Date Published: 11/19/09
I will pray against Nigeria if… By Idang Alibi
I do not know Shaibu Amodu beyond the fact that he is chief coach of Nigeria’s senior football team, the Super Eagles. He and I have never met one on one before beyond hearing him speak on TV on matters football and Super Eagles. I give this background because I want to speak here in his favour and so let no one accuse me of being hired or “settled” by Amodu to plead his cause.
And what I want to say here is simple: if the NFF or any body else succumbs to the current vicious campaign that Amodu is not good enough coach and does not allow the man to take the Super Eagles to the African Cup of Nations in Angola, and in particular, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa next year, I will pray against Nigeria. I will beseech God Almighty to frustrate Nigeria’s campaign by ensuring that we lose all our matches in the group stage at both the Cup of Nations and the World Cup and never go to the second round. This is to show Nigerians that ingratitude and injustice are things that both God and man hate. Like God, I love righteousness and hate injustice.
To qualify for the continental and world championships, Amodu coached the Eagles to win 10 of their 17 matches, draw 6 and lose only one. I am no Mathematician but to express this performance in mathematical percentage, this candidate scored about 93 per cent, yet his traducers say he is not good enough. They say the victories were unimpressive. That his team fumbled and tumbled to those victories. That we merely qualified through luck. If Amodu is a coach with a lucky star, why don’t we continue to bank on his lucky star to get us the diadem in Angola and South Africa? Or are saying that his luck shines only in Africa?
Instead of praises, they are reigning abuses on him. They say although we have qualified, the man and his team give some people heart attack. They say because of our pedigree in football, the Super Eagles ought always to over run their opponents and be the supreme conquerors of African and world football. They do not realize that many nations of the world have come to the realization that football is much more than a modern game but a powerful tool for national image-making and have started paying greater attention to the development and promotion of the game in their countries. And as a result of this, no nation can be an easy walk over in the game any more. I know it is very patriotic of us to expect our team to always emerge victorious in every encounter but do we realize that other nations engage in the game to win also as we do and as such we can not always have it easy?
The campaign to get Amodu out so that a so-called “world class” coach will replace him reminds me of our love for ingratitude and injustice as a people. In 2002, Amodu, the not good enough coach, qualified Nigeria for Korea-Japan World Cup, they denied him the glory of his exploits. God is a just God: Nigeria crashed out of that championship in the very first round. This time again, Amodu has qualified Nigeria for the fiesta in South Africa and we are saying that he is not good enough. If we are unfair to him again, I will pray that we crash out again as happened in 2002. Why is Amodu always good enough to qualify Nigeria but not up to the mark in taking his team to the real event? When some of us talk like this they say we are sentimental as if standing for the right and proper thing is a sin.
What pains me the most is that when they are talking about a world class coach, what they actually have in mind is a white man. We never seem to believe in ourselves. We think that we blacks can never be as good as any white man. This is terrible. They are talking about bringing in the Turk Fatih Terim to reap where Amodu sowed in tears, jeers and ingratitude, I guess because he is not Black. This Terim “world class” coach is the man who could not qualify his country for the World Cup. In saner places, this man will be sent by his government to come for tutelage under Amodu to learn how to qualify his team for the World Cup. Are we saying the quality of football and coaching in Africa is lower than that in Europe or Asia where Terim could not qualify Turkey? They say the man has pedigree. Which pedigree? The one for not even qualifying his team?
As a keen football watcher, I agree that some real work has to be done, and very urgently too, to this current crop of the Super Eagles to make them become world beaters. And for me, the answer lies in assembling very very hungry but extremely talented and patriotic young men who will go to the pitch and play soccer with passion as if it was some kind of real war to vanquish an opponent. Some of our players are ageing and have made name and money from the game so they have little or no motivation any more to die on the pitch for themselves and country if possible. If some five or six other young footballers with the patriotic zeal and work rate of Osaze Odemwigie and goal keeper Vincent Enyeama are brought in to beef up that team with Amodu as coach, Nigeria will go far in Angola and South Africa.
But I want to warn that whatever tinkering we do to make the team great and we drop Amodu, I will carry out my threat. I know that my threat may not amount to much in the contemplation of millions of my countrymen some of whom do not believe in spiritual matters. But I do know that the fervent prayers of a righteous soul availeth much. I know that I am a righteous soul because I believe in justice, fairness and equity. Even if it is only on the basis of sentiment, Amodu should lead the Eagles out. But much more profoundly, it is wrong to repay Amodu with ingratitude for qualifying us.