By Segun Odegbami | 21 November 2020
In the aftermath of the two matches between the Leone Stars and the Super Eagles, I have refused to make any comments. I have been besieged with questions about why I have remained silent. I am surprised that people are surprised that I have been unusually quiet.
What more is there for me to say?
One year ago, or so, I was vehemently opposed to the renewal of the contract of Franco-German coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr. I screamed and shouted to the point where some people thought I had personal issues with the coach. My take was simple: the coach may have been good for the standards set for him by his employers, but surely he was not good enough for the vision most Nigerians have about the place of their national team in the world, considering the country’s achievements, capacity and capability. I thought I must belong to a different planet from those that elongated our collected agony by renewing Rohr’s contract, because not only was it extended by several more years, they now offered him a contract so tightly legally put together that the country cannot sack him for the next three years without breaking the vaults of Nigeria’s Central bank.
The man became so comfortable that he presented us with the worst football match in our entire history against ordinary Sierra Leone and did not even apologise. He committed unforgivable blunders in the kind of substitutions he made. His entire attitude on the bench was unserious throughout the period of Nigerians’ pain and humiliation.
So, those who renewed his contract are reaping what they sowed. Period. Unfortunately, it is every single one of 200 million Nigerians that will have to pay the price in money and in failed expectations.
It is obvious that those in charge have set small goals for him because they too have such small dreams about Nigerian football.
The match was a test about the true character of Gernot Rohr and his competency as a football tactician. Once again he failed woefully.
I still cannot fathom the special job he is doing as manager of the Super Eagles that any number of Nigerians with better qualifications, but underrated by their own, cannot do better. If this is what he has to offer the country after four years, with the humongous wages he is being paid, then there is something wrong with whom we are.
The matches against Sierra Leone are bereft of any tactical depth and understanding. There is no acceptable excuse for the result of the match in Benin City. It was such a bad advertisement for Nigerian football and Nigerian players, particularly those of them that are Diaspora born and bred. It is making us dream home-based players and domestic Nigerian football again.
My wonder is that after such a match any Nigerian would still be defending the coach. We had sacked several coaches and even administrators in the past for a fraction of what we all saw in the two matches. A Nigerian coach had even been sacked after winning the biggest football trophy in Africa. Yet, this man is treated with kid gloves, shoved in our faces in the manner of colonial enslavement and Nigerians are made to swallow the bitter pill, pain, humiliation and shame. Gernot Rohr has been given too much long rope.
He may be considered a good coach using some people’s standards, but by mine, I join with Aiyegbeni Yakubu, our celebrated football hero, who was quoted recently as saying that the German may be the worst coach in the history of Nigerian football.
Thank God, I am not in any position to influence anything. In the days of yore, a tsunami in football administration would have happened by now. Thank God we are in strange times. Coaches are overprotected.
I would have sworn that with the evidence of his capability laid bare by Nigeria’s failure at two critical moments during the World Cup in Russia and the AFCON in Egypt, the country will not be led by the nose again with the narrow sentiments of a few administrators and sports writers that stand to benefit from sustaining the vestiges of a colonial mentality that embraces everything White and condemns everything Black.
The rather ‘stupid’ question I have been asking myself in the solitude of my silence is this: will the world end if Gernot Rohr is sacked?
‘Abeg, make I remain silent o, and siddon look the drama of Nigerian sports administrators wey dey celebrate nonsense and some people dey clap hand’
A dangerous Sports Festival!
EDO 2020 National Sports Festival is a very disturbing matter.
There must be something in the hosting of the festival beyond what we see.
Time was when the National Sports Festival was a dream event, the platform where the most gifted athletes in the country in all sports were showcased with very clear objectives – discover the best athletes that will be trained to represent the country, and use the festival to promote unity amongst the youths of the country. There were a few other objectives but these were the main ones.
The programme ran unfailingly like clockwork every two years, a regular feast of the best of sports and social integration as it moved around the country from 1973 to 1981. The distortions in regularity, content and goals started in 1983 and have never been the same ever since. What the festival has become deviates very much from the original goals and objectives. It is now a jamboree, an event where state sports administrators collect their own piece of the national cake. Every Nigerian knows this.
However, when Edo 2020 was to hold early this year some of us hoped it would restore some degree of normalcy to not just hosting the event, but also to achieve some of the original objectives for which the games were established. The Edo State government did not spare any effort in putting up facilities that would have made the games a true festival – newly minted sports facilities and an ambitious public participation that would have made major contributions to the economy of the state. The main objective of discovering new young talents had long been abandoned. Edo 2020 was not going to be an exception.
Edo 2020 was never going to throw up new talent to take Nigeria to the 2022 Olympics. That tradition is long dead and buried. Very few states take the programme of sports development seriously. So, Edo 2020 was going to be just another jamboree for most participating states, the only opportunity most state sports administrators have to make some money from sports.
Then came the global coronavirus bombshell, a plague that has turned the entire world upside down. Nothing has been the same since the coronavirus escaped from the science laboratories of China and made prisoners of all humans.
Nigeria joined the rest of the world in reacting to the deadly pandemic by adopting some level of health and safety protocols set up for the management and control of the spread of the virus. The games, originally scheduled to hold in the month of April, were postponed. Meanwhile, the plague continues to afflict the world. In the case of Nigeria (and several parts of Africa), for reasons that have remained largely unknown, the scourge has not been quite as devastating as predicted.
My worry is that a kite is being flown for the games to hold before the end of the year.
Even as there is a second spike of the virus at the present time, and Nigeria is not immune from it, why hurry to host the games now?
Thousands of young athletes and their adult officials from different parts of the country will assemble and descend on the city of Benin, and the caricature of a festival will go on. I just do not get it. Is this not toying with fate, testing the patience of the elements that have been generous to Nigerians by not devastating us, and courting an imminent disaster?
What would delaying the hosting by a few more months until the coast of any danger is clear cost the country or the hosts? Hosting in the next two weeks will not yield any of the main objectives for organising it. No one except the hosts with their excellent venues is actually ready. The athletes have not been training properly for eight months.
The rest of the world is shutting down public events; Nigeria wants to open its own.
What will the country actually gain from the festival being hosted this December?
Obviously, there is a degree of threat of a health catastrophe should these games go on. Can Nigeria pay the price if anything goes wrong?