Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Nigeria: For whom the bells have tolled – again!
I had predicted, since December 2008, that fans of the national team should prepare their handkerchiefs for a flood of tears in the ensuing year.
But I was just as bitter and shell-shocked as every other Super Eagles supporter when the team snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory on Sunday evening against Tunisia in Abuja.
Even for a supposedly dispassionate football journalist like me, who has witnessed and chronicled a litany of heart breaking moments in 22 years of covering football, Nigeria’s almost-certain absence from the 2010 World Cup leaves a particularly foul taste in the mouth.
When Nigeria performed poorly at the 2002 World Cup finals, I warned, in a piece for BBC Sport Interactive, it could be entering a period of decline from which it would struggle to recover.
The abominable failure to qualify for the following World Cup in Germany proved me right.
Reflecting on that disappointment, this was what I said on October 14th 2005 on BBC Sport Interactive:
“As bitterness fuels the furore that has followed Nigeria's World Cup exit, only an honest and level-headed approach to solving problems will lead them out of the wilderness.
“Stability in coaching - done by competent hands - is a must, Europe-based players must show commitment to the Nigerian cause and the administrators must have the savvy to manage the national game properly.
“The Super Eagles' absence from Germany 2006 will be worth the expensive price, if it finally compels Nigeria to plan for global success.
“Depending on strokes of providence - which have finally run out - is just not good enough.”
To read the full piece go to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/africa/4342860.stm
All I need to do to make this piece of advice, written four years ago, contemporary is to substitute Germany 2006 with South Africa 2010 – which shows that those in the corridors of power are determined to learn nothing, except how to further mismanage Nigerian football.
As this blog is to cover African and not just Nigerian football, I have vowed to desist from writing frequently about the Super Eagles.
But it is tough to shy away from the fact that Africa’s largest country - in terms of population - will be absent from the African World Cup.
It is pointless to repeat advice on how to reverse this sorry decline, as I will only sound like a broken record.
I can only pray (and see if I can take an active part in ensuring) that the heads of those responsible for this sorry mess – Nigerian Football Federation president Sani Lulu, (pictured above) general secretary Bolaji Ojo’Oba and the executive board – are put on the guillotine block.
Those with the savvy and drive to ensure Nigeria takes its place as one of the world’s top football nations are desperate to be given the chance to serve a country that they dearly love.
But unless they are sought out and given unfettered authority – within the boundaries of FIFA regulations – to clean the filthy stables of Nigerian football administration, there will be more entries made into the diary of disaster.
Of that I am certain.