By Paul Bassey
It has become a tradition for columnists to take stock of the year just gone in relation to expectations in the new year.
In Nigeria, I find this quite boring because we end writing and saying the same things every year in a country where sport is measured by the success or otherwise of football.
Last year, traditionally, the various sports federations failed to live up to expectations in terms of competitions and programmes, especially grass roots and developmental programmes aimed at replenishing our faded stock.
Perhaps I should not bore us with the NFF victory songs in age group competitions. My happiness is that presently, we have such a credible pool of world class junior talent ( Under 17s, 20s and 23s) who if well managed and tracked will guarantee a quality future for our football even for many years.There are those who will tell you that the Super Eagles is the McCoy and until we qualify for the World Cup in Russia and the Nations Cup in Gabon all success stories will be taken with a pinch of salt, so much that even the Super Eagles appearance in the Championship of African Nations ( CHAN) is not attracting the respect it deserves.
CHAN was a brain wave of the Hayatou regime, a credible opportunity for those players who ply their trade in Africa to get a window to ventilate their talent. CAF discovered that some African football power houses like Nigeria, Cote D’ivoire, Cameroun, Ghana, always come to the Nations Cup made up hundred per cent by players who are based abroad.
The tactical mentality was so horrible that no matter how good you were in the domestic scene, you will be sidelined for somebody who plays “abroad”
There was a popular joke in Todaysports Newsroom then that if you wanted to be noticed by Eagles Coaches, all you needed do was to pack your boots and go and play in Benin Republic!
Did I hear Yaya Toure complain? That CAF was unfair not to have considered his exploits in the African continent? I hope the Technical and Media Directors of CAF will take time out to explain once more how the awards work. It is NOT a CAF decision, but one that rests squarely on the perceptions of national team coaches spread across Africa. There is no doubt that some subjective decisions will creep in here and there and until a superior modus operandi is designed we will have to bear for now. Besides show me that award that has the one hundred percent acceptance of all concerned.
Apart from football, Let me not end this piece without commending one or two Federations, Wrestling, Wellington Jigere of Scrabble and basketball to a lesser degree for giving us cause to jubilate in the year just gone.
2016 will be the year of great expectations, especially in the Olympics that we have so far done nothing about. Did Okocha say no Nigerian player deserved the CAF award. ( For the first time no Nigerian woman won a CAF award . Shame.). I agree totally. 2016 will therefore be a pregnant year for our football and President Pinnick and his lieutenants are the midwives we expect to guarantee safe delivery.This year we will pray for track and field to return to the international podium after so many years in the doldrums. Track and field was our succor when football messed up. 2016 will be the year our new sports minister would have been grounded in the day to day running of his onerous task, so much that he will not be hoodwinked into taking decisions that run contrary to the very spirit of dynamic rules and regulations governing our different sports federations. We pray for him.
This year our CAF Cup representatives must be ready to put behind them the disaster of 2015, although what I hear from their camps is nothing to write home about as regards preparations.
This year may death and disaster flee from the sports family. The murder of Ibrahim Abubakar was one shock that has refused to go away. This is a man that I knew personally and intimately one who was a professional to the core and who by nature of his work picked his phone even by the wee hours of the morning to offer help in a country where embassies often times play good to the detriment of travelling teams and sportsmen men and women. Adieu Ibrahim, Adieu.
See you next week