Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Matters Arising

THE Segun Adeniyi-led panel set up by the minister of sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, to investigate the Super Eagles bonus row on the eve of the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil submitted its report to the minister last week.

Almost simultaneously, Eagles coach Stephen Keshi released a list of 42 players he intended to invite in preparation for Nigeria’s decisive World Cup qualifier against Malawi in Calabar on Saturday, September 7, 2013, only for him to be pegged back by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) who rightly insisted on a manageable  23-man list.

And, at about the same time, Malawi coach Tom Saintfiet raised questions about the safety of Calabar as match venue, prompting Keshi to lambast him as a “white dude who should return to Belgium.” Saintfiet subsequently accused Keshi of racism and threatened to report the matter to FIFA. These are some of the stories that made headlines in the past week or so.

The probe panel report

I have already expressed my views TWICE in this column on the bonus row, so there isn’t much that I want to add. Most of the findings by the panel tallied with my earlier analysis, to wit: (1) The NFF probably did not give a proper notice to the players about the planned bonus review. (2) Coach Stephen Keshi probably encouraged the players’ revolt because he stood to also benefit from the higher bonuses. (3) The players were probably disrespectful to authority and their action was tantamount to blackmailing the country.

Indeed, the panel indicted all three parties – the NFF, Keshi and the players. The minister has wisely deferred any action on the panel’s recommendations until the Eagles’ World Cup qualifier against Malawi is dispensed with in order to avoid any distractions. But even after the Malawi game, I urge the minister to handle this matter with great care because we still have the final round of the World Cup qualifiers to execute, assuming we overcome Malawi as expected.

I have noticed that some “Keshi Haters” have seized on the probe panel report to pursue their own personal vendetta against the Eagles coach and they’re sharpening their knives to skin him alive. If such people had their way, Keshi will be sacked immediately for insubordination despite his recent achievements for the national team and his personal sacrifices when his salary goes unpaid for several months.

While I do not approve of Keshi’s alleged role in the bonus brouhaha, I am sure that millions of Nigerians would rather he is forgiven as a first offender (on bonus matters) and WARNED to desist from such mercantile bahaviour in future.  Finally, as I earlier suggested in my analysis which has now been recommended by the panel, the bonus of national team coaches should henceforth be determined completely independent of what the players earn.

I will advise the minister to focus on the panel’s suggestions that deal with how to prevent a reoccurrence of the bonus row in the future, rather than dwell on the past looking for whom to sanction. For instance, if the coach will be sanctioned for alleged insubordination, will the NFF also be sanctioned for improper communication? And will the coach be sacked or suspended if he fails to submit himself to  recommended sanction? How will the public react to that?

Furthermore, what type of sanction will be metted out to the players, Mikel Obi, Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide who were specifically indicted as “ring leaders” of the boycott in Namibia? Considering that these players did not even appear before the panel to defend themselves, will they be dropped from the national team if they also do not submit themselves to the recommended sanction?

If they are dropped from the national team assumedly because “no player is bigger than Nigeria,” like some critics will boast, what happens if other players down tools in solidarity with their “ring leaders”? Will the ensuing crisis not explode and consume our 2014 World Cup aspirations?

Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi should consider all these questions before taking his next step on the probe report.
The probe panel has done a good job identifying what went wrong in Namibia and suggesting how to avoid a repeat occurrence. But how we close the Namibia affair itself without  cutting our nose to spite our face will require a lot of sagacity from the minister. It is not beyond him.

NFF and Keshi’s team list

THIS matter is straightforward. There shouldn’t have been any public disagreement between Stephen Keshi and the NFF over the number of players to be called to camp for the Malawi  game.

Usually, Keshi submits or presents his list to the NFF technical committee  before it is made public. The committee should have raised its objections to the unwieldy list and asked the coach to trim it down before it was released to the media.

The resultant “press war” over the necessity for a long list could and should have been avoided. Let’s hope lessons have been learned by both parties and they would spare us such unneccesary distraction in the future.

Keshi versus Tom Saintfiet

ONLY last week, I played the Devil’s Advocate in this column by suggesting that we shouldn’t all get carried away by Keshi’s recent successes lest we all slip into “fatal over-confidence.” Keshi’s bullish attack on Malawi coach Tom Saintfiet’s over the latter’s comment on the safety of Calabar hinted of arrogance and I will advice him  to watch it.

Saintfiet deliberately set out to unsettle Nigeria when he made the allegation that Calabar was unsafe and pressed the Malawi FA to seek a safety guarantee from FIFA. Keshi himself admitted that the Belgian was playing “mind games” and he (Keshi) shouldn’t then have blown his top talking about the other man’s colour or where he come from. He should simply have left the NFF to provide the safety guarantee requested by FIFA and that would have been enough.

Obviously, Keshi is not a fan of European coaches “taking the job” of African coaches and he couldn’t hide this fact throughout the Nations Cup in South Africa where he used every opportunity to attack “white carpenters parading themselves as football coaches.” But Keshi himself has played under several European coaches and he must respect the right of every country to recruit whoever they like; and also respect those coaches as his professional colleagues. His reaction to Saintfiet’s “mind games” was definitely exaggerated even if he had no racist intentions.

