nsofor.
Joseph Akpala tops the list of those who, within touch of the promised land will not be able to enter therein, no thanks to injury in a game where anything can happen at any time.
Let us assume that Mata will move to another quality club and get quality playing time, pray what will be the fate of our unsettled stars?
Without sounding pessimistic, this is the herculean hurdle lying ahead of the Eagles Gaffer.
While hosting a powerful delegation of the award winning radio station Brilla FM recently, we got to talking sports and the World Cup occupied pride of place. I argued during our meeting that Coach Keshi cannot afford to be sentimental while picking his soldiers for the World Cup war. That he cannot say because a player helped him to qualify for the World Cup, that player is Brazil bound, even when he has lost form, is not fit and match rusty.
Larry Izamoje, Brila Chief executive then put me in a spot. His statement was “ I agree with you, but where are the replacements, where are the alternatives to fall back on?” this is the dilemma of our situation. It therefore means that more than ever before we must commence a strict monitoring, counseling and tracking of our players.
We should be able to tell an Ideye as an example that if he is not sure of a sound movement he should stay put at Dynamo Kyev and give it his all.
These six months will be key in the life of all World Cup aspirants. Regrettably most of our stars are playing in lower leagues in Europe, yet this is not the time to bemoan our fate. Our concern for now is to try and guarantee their fitness and regularity in every club they find themselves because by March, (just two months hence) Stephen Keshi will be required to pen down members of his World Cup army and those selected will be expected to be in their various trenches, doing regular battle in the war field that football is played.
See you next week.