Nigeria are out of AFCON 2015. Surprisingly, the world has not ended!
The way the country has been handling several recent football matters gives an impression that the country will cease to exist, or will suffer some catastrophe should government intervene (as it should, being the only organ with the muscle and resources to do so) and try to fix the present decaying and unproductive system.
Take the recent elections into the Executive Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation for example. Or, the firing and re-instatement of Stephen Keshi. Or, even the money-sharing episode of the players on the eve of Nigeria’s last match at the 2014 World Cup. Or the forced invitation by the public of a player coach Keshi had publicly rejected.
In every one of those instances, a frenzy of faulty reactions was generated and government did not do what it should because of the prediction that a catastrophe looms if government interferes and ensures that the right things are done. The country, therefore, did not handle the issue of the elections correctly and fairly, and fell for players’ blackmail by rewarding them before a match was played. Through some of these actions or inactions, the seeds of failure were planted.
In short, Nigeria would always do anything to avert the threat of a ban by FIFA, or the threat by players not to play a match until pre-rewarded, or any threat from any source. For years, such fear has driven the country to cultivate, nurse and sustain a cancer that has now almost destroyed the fabric of its football as clearly manifested in all but one of the matches of the Super Eagles since the 2014 World Cup!
Nigeria’s football has never been this bad and this poorly advertised. There is crisis everywhere. Nigeria now finds herself struggling to defeat teams she should, under normal circumstances, have had for breakfast.
So, here I am lamenting Nigeria’s loss to South Africa Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning, Nigerians’ worst fears have become reality. I am about to discover the truth about the predicted consequences of that loss.
I wake up early so as not to miss anything.
I open the gates to my little home in Lagos to confront the scenes that I believed would await all Nigerians outside their homes the morning after 35,000 of them, inside the glittering, magnificent, new state-of-the-art stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, and millions around the world, witnessed the dismemberment of their beloved Super Eagles by a bunch of determined, focused and gutsy youngsters from Johannesburg who had come to Nigeria to attempt to re-write the history of the confrontation between the two countries since 1993, when they first met in an international match. So far, South Africa have failed to make a dent on Nigeria’s clean record against them in any competitive match.
Nigeria had sacrificed everything the country stood for in terms of justice, equity, fair play, patriotism, the rule of law and integrity to avoid a FIFA ban and to get to this point.
Everyone embraced the result of a badly arranged election into the board of the NFF; interference in the coach’s invitation of players; an unmotivated coach unwanted by his employers but saddled on the team by higher authorities; ill-motivated players that had not demonstrated patriotism by insisting on being paid before playing a crucial match during the World Cup and losing it!
The result of all this is that Congo Brazzaville defeated Nigeria in Calabar, Nigeria, then Sudan defeated Nigeria on their ground, and South Africa came to the country, played the game of their lives, taught Nigerians a few lessons, and Nigeria will not be in Equatorial Guinea for the 2015 AFCON championship!
On Wednesday, the fear that had haunted Nigeria and influenced its decision-making processes over several crises and issues, became a reality!
Well, Wednesday night’s loss was not a result of a FIFA ban, but of the burden of the actions taken or not as a result of the fear of a ban! The team and their performance reflected the present state of Nigerian football!
So, I open my gates. I look outside expecting to see the promise of an Armageddon should Nigeria do the right things and attract a FIFA ban!!
At the same time, I am expecting to see the result of all the corrupt practices, the manipulations, the ignominious disregard of the rule of law, the glaring injustices, side by side the gloom and doom of the night before.
I ‘shine’ my eyes to see more clearly the unbelievable scene that unfolds before me. Something must be wrong, either with me or with the scene.
Or has the news not broken that the ‘giant’ of Africa, the current champions of Africa, the country whose birthright it is to be at every Championship, the fastest growing economy in Africa, and the country with the highest number of professional footballers from Africa in Europe and around the world, has failed to defeat South Africa and qualify for the next African Cup of Nations?
Has the world not heard all the news yet? Why should things be this way? The street is milling with humanity!
There are cars, buses, people and the usual throng of hawkers, traders, tricycle riders, pedestrians, idlers, all doing their thing, oblivious of any catastrophe.
Unbelievable! Nothing seems to have happened to the world. The sun is still hanging out there in the sky to the east.
It Is Humbling!
Some 12 hours after the people have simply put aside the Eagles and have returned to their normal lives. They have accepted the fact that Bafana Bafana have won and the Super Eagles have lost the AFCON ticket. That’s the bottom line. That’s what matters the most – accepting the inevitability of one team winning and the other losing in football, provided it happens on the altar of fair play, friendship and integrity.
So what happened to the doomsday predicted by a section of the media, should Nigeria lose or fail to attend a championship? Nothing. That’s the reality. Nothing happens. The heavens do not fall. Earthquakes are not generated. Life simply goes on with the country bearing the consequences of its handiwork.
It is the needless fear of FIFA and its threat to ban Nigeria that gives life to the present myriad of internal crisis driven by the greed for power and money by a cabal that will not go away, until and unless government intervenes and cleanses it.
Look at what FIFA have now done as a measure of their culpability in the crisis that the administration of football presently faces around the world. FIFA, Nigerians have been told, forbids the settlement of football matters in ordinary courts.
The same FIFA, only last week, sent a petition to a civil court in Switzerland asking it to intervene in the matter of the report of its private investigation into the controversial bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, an issue that is threatening to consume FIFA at the moment!
So, FIFA recognizes and uses the ordinary courts too?
Finally, it is sad that Nigeria will not be at AFCON 2015. But the greater tragedy would be if the country fails to draw useful lessons from the experiences of the past few months, culminating in the worst period in the history of Nigerian football and act now with or without the fear of a FIFA ban! Either way, the world will not end!
I congratulate Bafana Bafana for their fantastic performance Wednesday night!