Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Super Eagles plum job BY KENNETH JUDE

The Super Eagles plum job  BY KENNETH JUDE

With the NFF long drawn debacle seemingly over, attention have in recent weeks shifted to the Super Eagles plum job.

Stephen Okechukwu Keshi’s job as Super Eagles coach is far from certain. Matters are not helped by his insistence never to invite Ikechukwu Uche to the fold as long as he remains the coach of the senior national team. Speaking with journalists the other day in Abuja, Stephen Keshi was said to have blurted out at journalists over their penchant for always asking him to explain Ikechukwu Uche’s absence from the squad. Keshi was furious and warned sports’ journalists never to throw such question at him anymore, noting that Ikechuckwu’s case is a closed chapter.

Damming you’ll say! But the problem here is that we may not really know whose fault it is whether it’s Keshi’s or that of Uche. Since we are not in the thick of things, we are seemingly in the dark as regards this very serious issue. “I included him in the 25-man lists to face Congo but he insisted to know why he was branded a bad boy’’, Keshi said of Ikechuckwu Uche.
Infuriated by Uche’s attitude, Keshi reportedly ordered that he be dropped from the team. Another thorny issue in the Nigerian football circuit is the future of Stephen Keshi in the Eagles job. Recent media reports has it that former Flying Eagles handler Sampson Siasia is being lined up to replace coach Keshi as Super Eagles boss.

It has become a hot debate in soccer circles as pundits are divided in opinion over who should be given the mandate to steer the senior national side if Keshi is shown the exit door. Kechi, as you read this is still on interim basis as far as the Eagles job is concerned. His contract issues are yet to be finalised even as he continues to finker the squad ahead of the 2015 Nations Cup.

The fact that we are always enmeshed in one needless squabble of the other has regrettably become the hallmark of our football and have more often than not kept us in the doldrums. Today, we roll out drums to celebrate a great feat and in no time, especially when there’s a little challenge, turn around to cast scornful looks and scatting remarks at those we hitherto lionised.

When Keshi led his troops to conquer Africa in 2013, we said he has transformed the Supper Eagles to a winning and fearsome unit they were known to be. We hollered that he’s the messiah we long waited for. It’s rather sad that it’s that same Keshi that we want out on account of what many say is lack of competence on his part. But, did we realise he wasn’t competent enough when he won the Nation’s Cup after two decades of drought in the senior national team? If indeed we saw the lapses, how many of us were bold enough to sound it out? If we kept mute at the time, perhaps in a bid not to spoil the fun at the time, are we taking the right steps in trying to replace him? Have we found out what really is the problem with the Super Eagles? Is our recent poor outings attributed to the coach alone? How about the players? Are they committed enough to their fatherland? The conditions upon which they play; how good are they? Are our coaches telling our boys the right things to do before, during and after matches? How well do we take care of our players? There have been reports in the past that players who get injured while playing for the national team are often abandoned to their fate. Have evaluated and given a deep thought on these allegations? If at all we have reviewed the situation, what efforts have we put on ground to stop this ugly commentary on or football?

I think it’s high time we all joined hands to build the Nigerian football. It’s of no use whatsoever pointing fingers and always on the lookout for a scapegoat when we don’t do well. The Nigerian project is a collective venture. Stakeholders, experts, sports’ journalists and pundits alike should strive more to really getting to know the system and how it works. A situation where we move two steps forward and five backwards must be critically examined immediately.

How can we be the defending champions of the nation’s cup and just a year into our triumph, we are tottering and stuttering. Success should beget success. This culture of moving in circles is not the best for a country that just marked its 54th anniversary as an independent nation.

We can do more than we are doing now. Nigeria is a nation stupendously blessed with all that humanity needs to make meaningful impact in life. We shouldn’t be seen doing things that does not fall in line with our potentials. Football is a global game – a money spinner even more than some of the sectors we give so much prominence.

