I am constrained to share my thoughts on the above subject, in view of the recent happenings in the Nigerian football circle.
While I congratulate the newly elected board of the NFF and commend them on the innovative step of commencing the training of resource persons (for greater productivity), I am seriously worried over the seeming prevarication over the constitution of the technical crew of the senior male national football team (our flag ship).
The retraction of their earlier decision of not continuing with the services of Stephen Keshi, was quite invidious to our collective interest in the sense that it
will naturally engender bad blood henceforth. It is common knowledge that thelingering idea of re-engaging Keshi, is being foisted on the leadership of the federation (from other quarters). This will therefore not create, a harmonious working relationship which is a prerequisite for success in football.
Couple with Keshi’s well known arrogant and quarrelsome disposition, his second coming (at the behest of higher authorities) will make him infallible, untouchable and consequently
un-controllable by the football authorities. I am therefore very surprised that, Amaju Pinnick and his cohorts, can contemplate such a move.
While Stephen Keshi has done well by winning the nation’s cup for Nigeria and taking us to ‘yet another 2nd round’ berth at a world cup finals, he obviously could not manage the limited success. The performance of the team nose-dived significantly owing to his lopsided selections, in-explicable quarrels with players and football administrators and a clear lack of sound technical nous.
However and in spite of the football house eventual decision on the engagement of a manager for the Senior male national team, I wish to share some thoughts on the need projective (long term) planning with regards to our football. This will greatly assist, whichever technical team that may be assemble to handle the squad.
We all saw the various teams that competed, at the just concluded nations cup final which resulted in our official dethronement by Cote D’iVoire).
Virtually every team at the finals, laid emphasis on youthfulness and effectiveness of
their teams – with the very youthful Ghanaian team missing the cup by a penalty shot.
This will ensure that their football, will be on the ascendancy, in the years to come.
We were almost disgraced by the boastful South Africans at Uyo, having been comprehensively outplayed throughout the game. Keshi was constrained to field a recuperating Kenneth Omeruo, in place of the suspended Obaobona (despite Omeruo’s complaints of not being fit). Yet we have a 22 year old central defender (of Nigerian parentage) -Kenneth Otigba who plays for Heerenveen in the Dutch Erendivise. Despite having played for the Hungarian Junior national
teams, Otigba is has clearly stated his readiness to commit to the Nigerian cause and
yet it has not dawned on Keshi and his crew to cap the young man and give him the
opportunity to prove himself. If players like Egwuekwe and Obaobona are the preferred central
defenders for Nigeria then surely, we can still accommodate some other contestants for those positions. If a young player of Nigerian descent who has emerged the highest scoring defender for the past two seasons (in the Dutch league) is willing and ready to ply his trade for this country, why have we failed to get him to do so in at least a friendly game up till now? It is the same trend of events that cost us Sidney Sam, Patrick Owomoyela, Oguchi Onyewu, Gabe Agbonlahor (who stated clearly that he never got any contact from the Nigerian authorities) and many others.When will we turn, a new leaf.
If other countries which we term as junior brothers can harness their potentials from abroad to their use back home, why should be lagging behind in that regard.
We have abundance of footballing talent littered across the globe, presently and I believe that a conscious effort should be made to cap most (if not all) of these boys. Even if some of them may not make the cut now, capping them would effectively shield them from being snatched by other countries and thus secure their future for us. Who knows what such a player, may blossom into in the near future. Moreso we will be guaranteed of truly ‘young’ talents, as such players would in all probability be truthful about their ages. I am aware that Chuba Akpom has been blooded into the Arsenal first team, this year and the same goes for Dominic Solanke at Chelsea. Jordan Ibe has been recalled from his loan spell back to Liverpool, where his is now commanding a regular start and has even earned consecutive man of the match awards recently. There is a strong rumour that, the Roy Hodgson (the English manager), is planning to extend an invitation to him for England’s next game on March,26th. We are also scheduled to utilise the same FIFA window, to prosecute a friendly game with Bolivia? Are we going to also allow, this bundle of talent to slip through our hands? There is also the young defender Semi Ajayi (Arsenal), Sammy
Ameobi(Newcastle), Kelechi Iheanacho (Man. City) and many others, across Europe and
other climes waiting to be tapped. We should be alive to our duties, pleas.
I am not advocating for a neglect of our home based players. But the essence of a national team is, to assemble a nation’s best players to play for it (irrespective of their place of domicile). We should end to practice of donating our footballing talents to other countries, on account ineptitude. The essence of friendly games is to achieve better cohesion, explore tactical options and discover new talents, for the team. While the results of such games are important, it is however secondary when compared to the other cardinal objectives earlier highlighted.
Let us therefore challenge ourselves, to do the needful by engaging our brightest talents to
represent their fatherland (whether they are based at home, or abroad).
We are all witnesses to the fact that Chigozie Agbim is not the best goalkeeper, playing locally. Yet is constantly made to occupy valuable space, at the expense of a probably better an younger keeper (who would have garnered very useful experience by being picked alongside our two best keepers – Enyeama and Ejide).
While we concede the selection of the Super Eagles coaching crew to the elected body (NFF), I wish to implore them that they should consolidate on the bold steps already taken by them and mentioned herein by ensuring that we spot our footballing talents across the globe and secure their allegiance to the nation. The next coach of the team should be clearly made to understand that only the best players, should be made to represent the nation at all times. The coach must also understand that his responsibility to the team and nation, includes the display of a fatherly
disposition towards the players (while also instilling necessary discipline) which demands fairness in his decision making process. Efforts should be intensified towards arranging quality and meaningful friendly games for the national teams, to broaden our horizon and improve our playing skills. Regular interactive sessions should be encouraged and enforced, between the coaches of the various national teams to engender cordiality and the needed symmetry amongst the teams.
While wishing the very for our football and its stakeholders, I commend them to to their utmost best to project our game to the height that our boundless talents deserves. There is no shortcut, to success. Let’s get it right, for once!
By Ewa Henshaw Esq.08178804311