MY JURY is out on whether former Green Eagles (now Super Eagles) captain Chief Segun Odegbami was a better footballer than he is a writer. When a young journalist asked for my comment on Odegbami’s latest book presentation last week at the Anchor Event Place in Ikeja, Lagos, that was my reaction. “I am beginning to conclude that Chief Odegbami is a better writer than he was a footballer,” I said to the journalist.
Last week in this column, I gave my “support in principle” to the reforms being carried out by the League Management Committee (LMC) headed by Nduka Irabor. I also encouraged the sports minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, to do whatever it took to ensure that the League clubs and their managers fell in line and do not succeed in derailing the reforms.
I AM writing this on Tuesday morning, less than 48 hours after our Golden Eaglets demolished Ghana’s Black Starlets 6-1 at the African Under-17 Championship in Morocco. By the time you read this, our next game against Cote d’Ivoire may have been played and you would know the result but, for me, it doesn’t matter whether the Eaglets win or not. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether they win the tournament or qualify for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) later this year. In just one game against Ghana, I have seen enough to confirm my previous prediction that these Eaglets will go places.
A MORE poetic headline for this article would have been “Nigeria’s Killer Pitches.” My focus is how bad football pitches are killing Nigerian football and Nigerian footballers and how the pitches are affecting the performance of our national team, resulting in bad results
ONE of the things that I gave Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi lots of credit for, en route to winning the African Cup of Nations title last month in South Africa, was his uncanny ability to keep his players focused and concentrated, despite many distractions, until the trophy was won.
MY GOOD FRIEND, “Britico” journalist Osasu Obayiuwana, must be shaking his head in disgust following last weekend’s coronation of Issa Hayatou for another four year term as president of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) at the body’s elective congress in Marrakech, Morocco. I call Osasu “Britico” because of his British accent and mannerisms.
JOHN MASTOROUDES’ verdict published in this column last week that Stephen Keshi’s Eagles are not yet Super despite being crowned as African champions, elicited a huge response from readers. Particularly controversial was Mastoroudes’ assertion that home-based players like Sunday Mba and Godfrey Oboabona did not have enough class, although they showed a lot of guts and fighting spirit. This week, it’s the readers’ turn to have their say, even as Keshi gets set to announce the squad that will face the Harambee Stars of Kenya later this month in Calabar when the 2014 World Cup qualifiers resume.
WITH the AFCON 2013 celebrations effectively over for Nigeria, it is gratifying to note that the Football Federation (NFF) and Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi have accepted good counsel to bury the hatchet and start planning for the next challenge for the African champions. Last weekend, respected football aficionado John Mastoroudes was the guest on my programme, Soccertalk on Radio. While congratulating Keshi on his achievement, the former Leventis United boss says the Super Eagles are still far away from world class. Enjoy my conversation with Mastoroudes as he bluntly dissects the much celebrated African champions...
HAVING A DIG at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has always been our favourite past-time in the sports media, what with the generally slip-shod manner they have run the game for decades, never mind the occasional success. And what better opportunity can we get to hit the NFF than now when they have managed, yet again, to get themselves cornered as villains in the narrative of the Super Eagles’ latest achievement as African champions, when everybody else (except the NFF?) is celebrating the coach, Stephen Keshi, as a hero.
I AM of the opinion that Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana and Zambia still have better chances of winning AFCON 2013 ahead of Nigeria. The first two because they are stronger and have more tested teams; Zambia because they are more cohesive and have grown in confidence since their surprise 2012 triumph.
THE Super Eagles finally managed to crawl (not fly) into the quarter-final of the on-going Nations Cup in South Africa following a 2-0 win over Ethiopia in their final Group C game on Tuesday night in Rustenburg. Coupled with Zambia’s goalless draw with Burkina Faso in the group’s other decisive game which was played simultaneously in Mbombela, the Eagles finished as runners-up to the Burkinabes. Both teams ended with five points each, but the Stallions won the group on superior goal difference.
IF YOU took my article in this column last week – ”Reality Check” – seriously enough, then you should not be too surprised by the drawn outcome of the Super Eagles first match against Burkina Faso Monday night at the on-going Nations Cup finals in South Africa.
REPORTS that an unhappy silence descended on the Super Eagles camp in Portugal following their unimpressive goalless draw with Cape Verde in a pre-Nations Cup friendly last week gladdened my heart. Now, the team will arrive in South Africa for the 29th Africa Cup of Nations finals starting this weekend, with the players’ feet firmly on the ground, and the expectations of exhuberant Nigerian fans also firmly put in check.
THE YEAR 2013 is only a few days old, but it’s already better than 2012. This time last year – first week of January 2012 – the Federal Government had announced the total removal of subsidy from the pump price of fuel, and sent the whole country spinning on its head.
COMMENTATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, there goes the final whistle and history has been made. Nigeria are the first African country to win the FIFA World Cup. The Super Eagles have done it! They have beaten Brazil by two goals to one in front of 100,000 spectators at this magnificent air-conditioned stadium in Qatar. The Africans have won the first FIFA World Cup to be hosted in the Middle East. The prediction by the great Pele of an African World Cup triumph has finally come to pass. Ironically it is at the expense of his own country, Brazil. The Brazilian players are still in shock. But the Super Eagles are jubilant. They are dancing all over the pitch. Nigeria are world champions! What a story...
I HAVE BEEN invited to serve as moderator at one of the sessions of the Soccerex Seminar holding in Lagos this week 27-28 September, 2012 at Oriental Hotel in Victoria Island. The topic for my session is “Developing Africa’s Next Star” (Complete Sports, by the way, is a proud official media partner to the Soccerex Seminar, Lagos 2012).
THE local (Nigerian) sporting press either missed the news or simply chose to ignore it. When my co-Complete Sports columnist Chief Segun Odegbami called me to check whether it was true, I confessed to him that I hadn’t heard the news and I really didn’t care! Just in case you also missed the news, dear reader, here it is...