Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The War Before The Battle

AFTER all the “mind games”; the fears of alleged insecurity by the Football Association of Malawi (FAM); the letter of complaint to FIFA; the security guarantees by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF); the racism allegation by Malawi coach Tom Saintfiet; the denial by Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi; a second Malawian letter of complaint to FIFA; a second query to Nigeria on the racism charge to which a response is still pending; after all that drama and more, the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and the Flames of Malawi will finally take place this weekend in Calabar, south-south Nigeria.

It was supposed to be just one of the battles the Eagles will fight as they seek a place in the final round of the African World Cup qualifiers. Now, thanks to all the hype and verbal darts the game itself has taken the complexion of a war.

Last week, I noted that the interplay of personal egos and national pride that have further elevated the importance of the game can only be good for Keshi and Nigeria’s concentration. I will not now completely abandon my “devil’s advocacy” and throw caution to the wind. But the signs are very good that the Super Eagles will emphatically extinguish the Flames on Saturday.

Beyond all the drama that has preceded the game, the cold facts on the table actually point to a comfortable Nigerian victory. Four World Cup appearances against zero for Malawi; three Nations Cup wins against zero for Malawi;   17 Nations Cup appearances against  just one for Malawi; Nigeria are currently rated 35th in the world and fifth in Africa while Malawi are 118th in the world and 33rd in Africa. The records show that Nigeria do not belong in the same class as Malawi, but football can be such an unpredictable game. Sometimes, records and pedigree could count for nothing, so no opponent can be taken for granted. That’s why the Eagles must remain focused.

The good news for Nigeria is that this is the first time since the AFCON 2013 win in South Africa last February that our three key players of the cup-winning first team will be available for selection at the same time. Striker Emmanuel Emenike has been absent all this while through injury. Attacking midfielder Victor Moses missed the Confederations Cup in Brazil in June while John Obi Mikel also missed the Mandela Challenge in South Africa last month. All three are available to play in Calabar.

Happily, all three have also satisfactorily resolved their club status for the new European season, so they don’t have any psychological distractions. Emenike has joined  Fenerbache in a big money move; Mikel Obi, against all speculations, proudly kept his place at Chelsea while Moses secured a loan move from Chelsea to another big club, Liverpool. I expect the trio to orchestrate the Eagles attacks on Saturday, ably complemented by Ahmed Musa who has been scoring regularly of late for his club, CSKA Moscow.

Talking about Musa, he is beginning to win me over to his side following his impressive substitute performance against South Africa in the Mandela Challenge and I hope he will keep it up against Malawi. I’ve always been very critical of his penchant for running faster than the ball and making poor crosses, but it appears he’s beginning to use his head better than his legs practically (no insult intended). If Musa can control his speed and be accurate with his crosses, he will be a serious “security threat” to Malawi (pun definitely intended) on Saturday.

In central defence, Nigeria will miss Kenneth Omeruo who had to undergo an operation on a shoulder injury, but home-based “gentle giant” Azubuike Egwuekwe should fill in adequately. In fact, Egwuekwe may be the only home-based  starter in Keshi’s first eleven following the recent international transfer of Godfrey Oboabona to Turkey.

Overall, Nigeria will file out a very strong team on Saturday and that should ensure a comfortable win if they play to their potential. Malawi’s “mind games” look sure bets to blow up in their own faces!

Complete Sports Video Game Kicks Off...

As a prelude to the Nigeria-Malawi World Cup qualifier on Saturday, the second edition of the Complete Sports Pro-Evolution Video Game Challenge will kick off in Lagos.
During the past few days, we have received more than 1,000 entries, but only 200 participants have been shortlisted. The overall winner of the video game challenge will smile home with N100,000.

The competition is another way of bonding with our readers and rewarding them for their loyalty. I look forward to meeting the lucky 200 participants on Saturday. See you there.

...As we Hangout With the Super Eagles
lEven if you miss out of the video game, everybody is welcome to  join Complete Sports on our maiden Google video chat show as we Hangout with the Super Eagles on Wednesday, September 3. To participate, just hook on to the link, It’s going to be great fun. Don’t miss out.


Re: Keshi vs Saintfiet

*Oga Mumini, further to your comments on Stephen Keshi’s attack on Tom Saintfiet which has landed him in FIFA’s court, let me WARN the Eagles against provocation by Malawi players during the match on 7th September at Calabar in order  to avoid red cards. The way the Malawi coach is going, he will inspire his players to provoke the Eagles to receive red cards and get sent off or to concede penalty kicks. Our boys should control their temper in the face of any provocation by the Malawi players. – Pastor Austin, Lagos.

*Alhaji Alao, I think Keshi’s “hatred” for white coaches is borne out of privileges accorded them by their African employers compared to their colleagues from Africa. We Africans should begin to respect our local coaches because other nations will not respect them until we do.  – Lanre Oredein, Benin City.

*Oga Mumini, if Keshi is guilty of being racist, then Saintfiet is guilty of prejudice, provocation and mischievous maligment and what he got is directly proportionate to his own action. Two other nations have visited us in Calabar, with one almost running off with a victory. Then this (“censored language”)  who was begging us for a job turns round to malign our nation. Oga, the man na chief racist, not Keshi. I just wait till he leaves Malawi and see what he has to say about them who are (“censored language”) enough to fall for his pranks now. – Olufunto.

*SIR, I believe it’s high time we do away with controversies to focus more on the task ahead. Ordinarily the word “dude” is an American adjective used to describe a very good looking (handsome) man, black or white when used in the right context. Keshi should know better not to help Saintfiet make a point against him.  – J.D.Korode, Ijagbo-Offa.

