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Between Stephen Keshi And Samson Siasia

I HAVE just finished reading Serena Williams’ autobiography, On The Line, which she wrote with help from celebrated American biographer Daniel Paisner. Some of the most intriguing parts of the book are those about her rivalry with her sister, Venus.

Serena narrates how their father Richard methodically and systematically built their careers since they were young, with a clear intent to make them the best women tennis players in the world. She tells how Venus made the breakthrough first and how she (Serena) was so jealous of her sister’s success that she became inspired to achieve her own success.

Serena confessed that she wanted everything and anything Venus had, and she was quite often ready to cheat or blackmail her older sister to get it. It is to their father Richard’s greatest credit that he ended up giving the world not one, but two great champions. At the last count, both sisters had won 18 grand slam singles titles between them (Serena 11, Venus 7) and have been world number one and number two simultaneously at various times. Their’s is one of the most romantic stories of world sport.

Sibling rivalry or peer rivalry is probably one of the most delicate phenomena in human relationships. Brothers, sisters or friends who grew up together  happily should ordinarily be the best of friends, but they are sometimes the worst of adversaries. It has been so from time immemorial.

Stephen Okechukwu Keshi and Samson Yebowei Siasia are very good friends. Both were contemporaries in the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, and both were members of the “Golden Generation” that won the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 1994 and qualified Nigeria for the FIFA World Cup for the first time at USA ‘94.

Both started their European football careers at Lokeren of Belgium and also went on to play in France, Keshi at Strasbourg and Siasia at Nantes. Both have now retired into coaching with various degrees of success. Now, both are bidding to  become the next national coach of Nigeria. Bossom friends have become fierce rivals. Peer rivalry at its peak.

Please don’t ask me to choose between Keshi and Siasia because I won’t, at least, not publicly. This column has a reputation for candour, but this particular matter is too hot for me . Keshi and Siasia are my very good friends and neither of them will ever forgive me if I contributed directly in swinging the choice the other way.

However, let me confess that I am not completely neutral in this affair. Everything considered, I know which of them is more suitable for Nigeria at this time and I have made my opinion known in some quarters. But that is where it will end.

I do not envy the gentlemen on the new technical committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) who have to make the final decision. This will be a difficult call indeed because there’s little to choose between the candidates. But if the interview panel agree on the right criteria for the job, ask the right questions and are not sentimental like me, they should be able to pick the right man in the end.

It’s just a shame that, unlike Serena and Venus Williams who will smash each other to pieces in a singles match, then team up again moments later for the doubles, Keshi and Siasia cannot pair up to work for Nigeria because their big egos will get in the way. May the best man get the job, then.

Local Coaches My 3rd Choice

lI HAVE received knocks from some readers for expressing my preference for another foreign coach to take charge of the Super Eagles following the departure of Lars Lagerback after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Specifically, I recommended the hiring of a Dutch or Serbian manager and listed a Nigerian only as a third choice. I know that my suggestion is not popular with most Nigerian soccer fans, but I stand by it anyway.

Based on my knowledge of the inside workings of the national team and the general attitude of the players, (there’s a lot going on unknown to the fans), I have no doubt in my mind that foreign coaches are our best bet, at least for now.

However, I admit that the manner of Lagerback’s departure has made it difficult for another foreigner to be engaged so soon. Even I still feel robbed by the way the plucky Swede practically walked in on us, picked up a chestful of dollars and walked out on us. But it wasn’t his fault, really. We asked for it.

Keshi or Siasia will get job now, partly because we’re all still smarting from the Lagerback “robbery” and partly because the NFF cannot afford the hefty salary of a foreigner. But when this latest indigenous  experimentation is over, we will go looking abroad again, that’s for sure.

In spite of myself, though, I hope Keshi or Siasia will prove that Nigerian coaches who have been exposed to football at the highest level like they have been, are better than third rate for the Super Eagles. For our collective sake and for the sake of Nigerian football, I sincerely hope that they will prove me wrong. One thing is sure: whoever gets the job between Keshi and Siasia will also get my full support on the task ahead. Good luck, guys.

At Last, Bio Bows!

