Sports

Siasaga

The call for the scalp of the embattled Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, as a totem to appease the impregnable coliseum of teeming fans of the Super Eagles, is understandable. It has now become in recent years, the moving trend, to fire an underperforming or non-performing gaffer after failure to successfully accomplish a task, both at Local and international level. This is due to the massive followership which the round leather game had garnered for itself. This followership comes with its un-enduring virtue of impatience and zero tolerance to failure. It is even more painful, if the task is to qualify such a team for a major tournament, such as the Nations Cup or worst still, the World Cup. Such a failure is seen by the seething fans of that team, as unpardonable and at such, an irrevocable red card is shown to the handler. In extreme cases, though rarely, a lucky coach may escapes the hammer but still awaiting disaster soon to happen. As he is left at the mercy of the furious fans, whose post match opinions are belatedly laced with accolades or vicious condemnation depending on which sides of victory he lies. Moreso, he is at the mercy of his players, who if have an axe to grind, would form themselves into Mafia units to punish the gaffer. This is constantly becoming embedded in the Nigerian senior team, as witnessed in recent times.

This call from die-hard fans of the Super Eagles, whose only spring source of joy and unity in a country where everything comes to a ground halt like the final step of a review order, is lucidly understandable. Till date, statistically, Football remains the single most activity that binds the country together in euphoric celebration of unity. Not even activities or occurrences such as, the Independence Day celebration, general elections, or national disaster bind them that much. It is a time tested fact that these activities, rather than unite, extends the chasm further. Therefore, anything that will jeopardise this divinely found source of momentary happiness and unity, is frown at with utmost disdain. Most of the fans who have been privy to the halcyon days of the Super Eagles (in the 80s and 90s) When free-flowing football that bares no hold up, or let up and admirably code-named ‘Samba’, after the most terrific pattern of play from arguably the most famous football Nation in the world, would long for the return of the fairy days. The days they scrambled from their home to assemble in front of a Black and White TV in the house of the most eminent personality in the neighbourhood, to catch a glimpse of their favourite Super Eagles doing justice to other teams. This is not to say that the Eagles never had their off days, when they do, it was in the most dignifying manner. Unlike the present day Super Eagles, who had one day off too many, and in the process had become perennial losers and paid hired killers, at such inadvertently and abstractly induced the death of a sizeable numbers of their fans with hypertensive and cardiac conditions. What makes the old Green Eagles a master stroke of reference, is their dauntless, unyielding, eternal commitment and undying loyalty to the Nigerian cause. It bestows on them the most dignifying honour to adorn the green jerseys of the National team. To file out in front of millions of fans, including those watching the match live and from broadcast, was the highest honour a serious player desires to achieve then. The teams of yesterday were successively selected on merits, purely and decisively! Not on quota system or reliance on a Babaringa-wearing godfather in the Glass House. They were selected basically from functional school system competitions (The Principal Cup, the Governor’s Cup, NUGA, WAFU, etc), highly competitive league system and sincere age-group competitions that incorporate team succession practice that was undeniably flawless. Little wonder, the true fans who witnessed this era craved for its return.

Furthermore, another factor that helped the Green Eagles apart from the age-grade graduation into the senior team is the fact that the number of players who were plying their trade in foreign land was manageable. This resulted in a Green Eagles that was a cohesive unit and a marvel to behold on the field of play. This cohesion is presently lacking in the present Super Eagles, with virtually every member of the team playing for one foreign club or the other. The shoddy manner by which they are assembled prior to matches of high importance, speak volumes of the outcome of such important matches. Watching the present day Eagles play is at best watching a Nigerian politician rant through his uninspiring manifestoes of same promises every election time; very prosaically drab and common place! The predictability in play mode of the Super Eagles have resulted in most of their loyal fans switching allegiance to foreign league club matches that are shown week-in-week out on Satellite TV, with attendant reduction in their general support base. One cogent factor responsible for this down toll commitment is pecuniary factor. The way and manner money had taken over the round leather game is alarming. Now, players with no sense of pride in their national team play for pecuniary rewards and tend to compare what they earn at these money spinning clubs to what they earn at home when on National duties. Ordinarily, most players that are at best could be described as average, are hyped beyond their natural talents and abilities by foreign media. This attention attracts big clubs to shower outlandish amount money on them to secure their services. The money earned by these players in return buoy their sense of pride and chase out any residual sense of dedication to National honour left in them. A case of he who pays the piper dictates the tune!

In reality, lack of commitment to contractual terms by the football governing body, the NFF, is another arrow on the already weakened heels of Achilles of the de-talloned ‘nothing so super about’ Super Eagles. This insincerity is a militating factor, which the media have paid little attention, and which continues to undermines the performance of the present day Eagles. The welfare of the players, not taken as a priority has given the players the inkling to take a cue from what became of their erstwhile idols, who belaboured themselves in the National jersey to bring glory to the Nation, and who afterwards were neglected, either after retirement or after being forced out of the game due to career-ending injuries. Hosts of retired players from the Green Eagles and a few number of the old Super Eagles, are alive as living testimony to the lack of sincerity of NFF and the government. In order not to appear as treating a problem in isolation based on the judgement of resultant end results alone, a holistic approach is not only recommended but also the most viable means of getting it over with. All these cornucopia of factors mentioned inter alia are the real albatross of our most cherished game in Nigeria. It is quite disheartening that either way someone is made to pay for all these problems when they arise; a scapegoat. The fall guy in this case had to be no other person than the National team coach, Samson Siasia. It should however be noted that, Siasia did not create these massive conundrum, he in fact inherited it. These was what he inherited when he was given the mandate by the Glass House to rid the Super Eagles of the bad eggs causing the indiscipline, a chameleon shit, which medley of football fans in the country have been complaining about. He was also mandated to take them out of obscurity in African and World football, which they have been enmeshed in recent times.

