Thursday, December 27, 2012

Learning From History

SOMETIMES, human memory can be very short. We tend to forget quickly about our challenges and difficulties thereby not appreciating later achievements; or we are neglectful of our experiences, thereby not learning from our history.

As the Super Eagles prepare for a return to the Africa Cup of Nations party next year in South Africa having missed out of the last edition in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea, I have made a collection of relevant portions from some of my articles in the last one year or so. I have then added a contemporary comment.  The objective of this exercise is to remind Nigerian soccer fans of our  recent past, so that we can take better stock of our present and also realistically project for the future. Let’s go...

From Soccertalk, October 12, 2011: Eagles Failure
lI am writing this on the morning of Tuesday, October 11, 2011. It is three days after Nigeria’s Super Eagles were sensationally eliminated by Guinea’s Syli Nationale from the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations race and the whole country is still seething with anger, disappointment, shock and disbelief.

For the first time in 25 years, the “Giant of Africa” has failed to qualify for the biggest event in African football. And the man with the dubious record of achievement is the “Coach of the People” Samson Yebowei Siasia.

*My comment now: We are now in December 2012 and the Super Eagles are back amongst the elite of African football, thanks to coach Stephen Keshi. If you think qualifying for South Africa 2013 is not a big deal, go and talk to Egypt and Cameroun and see how they feel missing the AFCON for a second straight tournament.

From Soccertalk, October 12, 2011: Osaze’s Arrogance
lI DON’T  believe there’s any truth to speculations expressed in some quarters that Osaze Odemwingie sabotaged Siasia against Guinea by deliberately missing goalscoring chances especially in the first half.

But if that would remove any doubts from the minds of conspiracy theorists, I suggest the NFF should investigate the allegation so that the West Brom player can have an opportunity to clear his name for posterity.

Osaze loves the personal glory and I am fully sure that he wanted to score against Guinea. His misses were due mainly to his lack of form which can happen to any striker.

If I can forgive Osaze’s misses, same cannot be said of his post-match comments on Twitter where he reportedly disparaged Nigerian sports journalists amongst others. Osaze was quoted as saying that
journalists are enemies of the national team because journalists beg players for money and criticise the players only when their monetary demands are not met. This is a very weighty allegation indeed.

As a self-respecting journalist, I am embarrassed by Osaze’s allegation and I hereby challenge him to name the journalists that he is referring to. If he cannot, I suggest that the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) should take up the matter with him and obtain a retraction and apology.

I am a member of the AIT Football Awards panel that nominated Osaze for the 2009 Nigeria Footballer of the Year award. The majority of the panelists are also journalists. Osaze should tell Nigerians how much he paid us to get the nomination.

The Osaze I know used to be a modest, cool-headed young man. But he seems to have lost his way since scoring 15 goals in his English Premier League debut season. That momentary success has entered his head, but it’s not too late for him to retrace his steps.

Until I observe that he has purged himself of his stupid arrogance and insolence, I will not mention Osaze’s name in my column again. I just can’t stand people who are too full of themselves. If he can’t apologise for his terrible misses against Guinea, it the least he can do is to shut up his mouth and let’s have some peace and quiet.

I hope his media advisers will pass on this message.

*My comment now: The leopard cannot change its spots. My embargo on this player is still in force so I won’t repeat his name here. But early this week, he went on Twitter again to rant and rave about his exclusion from the Eagles squad to South Africa 2013. If there was any doubt about whether Stephen Keshi was right to drop him in the first place, the player provided enough evidence of his insolence by insulting virtually everybody on Twitter. We don’t need such a divisive player in our national football team. Nigerian journalists, please let’s move on and talk about the 32 players the coach has shortlisted for the AFCON. Let’s stop wasting time and space on this one player who is on an ego trip.