FIVE weeks ago, I advised minister of sports and chairman of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Alhaji Isa Ibrahim Bio to bow to the Nigerian football cabal if he didn’t know how to outwit them without incurring a FIFA ban. After initial resistance, that is exactly what the minister has now done following an instruction that he received to that effect from President Goodluck Jonathan.

Bio had reportedly approached the President to seek approval for a “showdown” with FIFA over alleged government interference in NFF affairs. Jonathan told Bio to forget it and instead approved the setting up of a doping laboratory, following the several failed  drugs test at the last Commonwealth Games in India by three Nigerian athletes.

Bio’s failure to get Jonathan’s nod opened the way for Aminu Maigari to walk back into office as NFF president last week, following the withdrawal of the court case by the National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF) led by Harrison Jalla. There is controversy over whether the case withdrawal automatically translated to the quashing of Justice Okon Abang’s original ruling annulling Maigari’s election as the learned judge did not make any definite pronouncement on Maigari’s status. But the fact that the sports minister has not called on the Nigeria Police to arrest Maigari for parading himself as NFF president supposedly in defiance of a court order, clearly indicates that Bio has admitted defeat in his quest to overhaul the NFF.

Bio’s failure is not a personal failure, however. Although the minister made some costly errors in the power game which I have highlighted several times in this column, his ultimate inability to dislodge the Sani Lulu/Amos Adamu hegemony at the NFF which Maigari represents is not a personal loss for him, but a collective loss by the Nigerian football fraternity that cried for far-reaching changes at the Glass House. Maigari’s survival is victory for the cabal that installed him, and defeat for the progressives.

However, the power game is far from over. I have  evidence that one of the conditions given to Maigari before the cabal endorsed him was that he would cede the position of the NFF secretary general to the Sani Lulu camp. In fact, it was the refusal by the brilliant Shehu Dikko to accept that condition that partly cost him the election. Maigari accepted, “won” the election, but now looks set to double-cross the Lulu camp.

The story goes that the ministry of sports has insisted on picking the candidate for the secretary general’s office and Maigari has again conceded! Now, the Bauchi man is caught between the Lulu camp and sports ministry. Considering the fact that he will be getting a huge part of his funding from the government through the ministry, there can be only one winner and the Lulu camp is set to lose out.

Just days into Maigari’s troubled NFF presidency, a big clash is imminent between the cabal and their proxy. Watch this space.

Agenda For New NFF

ONE good thing about the new executive committee of the NFF, warts and all, is that they have at least hit the ground running.

At their “resumption” meeting last week, the members fixed a definite time-line for the appointment of a substantive coach for the Super Eagles; announced the composition of its (sub) committees and summoned Nigeria Football League (NFL) chairmanship gladiators Davidson Owumi and Victor Rumson  Baribote to a reconciliation meeting.

Indeed, these are matters requiring urgent attention and the speed of action was commendable. But in the process, mistakes were made that must be quickly corrected.

The NFF shouldn’t have announced names of committee members to the press  without the courtesy of consulting the proposed members  first, particularly people like Chief Segun Odegbami and Alhaji Sani Toro who also contested the presidency with Maigari. I spoke with both men on the phone over the weekend and they were understandably very, very upset by the “big joke” of their purported appointments. In my opinion,  Maigari owes them a personal apology. I hope he is man enough to admit his mistake and take corrective steps.

 The Owumi/Baribote logjam is rather complicated because an NFF arbitrator has ruled on the matter already. If the NFF fails to implement the recommendation to disqualify Owumi and instal Baribote, it would have failed to stand on the side of the law and justice.

Everyone I have spoken to on the matter says that Baribote has a strong case. The consensus seems to be that Owumi will make a better NFL chairman but he wasn’t qualified to contest in the first place, while Baribote who was qualified is considered incapable of running the league effectively.

I understand the NFF’s dilemma, but the simple way out is to be guided by the law. As a former star player, Owumi is well known to me while I have never met Baribote in my life. I also think Owumi has started well with the laudable plans he has mapped out for the Premier League which starts this weekend. But if the NFL statutes say he wasn’t qualified to contest, then he should be removed forthwith. The law is sacrosanct until it is amended.