Meanwhile, the positive side to the Keshi - Saintfiet verbal exchange is that Malawi now do not stand any chance of catching the Super Eagles by surprise when both sides meet in Calabar on September 7. If Keshi was getting complacent before, I am sure he is now wide awake to the challenge ahead because of his personal ego battle with Saintfiet. Keshi must want to beat Malawi so badly now that chances of an upset similar to Kenya’s at the same venue earlier this year are almost non-existent. That can only be good for Nigeria.

The Tijanis Are Bereaved

SPORTS encyclopedia Kayode Tijani and his brother Kazeem, editor of Complete Sports Saturday, were bereaved early Tuesday morning, August 27, 2013 when  their father Pa Mustapha Tijani passed away. He was 85.

I happen to be quite familiar with the Tijani clan and I hereby express my condolence to the entire family.
To a man who gave Nigerian sports journalism and Complete Communications Limited two hard-working sons (Kayode formerly worked with us), I say on behalf of all us here: May Allah grant him Aljanat Firdaos (The best of Paradise), amen.

FEEDBACK

Re: Kanu and Odegbami

Hello, Mr Alao. If I can recall well, Kanu and Odegbami did not say Keshi is the best coach Nigeria ever had. Rather they said “Keshi is the best Nigerian coach” Super Eagles ever had. Would you like to recheck the two articles by Kanu and Odegbami? – Pharm. Kayode Okunlola, Akure.

Your article (with reference to) Kanu and Odegbami is a real dis-service to your status as a super soccer analyst and reporter. You took yourself down so low to the position of a novice in the game and a pathological doubting Thomas. I can understand your disbelief before the Nations Cup qualification, but not after winning the Cup.

Mumini, you are better than this. – From Peter Oruru, marketing and brand development consultant.

*Kayode is right, but Peter missed the point. I played the Devil’s Advocate in that article so that Keshi and his team will stay focused. Recall that it was AFTER winning the Nations Cup that Kenya nearly beat us in Calabar due to the Eagles complacency. I’m actually hoping and praying for Keshi to prove me wrong again and take us to Brazil! No problem.

Sir, you are right about the Eagles (attitude) but it is not the Eagles only. It’s a general thing. You don’t praise (an average) Nigerian. He or she works well when he/she is written off. – Tony.

Hello, Oga Mumini, your write up titled “I don’t believe Kanu and Odegbami” was a display of journalistic diplomacy. It was a good way to bring both the coach and players tendency for over confidence under control and also serves as a veiled motivation for the entire team. Keep it up. – Hon. Chuddy Okeke, Lagos.

Kanu and Odegbami have seen it all and their views can’t be faulted. Yes, Nigeria will surely reach the top under Keshi’s tutelage going by his methods, passion and  enthusiasm of his array of players, but it’s too premature to say he’s the best coach ever. So far, he appears to be the luckiest judging by his achievement within a short time.

The likes of Father Tiko, Otto Gloria, Adegboye Onigbinde, Shaibu Amodu and Samson Siasia were great coaches. Clemens Westerhof wasn’t fantastic but he was an achiever and also lucky! Nigeria has the potentials to land in Brazil 2014. With good preparation coupled with proper understanding between Keshi and NFF, Eagles will soar high! – From Pope, Abeokuta.

Coach Keshi should invite Lukman Haruna to help the Eagles midfield. Apart from Mikel Obi, I don’t see any creative midfielder in the team. Sola Ameobi and Obinna Nsofor struggled against South Africa due to lack of a playmaker. Where is Lukman Haruna? We can fight the truth,  but we cannot defeat the truth. Faith comes by hearing ( Roman, Chapter 10 ).

 – From Patrick Nwafor, Benin City.

Re: English Premier League

Well done Oga Mumini, for your indepth sports analysis at all times. In your article on “Club Power Rules EPL” however, you said Wayne Rooney played as a substitute for Man U in their 4-1 win away at Hull City. It was Man U 4-1 away at Swansea while Chealsea won 2-0 at home against Hull City. – From Harvest Emmanuel-Olu, Abuja.

*You’re right, Harvest and others who made a similar observation. Thanks for the correction.

Alhaji, your EPL gamble is wrong. You better gamble on Chelsea. I know your Liverpool cannot win. Chelsea will  be the champions, period. – From Gbadamosi M A.

2 comments:

  1. Oga Mumuni,
    There is another perspective to the Keshi-Saintfiet face-off.
    This concerns a baffling disregard by the soccer community to the safety-alarm raised by Saintfiet.
    Why is there a deafening silence about Saintfiet's "fears"?
    Pray, when did Calabar become a high-risk venue? Calabar has hosted Nigeria's home games for about 2 years now; so where are the red-flags that prompted Saintfiet to worry about safety?
    Security is priority for FIFA, so it must never be dangled as bait for mind-games.
    Mind-games. Trash talk. Banter. Gamesmanship. These are fuel for entertainment in sport, and like sport, they possess boundaries.
    One definite boundary is Decency. Another boundary is Respect.
    Respect for Faith, Race, Culture, Gender, Nationality.
    Questioning security in another nation simply for the sake of 'mind-games' is irresponsible. Period.
    There is a case for the condemnation of Saintfiet for his obvious bogus alarm about security in Calabar.
    The reprimand of Keshi in the court of public opinion maybe fair, but the non-condemnation of Saintfiet is worse.

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

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