From Soccertalk, November 2, 2011: Target 2013

lWeighing the task at hand, the Super Eagles are so poor now that it will be fool-hardy to expect any coach to guarantee us a semi-final finish at the 2013 ANC less than two years from now. Although it is not an impossible task, setting such a target for the next coach will mean we are still deceiving ourselves that we are one of the best teams in Africa. The FACT is we are not, so we shouldn’t include any arrogant clauses in the contract for the next coach. It will be enough if the coach lifts us from rock bottom, where we are now, and we get a ticket for the 2013 ANC. Whatever  stage we reach at the finals should be accepted as part of our rebuilding process. That’s number one.

Deriving from that, the minimum that we need to give the next coach to
put the Super Eagles back on track is FOUR YEARS, irrespective of his results in the short term. That means we should be targetting the 2015 ANC and the 2018 World Cup to make an impact again on the continental and global stage. But if any major success comes along before then, we will take it as bonus. That, in my opinion, is the modest target we need to set for the in-coming coach.

*My comment now: Stephen Keshi became the “in-coming coach” as he was appointed a week or so after this article. I stand by the “modest” target I set before his appointment. One step at a time.

From Soccertalk, December 7, 2011:

What Next?

lNIGERIA’S FOOTBALL misery in 2011 was completed last weekend when the Under-23 men’s national team were knocked out of the African qualifiers for the Olympic football tournament in London 2012.

Following the women’s team, Super Falcons’ failure to also qualify for the Olympics, and the senior men’s team Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for the 2012 African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equitorial Guinea, it is now confirmed that Nigeria will not take part in any major football event in the 2012 calendar. A lengthy barren spell stares us in the face.

*My comment now: Thank God the barren spell is over and the Super Eagles, Under-20 Flying Eagles and Under-17 Golden Eaglets have all qualified for their respective continental competitions in 2013. Well done, the Nigeria Football Federation.

From Soccertalk, February 22, 2012:

Lesson From AFCON 2012

lNaturally, everybody has been talking about the lessons to be learned from Zambia’s surprise triumph at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations recently concluded in Gabon & Equatorial Guinea. The fact that the majority of the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) squad is based at “home”

in Africa stands out which showed in their team cohesion on the field.

Following the three successive triumphs by Egypt in 2006, 2008 and 2010, the last four African titles have now been won by teams parading largely home-based (or Africa-based) players.

Should Nigeria therefore rely only on home-based players to break our Nations Cup duck? Nothing can be more simplistic.

Egypt did it successfully because they have a strong domestic league and a team that was talented and disciplined. Zambia do not have a strong domestic league (most of their key players play in South Africa) yet they were successful because they were talented and disciplined. Note: none of their players wore ear-rings!

By contrast, Cote d’Ivoire lost the 2012 final penalty shoot-out just like they did to Egypt in 2006 NOT because they paraded a foreign-based team but simply because fate had made up its mind to favour Zambia for the loss of their football heroes that died in a 1993 plane crash off the coast of Gabon where the 2012 AFCON final was played. Or, how else can we explain a team that did not concede any goal in open play throughout the tournament (CIV) going home without the trophy? Like Segun Odegbami suggested in his analysis, the gods of football are to blame for CIV’s loss of a tournament they did enough to win.

Joint pre-tournament favourites, Ghana, meanwhile, lost to a lack of humility. Having been runners-up in 2010 and with heavyweights Egypt, Cameroun and Nigeria missing from the roster, the Black Stars felt that all they had to do was show up and pick up the trophy this time around. Striker Asamoah Gyan demonstrated their arrogance at a press conference when he boasted that he was the best thing to happen to African football since sliced bread. Pride comes before a fall.

Gyan’s missed penalty in the semi-final against Zambia led to Ghana’s elimination and he has been forced to suspend himself from the team following widespread public anger against him. Didier Drogba also missed a penalty in the final against Zambia, but Ivorians still welcomed him back home like a hero, knowing that the spirits of the 1993 Zambian dead “resurrected” to crown the present team.

So, in my opinion, the big lesson Nigeria must draw from Zambia’s victory is not necessarily to forcefully domesticate our national team, but to cultivate and field a team of players psychologically imbued with discipline, humility and determination whether they are from home or abroad.

