Wither Foreign Assistant Talk

There is no gainsaying that Stephen Okechukwu Keshi’s job as Super Eagles coach is the most difficult on earth considering the huge pressure on the man to perform. But has he performed so far? My sincere answer is yet even though like Oliver Twist I will always ask for more like my other 150 million compatriots. But one thing about us Nigerians particularly when it comes to sports or do I say specifically football is that we are bad losers. We desire to win everything and at all cost too.

Just back from CHAN tournament which we have failed to qualify for since its inception in 2009 the NFF is asking Keshi to pick a foreign assistant as if he will guarantee us a semi-final finish at the World Cup. The body language of the occupants of the Football House or is it still Glass House is that they are not satisfied with the bronze medal finish in South Africa. They cite the inability of Super Eagles to beat 10-man Ghana in the semi-final of the CHAN tournament as a reason to support their request or move for a foreign assistant. They also point at the fact that the man who led Libya to win the tournament is a foreign coach.

But the NFF fail to understand that in football it is not a guarantee that a complete team must beat a team that is down by a man or two. In Italia ’90 opening game between Cameroon and then defending champions Argentina, the Africans beat their South American opponents loaded with stars like Diego Maradona and Claudio Caniggia with two men sent off.  Heaven did not fall in Argentina. ? Has the NFF and the football experts we have all over the country who argued that CHAN Eagles are not the best set of players our domestic League can boast of suddenly forgot that six key players of the team heading to South Africa could not make the final squad due to injuries sustained in the last friendly played?

I don’t think the NFF cared to find out how much motivation Libyan players got in the CHAN tournament. Did the NFF bother to ask how much the Libyan players got as daily camp allowance, bonus among others?

The narrow-minded would argue that it does not matter if Libyan players got all the dollars in the world as motivation to do their country proud and heal the wound inflicted on the people by the Arab Spring uprising. But it should matter especially to a country like ours that wants to win everything with little or no commitment particularly financially. Yes the NFF can claim that it motivated the team enough but when compared with what obtained in other team then, it would be obvious that the NFF does not deserve the bronze Keshi and his boys labored to win. You don’t eat your cake and have it. It took the Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi to motivate the players with a $100,000 (about N16m) pledge in the game against Morocco and he repeated same gesture against Ghana.

Motivation is part of football if not the real football itself. A well funded and motivated team without big name players can beat a star studded team without motivation. I stand to be corrected. Rather than start early in sourcing for funds for the World Cup the NFF is busy distracting itself with meaningless talk of foreign assistant. It does appear that the NFF is insensitive to the feelings of the present crop of players who have established a bond with Keshi. It will be difficult to break that bond because the bond is built on Keshi’s personal motivation he injected into the squad.

The bond between Keshi and his players is the real motivation capable of taking the team to the semi-final of the World Cup. What the NFF is about doing with the ridiculous talk about foreign assistant is to break that bond and mess the team up before it kicks the first ball at the World Cup. For a proudly Nigerian team that won the AFCON trophy in South Africa in 2013 and just one year after the players in the domestic scene followed the footsteps of the main team to secure a bronze in a tournament that is yet to record a winner back to back common sense should direct the NFF to hold unto the team and boost it financially to do better at the World Cup in June.

 It is becoming clear with each passing day that the NFF is afraid of Keshi taking his giant stride to the next level by adding more feathers to his already jam-packed cap. The NFF does not want to cover its face in shame to witness Keshi walking into bigger and better paid job immediately he finishes prosecuting the World Cup program. But that is bound to happen because what is written is written. Keshi has continued to use his experience as a respected coach to bring honour and glory to his fatherland. He is owed several months salaries yet under such nefarious condition and choky working atmosphere of continuous pressure which includes sacking one of his most trusted assistants Slyvanus Okpala he still churns out results. This is not a time for the NFF to talk about a foreign assistant since Keshi is not asking for one anyway. The NFF has engaged itself in a wild goose chase but it is hoped that when the World Cup starts it should not come up with excuses of no more. This is the time to start the begging act since we know the body to be cronic beggar once it comes to the issue of prosecuting assignments.

About Desmond Ekwueme


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