Categories: Football, Social, Sports Development
Written By: Olusegun Odegbami
This page was missing last week.
Last Thursday, to my utter consternation, my lap top would not boot after I turned it on. That was when I realized how vulnerable I have become to modern technology. I am now enslaved to my lap top and my telephone. Between them they hold my life in a strangulating vice. They have become my inseparable companions accompanying me everywhere like triplets. When one breaks down, as did my lap top, I become lost, realising rather shockingly how totally dependent I have become on these two ‘innocent’ toys that now rule over my life. As the night wore on and I became desperate, with time ticking slowly but steadily towards the deadline for submission of my page, my helplessness became so agonizing I fell ill. I was sleepless through the night and had to surrender as dawn broke to the elements. I could not help the situation.
Meanwhile, so much drama in sports was exploding around the world, everyone screaming for my comment and even intervention in a few cases – the search for a new coach for the Super Eagles was approaching a dramatic climax even as some of us wondered how NFF officials were going to get away with what was obviously looking more and more like a play on the intelligence of Nigerians by selling them ‘reconditioned’ ordinary foreign coaches in the washed cloaks of great coaches; the ugly stories of Nigerian athletes training abroad who, starved of funds, have turned into beggars on the streets of Atlanta and elsewhere; the resignation of Nigeria’s influential basketball captain on the eve of the teams greatest challenge after qualifying for the Olympics; the EFCC’s renewed interest in investigating funds previously allocated to sports from COJA 2003 till the present that need prying into as is on-going in other sectors to fish out the thieves in the ongoing fight against corruption; the global doping scandals that threaten to destroy the Olympic movement if not handled carefully and justly, and that also reminds Nigerians of their own experiences with doping and how one such case inspired a Nigerian to prove the world wrong by winning Nigeria’s first ever Olympic Gold medal, four years after an unjust ban; and so on and so on.
Those were the things playing on my mind last Thursday.
Since then there have been several developments.
The President of Nigeria, Muhammed Buhari, hosted part of the Nigerian delegation going to the Olympics and announced the release of the funds that should have been released eons ago to make training of the athletes and Nigeria’s quest for medals both meaningful and realizable. His remarks during the event clearly showed he was not taken in by the empty promises of officials that Nigerians should expect a haul of medals now that funds have been released. There is nothing like that on the cards. Medals are not won by fire brigade, last minute, funding of preparations to the Olympics. Winning a medal at such games requires proper scripting, planning and disciplined execution of programs for between 6 to 8 years of dedicated hard work and plenty of good luck. Nigeria has not done anything since London 2010 to even justify winning a wooden medal not to talk of Bronze, Silver or Gold.
Some officials must know some things the rest of us do not to be making such promises. They did so in the past and got away with not delivering anything. This time, it is a different government and a different mentality. Questions will be asked and people required to account for their deeds and promises. So, I wonder what would happen when the team returns in August and Nigerians see clearly that this is another ride, another jamboree, another wasteful adventure of a country expecting to reap fruits of metal when it had only planted seeds of wood!
President Buhari got it right when in his remarks to the delegates he did not raise expectations beyond the level of the Olympic Games’ mantra that participation is more important and more rewarding than winning. He urged the athletes to be good ambassadors by competing fairly and cleanly, and warned officials that those that do not have any official business with the team should not attempt to go to Rio. It is the clearest warning yet it will not be business as usual and that accounts will be rendered after Rio 2016!
The matter of the NFF and its ordained foreign coach was another matter. After abysmal past failures of foreign coaches, financial wastage by officials, and rejection of the notion that only a foreign coach can succeed in Nigeria, the idea of a foreign coach was revived and, with the active support of a select media, successfully sold again to Nigerians in a well-packaged arrangement to cover the eyes of Nigerians with wool and install a foreign coach.
This plot with a hidden agenda blew up in the faces of the NFF officials who designed it when French man, Le Guen, for one reason or the other, decided to abandon the scripted plot by inserting a condition into the NFF’s offer that would never be accepted by any Nigerian – to manage the Nigerian Super Eagles from his home in France. It was such an insult that the NFF rushed to distance themselves from the man, and were left holding onto the straw of a plot that went awry. I am just now thinking through the whole shenanigans of a process that was deliberately skewed to achieve a pre-determined result. Why did the NFF make Nigerians go through a wasteful and distractive process of ‘faking’ a short-listing process, organizing an interview session of the selected coaches by Skype, and announcing their final choice only for the man to turn around and reject the offer less than 24 hours after? It is preposterous, mischievous and very suspicious. The NFF are now forced to quickly revert back to their initial vomit. They have offered the only Nigerian they also ‘screened’ and offered the politically toothless and cosmetic position of Chief Coach before Le Guen threw his bombshell. He is now to handle the team in an interim position until a new foreign coach is found!
Oh, how I wish the deal came through. How I wanted to see how the NFF would have managed to raise funds to pay the foreign coach when they could not pay local coaches well and on time, and how they would have handled the failure of the Eagles to qualify for the 2018 with another foreign journey-man coach in charge. With all due respect to him, and at the cost of courting his enmity for speaking my mind (but the truth has to be told nevertheless), the man now saddled with the responsibility to handle the national team, does not deserve it. Compared to other coaches available in the country, has not earned it, and obviously does not have the stature, the records, the knowledge, the exposure and the credentials t o manage a big team like the Super Eagles. When Nigeria fails to qualify for the 2018 World Cup as a result of this mediocre handling of a serious matter of manager of the Super Eagles probably the government would see the need to take a closer look at the whole issue of football and rescue it from the grip of well-intentioned but undeserving persons that have held the jugular of sports for several years since one Amos Adamu changed its face by mortgaging its future to the lure of lucre!
That’s why I was missing last weekend. Forgive me.