Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Return of Obafemi Martins

I AM A BIG FAN of Super Eagles striker Obafemi Martins. I am therefore very pleased that he will be making a return to the team for this weekend’s 2014 World Cup qualifier against the Harambee Stars of Kenya in Calabar.

In the injury-enforced absence of our AFCON 2013 Cup-winning hero, Emmanuel Emenike, I expect Martins to start against the Kenyans in his traditional number 9 shirt and I expect him to score. That would not be a surprise at all. In our last competitive match against the Harambee Stars during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, it was Martins who scored the crucial winning goal in a 3-2 victory in Nairobi that gave us the World Cup ticket to South Africa.

Now, Martins is back to haunt the Kenyans again. I’m sure they remember him.

What I like most about Martins are his speed, aggression and insatiable appetite for goals. Each time I watch him play, he cuts the picture of a thief! But rather than going about stealing women’s handbags, Martins is a thief of goals.

In case you haven’t noticed before, just watch him closely against the Kenyans on Saturday. With his darting, bulging eyes and very sharp, cat-like reflexes, Martins is always looking to steal behind opposing defences, pick their pockets, rob them of the ball (yes, he’s also a robber!) and bang it into the net. And when he has done that, he turns away to throw those flips of somersaults in celebration. That, I’m sure we’re all familiar with, what with his 17 goals in 32 appearances for the Super Eagles.

During the past one week, Martins has been the man in the news for Nigeria. His transfer from Spanish La Liga side Levante to American Major League Soccer (MLS) side Seattle Sounders grabbed the headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. And even though he was given a choice to delay his departure for Seattle until he had finished the Kenya assignment with Nigeria, Martins decided to fly all the way from Madrid, Spain to Washington, USA (approximately 9hours, 35 minutes) for Seattle’s MLS game against Portland Timbers last Saturday. After making his debut as substitute for his new club, he was then flying back to Lagos, Nigeria (11hours 30 minutes) for the Kenya game. That is another thing I like about Martins: total commitment.

When he was asked if he had any hard feelings at being dropped by coach Stephen Keshi from the squad that won the Nations Cup last month, Martins said “No.” When asked whether he would respond to Nigeria’s call in future, Martins said “Yes.” And, here we are. Martins is a man of his word. That’s true professionalism.

On a private visit to Millan last year, revealing my Nigerian identity to a stadium keeper at San Siro immediately elicited fond memories of Obafemi Martins from the Italian, even though it was the posters of another Nigerian, current Inter boy, Joel Obi, that I found at train stations and other public places.
Martins played for Inter for five years (his longest at any club) before turning nomadic in a career that has now seen him play for EIGHT different clubsides.

On my programme, Soccertalk on Radio last week, Tunde Koiki asked me whether Martins’ decision to move to the MLS was not a sign that he was preparing for retirement. I said “No.” Actually, I believe that Martins, at 28 years, still has a lot to offer the Super Eagles. And I believe he  will show that against the Kenyans on Saturday.

I have noticed that the Nigerian press have refrained from calling Martins by his popular nickname, Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) so far in the countdown to the game in Calabar. The reason may not be unconnected with his absence from the Eagles limelight since the 2010 World Cup. But it’s just as well, since his new American employers may find the nickname too hot to handle in a country that is very sensitive about “weapons” of any sort.

Against Kenya in Calabar, however, I expect Martins to unleash all his weapons of mass destruction against the Harambee: the speed, the power, the aggression, the probing eyes, the goals and of course, the somersaults. A successful Martins comeback will bode well for the Super Eagles as the World Cup qualifiers progress. Just imagine having Emenike and Martins firing on all cylinders. It would mean Keshi can start with a “destroyer” No.9 on the pitch and another “destroyer” No.9 on the bench.

Welcome back, Obafemi Akinwunmi Martins. Good luck to you and the Eagles on Saturday.

Kenya, Our Wives

I DO NOT expect the Harambee Stars to give Nigeria much to sweat about on Saturday. Their new coach, Algerian ex-international Adel Amrouche will be looking to start his competitive tenure on an impressive note, following his engagement in February 2013. But the naturalized Belgian and former Equitorial Guinea coach will be returning home empty-handed.

