By Paul Bassey
I have been told that Coach Oliseh has attributed the loss in Rwanda to the non-payment of allowances to players and officials.
A reader disagrees.
Blame it on the white jerseys that the players wore on the day. Before you laugh off this belief, how can you explain the fact that we triumphed against Niger and held Tunisia to a one goal draw wearing green jerseys and when we had to play Guinea wearing white, we fluffed?
I know a lot of Nigerians who swear that when it comes to white as the colour for the national teams, we are doomed to fail. No amount of statistics, of the number of times we have triumphed wearing white will sway them.
During the Nations Cup in South Africa, I was approached by some officials who wanted my intervention in getting our recommended white jerseys changed to green since it did not clash with the opposition.
Last Tuesday as the match was going on, I got a mail from Nigeria from a reader of this column, wondering why we were using white. My reply was simple, that all we needed was a draw, that Guinea will not stop us from progressing and besides the myth about white jerseys does not hold water with me.
I wonder why Felix Ukpong has not written back to reinforce his “white theory” in an “I told you so manner”
Let the above serve as a distraction as we settle down to more serious issues.
Another reader F. Chigbufue (08033236649) sent a text.
“ Paul in Vanguard yesterday you refused to accept this team as Team B. Do you still maintain that stand? I am sure we could have done better. I hope you (?) qualify for Nations Cup.”
I replied that we were horrible and did not deserve to win.
He sent another text “ well, it would appear you were a bit hasty in your judgement yesterday. However Amaju and his board have their hands full and now the foreign based boys will bluff. I pity Oliseh”
Yes Oliseh has to be pitied from the point where he was to use this competition to discover talents in an era where there is lack of quality out there, talking about “foreign boys”
Pity Oliseh, and indeed Nigeria who needed this competition to shore up enough FIFA points to increase our ranking, going into the draw for the World Cup qualifiers etc.
Big, big disappointment, if you ask me. It is foolhardy to expect a team to win always. It is the manner of defeat that is key. Last Tuesday the Eagles did not do anything to deserve even the point we were talking about. The Guineans were hungrier. They probed, they fought, they jumped, kicked and contested every ball especially in the second half in which we thought the Eagles will come out with the full realization of what was at stake.
Let us look at this bonus issue.
After the match against Tunisia, I went to the Eagles dressing room where Coach Oliseh drew me aside and discussed the bonus issue and how the boys have been going on without any payments from the Federation.
I told him it was unfortunate, that we will work on it, but that for now he should let the boys know that results on the field were key, more so, when other Nigerian teams have gone on to do well and win trophies under the same circumstances!
We also discussed the need to keep it away from the media as they were likely to blow it out of proportion and he promised to do so. You can therefore imagine how surprised I was when I heard that not only did the coach tell the media this much, but attributed our failure to the non-payment of bonuses and allowances to the boys.
Let us get one thing clear. The sooner we learn from the disaster of Brazil, the better. Why for God’s sake should we pay players bonuses in the thick of competition? Here is a team whose transportation, accommodation and feeding, ( three square meals in a five star hotel) is guaranteed for the four weeks that the competition will run. Here is a team that got $10,000 dollars from the League Management Committee. If I may ask, Bonuses, for what? The LMC appreciation was enough to complement what ever they needed outside the basic requirements.
How can a serious team , how can professional players say the non-payment of bonuses affected their form on the field of play? I wish they had complained that the NFF did not create an enabling environment for them to prepare for the competition. Oliseh should realize that his boys let him down on the day, period. And since coaches collect all the accolades when their teams excel, and carry the can when they fail, he should just accept blame and move on.
In a country where millions of workers are groaning under the weight of unpaid salaries, this bonus and allowance excuse is weird, queer, untenable and unacceptable. The NFF was quick enough to apologise to Nigerians. Oliseh and his boys should do the same. We will accept and forgive them and move forward.
The NFF, Barrister Chris Green and his “new” technical Development Committee and Coach Oliseh should however realize that this is a call to action if we must qualify for the Nations Cup and the World Cup. Henceforth all hands must be on deck. This is about Nigeria and we owe this great football playing country a dignified and sustained place on the podium of continental and global football activity.
See you next week.