By Paul Bassey

There was no way I was going to write my column this week without commenting on an issue that descended from the blues and spread like wild bush fire.

Two weeks ago, when I first got wind of it, I decided to use Sportsplash programme on LTV 7 to dispel the rumour and call on all concerned to please avoid distractions and allow peace to reign given the onerous task ahead of us.

The rumour was that the Nigeria Football Federation through the Technical Committee had perfected plans to hire a “ Foreign Technical Assistant” for Stephen Keshi and that Keshi had rejected the move, yet the NFF was hell bent on forcing the “man” on him.

I was forced to go to Godwin Enakhena’s programme to say that the Technical Committee met about ten days before CHAN to review Coach Keshi’s plans for the competition, and look ahead to the World Cup.

During that meeting, which was very cordial and far reaching, we asked Stephen Keshi what we could do to help him deliver the world cup without hitches. We asked him whether he needed some assistants to help him tactically and even in the area of players’ fitness. He asked “from where”, and we said he could source them from anywhere. He then said he did not need any, but that he will appreciate Sylvanus Okpalla and Ogugua the video analyst.

There and then The Chairman told him why he may not get Sylvanus and that he was free to pick any other coach from anywhere. Note here that at no time did anyone talk of “foreign assistant”.

By the way, why should Keshi insist on Sylvanus when he knows better? I quote Lagos SWAN “.. it is also crucial that the institutional authority and discipline within the organization of the NFF be respected and maintained…”

Keshi has never been to the World Cup. I have been a member of the FIFA Delegation to two World Cups and I shared with him the benefit of my experience. I told him how on a pre-tournament visit to the Brazilian Camp in Marseille, France, I was amazed at the quality and quantity of the backroom and technical staff and that I do not think he can go to the World Cup with only two coaches.

He said he had heard and would get back to us.

When the rumour broke, over six weeks after the issue had been discussed and trashed, I came out to say  repeatedly that there was no way the NFF was going to force a coach on Keshi. If they did, he can turn such a man to a glorified ball boy. It will not just work.

First it was the issue of the NFF employing a technical director to boss Keshi, now it is a “foreign technical assistant” when he needed none.

I do not want to discard the story that the so called Friends Of Keshi (FOK) capitalized on insinuations that because we did not do well at CHAN, the NFF was disposed to revisiting the assistants issue, and have gone to the press to “preempt the move” with twisted tales to curry public sympathy to the detriment of the NFF.

I did say that at the meeting in question, deliberations were very cordial and the Super Eagles coach appreciated the efforts and support he has gotten from the Aminu Maigari led board in the discharge of his duties.

I symphatise with all those who jump at any opportunity to snap at the NFF when Stephen Keshi is the topic. The same people have not cared to wonder why Keshi has the penchant of travelling abroad without the consent or permission of his employers. The same people who have not cared to wonder why Keshi did not go to CHAN with the best legs in the league and has so far not submitted the technical report of CHAN.

Has the NFF the power to query Keshi? ‘NO’ if they do, Nigerians will pick up arms and crucify them.

“What has Sylvanus Okpalla done? He should be recalled….” In the same vein can the Technical Committee in the interest of Nigeria ask Keshi to reconsider his stand on I.K Uche, Osaze, Anichebe and all those players who are not worse than Balotelli and are capable of making the difference in Brazil come June? “NO”, “Leave Keshi alone”, “He knows best”…. these are the drum beats of destruction and I do not want to belong to the “I told you so” group.

I have never served any NFA regime in my life. When Alhaji Maigari and Barrister Green persuaded me to come on board, I vowed to give it my all, thanks to their belief that I could add value to their tenure. So far, no regrets. While waiting  to one day tell the story of our contributions to date, like Alhaji Maigari I also want to be able to say that I was a member of the Technical Committee when Nigeria for the first time qualified for the quarter final….the semi final….of the world cup. Keshi’s success will therefore be to my glory, so I am condemned to support him.

Now that the NFF has come out to lay to rest the issue of the employment of a “foreign technical assistant”, I hope we can be allowed to express our personal view points. That even the best of teams and the best of coaches do not win World Cups, hence the need for all hands to be on deck for us to achieve success.

I believe and strongly too that Stephen Keshi needs all the help he can muster to do well at the World Cup. Westerhof knew this much and went for Johanes Bonfrere. Siasia had a Kalika whom he paid from his pocket. Keshi will be greatly short staffed IF he goes to the World Cup with ONLY Amokachi and Ike Shorunmu. I am begging him in the names of all those he holds dear to reconsider his stand and shop for one or two coaches that will add value to his fledgling team, a team which according to him is still “work in progress”.Coach Stephen Keshi has done much for this country and we love and appreciate him for it. But who says he cannot do more?

……Messed up by Arik, Aero Contractors

I was in Abuja Monday, February 10 for the inauguration of sub committees of the 19th National Sports Festival. Tuesday, Feb 11 by 9.30 am I had a visa appointment at the Egyptian Embassy ( CAF in their wisdom have appointed me the General Co-ordinatior for the CAF Super Cup holding this Thursday in Cairo )while I was to see the NFF President by 11 am, before travelling to Calabar on an Arik air flight W3503 by 2.05 pm for the inspection of festival facilities.

Monday night, I got this STRANGE TEXT that Arik had moved the 2.05pm flight to 10am. YES 10am. This was unbelievable but true! I have heard of flights delay and so on, moving a flight from 2pm to10 am? Incredible. And this was the only flight to Calabar. Needless to tell you how they completely ruined my programmes and destabilized my movements.

As if that was not all, I had been invited by Chrisland School, VGC as one of their special guests for their Inter House Sports holding in the school on Friday, February 14 by 11 am. The earliest flight out of Calabar to Lagos was 3pm, so I decided to drive all the way to Uyo where there was a  9.30 am flight to Lagos, believing that it was good enough time to hit Lagos and drive straight to VGC.

That night, another strange text, that Aero had moved their 9.30am flight to 12.25pm! What a country! I quickly sent the unfortunate text to Mrs. Georgie Azike, Chrisland Head Teacher, and still promised to try and catch up.

To cut a long story short, the Aero flight arrived Uyo by 1.00pm, and did not take off till about 1.50pm to arrive Lagos about 3pm!…..too late to drive to VGC.

I plead with readers to react to this… especially the lawyers.

See you next week.

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