1st July, 2010
This is the continuation of Mondayâ€™s story about the shameful crash of the Super Eagles in South Africa 2010 World Cup.
The first part of the story was published just 48 hours before the Federal Government wielded the big stick yesterday, banning all activities of Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, for the next two years.
Yesterdayâ€™s action by President Jonathan Goodluck was just timely; it confirmed our story that the NFF officials were on a jamboree here in South Africa.
The soccer ruling body, which came to the World Cup with over 400 people, invaded the former Apartheid enclave and lodged its guests in five-star hotels. Included in the â€˜NFF squadâ€™ were 31 states chairmen of football associations, who were given five-star treatment with estacodes.
P.M.Sports observed how the NFF contingent stormed the nooks and crannies of South Africa, doing series of unprintable things.
It was gathered that the South African embassy officials denied the Nigeria Football Supporters Club enough visas to bring their members to the World Cup because the NFF swept the ones reserved for the fans.
â€œThe world saw just a few Nigerian supporters here in South Africa because the large chunk of the visas reserved for the fans were procured by the football body in Nigeria. Thatâ€™s why we Nigerian residents in Bloemfontein brought our country people to Durban to support the Super Eaglesâ€, Nwanna Chukwubuike told P.M.Sports in Johannesburg.
Just as Kanu and his team-mates went out shopping at Richards Bay, Durban, the officials were not left out. They were everywhere, all fully clad in our national colours buying all that were on the shelves. It was gathered that one very rich Nigerian official, who was impressed with the beautiful cities of South Africa even told his colleagues he would return here to buy a house and relocate his family thereafter.
Notably, the officials â€˜did our nation proudâ€™ in a way; they flamboyantly showed off the new jerseys designed by Adidas for Eaglesâ€™ World Cup campaign in South Africa. Oh yes, they were a delight to see here, though their presence was a big distraction to the Eagles, who lacked the wings to fly.
The NFF President, Alhaji Sani Lulu, sorry, the ex-boss of the body, who was expected to be with the squad at their Waterfront Hotel camp was not stable in camp. He was busy holding meetings with his guests, the FA chairmen who were all over the place. All they discussed here was how to ensure that the board returns to office during the August polls in Nigeria.
Interestingly, some Nigerian journalists, including yours truly caught the officials at one of their hideouts in Durban. The officials were overwhelmed when Lulu and his cohorts were given the go ahead to retain their offices. The applause that greeted the end of their meeting was a confirmation that Lulu was on his way back to his post, yet the election is about two months away.
By the time Lulu and the officials were through with their act, the World Cup was almost over for Nigeria as the Eagles only had the last group match against South Korea to contend with.
â€œNo, we are not out, the federation will do everything humanly possible to ensure the Eagles beat Korea and hopefully, Argentina will defeat Greece, thatâ€™ll see us through.â€ That was NFFâ€™s optimism before Kanu and his team-mates filed out for their last battle.
It was at this time all the officials, especially the leadership of the NFF, became coaches. They kept calling on the coach, Lars Lagerback, on the strategy to use against Korea. Those who could not reach him sent short notes and text messages through the back room staff of the federation, all to ensure the team scale through the first round.
It was too late to cry, as their heads were already off. And unlike some honest managers of beaten teams like France, South Africa, Greece, Cameroon, Italy and Australia, who have either resigned or retired, Lagerback is playing a fast game, saying his employers, the NFF would decide his future.
His plan to return despite Eaglesâ€™ poor outing in the World Cup was ratifiedÂ by the NFF board, which met in Abuja on Tuesday, that was before FGâ€™s hammer fell on the body yesterday.
P.M.Sports also went to town here in South Africa to ask some ex-footballers, who watched the Nigerian team during their campaign in the World Cup.
On and off the pitch problems were attributed to the Eaglesâ€™ crash, especially lack of investment.
Abedi Pele of Ghana, Nigeriaâ€™s Austin â€˜Jay Jayâ€™ Okocha and Paul Ince of England, who are ambassadors at the World Cup opined that poor investment cost Nigeria an enviable position in South Africa 2010.
â€œNigeria went home too early in this yearâ€™s World Cup primarily because the countryâ€™s football authorities are not investing much in soccer. We see many talented young Nigerian footballers all over the world.
â€œI think the administrative problems from the grassroots level are affecting the senior team. What the world saw of the Eagles here fell below Nigeriaâ€™s capability in football because I played against Nigeria in the past as I know what they can do. Itâ€™s sad watching them going home after the first round,â€ Pele, three times African Player Of The Year, said.
Pele pointed out that his countryâ€™s team, the Black Stars are shining in South Africa because the football body, GFF, started investing in youth soccer, especially at the school level a few yearâ€™s back.
â€œThere is no transition in Nigerian football and it was obvious the Eagles paid that price in South Africa,â€ Pele opined, indicting other African representatives in this yearâ€™s tournament, Cameroon, Cote dâ€™Ivoire, Algeria and South Africa for failing to close the wide gap with Europe and South America.
To Okocha, there are many problems confronting the game in Nigeria and this is giving him sleepless nights.
â€œThe 2010 FIFA World Cup is expected to be Nigeriaâ€™s show, but we all saw that the Eagles have prevalent problems. There is need for serious reorganisation in our football,â€ Okocha said.
Ince, the former England footballer who predicted that Ghana would qualify for the knockout stage of 2010 World Cup described the first round exit of Nigeria as unfortunate.
â€œIâ€™m a fan of the Nigerian team in the past and I came here to see an improved Super Eagles. Sadly, that was not to be. I learnt about the officials lack administrative expertise, if that is so, it means the country needs a total overhaul of its football,â€ he said.
The ex-players concurred that the 2010 World Cup as a tournament was another let down for Africa, especially the disgraceful outing of Nigeriaâ€™s Super Eagles.
The poor performance of Nigeria in South Africa was traced to lack of investment in youth development programmes.
Also, the retired footballers pointed at administrative blunders, lack of world class professionalism, weak organisation of the local league and over-reliance on non-Nigerian coaches as the hitches militating against the progress of the Eagles in international football.
â€œItâ€™s amazing that Nigeria keeps hiring foreign coaches at the last minute and nothing much is coming out of the approach. They only strolled into the squad at the last minute to take Nigeria to the World Cup. The coaches were also shown the way out after the tournaments, thatâ€™s not developmental and Nigeria canâ€™t achieve much this way,â€ Ince said.
Meanwhile, yesterdayâ€™s sack of the national team and NFF board by President Jonathan came as a rude shock to the Nigerian community in South Africa. While some expressed fears that the action would drag back the wheel of football in Nigeria, others say itâ€™s a positive development which will bring the looters of public funds to book.