September 7, 2015

When goalkeeper is Man of the Match


Carl Ikeme

For a lot of personal reasons, I would have  loved to keep Saturdays result and performance of the Super Eagles in Dar es Salaam to myself, but not so readers of this column.

Twenty minutes into the match, I started receiving phone calls and text messages….

“…Are we playing well?”

No we are not.

“We are not playing well”

No we are not

Carl Ikeme

Carl Ikeme

“Who is that wearing nos 10 jersey?”

Sorry I don’t know him

“Are we likely to win this match?”

Yes we may win

“Can this team beat Egypt”

This team, no”

I did not mind the text messages. Those who chose to call tended to distract me, but in this business where Readers are also kings, I had little choices but to pick my calls and explain that yes this was Oliseh’s baptism of fire, that most of the players were playing together for the first time, therefore their uncoordinated play was expected(?)

“Was he expected to build an entirely new team. Could he not have built on the foundation already laid?”

My answer was yes and no. Especially as regards those that hold the view that there was no team in place when Oliseh took over.

“Who was to score goals for us? Oliseh had said in the media that he did not need certain key players. Was this not an admission that Tanzania was not going to be a problem? How come we were suffering the way we did? “

Thank God and Ikeme that we did not lose. This match will definitely tell Oliseh a lot about coaching at that level and how it is necessary to use the best legs you have and reduce the number of unknown players “that you want to see….”

I get very temperamental with those who say “……..there are no more minnows in football”….of course there are. Chad and Tanzania are minnows in African football. So are Uganda, South Africa…..The power houses? Cameroun, Ghana, Senegal, Egypt, Morrocco, Cote D’ivoire, Algeria….Yes, Algeria who beat Lesotho 3-1 away at the weekend. We cannot say that when football is believed to be developing in their climes, we have remained static for them to come and catch up with us. Tanzania for the records are 140 in the world by FIFA rankings.

Saturday was not good enough. For the goalkeeper to be man of the match means the defence was in tatters. How can I forget the 12th minute, when Samatta made a mess of Obiora and Kwambe before unleashing a shot that goalkeeper Ikeme stretched to save? That was the story of the match.

When the draw of the Nations Cup was made, I went to sleep. For me, it was a direct competition with the Pharaohs of Egypt and the results garnered against Chad and Tanzania was to help us decide our fate against Egypt that is why, even when we beat Chad 2-0 in Kaduna a lot of Nigerians still took the result with a pinch of salt.

We did not need to play well in Tanzania to win. We needed to win at all cost. That we did not may come back to haunt us. We are a great African team. Ghana won at away against Rwanda so did Senegal, 2-0 over Namibia,……

As earlier said, even if we had lost, ( Thank God and Ikeme we did not) there are millions of Nigerians who would have found one excuse or the other, including yours truly, to explain away why the draw is a “good” result.

The reality however is that it is a result that has sent the Tanzanians dancing with joy because they never expected to do so well against Nigeria, it is a result that has set us back two points, one that has made us start the catch up race too early in the competition because Egypt returned to the top of the group table after defeating Chad 5-1 in N’Djamena.

“Hello, is that Ighallo, Hello Iheanacho….Moses, this is Coach Oliseh calling just checking on you. I hope all is well……….”

That Okagbare injury

Wonders they say, will never end.When  Blessing Okagbare crashed at the 100 metres final of the World Championships in China, they (Okagbare and AFN) came out with the injury excuse that prevented her from taking part in the 200 metres and the 100 metres relay.

The drama was extended to the All Africa Games when she was withdrawn, I believe due to “injury”

Then came the Diamond League in Switzerland and our dear Okagbare appeared live, healed, perfectly healed to be able to clinch a second place finish in a blistering time of 10.98 seconds.
This miracle, calls for an investigation.
See you next week.