The Victoria Hotel camp of the Super Eagles in Campinas, Brazil, is surrounded by Brazilians hanging to catch a glimpse of the African Champions while security men armed to the teeth but friendly keep surveillance.

Hordes of Journalists mingle outside as cameramen struggle for vintage positions to get pictures.

Training time is at hand Chelsea baby face, Mikel Obi is first to appear and sporadic shouts of Mikel, Mikel   rent the air.

He acknowledges the cheers and moves straight into the luxury air-condition Marcopolo. Other players file out as shouts of Osaze are loud. The Stoke City player stopsbriefly and signs autographs and takes pictures with the Brazilians and jumps into the bus. The traffic is tight as motorists under the supervision of security officials stop to take a glimpse of the players.

While this lasts, there is no sign of any Executive member of the Nigeria Football Federation. At their training base, too, the coaching crew and backroom staff hold sway. It becomes apparent that all is not well. Investigations reveal that all Executive members of the NFF are not staying in the same hotel with the players.

We don’t want to be blamed for, or accused of distractions    , a close source said off-handedly. Further investigations revealed that both the Technical Committee members and the NFF were staying far away in Sao Paulo, a distance of 1hr 30 minutes by road to avoid being accused of sabotaging coach Stephen Keshi. Funny!

We knew what happened when we guided him in South Africa during the African Cup of Nations which Nigeria won. Top Government officials breathed down on us in a manner that ridiculed us before our employees. This time around, nobody will accuse us of interference    , another source said.

The love-hate relationship, no doubt, has had a toll in the performance of the Super Eagles in their first match that many thought the Eagles would stroll over Iran. The Stephen Keshi-led team had assumed larger than life posture before now. In South Africa, the federation called meetings to sort out problems. They agreed and sometimes disagreed.

When the cup was won all credit went to Keshi whose actions the federation claimed painted them in bad light before Nigerians and the government. The federation appears to have learnt some lessons. They are leaving Keshi alone to call all shots, take all decisions about his team selection and training.

No more suggestions on players or questions on why their performances in the field. The coach takes responsibility for results, good or bad. That is the situation here. The resultant effects is that there is no more check and balance in the team. One NFF member put it this way:

When the list of players to the World Cup were being compiled, we wanted to make an input for the betterment of the team. We were restrained by talks of interference and also falsely accused that we had interests in players we wanted to smuggle into the team. We are keeping our distance to allow peace to reign    .

Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi gives a press conference at the Baixada Arena in Curitiba on June 15, 2014, on the eve of their Group F 2014 FIFA World Cup football match against Iran. AFP PHOTO

The aloofness of Keshi’s employers, no doubt, may spell a disastrous outing for Nigeria  s campaign in the World Cup if the team does not beat Bosnia and restore its chances of progressing into the second round. The non inclusion of Ike Uche, a Nigerian who was at the best of his game scoring goals for his club is still hunting the Eagles. The blunt attack that shied away from the Iranian defence could have been different if we had an attacker in the mold of Ike Uche to compliment with Osaze.

Osaze in the eyes of many brought vim and vitality to the Eagles, but Keshi disparaged him for not playing to instructions. We began to ask what instructions to a man who fired shots at goal and disturbed the Iranian defence the way others failed to do? If, indeed, Osaze did not play to instructions, it is possible that those other players who put up epileptic performances played to the instruction of the coach.

What a pity! There are grumblings in camp that one of the assistant coaches is the brain behind some of the woes of the national team at the on-going World Cup. The said coach was said to have bought the soul of Keshi that even when he is trading with the team he feigns ignorance.

Before the final list of players was made public, I learnt that many counseled him to no avail.   We tried to impress on Keshi the dangers in some of his decisions but he believed he knows it all and the Press would always be by his side. It became the case of the employer turning to an employee    .

When the players clamoured for the tapes of Iranian team  s matches to prepare for the game, nobody listened to them because the coaches felt the Asians were no threats.. So, Nigeria went to the game blindly and we all saw the result.

Now, Oboabona and Gabriel Reuben are out of the games; Omeruo is just managing and we have as substitutes such players as Babatunde Michael, Michael Uchebo, Azubuike Egwuekwe and Kunle Odunlami. The expectations are better imagined than openly predicted. Time will tell.

 

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