By Nurudeen Obalola:
Sunday Oliseh and the Nigeria Football Federation are in a cat and mouse relationship. But they must find a way to work together to achieve some success.
Even Tom and Jerry sometimes unite to fight a common enemy, although they rarely see eye to eye.
The NFF is obviously Tom the big, bad, sneaky cat in this relationship, who spends most of his time looking to catch the slippery, mischievous, not-altogether-innocent mouse (Oliseh).
Tom and Jerry are hardly ever friends with each other but they live in the same house and sometimes have to work together to protect that house.
It is time for the NFF and Oliseh to unite i the fight against a common enemy: Egypt.
No excuses will be acceptable if they somehow bungle their latest target: qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
The NFF/Oliseh face-off appeared to be a thing of the past until on Wednesday when the football body issued a strong warning to the Super Eagles coach to desist from disrespecting them in future.
Perhaps it was a good thing that the home-based Super Eagles team crashed out early from the African Nations Championship in Rwanda. That early exit turned out to be some kind of blessing in disguise as it led to the open confrontation between the two parties.
If the team had defied everything and gone on to win the tournament or get to the semi-finals, there would not have been Oliseh’s initial outcry about the appalling conditions his players were playing under.
If they had succeeded at the tournament, there would not have been any need for Oliseh to tell the whole world that his players sometimes went without proper meals and were owed allowances and bonuses by the smooth-talking NFF officials.
Issues like that usually get swept under the carpet in Nigeria as the euphoria of success kicks in. Nobody cares how you did it, so long as you did it.
But failure led to an inquest, and the inquest opened a can of worms. The team failed because they were not properly motivated. No money, no food was equal to no success. It was all on the NFF.
At that point, even when some still felt the Eagles should have done better in Rwanda in spite of the drawbacks, Oliseh had won some sympathy with the majority of Nigerians.
Many Nigerians know how difficult it is to work without getting paid, so they empathised with Oliseh and his boys.
But then Oliseh conspired to lose the ground he had gained by releasing that cringeworthy, ill-advised YouTube video that completely wiped off all the goodwill he had gained.
While the former Super Eagles captain was justified in asking for his entitlements and that his players should be treated fairly, he should not be the one ranting against criticism.
Apart from the fact that for high-profile jobs like his, criticism – both constructive and destructive – comes with the territory, it was rather hypocritical of Oliseh to rail against his critics.
Oliseh did a fair bit of television punditry before he got the Eagles job, and he had a field day criticising the performance of coaches. He surely would not have been pleased if someone like Stephen Keshi or Samson Siasia called him ‘insane’ for daring to criticise them while they were on the hot seat.
Now Oliseh must realise that the best course to take is to embrace criticism and use it as inspiration as he seeks to become a successful coach.
Because, right now, he is far from being one. As a matter of fact, he still has a long way to go to earn that ‘successful’ tag.
Oliseh sounded a bit boastful in the video, highlighting that he has lost only one competitive match in 14. But, to be honest, he has not won any real big, important match, given that the victory against Cameroun was a friendly.
And that one defeat in 14 competitive games was very costly, the one that led to elimination from CHAN, the tournament Oliseh dismisses as insignificant.
Before Oliseh can start exhibiting arrogance, he has to win stuff first. The likes of Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho have been tolerated over the years despite their sometimes obnoxious personality because they won stuff.
They get away with pretty much everything because they are serial winners; they have success to back up their arrogance.
Sir Alex once scoffed at the FA Cup and not many eyebrows were raised. Why? Because he had already won bigger trophies: the Premier League, the Cup Winners Cup, the Champions League.
Mourinho once mocked Rafael Benitez for winning the Europa League just because Jose had already won the bigger Champions League twice.
Before Oliseh can derisively dismiss CHAN, he must win something equivalent or bigger.
He will be on the right path to earning that arrogance if he overcomes Egypt and leads the Super Eagles to Africa Cup of Nations qualification.
It is time to take all the positives there are in the recent events to use as weapons against the fearsome Pharaohs.
Right now, Nigerians are most concerned about getting to the Promised Land of AFCON. We just have to pass through Egypt. The NFF and Oliseh must make it happen.
LAGOS IS BACK IN BUSINESS!
It’s almost impossible to replicate those good old days when Lagos was the hub of all things sports in Nigeria.
Everything happened in Lagos and at one time the Centre of Excellence had four big top flight clubs: the uber-popular Stationery Stores plus Julius Berger, ACB and NEPA. No weekend was complete without a big match at Onikan Stadium. People did not even mind watching just one part of the pitch from the bridge overlooking the compact stadium.
Then, with the unfortunate demise of the great Flaming Flamingoes and the disappearance of Julius Berger and the others, Lagos gradually became a sporting ghost town. Even national team games were no longer played before the ultra-supportive yet critical Lagos crowd.
But life is gradually returning to the state of aquatic splendour. Like the proverbial London buses where you wait forever for one and two turn up at the same time, Lagos now has two clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
When nobody was looking, Mountain of Fire and Miracles FC and Ikorodu United sneaked up from the Nigeria National League to the top league, giving Lagosians a double dose of excitement.
Now, Lagosians are almost guaranteed at least one Premier League match every weekend, starting from this weekend. So Enyimba, Rangers, Shooting Stars, Kano Pillars, Sunshine Stars and Heartland will visit Lagos twice each this season alone. If that is not exciting, I don’t know what is.
So, there are absolutely no excuses now for not watching Nigerian football, Lagos people. The best clubs in Nigeria are playing right under your noses.
Complete Sports Nigerian league guru Sab Osuji and I normally joke around in the office that I will be the Chairman of the proposed Epe United in honour of my hometown. But in the absence of Epe United, I will support our neighbours, Ikorodu United, for now.
Obviously, there is a lot of love for MFM too, especially as it is run by our colleague Godwin Enakhena.
Here’s hoping both Lagos clubs do not just survive in the tough top flight, that they thrive and do a Leicester and cause a big stir in the NPFL.
Lagos people will also not forget in a hurry the huge buzz around the state created by the recently held Lagos City marathon.
The race, which attracted elite athletes from across Nigeria, Africa and the world, was the talk of the town for weeks and the event proper lived up to the hype.
Lagos is back!