Siasia knew what he was getting into before he took over the mantle of the most dishevelled and disjointed team in Africa, from the hands of the journeyman Swede, Lars Lagerback, whose sojourn into the team brought more disharmony than unity. Siasia met this backlog of problems at a time most Nigerians were not wont to entertaining any excuse for shortcomings

. Hence, a vast majority of them did not only speak in favour of the wisdom behind hiring an indigenous coach but also in favour of compensating him on a salary scale that is at par with international standards. To whom much is given therefore, much is expected. Truly, Siasia has no excuse for failing, having enjoyed unprecedented support from the government, the hitherto unsupportive NFF, the mass of Nigerian football lovers, the Media and all the stakeholders of the round leather game. His excuse could not be from dearth of human materials, as both home-grown and internationally established stars abounds. Neither could it be from lack of compensation that commensurate the job at hand, Five Million Naira per month could hardly be said to be below the expectation of a coach in Siasia calibre.

All said and done, following general apathy against the Super Eagles, the clamour for the resignation of its coach and the total, once again, overhauling of the entire inept team, I would be forced to say Siasia should go! Frankly speaking though, I won’t subscribe to public polls on this particular issue. It is an established fact that Siasia deserves the axe and whatever is thrown at him at the moment, based on the overwhelming and palpable evidences of incompetency brought against him by the reality on ground. To me the truth is, sacking ‘SIA ONE’, at this period of rebuilding of the National team after their woeful and miserable outing at South Africa 2010, is self destructive and an attempt at moving the goal posts. A decision which stands to benefit not the beautiful game, but few individuals who have constituted themselves into milking units with their foreign collaborators to milk Nigeria dry of its resources and make nothing works in the Nigerian system. This cabal, are made up of shady men in the Ministry of Sports and fronted for by the NFF. As far as they are concerned, a failure for the Eagles is another clarion call for the dismantling of the status quo. Then in a while, the hunt for another backdoor foreign gaffer; a coach whose selection process is best linked to the Halliburton kind of business-like arrangement, begins in earnest. Who stands to benefit from all these? Nigerian football, Nigerians, whose seemingly last lifeline is this game, or the gang of few men, who are hell bent on grounding everything in the country? Having stated the facts without grid, the truth, which eventually always supersedes the fact; which is only based on visible evidences at the present, is that Siasia should not go! This may sound untenable to many, including my humble self, but I want us all to wilfully toll the line of change for once. It is only a madman that will expect a different result from doing something repeatedly from the same way. How many coaches, both foreign and indigenous, have we hired all in the name of rebuilding the National team only to go with the wind after a few months, at most a year into their contract? If we sack Siasia now, we have only played into the hands of the cabals, who had been waiting for us to, without delay.

For record purpose, it must be noted that the successful Super Eagles of the late 80s and early 90s, spent a lot of time under their coach, Clemens Westerhoff and his assistant Jo Bonfere. This ample time facilitated a complete blend of the magical mastery we witnessed in the 1994 Nations cup in Tunisia, the subsequent World cup in USA, and also to a notable extent in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, which signals the end of a golden era and the beginning of decline of Nigerian football. The teams under the auspices of the aforementioned gaffers were noted for their Spartan discipline, humility, selflessness, obedience to constituted authorities and cohesion. These without gainsaying, were responsible for the massive victories they enjoyed at local and international level. It is on point that Samson Siasia was a direct beneficiary of such a magnificent team with its super floss pattern of play that glues one to the TV for the entire 90 minutes of play. Therefore, little surprised I am that under his aegis, for the few months he had been in charge, he had instilled a sense of discipline into the once degenerating team, and the present crops of Super Eagles, which is a team in transition, possesses a new technicality, cohesion and team discipline which was lacking in the fire brigade team that represented Nigeria at the World Cup in south Africa. The cases of John Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemnwigie and goalkeeper Enyeama, clearly attested to this. Abstractly, the Super Eagles had improved under him, losing just once to Argentina in a friendly game, which was hard fought. My fear is that sacking him now will tend to destabilise the tenuous line of harmony and sense of balance which at present pervades the team, still in progress. So many pundits have posited that, we may after all, have had nothing to lose if FIFA had been allowed to carry out its threat of sanction from International competitions for four years, before the intervention of the Presidential Taskforce pre-empted such a sanction. They argued further that such a period could have been a period of massive pull down and build up of the entire football teams, including the age-grade and the female soccer teams. It is only reasonable then that we should assume that retaining Siasia at this crucial point is the subconsciously alluded to period of massive shake up and build up we earlier envisaged if we had been sanctioned by FIFA. Like the puerile game of Mario, he needs this extra lifeline, not to cement his position and reputation but to help us build a National team with clear-cut understanding, discipline, selflessness, cohesion, which is the hallmark of a competent and success inclined team. By so doing, we all may be building, a National team and a coach, that would go on to become the first African team and the first indigenous African coach to bring home the ‘’HOLY GRAIL’’ of international football, the World Cup. I just have this nagging premonition that the rebuilding process should be allowed to go on without distraction and interference, by tagging and replacing our criticism with ‘’WORK IN PROGRESS, DO NOT DISTURB’’. And one day soon, we will all be singing a new song of well deserved victory.

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