by Dolapo Aina
Now that the eagles are super again, the various unpleasant and embarrassing occurrences that transpired pre, during and post the African Cup of Nations shouldn’t rear its ugliness again.
Any Nigerian who without any iota of doubt believed the Super Eagles would win the African Cup of Nations held in South Africa in January/February 2013, before or during the tourney, either had some form of divine revelation, or had direct access into the inner workings, convictions and thought processes of the coach of the Super Eagles-Stephen Okechukwu Keshi. Before the knock out stages, where Super Eagles clashed with and defeated the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, no right thinking Nigerians with some form of basic football knowledge could confidently say the Super Eagles would defeat the Ivoriens. Nigeria’s 3 group-stage matches were nothing short of lame.
After the Burkinabes equalised in the dying minute of one of our encounters, this writer stood up and left before the referee blew the final whistle, and took a very long stroll at night. Berating self, for wasting a precious 105 minutes or thereabout to watch the Eagles. As at the group stage, nothing had changed. The team was just the same lame team, Nigerians had painfully accepted as theirs (wetin we go do, was the ready mantra by a majority Nigerians). This writer noticed and was convinced of this lameness in 2009/2010 when the national team defeated the national team of Kenya by 3 goals to nil, during the qualifiers for the World Cup held in South Africa. Alas, the victory wasn’t convincing.
Since then, this writer made it a mental note not to watch any football game involving the Eagles. The reader should understand the writer’s berated mood when after almost 3 years of not watching the national team (except for the world cup and the friendly match with Catalonia), only to settle down to watch the games against Zambia and Burkina Faso and the same scenario (defensive calamities striking twice) played out. This writer didn’t bother with the third match against Ethiopia. And wasn’t convinced that the Ivoriens wouldn’t be a huge challenge.
The general opinion before the encounter with Didier Drogba and his gang was one of perspiration and exasperation. Some said it was the team’s “final bus-stop”. But whatever took over the Nigerian players before and during the encounter with Cote d’Ivoire can best be described as “Gladiatorial”. At one point, this writer thought “FIFA PRO 2012 or 2013” on PlayStation 3 was at work. After the clinical easing out of Cote D’Ivoire, this writer was confident the Eagles would win the tourney and be super again.
Now that the eagles are super again, the various unpleasant and embarrassing occurrences that transpired pre, during and post the African Cup of Nations shouldn’t rear its ugliness again. Coach Keshi wasn’t just rambling (as some NFA apparatchik would have wished), he was clamouring for the rightful, and deserved appreciation of indigenous coaches by African football associations. His sudden resignation seems to have become a classic case of “chess-like counter move a la Kasparov and Co, having more than two rippling consequences. The first effect has placed a barrier on irritant football apparatchiks breathing down on Keshi’s neck.
The second effect is nothing short of resounding domino effect. Keshi’s knee-jerk and short-lived resignation teleported him into the 36 chambers (not corridors) of power in all the 36 states in Nigeria. Like Clemens Westerhof, who had direct access to the presidency in the late 80s and early 90s during his reign as the national coach, Keshi unwittingly and maybe unconsciously has transmuted himself into the hearts of the movers and shakers in Nigeria. Any disgruntled apparatchik from THE Nigeria Football Federation, who dislikes the ebullient and confident multi-lingual Keshi would have to face-off with the top 3 powerful Nigerians and the over 30 state governors. A no win scenario.
Now that the Eagles are super again, the embarrassing scenarios which saw companies jostling for the limelight with the team (a team that was ignored and avoided by the same firms) shouldn’t re-occur. Life would have been a bit rosier if these firms had partnered with the national team from the onset. Imagine the PR currency the airline (which presented Keshi with an expensive Breitling chronograph after the tournament) would have accrued if the officials of the airline had been so benevolent to Keshi and the entire team pre-African nations cup?
Imagine the PR value and public appreciation of and endearment for the telecoms’ firm if coach Keshi had been the accommodation and two luxurious SUVs before the tourney commenced. The reader would have ot remember that it was reported that the coach had no official residence and car which were entitled to him). This writer believes there should be a term in PR and branding called strategic positioning. Rather than hurried networking, an established relationology as espoused by Matt Bird (the British pioneer) would have avoided and saved face for some of the firms.
Now that the Eagles are super again, it is apparent the team is still in a building process mode as coach Keshi has been proselytising. The coach’s insights and selection, pre and during the tournament weren’t grasped by Nigerians till the team confronted the Ivoriens and the importance of the new home-based and newly invited home-based players was evident. The never patient apparatchiks at the “glasshouse” should give Keshi his professional space and let him prepare the team to metamorphose into a tactically and technically formidable, SWAT-like squad, ready and all geared-up in all departments for the World Cup to hold in Brazil, in 2014. The upcoming FIFA Confederations’ Cup in the summer in 2013 shouldn’t be the only and final litmus test for Keshi’s abilities.
Now that, the Eagles are super again, those pulling the strings to hire a foreign technical director for all the national teams (invariably to have a lead on the now politically connected, confidence oozing, no-holds barred Keshi), they should recollect Keshi’s crystal-clear comment during press conference in South Africa, when he opined in French saying-“Je n’ai aucun problème avec les entraîneurs étrangers, mais juste de ne pas apporter un charpentier de l’Europe”. In English, “I’ve no problem with foreign coaches, but just don’t bring a carpenter from Europe”. The NFF apparatchiks should endeavour to pay all the outstanding bonuses of the team. It is rather baffling that the NFF didn’t “have funds to pay the Eagles their winning bonuses”.
Now that the eagles are super again, the fans of the national team who chorused and sang Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna after the triumph in South Africa, should be patient and shouldn’t be hymning crucify him!, when there is a setback on the road to Brazil.
Now that the Eagles are super again, all indications point to the inevitable plausibility that by the commencement of the World Cup in Brazil, in 2014, the Super Eagles would be superb. All things being equal.
Dolapo Aina writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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