By Ade Ojeikere
The air around our football teams in terms of how players are selected for competitions has been fouled by allegations which have not been substantiated but pour odium on Nigeria.
The tales coming from former junior internationals are not pleasant. Many of these lads did well with the kindergarten categories.
We cannot pretend that such malicious utterances should be ignored on the altar that someone particularly involved is resting in the bosom of Our Lord. After all, coaching crew members should participate in the selection process.
It is true that coaches have the discretion of picking players who would fit into their tactical formations. And so many things are considered before picking anyone into the teams.
Of course, a bad mannered player shouldn’t be invited to infest the camp with bickering and break camp rules, even if he scores goals in the moon, like the late Amodu Shuaibu said in explaining why he didn’t pick a particular star player.
The death of the principal shouldn’t foreclose full disclosure of allegations, if we truly want to nip in the bud these tales of sharp practices in such sensitive areas of our lives.
What it simply means is that one man handled such critical areas of the team, making it absolutely impossible for his assistants to replace such an achieving boss. Little wonder the gradual dearth of talents in our age-grade teams.
Granted the principal of the team where allegations have been levelled is dead, but those who alleged must be made to substantiate their accusations by naming those who demanded for the bribes and/or those who took bribes, if such tales can be proven.
Central to the allegations are some unnamed Nigerian coaches who handled the national teams. Could this be the reason our teams have recently not performed?
Soccer used to be our Eldorado. It shouldn’t be smeared by spurious allegations of sharp practices. Not forgetting previous allegations against Nigerians coaches of using quota system to pick our soccer representatives in the past.
That is if it isn’t also a yardstick for such an exercise. Add when players who played in big European leagues decide to expose the rot in our system, we shouldn’t lose the chance to correct the flaws.
Taiye Taiwo in an interview with Face TV Africa said, “I am someone who don’t want dirty glory and in my life, I have never been involved in what is not clean and that was why I packed my bags and left the Super Eagles.
“I cannot work or stay where I see that is dirty because I am serving a clean God, and if I am in an area that is not clean, I will have to leave the place.
When they appointed Stephen Keshi as coach, he was acting somehow in which I told myself that it was time for me to leave the Super Eagles.
“I packed my bags and I told my wife and family that I cannot be involved in dirty deals,” Taiye Taiwo explained.
In the case of Taiye Taiwo, who was voted the third-best player in the U-20 World Youth Championships held in Holland behind Mikel Obi and the winner Lionel Messi, he named the coach of the 2014 World Cup team, without accusing him.
It meant then that we are dealing with a faceless cabal which must be investigated without sentiments. This is certainly a bad citation for Nigerian coaches, hence the honourable Sport Minister should institute a high-powered panel to call those alleged to prove their allegations or face the wrath of the law. Nigeria is bigger than anyone.
Ike Shorunmu isn’t a loose talker. A respected player whose conduct is an epitome of good upbringing. Shorunmu was quoted thus by an online medium: “It is unfortunate for Chinedu Obasi to mention this kind of a thing this period because how long now, it’s about six years ago.
“For him to come out right now to say he was forced to bribe for him to be with the team in 2014, it’s a pity that we lost Stephen Keshi because he’s the main man in the team, does it mean that his assistants don’t know what is going on?
“For Obasi to mention it now it is too late. Assuming it is six months or before the World Cup, everybody can testify, the NFF bosses can verify the allegations that he’s making now.
Probably due to the pressure he is passing through now, that’s why he mentioned they told him to bribe for him to come into the team,’’ Shorunmu stressed.
Interestingly, since the NFF employed Gernot Rohr, a German, we have not heard any tales of bribery in the national team. Sad about what happened to Salisu Yusuf. He was simply naive.
Yusuf had a bright future but risked it all when he was caught on tape taking cash to field players who were already in his team. Yusuf’s argument that he thought it was just a gift not meant to influence his choice of his regulars was weak and unacceptable.
He, therefore, lost the chance of becoming a great coach, having won the domestic league with Enymiba FC of Aba. This gaffe earned Yusuf a ban from FIFA. It is quiet starling that allegations of bribery are being levelled on our local coaches.
The players union and coaches body’s executive has accepted to mediate in this matter and get those who are talking to reveal the erring coaches who must be made to face their accusers to get to the roots of the matter.
The coaches’ body chief Ladan Bosso in a communiqué Thursday stated that: “We hereby request the accusers to mention the name of the coaches so as to stop the unnecessary backlash and bad blood that has continued to ravage the social media and some conventional media outfit.
“If the accusers see their actions as a means of bringing sanity into Nigeria football the association will only welcome it if the accuser are precise and open to back up such allegations with facts and evidence.
We shall subsequently ask our members to take legal action against anyone who may defame their character and reputation in the eyes of the public.’’
If we don’t stem these allegations, it would de-market future Nigerian coaches, especially those with the likelihood of coaching overseas.
Our players displace better exposed foreigners in their European clubs for starting shirt. It is only justifiable that our good coaches take their trade to Europe, like the European managers have done with many countries globally.
Those stars pointing accusing fingers at the coaches should realise that they are inadvertently reducing the chances of Nigerian coaches handling the Super Eagles – the country’s biggest football brand.
Of what use is their stay in Europe if they cannot aspire to handle the Eagles, especially those who opt to be coaches?
Great coaches set football targets and find ways to achieve them. Most times they inspire players with amazing psychological methods and sometimes incentives they can afford. However, lazy coaches think first of the money and make a mess of their career.
Perhaps, the Amaju Pinnick led NFF board should complete the signing of Gernot Rohr since the sports minister isn’t averse to retaining him for as long as he is a world class coach.
The internet never forgets. We need to use the expose from the internet to remind people who ruined our game in the past.
This is the only way to rid the system of self seekers in the industry. Those who previously served as assistants to foreign coaches now want us to jettison them? Interesting.
Those who accompanied a motley crowd to England to interview foreign coaches to replace a collection of Nigerian tacticians, are telling us they have repented as if we need it.
These people were part of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) which invited foreign coaches to Abuja for an interview to coach the Super Eagles; a position which wasn’t vacant. Please don’t remind us of the Abacha one million-man march.
I no know book o!
Ade Ojeikere is an award-winning Editor of Sporting Life.
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