Those who have played the game to a reasonable level can attest to how financially rewarding football is. Those who failed to safe for rainy day are the ones wallowing in penury today. If we invest in the game and put in place structures that are at par with  global standards, we will be the better for it. The culture of impunity, racketeering, infightings and other conducts that are inimical to the tenets of the game should be done away with outright. In as much as we all know that Stephen Keshi is not in the mould of Jose Maurinho, Arsene Wenger, Carlo Antelloti and the like, is it  Sampson Siasia that has the much-needed technical depth to drive the Eagles to another level in football?
I have my reservations and hold unto it firmly. Today, the argument is that Keshi is being selective of players he invites to the national team. They are quick to point at the continued exclusion of villarreal of Spain exciting striker Ikechukwu Uche from the squad, Osaze Odemwingie who was recently recalled but has since been keep out again on the orders of Keshi and a host of others who deserve a look-in but have been kept at bay in the Super Eagles. I align fully with those who hold this view. 

To date, I’m yet to come to terms with some of Keshi’s policies in the team especially since the Nation’s Cup triumph. Why is our nation’s cup hero Sunday Mba no longer in the team? Has anyone cared to probe and unearth this mystery? Mba was easily our best player in South Africa despite not starting the opening two games. When he eventually had his chance, he grabbed it with both hands. He slotted into the side with seamless ease. His mesmerising runs at defenders and an eye for goal proved decisive for the nation during his seemingly short-lived time in the Eagles. His problems started when he nursed the ambition of heading to Europe in a bid to seek for the proverbial greener pastures. Reports at the time had it that Stephen Keshi wanted to dictate the tune on Mba’s career by way of choosing a club for him and also having a huge chunk of whatever amount would come out of any of such deals. That did not materialise hence his grouse with the former Rangers of Enugu midfielder. 

While to me, this is a matter of conjecture, i find it real hard to belief that Sunday Mba is no longer part of the senior team barely a year after doing us proud in South Africa. Whatever the case may have been, i think for the sake of  national interest, Sunday Mba should be recalled to the squad. When he was fielded alongside Ogenyi Onazi and Obi Mikel on our way to winning the cup of nations, the Eagles thrived. Our midfield was sublime and seamless. We were coordinated and played cohesively and with unison. How come a lad who quickly became a household name in the country’s football fraternity is being neglected on the excuse that he’s out of form? Keshi has gotten his call wrong and should, as a matter of urgency and necessity bring back Sunday Mba to the team. In as much as Mba’s ego have been bruised already when he failed to make it to both the 2014 confederations cup and the world in Brazil.

On dropping him from the travelling party to Brazil, Keshi noted that Mba did not show any hunger in making it to Brazil. While one may not really know what the nub of the matter is, it is pertinent that for the sake of success of the Super Eagles, Sunday Mba is brought back to the fold. In the case of Ike Uche, one is still at a loss to explain his continued absence from the squad.

Keshi came out the other day to say that he extended an invitation to the player but rather than hearken to the call to serve his fatherland, he said that Uche, instead demanded to know why he was branded a bad influence in the team and why he was neglected. For Keshi, it was an insult to the nation and him as a person because, according to him, he and others played for the country for over twenty years and were never begged to play for the country hence he’ll never beg anyone to play for the country – not even Uche. But if Keshi’s allegations are true, then Ikechukwu Uche got it all wrong, and as a means of enforcing discipline in the squad, he should be cautioned but throwing away the baby with the bathwater is wrong. Two wrongs cannot make a right hence; the boy should be pardoned and recalled. But with Keshi’ recent outburst that he’ll never recall Uche to the Super Eagles, I’m afraid the much needed pardon may be long in coming.

But truth is that we need our best legs to prosecute the crucial games we have at hand especially our quest to qualify for the Nation’s cup which now hangs in the balance. The talk of sacking Keshi and replacing him with Siasia should not be the next line of action as such will amount to handing the job to a man with almost similar methods to his predecessor. 

If Keshi must be sacked, then, we should shop for a better coach whose grasp of the game is in tune with modern trends. While this writer is not doubtful of Siasia’s credentials, methinks he’s more suited to the age-grade side. We saw how disastrous it was when he took over the Super Eagles. Need i remind us of the squabbles between him and Enyeama, Osaze and a host of others that ultimately cost us a place in 2012 Africa Cup of nations? I don’t think Siasia has the right nerve and nous to tinker the Super Eagles just yet. Let’s look beyond Africa if we must do away with Keshi.

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