The other (technical) characteristics common to the successful Egyptian and Zambian teams which Nigeria must imbibe are technique, organization, fitness and pace. In modern day football, these are pre-requisites for any team that wants to be champions, irrespective of where the players are coming from.

Congratulations, Zambia.

*My comment now: I am of the opinion that Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Zambia still have better chances of winning AFCON 2013 ahead of Nigeria. The first two because they are stronger and have more tested teams; Zambia because they are more cohesive and have grown in confidence since their surprise 2012 triumph. In fact, Zambia’s winning team of barely a year ago is still very much intact and ready to go. Coach Herve Renard released his provisional squad of 26 even before Nigeria had opened camp for its provisional 32!
Having said that, I expect that the Super Eagles will still command some respect in South Africa because of Nigeria’s pedigree in African football. And if given the slightest chance by the favourites, our boys will take full advantage. I’m not tipping the Eagles to win the trophy but I will accept a pleasant surprise.

Considering their present disjointed state, I will be more than happy if the Eagles emerge from the tournament with a solid and recognisable first team capable of playing more cohesively when the 2014 World Cup qualifiers resume. Keshi should seize the extended period he will have with the players in Faro, Portugal and at the Nations Cup proper to build his team both for the AFCON and the World Cup qualifiers because he won’t get another chance after the AFCON.

Good luck to the Big Boss and the Super Eagles.


Re:Nigeria - World Champion 2022

lDEAR Mumini. Your futuristic article, Nigeria-World Champions 2022 is evidence that the Nigeria football fraternity was the worse for it while your incisive Soccertalk column was absent. What a refreshing perspective you brought on a subject most of us have taken for granted. Let’s hope the NFF sees your vision and pursue it. Please don’t go AWOL again.

–– Dr. Animashaun, Ibadan.

lVERY inspiring and audacious piece! Oga Mumini, you don start again, abi?, Anyway, I’m with you on this one. Goodluck to us come 2022. –– Immanuel, BEAT FM, Lagos.

lOGA Mumini. I just read your piece, Nigeria World Champions 2022.

This can work only in a country that believes in long term planning. NFF technical committee should read this and act on it. –– Peter Ehiremen, Lagos.

lOGA Mumini. I’m so sorry that you’ve not been called up to Super Eagles camp (despite your SWAN Cup heroics). Not to worry, you’ll be there when Nigeria  lifts the World Cup in Qatar 2022. –– 07025715***
lSIR, please don’t deprive us of your column for so long again. If he no be Soccertalk, e no fit be like Soccertalk! Welcome back. –– 08068134***

lI AGREE with your suggestion for 2022. But my fear is that the present NFF will not lay the foundation for it so that another regime will not take credit for it in future. –– 08028550***.

lDEAR Mumini. I believe that most Complete Sports readers are happy to have you back on Soccertalk. Your comeback article, though ambitious and audacious, is not impossible if only those in authority have the mindset to follow it through. –– Tosin Akinpelu, Igando, Lagos.

lTALKING about preparing the current Golden Eaglets for glory in Qatar 2022, I believe that their present coaches –– Manu Garba, Emmanuel

Amuneke, Nduka Ugbade and Emeke Amadi should be promoted with the team. They are experienced, level headed and diligent. Meanwhile, the players should be protected from selfish football agents. –– Akindolie, F.

lI PRAY that the NFF will see the vision in your advice for Qatar 2022. Well done. –– Dokun Yinka, Abuja.

lWELCOME back and congrats on your SWAN Cup exploits. I share your crush on the current Golden Eaglets. They have won many hearts. Kindly let us know the name of your club in Spain. –– Howard Odigie, Lagos.

*It’s top secret. –– Mumini.

lMy FINAL WORD FOR 2012: This is wishing all Soccertalk readers Merry Christmas and our country Nigeria a prosperous new year 2013.

Henceforth, all letters to this column must carry full name and location of contributors. See you in 2013. God bless.


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