The Super Eagles, The NFA And The African Nations Cup

On

Monday 21st January, 2008, Nigeria

played its first football game at the ongoing African Cup of Nations’

tournament in Sekondi, Ghana against Cote

D’ivoire and after 90 minutes, predictably lost 1 – 0

after Salomon Kalou of Chelsea’s

strike. I said predictably, because I knew it, and most objective Nigerians who

have been following the decline, the rise and fall of Nigerian football, knew

and are realistic about.

Apart

from the heartache of seeing this loss, I take consolation in the fact that I

made some money from the bookies on the game. I placed a £10.00 on Cote D’Ivoire to beat Nigeria by a lone goal, and at 3 to

1 the odds, I collected £40.00. Not a bad day for gambling, but one for

Nigerian football.

It

was always going to happen. With a clueless, corrupt and inefficient Nigeria

Football Association, an ageing team of un-motivated players and an equally

useless, clueless and un-committed coach in Berti Vogts, Nigeria

was always in for a beating. It has always been an accident waiting to happen,

and sure it did. Anybody who thought one of the tournament favourites was going

to lose to Nigeria

had another think coming. The display by the Super Eagles was inept at best and

comical at worst. The boys were static and pedestrian and could hardly put

passes together. Their shots at goal and hitting the target was largely

non-existent, and the Ivorien goalkeeper had the easiest 90 minutes of the

tournament so far. He was hardly put top the test, despite initial displays

that suggested he was very vulnerable. The player called Apam was so short of

confidence he was giving away the ball most of the time. Because Obi Mikel was

played out of the position he was originally known for, attacking midfielder,

(even Chelsea

has damaged the boy), we could not enjoy his talents and skills. Martins hardly

saw the ball and Yakubu was out of sorts, and could not pull his weight as a

striker. Only Yobo was confident and reliable, while Danny Shittu, while very

hard working and hard-tackling, showed why he is still playing in the

Championship Division of Engalnd and not the Premiership. It was not until

Odemwingie was introduced that we saw some bright spark and deft movements,

which unfortunately were not complemented by his ponderous team-mates, and by

that time, it was too late for Nigeria.

To

make it worse, after the game Mr Vogts told the World Press, that the boys did

their very best and he was sure Nigeria

will qualify for the next stage. Indeed, Nigeria

“may” qualify to go into the next stage of the competition, yes, we are likely

to beat Mali and the little Republic of Benin, but I shudder to imagine what

will happen when they meet tougher opponents in those stages. Watching the

demolition of the “indomitable Lions of Cameroon” by Egypt

and the superb display of the hosts, Ghana

against Guinea, as well as

the talents displayed by Morocco

against Namibia,

I am not that optimistic. One thing for sure, I don’t think the Super Eagles,

on the face of their inept display against Cote D’Ivoire can even get to the

semi final stage of this competition. If they do, it will be a major miracle.

Most Nigerians are yet to see exactly what is super about these eagles.

Mr

Vogts, despite sitting on the bench right there in Sekondi must have been

watching a different game from the rest of us, when he said the boys did their

best. That tells you the manner of coach the man is. This is a coach who

refused to live in Nigeria,

where he would have the chance to travel round the country and help to discover

new talents, like Clemens Westerhof did. The man preferred using foreign based

players who have already made their names, but alas, are fading rapidly and are

in no way a match for the younger talents in other African countries. No effort

is being made to discover and develop new talents among the thousands of

Nigerian boys who play their football hard on the streets and on the rocky

surfaces as well as the league.

So

who do we blame? Who else? The visionless, clueless, corrupt Nigeria Football

Association, led by one Sani Lulu, and backed to the hilt by one Dr Amos Adamu,

National Sports Commission (NSC) Director-General.

One

thing, for as long as Dr Adamu remains at the top helm of Nigeria sports,

we will never see progress. Compare him with the now late Isaac Akioye, and you

know Amos Adamu is a man of straw. A man of extraordinary ambition, what Adamu lacks

in managerial ability and ideas for how to develop Nigerian sports he makes up

for with his native intelligence, intimidation, slyness and coercion.

Chimaobi

Uchendu in the Sun Newspapers of Wednesday, September 19, 2007 wrote “Since

Adamu returned to the Nigerian sports, things have not been the same. Like a

thief in the night, he came in to re-organise the Football House by positioning

his loyalists in strategic positions, and so he organised a Kangaroo election

to throw out the Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima-led board, comprising most of the

victims in the new NFA executives” Apart from being the director

general at the NSC, Adamu occupies sensitive positions in both CAF and FIFA.

About two years ago, he was also eyeing the WAFU top job, as well as the CAF

Presidency, and this is a clear example of a man ready to do anything to have

power. Of course, he was the Chief Executive of the African Games (COJA) held

in Abuja a few

years earlier, and we all know what happened – the monumental fraud that

accompanied the games.