The last two times Kenya visited these shores for a 2010 World Cup qualifier in 2009 and a friendly tie in 2011, they were turned back 3-0 on each occasion by the Super Eagles. Now that we have even been crowned African champions, I don’t expect the scoreline to be less.

Furthermore, Nigeria is rated 30th in the world and fourth in Africa in the latest FIFA  world ranking while Kenya is rated 126th in the world and 37th in Africa. The ranking may not be totally decisive in predicting the outcome of matches, but they do suggest where the pendulum is likely to swing and by how much. If the Eagles go about their business in a very professional manner, not taking anything for granted and staying focused till the end, it’s not beyond them to spell K-E-N-Y-A with goals.

Cheer the African Champions

THIS is the first game that the Super Eagles will play since they were crowned as African champions last month in South Africa. It’s therefore the first opportunity for Nigerians to see the players live in action since the AFCON triumph.

It’s an opportunity that the fans, particularly Calabar fans, must not miss. They should go out enmasse to support the Eagles and intimidate the Kenyans with their presence. While not resting on our laurels, we must continue to celebrate our status as African champions at every opportunity.

Calabar fans, show us your true colour by wearing your green and white to the UJ. Esuene Stadium on Saturday. Cheer the Eagles like hell so they can spell the letters in Kenya!

PREDICT & WIN

I AM offering a token prize to ONE WINNER able to correctly predict the result of Saturday’s World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Kenya on my programme Soccertalk on Radio on BRILA FM.

Type your name, location and prediction. (For example, Mumini Alao, Lagos, NGR 3 - 0 KEN) and send to 08179545076. Deadline is Thursday, March 28. Selected entries will be announced on the programme on BRILA FM, Lagos @ 10am on Saturday, March 30. Don’t miss it.

FEEDBACK

Re : CAF elections. Alhaji Mumini, thanks for your write up and observations on the CAF election. But the big question is, does the CAF constitution allow an ex-convict or a 'guilty' suspended member to contest for elections? There is corruption in CAF and all I can say is that it’s a gang-up against Nigeria which is part of  CAF politics. As you can see, most of the candidates being mentioned in your article that won the election are from French speaking countries. Also, Adamu is not in CAF in Nigeria's interest - he is only there to full his belly. – Babatope Charles, Egbeda, Lagos.

My heartfelt condolence to Chief Odegbani on his brother’s death. May the deceased rest in perfect peace. amen. – Alamu Oniyameta, Ibadan.

For me, the NFF Chairman, Alhaji Maigari must learn a few lessons from the conduct of the CAF elections which might be useful in the future. Meanwhile, where can I get 3SC jersey. - Up Sooting, Hala Madrid. – Azeez, Fagbemi.

In CAF, corruption is the norm. Instead of working to improve the game and the lot of African footballers in general, the officials prefer to struggle for top position. Danny Jordan did not sucesed because he could expose the sharp practices going on in the body. – Anayo Mbama. Lagos.

The sit-tight syndrome is common in African setting. President Abdoulaya Wade of Senegal is seeking a 3rd term in office at age 85. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe at 88 years has vowed to stay on in power. But I do hope they've not forgotten how their friend, Gaddafi, ended his journey? That should be a lesson for Hayatou and his like. As regards Maigari's defeat, I hope he now understands that certain things can’t be done in isolation. I condole our dear Mathematical Odegbami and pray that God gives him the fortitude to bear the loss of his brother.– Pastor Eyebiokin.

8 comments:

  1. I am awfully disappointed at your 'praise-singing' article on Martins. I have followed you for a long time believing you as a good and unbias football analyst. Of course everyone will always have their favorite players but you have lost my respect to ever believe you are ever unbiased. I can now understand you are one of those that indirectly insinuated that Keshi picked players from one part of the country before the AFCON. I don't know how often you watch your Martins play of recent but he is such a mediocre striker of modern day soccer. Apart from his speed, he lacks technique and finesse of a quality striker. What is all the noise about Martins when there are better players out there that have never been given a look at such as Kalu Uche, Anichiebe etc; perhaps because they did not have a brother like you to use this platform to pressure the coach. Martin will be a flopp again this weekend and please leave the coach alone when he does not pick your brother next time.

