Clairvoyance is not my forte, but I can still postulate with a degree of certainty that Daniel ‘Baba Ibeji’ Amokachi would have rated his chances of winning the then Sekou Toure Cup (now rechristened CAF Champions league) with Ranchers Bees of Kaduna higher than scoring the first-ever goal in the commercially viable UEFA Champions league!
Circa May 1994, I watched on Samaru Campus of ABU, the finals between AC Milan and Barcelona in anticipation of scrutinizing the Bulgarian national team captain, Hristo Stoichkov playing in his part in the Johan Cruyff’s expertly assembled Dream Team. Stoichkov’s led Bulgaria was billed as the first foe of the Super Eagles in our debut outing at the World Cup, a couple of weeks later in a match the Eagles confirmed their superiority as African Champions with a three nil (or kondo) win over the Bulgarians that later defied the odds in their historic march to the Semi-finals.
The following year, I was in UNILAG watching the final in the King Jaja hall common room (there were no viewing centres then), and the youthful Ajax team parading our compatriots in Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu toppled the very experienced AC Milan side lacking danger man Marco Van Basten, and till I left Zaria, the exclusive shot of the Cup parade by Kanu and Finidi as published by the now rested Complete Football International magazine was a permanent feature on my walls the same way tattoos are in a Siamese relationship with the skin of the tattooed (no reference to the origin of tattoos and dreads by the Nigeria Police (no more Force except when accidental or intentional bullets are forced to terminate the lives of law abiding citizens in viewing centres and other places by the trigger saddened cops) spokesperson. The recent UEFA Champions League trophy parade in our shores is a stark reminder of the nadir of our domestic football.
In 2003 and 2004, the now elected Senator Orji Uzi Kalu was having a back to back parade of the CAF Champions league trophy as the then Abia State Governor responsible for the double African Champions Enyimba FC, but by the 15th anniversary of that heroic triumph yet to be equaled by any Nigerian clubsides, state governors are now contended with the UEFA Champions league trophy parade (what an irony!) Those governors, though blameless are mere victims of global commercialization. The handlers of domestic football in our shores are more responsible for this comedy show due to the premium or lack of it placed on a viable framework for the development of the beautiful game
For years now, the domestic league has been on auto ‘abridged’ run, yet the English Premier league is due to announce the fixtures for the 2019/2020 football season by Thursday June 13th, 2019, yet we cannot predict with scientific accuracy the next two fixtures in our own abridged version. It is instructive to note that any single mileage gained by the league is quickly frittered away in a double reverse gear mode. While men slept and dreaming about the possible and predictable outcome of the ‘stubborn’ Rivers State gubernatorial election, the League Management Company defiled the league with the ludicrous and swap arrangement between the owners of Delta Force FC and Kada City, even though league officials have tried in vain not to refer to that curios mid-season deal as a swap, we have unknowingly brought odium on the league, and now the NNL which is the lower division is closer to Amoeba in structure (remember that Amoeba is shapeless), and with the groups A1, A2. B1, B2, C1, C2 et al, the league is closer to a quadratic equation than a professionally run league. This administrators’ insouciant attitude to the league is chiefly responsible for the NNL sponsors had no other viable option than to withdraw the sponsorship. All the 20 English Premier League teams rejected the proposed amendment to the Champions League after the current UEFA Champions League plan expires in 2024 as this will reduce the English Premier League teams to 18 and end their involvement in the League Cup. This is planning in simple tense!
The 2006 Calciopoli scandal that rocked the foundation of Italian football was no respecter of any clubsides, as affected teams were duly punished, Juventus duly served their terms in the lower league, national team sponsorship should not be compensated with a league slot, the defunct Leventis United dominated the domestic scene as a Division Three side winning the FA cup at the expense of Abiola Babes in 1984, played the Africa Cup Winners Cup final and losing 1 – 2 to the mighty Al Ahly of Egypt as a Division Two side in this same league in 1985, before gaining promotion the Division One in 1986 and annexing the League title dethroning the defunct New Nigeria Bank of Benin. Why this well tested routed was jettison by the League Management Company (LMC) for Delta Force FC while opting for the shortcut via the pot holes infested route remains a mirage.
Hopefully, when those archaeologists that our late brother – Prof. Pius Adebola Adesanmi wrote about choose to surface (that is if they are not irate that History their sibling, was once knocked off the school curricula), they will affirm that truly, not all of us kept mute while these violations took place and as brother Anthony Joshua expressed ‘Naija, I hail o’ or better still there is……o, whichever way, it is a puzzle that Kada City will play in the First and Second Divisions of the same league structure in the same season. Truly as the Preacher puts it, ‘There is no new thing under Naija sun’.