Nigeria is a sport loving country. It is the home of sports and a place where talents abound. Every street is a football field and teams are everywhere to play on it. As blessed as this country is, these talents are not discovered and even those seen, their potentials are not harnessed. Consequent on that, many of them are forced to leave the shore of the nation for western and Asia countries to find greener pastures and make up their careers. This accounts majorly for the mass exodus of Africans to foreign land where their undiscovered and undeveloped talents and potentials are discovered and developed in full capacity. No wonder, Africans form the bulk of the western teams!
What should we do to curb this mass exodus and improve in our sports? Many enthusiasts are of the opinion that we need to put everything in the right order. First we must know what the right things are before thinking of how to put them in perspective. What then are the right things to be done? Who are the people to do them?
Due to the fact that we need a progressive way in the sports ministry, many methods have evolved. Some of them are good others are bad. Either way, we must move forward. The administrators of Football and other sports in Nigeria have tried to put things right. For this to be achieved they have employed so many people in order to meet up with the level of growth and development of sports worldwide. What dividends have this so far yielded?
As good as their attempt is, to put the right person in the right place they end up often time, jumping from one personality to another without the desired result. Since the commencement of Confederation of Africa Football (CAF), Nigeria has lifted the trophy seven times which of course is the highest time it has been lifted by any country. It has not been easy, but at least the team has been trying to see that they qualify for the tournament every season.
Until the qualifying exercise of 2010, it has been a tradition that Nigeria had the slot for the third place. This Nigerians frowned at and complained badly about. This clarion call and voices of the people led to the sack of Amodu who brought bronze and the employment of Samson Siasia in 2011 with a promising future. Those who have eagle eyes predicted it that Siasia was not the best of coaches for the job. Due to media publication and undue publicity, he was saddled with the responsibility.
Amodu who has successfully helped in winning a bronze in the past one lost his job because of this result. What an irony! The Samson who people thought will make the difference incidentally became the worst of all the coaches Nigeria has ever employed for the job. He promised to qualify Nigeria for the CAF and reach the World Cup semi-final. Perhaps he thought doing it was a matter of rhetoric. But when it was time for the real dance, it was then, that he remembered that he has forgotten his shoes at home. That is the paradox of life.
Following his abysmal and woeful performance he was given the boot. What a casualty! It is not good for one to bite the finger that feeds it. This he did out of ignorance, a costly mistake that led to his quick expulsion and sack. A thing he will ever live with throughout his life time.
Now Samson is out and Stephen Keshi is in. What are the aspirations and expectations of Nigerians from Keshi? Can he meet up with the yearning and aspiration of Nigerians? Is he the messiah that Nigerians are expecting? Will he be able to make the difference that we have been longing for? What others could not do, will he be able to do them? Where his predecessors could not reach will he be able to reach there?
Nigeria ouster from the Africa Cup of nations and other tournaments has caused a lot of problem and shame to her. Imagine a supposed giant not able to fight a dwarf! What type of giant is he then? How are the mighty falling! Sure the mighty must fall when there is no much and adequate preparation for the job. Once beaten twice shy. We need to learn from our mistake. Quite ironic, that some of our successive coaches have failed Nigerians solely due to their inability to learn from the mistakes of others.
Will Keshi learn from the mistakes and failures of Siasia and others? Now there are accolades here and there that he is doing really well. The question there is how well is the well? If you must progress and rise above the level of Onigbeinde and Amodu, you must be prepared to surpass their results by putting on more efforts. Human praise is ephemeral but only God can make the difference.
This difference he has started by using the Home based team which he is experimenting with. Now we are at the cross road, about to cross and climb up or drop and fall down. When the draw was announced between Liberia and Nigeria there was sigh of relief. What most people then thought was going to be a work over. But when the real dance commenced, it became evident that no national team of any nation should be taken for granted. The 2-all draw at Liberia is an eye opener to Nigerians and the handlers of the Super Eagles.
What will be our fate? Are we going to miss out again in South Africa 2013? Note: just as we are anxious to win the game here in Nigeria, so also is the other team of the opinion that she is coming to win too. We must be well guided in this regards. No nation is happy when their national flag is not hoisted during the tournament.
On this note, the Liberia president has promised their national team one hundred and fifty thousand dollars if they are able to win Nigeria. This goes to tell you the value placement on this game. To ascertain the degree of their preparedness, in the friendly played with the Flames of Malawi they emerged victorious. Further to this they have some other friendly matches to play in order to consolidate their team.
We cannot afford to miss out again, no not now! This is why Stephen Keshi and his team must wake up to their responsibilities. Although he has told Nigerians that the eagles does not need dollars before they can beat the Liberian team. We have heard even stronger statements than this before, but we hope this is going to be one with a difference. We are strongly awaiting the wind of change.
As they file out for the game, the players should be oriented. Who knows, if this was done during Samson’s time whether they would have won or not. For Yobo to have said that he was not aware that their 2-1 earlier if they were able to maintain it that they would have qualified goes to say that they were inept. They should be educated and clarified where and when necessary.
The Super Eagles should play like a team and not an individual. They should really play a super game and fly wide, high and fast as the eagle. It is pertinent for them to play with the last pint of their blood. This match should be played as if all their life depends on it. All their arsenal should be put in place in order to win this match. We cannot address ourselves as giant and act like dwarf. If we must advance, now is the time. So wake up and act! The giant of Africa should not be a matter of rhetoric, it should be seen in action.
The entire Glasshouse must be prepared to take the bull by the horn by doing the right thing at the right time and in the right place. One of the major problems of sports could be traced to the administrators. Therefore the Minister of sports should also rise to the occasion as at when the need arises. Docility will fail and further impoverish our sports and do more harm than good.
Keshi, you must learn how to plan and practice always. You must be in charge of the team and be proactive in your action. Don’t talk too much but act more. For your action will speak for you. If only you will act, success will not be far from you. People are ever willing to follow anyone who they know has what it takes to achieve and lead. If you do this, surely, the difference will emerge. Go and conquer!
WRITTEN BY IFIDON BENSON