By Paul Bassey
Yes I did not. You may want to ask, “so what?” Exactly. For one reason or another, Columnists fail to write regularly. I try as much as possible to tell my bosses (Onochie and Tony) in advance, so that they can help me apologise to my readers.
Last week I got entangled in travelling logistics as I was heading for my CAF inspection assignment, so I could not meet my deadline. Got a couple of texts and mails, especially from this this reader, who sent a text saying “ You did not write today”. I replied that I did not and apologized.
“ If I knew, I would not have bought the paper”
That it was after he got home that he found out that I did not write. Again I apologized.
The series of text messages took a strange twist when Godwin Iloh went further to say that with all the “confusion going on in our house of football, I was anxious to read your version of the story…..”
Dear Godwin Iloh, I would have disappointed you. If I had written last week, I would have written on the failure of our U17 women team to go past the quarter final of the World Cup in Costa Rica.
Whatever “confusion” people believe is going on in the house of football, is the creation of the media, anxious to unearth and sell “confusion” because “confusion” sells like hot cake.
Imagine a journalist daring to blame the NFF for querying Coach Keshi! People have been sacked for coming late to work!
Anyway, back to the issue of the day. I feel more pained by the ouster of the girls because throughout the time they played I had to stay awake from 3am to watch them. I remember the very first night, how I was busy exchanging text messages with President Maigari, Barristers Green and Musa, till the wee hours of the morning when the match ended.
The match against Spain was like a dream. Suddenly, I did not recognise the Nigerian girls. They were as purposeless as the bench, bereft of ideas and the disgrace was telling, in a competition where certain girls from Venezuela, played like Trojans all the way, so much that even in defeat, you had no choice than to commend them.
I want to go a bit back in time to 1991, when FIFA staged the first ever Women Championship in China PR. Of course, I was there, live. Reporting for Champion Newspapers, one of the first ever journalist world wide to be accredited by FIFA to cover the women game.
Those were the days of Ann Chiejine, Omo Love Branch, Chioma Ajunwa, Florence Omagbemi and Rachael Yamaha. I remember also Nkiru Okosieme, Rita Nwadike and Mavis Ogun among others.
In a group that had Germany,Italy and Chinese Taipei, though we did not win a match nor score a single goal, we left China with high hopes of a brighter future for our women game. Today, more than 23 years after, we keep on qualifying from Africa but with no change in sight. In fact in the last three years, the Women Game has taken an inexplicable plunge.
In 2002, FIFA introduced the U20 cadre and again Nigeria has qualified for all editions till date. I will always appreciate Egan Edat for taking us to the final in 2010 and Edwin Okon for the semi final feat of 2012, yet when you look at the manner we lost those matches, you will wonder why.
Then came the U17 competition in 2008 and again Nigeria has been in all the four editions so far with nothing to show for it. Time there was when I was a serial critic of the NFF for not affording our teams enough preparations in terms of friendly matches and campings. Who, can raise a finger against the Maigari Board? This is a regime that goes borrowing to get teams adequately prepared for major competitions.
The U17 team in focus is a classic example. ( Already, the male U17 and U20 teams are in the thick of preparations for their up coming preparations, thanks to the NFF ) when therefore I hear things like “The NFF must give the team all the support…….” It gets on my nerves. Let any Coach since the Maigari regime came into power stand up and tell me that he or she did not receive any support or cooperation from the NFF. Yet when failure knocks NFF is always the whipping boy. When coaches mess up, NFF must be the scape goat.
The weeks just gone by has been very interesting in the history of the game. Barrister Green and Alhaji Muazu, board members all, have just come back from a high level match Commissioners course in Cairo where Electronic Management and Club licensing system coupled with match evolvement and organization was extensively discussed.
President Maigari, his Secretary General and Dr Ikpeme were in South Africa for a high level FIFA/CAF seminar on Current Reforms and standards in football governance, Optimising the benefits of FIFA’s development programmes and the Role of the Technical Director.
According to FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, the ultimate aim of such high level seminars is to see an African team soon reach The World Cup final.
Intellectual input, information in a game that has become highly scientific and ………..yet when these informed and highly educated officials want to sit down and add value to a game they have been schooled in, the man on the street shouts “interference” and the echo resounds on the roof of ignorance.
In my four years as technical committee member of the NFF, no coach has presented us with a sound technical report of his programmes and plans. Worse , are post match reports. You go for a match or competition, come back and the Technical Department writes to you to present a report, you dodge and before you know it, the press has been told to preach the ….gospel of “interference” If you do not present a post competition report, how do we progress? How do we react and preempt future occurrence?
But for the Falcons Coach Okon who tried something last year, I REPEAT that No Nigerian coach has been able to give us detailed report of pre and post match analyses. Worse are competition programmes, yet those who have gone to school, who want to help ameliorate the standard of football in their country are told to “ back off”.
It will not happen because they will not. they have the responsibility of organising football here and so far they have succeeded immensely.
When next the Technical Committee meets the U17 women coach should be summoned to explain how he wasted our time and money to lead us to the altar of disgrace. All the coaches preparing for competitions should come and present their programmes and tell us how they want to go about prosecuting them. We cannot allow coaches to do what they please, after they fail, we now step in and “sack them” No, that is defeatist. We should not sit on the fence and wait for the “I told you so” declaration. We should help them to succeed.
The era of “God willing” is gone. Heavens help those who help themselves.
See you next week