I

read recently that Dr Adamu said he plans to devote his time and life to God

after his retirement, whenever that is, by becoming a priest and having his own

church. Well, that is one church I don’t plan to be seen in. I don’t see myself

entering the Kingdom

of God by going to Dr

Adamu’s church.

And

the Chairman of the NFA, Sani Lulu? He himself has never denied the fact that

he’s been playing the script of his master in the Football House. Lulu had said

that he was Adamu’s errand-boy, and that he was not ashamed to serve him in any

capacity. Sani Lulu was, before he was (s)elected NFA Chaiman, the Chairman of

the Abuja FA for many years. Tell me, what is happening in Abuja in terms of sports and its development?

For

years, Lulu has been the director of sports in FCT and sports in the FCT is

like trees in the desert. It is not just there; even at recreation

level, sports is dead in Abuja.

At National Festival, Games and other events, they always fail to impress. So

Nigeria should be ready for a period of heartbreak, because if Lulu cannot run

the corner shop that is FCT sports, how will he run a supermarket like

NFA?” wrote the respected Olukayode

Thomas , The Guardian, 8th November 2006. He even

correctly predicted the outcome of the election. (For the full report of the

intrigues behind this farcical and depressing election, and other issues

relating to the NFA, Amos Adamu and Sani Lulu, please read Mr Thomas’s article,

and his article titled “The Sorry State of Nigerian Sports” published in www.Playthegame.org, 9th August 2007). “As

Director of Sports of FCT, what sporting events did Sani Lulu organised in that

small zone, to qualify him as the man who can lead Nigerian football into the

global zone? What indelible and unforgettable mark has he made to sports in the

FCT not to talk about sports in Nigeria?”, I asked in 2006 in my

articleNigerian football and sports, Amos Adamu’s influence and the

recent NFA elections – Another step backwards”. I am still asking that

question 2 years later.

The

NFA, Amos Adamu and Sani Lulu have been laying claims, with the aid of their

friends in sports journalism, to some successes in recent years that they are

not entitled to, such as the successes of the Super Falcons, Nigeria’s success at the Atlanta 96

Olympic Games with two Gold Medals. They

have been embroiled in controversy and corruption. They suspended the Nigeria

Football League (NFL) Chairman Chief

Oyuki Obaseki and three other senior officials of the league, throwing the

whole football season into confusion. The

Senate was probing them in 2006 but we will not see any report because of Dr

Adamu’s intervention to cover it up and protect his errand boys. The NFA

maltreated the women’s team, The Super Falcons, at

the Fifth Women’s Football World Finals, also known as China 2007. There have

been financial scandals as well as sex scandals, where officials have been

found to be impregnating women players. Do you hear anything about the outcome

of the investigations into this? No, you wont, because Dr Adamu fixes

everything. He has a lot of officials and people in and out of Government in

his pocket who are utterly compromised and dare not act against him, because if

Adamu goes down, he will take many of them with him.

In his article, The Bad Eggs of the

Nigerian Football Association, (Onlinenigeria.com, 15th June 2006) Bankole Kolawole Monsuru, contends that

Nigerian “sports icons like Olusegun Odegbami, Fanni

Amu, Adokie Amaesimaka, and the likes of Chief Oladipo were not allowed to

reach the post of the NFA chairman, despite their status and achievements for

their noble country that was overlooked by the looters and not good enough

officials of the NFA, The cart was laid before the horse, and this has brought

chaos and indiscipline coupled with disgrace and bad record to Nigeria in the

International Football scene”. How

true.

The

Nigeria Footbal Association does not even have a functional website. I tried to

get the official website of the NFA, and all I got was one last updated, it

seems in 1993 when Emeka Omeruah was elected Chairman and the NFA Headquarters

was given as 146-148, Ogunlana Drive, Surulere, Lagos. The source of the

information then was from Complete Football, Nigerian Football 1960-1990 by

Segun Odegbami, and Sporting Champion, June 1992. And this was an association

launched in 1945. A shame really.

The

problem of sports development in Nigeria, as with many other areas

of national interest, governance and issues, is that of putting square pegs in

round holes, corruption, selfishness, lack of vision and mismanagement. An

inadequate, unqualified, mediocre and inept cabal almost always find themselves

in positions of great responsibility because of nepotism, tribalism and

corruption to the consternation of the willing and able and we the ordinary

Nigerians are often left counting the costs. Where are the likes and calibres

of Dennis J. Slatterys, the Akioyes, the JK Tandohs, Sunday Dankaros, the

Anthony Ikazobohs, the Omeruahs, the

Odegbamis, the Amaesimakas, the Godfrey Amacheres, to run our sports and

football? With the amount of hard dollars that accrue to our football

authorities, it is no wonder that a lot of charlatans and nonentities fight

tooth and nail to get into football

administration just to make money, without any ideas of how to go about making

their marks. It has been like that for ages, and will apparently continue to be

so. Take a look at the delegation list to Ghana, and you will see almost all

of the NFA Board there, if you are in the good books of the Chairman and Dr

Adamu. After the tournament, don’t be surprised to hear that the players have

not being paid, and there was changing-room discontent. This happens everytime,

it is predictable. It is the story of our life.