Re: Trial Of  Amos  Adamu

THANK you for an indepth and balanced analysis of the Adamu trial at FIFA. Despite public opinion weighing heavily against the accused, we now have an idea of the defence Adamu is likely to plead.

However, a close look at the sections of the FIFA Code of Ethics that  you published suggests to me that Adamu is in a tight corner. Article 11,sub-section 1 says “officials may not accept bribes,”
and that any gifts that is promised or offered to them “shall be refused.” The Sunday Times video footage shows Adamu accepting the bribes, so he’s already culpable.

Adamu could have refused the bribe outright and still reported the offer to FIFA. Had he done that, he wouldn’t be in this mess. I wish him luck. – Barrister J. Asuquo, Port Harcourt.

lSir, I am very sure that the FIFA investigators will be very thorough because of England’s interest in the matter as a World Cup bidder. And a guilty verdict on Adamu will be a positive development for our sports. – Dotun Fagbamiye, Lagos.

lHI. Your analysis on Adamugate was spot on as usual. But I feel you should have spared us the options available to him by way of appeal if the sword should descend on him. Or, are you privy to his game plan? – Emmanuel Okara.

lIF FIFA finds Adamu guilty (God forbid), he would be confirmed as an evil genius: “Wise to do evil, but have no knowledge to do good.” (Jeremiah 4:22) – 08033442517.

lOGA Mumini, our man said “pay directly, directly.” Case closed! – Chris Achilefu, Victoria Island, Lagos.

lMY REACTION to Adamu’s trial is that “everyday for Adamu, one day for Amos.” That day has come. – Festus, Abuja.

lAFTER reading the full Sunday Times report in Complete Sports, I am convinced that Adamu truly wanted to collect the bribe. – Akinyode Olajide Sefiu, Ajegunle, Lagos.

lADAMU’S e-mail to Sunday Times was clearly an afterthought after realizing he had been trapped. Sepp Blatter may not have jumped the gun as the term “devils” also refer to earlier confirmed cases like Bhamjee. Being under suspension, is Adamu’s trip to Zurich an official trip? Who will pay the bill? – Mark Azih, Ekpoma, Edo State.

lI REFER to your previous article where you said NFF should appoint “a substantive foreign coach.” Was it a printer’s devil or a betrayal of your preference for a foreign coach? – Tony Oluwadare.
* It was not a printer’s devil.

lHI. Your Adamu article was a good one. My verdict is that those who want the man out are no less corrupt and they only want to take over so that they can chop their own. I know my Naija people very well. – Harry, Edo State.

lWHETHER Adamu reported to FIFA  or not is immaterial, except he produces evidence of his unwillingness to collect the bribe. May God help him. – 08057475357

lGOOD DAY. I heard that Paul the Octopus is dead. I’m convinced that God took him away because the whole world wanted to be worshipping the octopus instead of God. – 08054478716

LPlease remind NANF, Chief Odegbami and co. to use this period of Adamu’s travails to get hold of Nigerian football. – Lukman from Ibadan.

lHELLO Mumini. I enjoyed your piece (on Adamu’s Trial). Honestly, I have no tears to shed for Adamu because his membership of FIFA has brought Nigeria more pains than gains. Adamu is done for.
If he comes out of this clean, I’ll stop writing football. – Patrick, Lagos.

SIR, I missed the Complete Sports Saturday edition that carried the Adamu story due to the stupidity of my vendor. Please help me with a copy. – Gbemisoye Ayinde, Ogbomoso.

lIT IS pay back time for Adamu. He is a clog in the wheel of Nigerian football. He is finished. – Olumide, Ado-Ekiti.

lFROM all intents and purposes, Amos Adamu is gone. FIFA will sacrifice him and the others to save face. Of course, he has the right to fight all the way to the Court of Arbitration. – 08056926158.

ADAMU is not called “Mr Fix It” for nothing. He will fix this FIFA trial and come out clean. Watch out. – 080355045.

NIGERIA’S golden era was under Clemens Westerhof, a foreigner who gave us five years of great service. The solution to our present coaching problem is not Samson Siasia or any other local coach. Mark my words, by 2012 we will regret hiring a local hand. – Lanre Aladegbaiye, Ikorodu, Lagos.

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