According to the respected American, Andrew Young ;"Unfortunately all (Nigerians) know 'what is wrong with Nigeria', and that is what is wrong with Nigeria....We can always find what is wrong with us.It is when we start seeing what is right with our brothers and sisters and work as a team that we will move on".
Since the early 1970s I have followed the game long enough to know that football is a very sentimental sport. That is why people entrusted with administering or regulating the game, and who should be seen to make fair judgements, have no choice other than to always use objective and measurable criteria in their decision-making.
Nigerian football has slumped to an all-time low today, not just for the much trumpeted 'administrative' problems: First, and thanks to the light shown to us by some of our previous 'world class',mercantilist-minded foreign coaches, no player of any tangible substance stays at home long enough to be noticed by the fans before they are shipped to some obscure club mostly in Asia or the Middle East.As if that was not bad enough, the cominng of satellite television has ensured that the heart and soul of the average Nigerian fan has been completely sold to the European leaques.
The result is that we have,today lost every sense of patriotism as far as football is concerned.The few fans that,probably for lack of electricity, sacrifice their English premiership menu to go to the stadium, vent their anger by booing their National Team, and more pitiably their National Anthem. It couldn't therefore have been a surprise that on the day the Super Eagles qualified for the 2010 World Cup most of their compatriots found it difficult ( really difficult ) to celebrate; for long before then, they had written the team off and withdrawn their support.
Today Nigeria has become the laughing stock of the football world who cannot comprehend why,in a matter of days after qualfying - and in such magnificient form too, as the records clearly show - Nigerian officials will be going cap in hand begging any coach with a white skin to 'come lead us to South Africa !'.On the day the World Cup draws was held, with Nigeria's coach Amodu Shaibu probably the only visible black man among the elite tacticians, the near-forgotten Italian, Roberto Mancini was back in the news: Nigeria had just offered him Amodu's job !
If after winning every domestic title in Nigeria,and winning the African Cup, then a Champions leaque final,before lifting his motherland twice from the lowest depths of her football (courtesy of uncommited foreign coaches) to World Cup qualification, Amodu has not convinced our officials that he deserves respect at the very least, I will have to feel very sorry indeed for Keshi,Siasia and every other Nigerian coach coming up.They are the first victims of the new age (football) imperialism.
But for the records,Amodu Shaibu is a true symbol of the Nigerian spirit that we desire: patriotic,achieving results, and never say die.
Let me close by repeating this article earlier published in this blog after Nigeria's match with Tunisia in Abuja.There are potent lessons to be learnt therein.
To the legion of 'experts' who have concluded that the 2-2 draw recorded against Tunisia last week meant that the Nigerian National team have crashed out of the 2010 World Cup race,I have these to say;
1.You are no sportsmen.The underlying spirit of sportsmanship says that the battle is not over until it is over.With 6 precious points to play for and Tunisia only having a 2-point lead,the race is not only open,but wide open.Understand too that even if we had beaten Tunisia our qualification would still have been far from assured.
2.You are no patriots.Yes,true patriots do not abandon their country in the middle of a battle,no matter the excuses.Every patriotic Nigerian is duty bound to support the National Team until the very last second of the last match.
Let me start by saying that I find it incredulous that a player who has played football up to the National Team level needs a coach to tell him that when you take the lead with five minutes left to play you should seal up your territory and prevent your opponents from having possession.That is football 101 that we all learnt on the streets.You can blame Amodu Shaibu for anything,but certainly not Tunisia's second equalizer.
Nigeria is passing through a low phase in her football development.Other countries like Brazil,England,and Ghana who are all doing well today,have also passed through their rough spells.It is obvious even from the European leaques that our current crop of players are not among the best in the world,so let's put our expectations in perspective.Eneramo,our foriegn-based centre-forward plays where? In Tunisia !
Mozambique and Kenya are hungry for the Nations Cup and know one of them will have to be eliminated,so they are both going to take their remaining matches very seriously.The most crunching will be Tunisia's last away tie to Mozambique.Nigeria therefore has every reason to aim at winning her two remaining matches,which means we all should actually be motivating the team right now,not talking of sacking the coach.
Mr Shaibu came on a rescue mission when the confidence and performance of the team was at its lowest possible level.In one year he has lifted the team several levels above where he met it.Let's imbibe and display the spirits of sporstmanship and patriotism when it is most needed.At a time like this.