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  2. i dont believe,that Martins is Overated.17 goals in 32 mathches,is even more than a goal in evey other game.Munimi,is one of the best football analysts in Nigeria,and i have followed,him,since 1993,when we were playing,the world cup qualifiers,then he was the major reporter of Complete Football Magazine.Martins is the player,that dealt with Arsenal,in Highbury,in 2003,when Inter,beat them 3 0,even with the likes oh Henry.and also dealt with them in the Wembly stadium,while he was playing for Birghmigham,the London Club,still hasnt recovered,from the shock.he scored on his Debut,against the republic of Ireland in 2004,and scred 2 goals on his home debut,against Rwanda,and also equalised against Rwanda kigaliin a1 1 draw.he has made mistakes,in choosing the clubs,since he left Inter Millan,but no one is perfect.Having Obagol,and Emenike,will help the team.lastly,what impresses me about martins is his Humility.after being droped for Afcon,he wished the team good luck.Obagol,did not Sign,for Twitter football,club,were Osaze is the best player,ever,that has played for the club.so lets forget about sentiments,e.g saying this player,is Igbo,youruba,or Hausa.a Nigerian is a Nigerian.now that we have won the Afcon,we should be thinking of stepping up.when Emenike,was suspended for the Afcon,finals,we lacked,bite,up front.thank God for Sunday Mba.Munimi,can you remember,that we beat Kenya 3-0,to qualify for France 98 in Lagos,with Philip Trousier,on June 20th 1997.Sunday Oliseh,scored,his first Goal for Nigeria,and Amunike,added,the secong,and Wilson,Oruma,added the 3rd.Unfortunately Dosu Joselph,had an accident,which ended his Football Career.well,Kenya has to be dealth with again.
    AyoTunde Adeluyi

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  3. @ Richard Bello. I agree with you that a player like Anichebe will also be a quality addition to the national, I disagree this is a praising singing venture for Martins because of quota system.

    Martin’s record speaks for him. 17 goals in 32 apperances for national team is no joke, i.e. an average of 0.6 goals per match for Nigeria. I don’t know if the great Yekini can even boast of this record and on current form and based on his club form before the nations cup, Martins should be in the national team and should have gone to the Afcon ahead of Ik if he has been invited. And who would not want a cultured and matured players in his team?

    “When he was asked if he had any hard feelings at being dropped by coach Stephen Keshi from the squad that won the Nations Cup last month, Martins said “No.” When asked whether he would respond to Nigeria’s call in future, Martins said “Yes.” And, here we are. Martins is a man of his word. That’s true professionalism”

    This is very much unlike an Osaze who according to Ayotunde Adeluyi has “Sign,for Twitter football,club,were Osaze is the best player,ever,that has played for the club”.
    By the way, I expected oga Mumini to advise Osase as it seems there is no elders in his house. Please let’s rally round him before twitter destroy him abeg.

    Best of luck in the game against Kenya. Go Eagles!

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  4. Richard Bello, your criticism is unfair. Martins might not be ideal for the Eagles club-wise, but his antecedents speak for him. And I think he deserves some respect for that, rather than your blasphemous and biased quota oriented downgrading. Kudos to a great football analyst, Mumini Alao.