*Oga Mumini, please tell Stephen Keshi to concentrate on the World Cup qualifier and leave Saintfielt with his ‘mind game’. –  Dosunmu Kazeem, Surulere.

*Mumini, tell NFF to leave Keshi alone. Let him prepare for the ‘war’ the way he wants . Keshi is simply upset by Saintfiet’s comments and ambition. – ???

*If Keshi can wake up dead Nigerian stars who can still play I am sure he will invite them . Playing Malawi now is more serious than playing Spain. – Patrick Ogbu.

*Good day,  Alhaji. May I know what may likely happen to Keshi following the FAM’s report to FIFA? Honestly, I didn’t like his outburst but we must rally round him in this trying period. ‘Omo eni o le se idi bebere ki a fi ileke si idi elomi’. Anyway, he feels that is the way to defend his country. – Samson Odeniyi.

*According to Section 2:10-11 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code, the following sanctions are applicable to “natural persons” found guilty of various infractions, depending on the gravity of the offence: warning, reprimand, fine, return of awards, caution, expulsion, match suspension, ban from dressing rooms and/or substitutes’ bench, ban from entering stadium, or ban on taking part in any football-related activity.

Re: Bonus probe panel

*The probe panel has done a good job but we have to be careful not to allow their report to distract the players, the coaches and the NFF from qualifying for 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Everybody should be forgiven for the sake of continuity and for peace to prevail.  – From Benson Uduehi, Benin City.

*Dear Mumini Alao. I rate Soccertalk as the most intelligent and the ‘most tactical‘ football column in Nigeria. I don‘t miss it every week except when you go AWOL. Kudos to you, sir! On Keshi being a ‘first offender‘ on bonus issues, I seriously beg to disagree; he has always been involved. In Senegal 2002, he was involved; it is a fact! Check out where he had coached in Africa-Mali and Togo, they had the same issues during his time with them. He is just an unfortunate greedy fellow, QED! – Abiodun Adeniyi, Igando, Lagos.

*I mean he’s a first offender as Super Eagles coach!

*Uncle Mumini, what’s all this fuss about Joseph Yobo. For Christ’s sake, our defense has always fared better without him. He’s prone to mistakes,always jittery at the slightest pressure, lacks composure at crucial  moments, and, generally, responsible for many crucial goals conceded by both club and country. I might sound too harsh, but the bitter truth remains: had Yobo played all the 90 minutes action at the AFCON 2013 final, the trophy would be resting anywhere, but Nigeria now. Q E D. –???

*Please Alhaji Alao, if Sydney Sam can still play for Nigeria, kindly appeal to Keshi to invite him, if it is true that he was neglected by the German coach. Assalamu Alaykum. –  Imam Usman, Minna.

Re: Billion Naira Nigeria Premier League

*Dear Mumini, rejoice a plenty, but celebrate not . Thirty four million dollars television rights is huge, but a drop it is, compared to the financial benefits hidden in our Glo premier league. Research into the fortunes reaped by “Baba’ Ijebu” daily, through pools stakers, and hazard a guess as to what the clubs would be raking in, were it woven around our leagues . Mumini, you and your likes have a lot to do. When you are through l will roll out the drums to celebrate with you. Nice week, my humble brother. – Adegbenga Adeola, Lagos .

Re: European Football

*I BET this could be the turning point for Liverpool FC after their Champions League success few years back, getting their rhythm back with 9 points in three opening EPL games this season. Pray it’s kept on, and they don’t get complacent. This done without their talisman Luiz Suarez makes it more commendable.  Arsenal FC is my club, though. Fingers crossed. For now, Liverpool is living up to the bill: “You will never work alone” at top of the log! – Dayo Agara.

*ear Liverpool fans. Rejoice for the victory over Manchester United last Saturday. – Timothy Amehin, Badagry.

*Mumini, I am very worried over the record amount Real Madrid just splashed out to buy Gareth Bale. I am wondering if he will be able to justify the huge transfer fee and his weekly wages. What is your take on this? – Howard Odigie, Lagos.

*Considering the high unemployment rate in Spain (about 25%), Bale’s one hundred million Euro transfer fee has scandalized lots of people in that country. But as Real Madrid’s assistant boss Zindine Zidane frankly put it, “It’s the market that dictates the price.” It remains to be seen whether Bale will justify his price by helping Real win the Champions League. But the prospect of Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo running at defences from both flanks is definitely mouth-watering.


    Saintfiet and Malawi triggered mind-games, so its time to re-visit that old lesson on sport psychology.
    This time it is not about Self-Belief: the Eagles are at home; and well, the opposition is Malawi.
    This time, there is the opportunity to unleash another weapon of psychology: FEAR.
    Nigeria can unleash FEAR by thumping Malawi. Not merely thrashing the upstarts; but destroying Malawi. Disemboweling Malawi. Annihilating Malawi.
    Cue back to 1992 AFCON Final Qualifier: Nigeria 7 Burkina Faso 1. THAT kind of brutal scoreline that sends shock waves around, and sends shivers down the spine of potential opponents.
    This weapon of FEAR is necessary now because after Malawi, there are the winner-takes-all two-legged play-offs, where FEAR can give Nigeria the advantage even before the first ball is kicked.
    I watched Malawi lose away to Botswana in a friendly on Tuesday night. And that Malawi side is a million miles below the Eagles in quality.
    A Botswana sportscaster observed that if Malawi could not beat Botswana, how the hell is Malawi going to beat Nigeria?
    The Eagles must not let slip this chance to lay down a marker that Nigeria means business.
    Winning that final two-legged play-offs for the W/Cup qualification ticket may just depend on this game in Calabar.

  2. Nigerian team has proved that they are best in African continent -