By Ade Ojeikere
Do we really value human life in this part of the world? Indications to this effect are negative. Otherwise, how could we be talking about the death of two Enugu Rangers FC’s players, and their friend who drove their car on Sunday morning, on the Abudu/Agbor Road? The vehicle they rode in was reported to have gone under an abandoned trailer, with many suggesting they could have been on top speed – irrelevant if the trailer wasn’t abandoned there for God knows how long.
The trio would have been in Lagos today looking after their family members in the wake of the Coronavirus that has shut down the world, not forgetting those who have died and those hospitalised. Coronavirus is now aptly tagged a pandemic, which explains why the players tried to utilise the 10-day break which their club granted them. Ifeanyi George, for instance, once played for MFM FC of Lagos and would have preferred to leave his family here, considering the nomadic movement of players globally.
It is difficult to blame the players because no one can say if indeed they were over speeding. The logical question to ask is where were the Road Safety Marshals on that ill-fated morning? If they were on duty, they would have flagged down the vehicle as it approached from Enugu, assuming they had the right equipment to perform such duties.
Of course, we may need to ask whose duty it is to alert the government on the menace constituted by broken-down vehicles and trucks on the highway, which has killed many people till date. It is important to ask; if those who man the checkpoints on the highways shouldn’t draw attention to those vehicles and trucks, which are also black spots for criminals to perfect their clandestine activities?
In other climes, such abnormalities are not found on the roads. Special units are charged with ensuring that such vehicles and trucks are removed at short notice. These monitoring agencies have offices along the highways who could be contacted by road users about the potential hazards such things pose to unsuspecting motorists, even when the owners are recalcitrant. In fact, in developed countries, you notice Road Marshals on constant patrol and once they spot these vehicles and trucks, they immediately radio the agency responsible for clearing them off the tracks; remaining on the scene until the assignment is completed. Need I ask what the sanctions are for those who break such highway rules?
George and his friends’ exit via an auto crash in such manner, signposts many others in the past, and sadly some that happened around the country. Do we just throw up our hands and allow people to die because some people are negligent in their jobs? However, drivers should be more careful when driving. Car owners should ensure their vehicles have the recommended system to peg their car’s speed limit at 100 km per hour or even less. Where are we running to? If you need to keep appointments, leave your houses early.
Thank you Enugu Rangers
The late Ifeanyi George would cherish the day he signed for Enugu Rangers wherever he may be. Even in death, he is being remembered without prompting by the public. This is a remarkable feat, which goes a long way to explain why I crave for credible administrators to run the domestic game. I hope Nasarawa FC’s owners and officials can learn from the Enugu Rangers’ example. Chiemene Martins died without an insurance policy, with the way his club has handled the matter.
Take a bow, Davidson Owumi, General Manager, Enugu Rangers FC for instituting good insurance schemes for your players, unlike a few others who don’t know what to do and have refused to quit. 24 hours after George died in a ghastly car accident, Rangers’ management told the world the package they had for the departed soul.
Owumi needs no introduction, having played soccer in the country, scoring goals with aplomb before volunteering to be a sports administrator. He was once the chairman of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) until he was eased off the seat by those enemies of the beautiful game in the guise of politics.
“The insurance brokers, Premier Brokers Ltd, have been informed about the untimely death of our player, Ifeanyi George, who died in a ghastly motor accident, Sunday, March 22, 2020, along the Asaba-Benin Express Road, and they have begun the process to have the life insurance compensation process activated to have the family of Ifeanyi George fully compensated,” stated the former NPL boss in the soothing Rangers FC’s communiqué on George’s death.
Owumi further said, “What we have here in Rangers International FC is the solid display of pro-activeness on the part of Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who graciously approved the insurance policy for all players and officials of the club on request by the management. We sincerely appreciate our sports-loving governor and number one supporter for this gesture that comes handy in this time of great need.”
Ndidi for Barcelona
Wilfred Ndidi is easily one of the best defensive players in the world – no hyperbole. And with the European season on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, clubs are taking stock with many announcing players to be sacked and those to be recruited. It is good to know that Nigerians would dominate the summer transfer window as Odion Ighalo did with the January mid-season shopping spree.
Ndidi is being considered by the two top Spanish sides, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid among a few others who are likely to qualify for the 2020/2021 UEFA Champions League. Playing in the elite leagues such as the Champions League ought to be the reason Ndidi should be tempted to take the big leap to stardom by joining one of the big teams.
Curiously, Ndidi’s Barclays English Premier League side, Leicester City FC is a contender for one of the four Champions league tickets, given their placing on the table. Not a few pundits have described the Foxes as one of the few English sides which have played exciting soccer this season. Bookmakers are tipping Foxes to nick one of the tickets, making the lure of playing in Europe’s big-league a no brainer to persuade Ndidi to join any of the big chasing teams.
Ndidi should remain with the Foxes since they would be willing to increase his wages knowing that it is the only way to keep the Nigerian in their fold, with series of suitors for his signature next season. The Super Eagles’ midfielder should learn from other big central midfielders who joined Barca in the past. Most of them went to Barcelona with the same or even better pedigree than Ndidi, yet flattered to deceive in Barca’s matches because everything about the Spanish club’s style of play rests with Lionel Messi.
Pundits thought Phillipe Coutinho would break the duck-like Yaya Toure did until he fell out with the manager, Pep Guardiola. It didn’t happen for the Brazilian despite Coutinho’s huge talent and exploits with Liverpool FC in the Barclays English Premier League. Ndidi’s style suits Real Madrid but I doubt if Zidane can bring the best out of the Nigerian.
Ndidi would walk into the Spanish side and play regularly, yet what becomes of his career if he sustains an injury, could define his stay at Real Madrid. Should Ndidi pick another English side with a bigger platform than Leicester City? I’m tempted to say yes, except that I cannot put a finger to one club that would bring the best out of Ndidi like he is currently enjoying at the Foxes.
A team like Manchester United craves a workaholic like Ndidi in the midfield and the Nigerian will be exceptional there if a deal could be worked out for him but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to be looking at other options, especially in the attacking midfield and a striker.
This speaks volume of how much Ndidi is underrated. A point of view also shared by his current club manager, Brendan Rodgers. “Ndidi is key to our team, but for any team, you need a good defensive midfield player who could do a lot of the dirty work as they say,” Rodgers told Leicester City Mercury.
“He is improving all the time. His defensive qualities, he has a great brain to read the game. He smells danger when it’s lurking. He can cover the ground so fast, he can press up to the ball, and he can cover in.
“Tactically he is improving and playing better but underrated. He is playing in a specific position we haven’t played before where he can run and he has got a clear role to sit and protect and be that link player.
“With the ball, he is getting better. His game is simple. He just needs to serve the players in front of him and be an option to play off the centre-halves and full-backs and continuity in the game. So yeah, it has been great to see his development and he is only going to get better.”
Ade Ojeikere is the award-winning and London 2012 Olympic Games Torch Bearer. He is the Editor of Sportinglife.
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