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  5. By the way everyone, with just one cap to becoming Nigeria's first centurion caps, Yobo should be encouraged by all to reach this milestone. Yes, he should not be called when needed as we have to build for the future, but the window of friendly games and giving him bit parts in games (like at the Afcon) should be exploited to "assist" him in reaching this milestone. Many examples abound of countries 'helping' their own in this instance. Beside, Yobo has been a patriotic players all through his years with the national team. There is no better way to reward him than to encourage him to achieve this milestone. Coach Keshi should remember how Westerhof took him to the world cup and played him in the game vs Greece to achieve his dream of playing at the world cup. This I also believe will go a long way in motivating upcoming players to be more committed to the national team.
    @ oga Mumini at the top, I expect you to champion this cause as we look forward to the friendlies and other world cup qualifiers through to the Confederations cup

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  6. I first saw Obafemi Martins in a 2003 Milan derby. He tore to shreds the vaunted AC Milan back four of Maldini, Nesta, Costacurta and Cafu, who would later that season win the Champions League.
    Obagol was the quintessential targetman: pace, elusive motion, shooting power. His obvious physical limitations in aerial play seemed over-compensated by his other attributes.
    He seemed like a creation of PlayStation.
    His potential combination with the duo of J-J Okocha and Kanu was going to launch Nigeria to football nirvana.
    Obagol was special because he arrived in the era of Eto'o and Drogba, and was younger and top-striker in one of the top teams in world football.
    And today, this is his rap sheet:
    Obafemi Martins. Wunderkind in 2003. Highest goals-per-game ratio for Nigeria.
    Statistics. Damned statistics.
    But statistics must not dictate Keshi's selection. Not now. Not ever.
    Unless the Big Boss prefers to begin back-tracking on the strides thus far achieved on his project.
    The current invitation of Obagol for this W/Cup Qualifier sparks of a return to the old ways that have consistently failed us.
    It seems our succession of managers(except Westerhof) always get struck by some baffling notion just when we are at the thresh-hold of a golden era.
    Make no mistake, Keshi's AFCON-winning team is the foundation of a truly dominant side. Much ink and sound have been spent on this team's successful blend of character and skill and chemistry. However, it is a notion such as a re-integration of Obagol that can form a structural weakness.
    The notion is as bad as inviting Chinedu Obasi or Taiye Taiwo or Yakubu Aiyegbeni or Obinna Nsofor or Danny Shittu.
    This group, as the old cliche goes, have had their time.
    There maybe some romance in seeking vintage from old wine, but the reality is that the old dog learns no new tricks.
    Obagol of 2013 might be too much for the quality of Kenya, but celebrating his return reeks of short-sightedness; especially if Nigeria is building a team for long-term success.
    The question of Obagol's potential contribution to this current squad is left to more technical minds. But I just cannot see it.
    Hunger is an over-used word in sports success, but it must be alien to Obagol of 2013. And this current side needs to maintain that AFCON level of hunger for sustained success.
    With the unavailability of Emenike, there is suspicion of desperation here, and it is baffling.
    The fluidity of Keshi's burgeoning side must not be compromised by the lure of a marquee name in the twilight of his career.
    Yes, Obagol deserves respect. Not unnecessary rehabilitation.

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  7. Oga Mumin, dont mind them, let them say. Some mothers do have them you know. I was one of the people that quenched the tribalistic rumours that went wild about Keshi's selection in my hood. Some dont even know that Juwon Oshaniwa that replaced Echejile came from their O state, they are just mad that nobody from their O state was on the list. I reminded them of Yemi Tella's team that won under 17, how many O boys were there? Whether the entire team is from one family shouldnt be a problem as long as they are nigerians and they can represent us well.

    Now on the issue of Martins, we have mutual feelings for him. Mine is peculiar becuase we grew up in the same hood. Off the field his greatest asset is his humility. He still calls me Bros when we saw last. Mind you he has never given me a dime. For Martins to still be playing at the level he is, is in actual fact a miracle. He has lost his Father, his Mother, and recently his immediate elder Brother, all within a short span of time. He is a strong man, with strong mental character. Whether he is mediocre or above average presently is not the issue, the issue is, is martins good enough for the Eagles TEAM? Yes or NO? Let every doubter search his mind thoroughly and be objective when answering.

    Obagol, you have our support, please destroy kenya is Keshi gives you the opportunity. We will all be better for it.

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  8. Nigerian team has proved that they are best in African continent - http://www.ngr24.com/

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