It

was rumoured that Dr Adamu once told a

Chairmanship contender that “(name withheld), yes, you are the right

man, but you are too honest for this game, I am sorry, but you cant be

chairman. We don’t need you now”. Incompetence will breed corruption,

because the incompetent will always try to shroud their failings in lies,

delusions, deviousness, depravity, secrecy and dirty deals. It is only in our

dear country that mediocres rule the roost in everything. Sports and especially

football have moved forward in the last ten years while ours have regressed, no

small thanks to inconsistent, ineffective and obsolete government policies,

greed, corruption, obtuse and arrogant officials, power-hungry idiots and the

likes. With countries like Namibia,

Mali, Sudan and Benin are making it to major

finals, that tells you football is developing in those countries. Kudos to

them.

But

our Football League has been reduced to no more than a Sunday football

kick-about. I do not see our fans wearing football shirts bearing the names of

our own footballers, but those of foreign stars. Nigerians

no longer want to watch their local league. All they know now are foreign stars

and teams. When I was young, I used to travel from Ibadan to Lagos just to

watch the Super Stores; Railways; ECN

(later to become NEPA, and who knows what they call it now?), and I was always at the Liberty Stadium to

watch, in those days, WNDC, later to become IICC Shooting Stars; Water

Corporation; NEPA Ibadan; Housing Corporation; NTC, etc. play such great teams

as Enugu Rangers, Mighty Jets of Jos, Bendel Insurance, Sharks of Port

Harcourt, etc. Lord, I cant bear to remember!

The

Liberty Stadium, Ibadan, (built by that visionary and icon, Obafemi Awolowo)

one of the first in West Africa, if not in Africa, is hardly used and is

rotting away, taken over by food and beer sellers. And so is the National

Stadium in Lagos,

taken over by religious groups trampling all over the grass, and the outside by

beer-sellers and prostitutes. And someone tells me, we have people in charge of

sports in Nigeria?

Well, think again.

So,

the outcome of Ghana 2008 for Nigeria?

Lifting the trophy is out of the question. Getting to the knock-out stages is a

possibility, but after that, our hearts will be broken, and we will slump back

home. All kinds of blames will be apportioned – sack the coach, sack the

officials, etc, but nothing will happen, and Nigerians will look forward to

making up the numbers and playing at the next big tournament, unprepared again.

Thanks to Dr Amos Adamu, Sani Lulu, Bolaji Ojo-Oba and co.

A

very happy ending, depending on which side you are looking at it.

Written by
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
Join the discussion

2 comments
  • You nailed it on the head, when you identified NFA members as the problem in Nigerian football, however you analysis of the game in Sekondi, against CIV was rather emotional (at least to me)

    Role playing died in the super eagles with the exit of Westerhof, so players joining the team after his exit had no real clue as to what their roles in the team should be, talk less of excelling in them. The decision by the NFA to stick with local coaches made matters worse, because the coaches simply lacked the ability to design a system, delineate roles within the system and then source talents to fill those roles: these local coaches failed to realize that talents need to be nutured in their respective roles to sharpen their skills and confidence (good examples are Arsenal fc & Man U)

    Nigeria started on a good note by hiring a coach who understands this issues, however the apponitment came too close to a major competition like the cup of nations, and as usual we want the team to perform to our unrealistic expectation. On that match day against CIV i saw a nigerian side that is beginning to understand the importance of role playing in a football team. but expectedly, most of the players could not excel in their new roles and their was no on-field motivator like Keshi, Oliseh et al, who knows what it takes to reach and maitain peak perfomance in a role, to egg them on.

    Sadly, the senior players have not bonded emotionally with the chief coach enough to want to play their hearts out for him, (i believe this is a neccesary ingredient for achieving victory, and neither do they love their country enough to get injured for it, before you blame them, remember you also left Nigeria for the same reasons they did. It takes time and sustained effort in the right direction for a team to develop these characteristics, and this is where i think we might miss it. As a nation we lack the accompanying temperaments for sustained and concentrated effort in doing the right thing. NFA memebers have to admit their personal inadequasy and invite consultants to help them. It is only in Nigeria that civil servants run entertainment businesses, which, essentially is the heart & soul of football.

  • Nobody is perfect in life. Although things went wrong it does not mean they did not try at all. In all my years of existence it has always been one complain or the other. If Vogt had fielded young players now and they lost , it would have been: The useless coach fielded inexperienced players, leaving the mature ones who could use experience to secure a win. I think the boys tried. Even our great 1994 world cup squad could not beat the Ivorian team save for penalty. Let us remove sentiment. watch that match again. look at what happened to the host nation Ghana yesterday against Namibia. Or is it Morrocco against Guinea. If you have ever been in the fieldd you would know how difficult it is to satisfy everybody. Players and coaches need encouragement in times like this not rebuking from different quarters.