Date Published: 11/22/09
Consolidating Nigeria’s Public Relations via 2010 World Cup By Shamsideen Adebowale Olasanya
Nigerians both skeptics and optimist are still basking in the joy and gratifying euphoria of qualifying for the next world cup in South Africa. It was a dramatic grandeur moment for Nigeria at the expense of the hardworking Tunisians, who had maintained the leadership position right from the start of the qualification, but by sheer misfortune, had to surrender the soul ticket to Nigeria. What a hard luck you would say. The super eagles went through a hard time all through the qualification series while many soccer loving Nigerians developed grey hairs. We could not establish our acclaimed superiority all through the build up and so pitiably enough we had to resort to endless permutations, recourse to cheap sheer mother luck, blind patriotism for the optimist, unethical prayers, wishful thinking, and clueless waiting game. These vague and vain pessimistic mind set vitiate our soccer reputation in Africa.
It was a scary moment. Are we going to have another goose pimple? Time will tell. Granted we fumbled and wobbled to South Africa. Oh yes the qualification was patchy and scrappy. That is not my immediate brief. I am concern about the way forward in addressing avalanche of messy and untidy issues that often mar our preparation for world cup. The problems are there as ever, a microcosm of Nigerian malaise. All we need is good political will from the authority concern. They just need to find the balance between taking right decisions and meeting the public expectations. The authority concern is familiar with public reproach therefore I will not delude myself in handing in a recipe for a superb success in South Africa. This is only an add on to already existing robust public discourse.
We are in the era of world cup, a Mundial that comes once in four years with its effervescent nay captivating moments. Nigerians by nature are very expressive, self acclaimed commentators, analyst, pundits, experts, gurus, strategist are now warming up for their usual postulations. The ex these ex that, students, workers, artisans, housewives, pensioners, Nigerians in Diaspora are also jostling for the piece of the action. We saw that in the build up to South Africa and we would witness more of public opinions in our preparation to South Africa. Sometimes these opinions are welcome other times they are distractive, self serving, counterproductive much more baseless. The frenetic noisemaking could sometimes amount to whistle blowing or disgruntled alarmist at work, and in some instance its just obvious ego bloated opinions. But the discerning mind would see these public censures as a concomitant dysfunction of the football governing house.
If we struggled for the qualification ticket unlike Ghana who picked her ticket almost effortlessly must we also put up a scrappy performance in South Africa? That is my area of concern where I would like the NFF to be more proactive. The football authority must first admit that they need all inclusive arrangement whereby they make use of intelligentsia to execute any planned program for the world cup. They could even be more ambitious to outsource some functions if we don’t merely want to hoist our flag in South Africa. We don’t want to participate in a world cup where Nigeria would be pummeled with a staggering score line of 4-1 as it happened in France 1998 between Denmark and Nigeria. Secondly the Presidential task force constituted by the President to see Nigeria qualifies for the world cup must also intensify its effort and consolidate its single achievement. As said above we need modicum of political will in this matter. It could be by Presidential fiat or a wind of change or a change of attitude from the Glass house because this is by no means a small task before Nigeria if we want to excel in the world cup. I want to believe that the preparation has commenced. No more fire brigade approach. We have less than seven months. We can be creative and achieve a lot if we set up achievable goals needless to add that the Glass House is fully aware of this onerous task ahead. The NFF boss, Sani Lulu said in the The Guardian, Tuesday, November 17, 2009 that:
"Our journey to qualification would have been much easier if we got a few
things right early," he noted. "Our vision now is to immediately reposition our
national teams to satisfy the high expectations of our beloved nation."
Time will tell if the above is a mere rhetoric. We must use the singular platform of world cup to achieve multiple ideals: to consolidate with a strong statement of our eminent leadership position in Africa, to stave off those exaggerated negative profiling of Nigeria, to dazzle the world with our soccer prowess, to show case our friendliness, warmness, brilliancy and creativity, to open up more investments opportunity, to pave way for the nation to be a tourist destination. Our amazing feat must intimidate and send shivers to all and sundry. In addition our excellent performance in the world cup should dovetail into our 50 th independence anniversary. So it is a collective challenge beyond the imagination of some privileged few. We need well defined plan, laid down structures and strategic management to pursue this task. As such I imagined the Presidency having done its spade work to call NFF and the Task force to a serious strategic management meeting to charge them with the task ahead. The Presidency could use her discretion to include strategic management expert to this all purpose meeting to critically examine the SWOT and PEST analysis of Nigeria’s participation in the world cup. The Government should make good use of these brains if the common saying that Nigeria has abundant human resources is anything to go by. We should note that everybody is a stakeholder in this matter therefore we should not see the involvement of the Presidency as a dereliction of NFF´s authority. In my imagination the execution of key points highlighted in the core meeting should result in the chain of activities I would itemize below.
The first point on the agenda is call for Public opinion on the way forward to South Africa 2010. You can call it a mini national conference of Nigerian Football. The call for Public opinion must be wide spread and include relevant stakeholders in sports developments. Stakeholders are diverse but the Summit must prioritize and scale down the stakeholders to a meaningful and achievable working goals. Therefore the following groups can emerge and represent the broad spectrum of other ancillary stakeholders: the administrative crew, the media crew, the technical crew, the coaching crew, the human resource crew etc. These crews are hereby collectively referred to as one ad hoc committee for South Africa 2010. Moving on to the next level each crew must be broken down into syndicate group with clear cut duties and functions. For obvious reason the name of each crew sign post its function but it’s definitely not limited to that normative. Tested, astute and successful technocrat can be drawn into the administrative crew with full inputs from the NFF and the presidential task force. Nigerians are good in arm chair criticism let the authority concern take the battle to the door steps of these tested and trusted administrators and see how they will perform. Would they take up the challenge? Are they ready to sacrifice their resources? How would they manage this terrain? A well constituted administrative crew would be the power house of administrating all other crews. The media crew would be drawn obviously from the media. To start with they must be tutored to work for the progress of the committee while it last . There must be a parad igm shift such that information is managed in a participative and interactive way. Secondly they would serve as the organ of the committee to inundate the public with progressive report on our build up to South Africa, thirdly all the potpourri of opinions both in Nigeria and in Diaspora would be managed, synthesized, distilled by the media crew with proper vigilance of curtailing sensationalized stories and deconstructing peddled rumors. One negative trend which the media crew must check mate is the planting of stories in the press and presented to the public as genuine story. This is a dishonest and nauseating dangerous phenomenon that is gradually affecting our intellectual public discourse. They would collaborate closely with the mainstream media. A website would be opened and controlled by the media crew with the gamut of all other crews activities well articulated. For if it worth the effort we must make use of the modern IT and be better organized. The media crew can take a cue from Channels TV who has been in the vanguard of providing platform for the fertilization of sports ideas. The technical crew would be populated by well grounded people in football matters with enough cognate experience and exposure. There must be a friendly template for them to work with the coaching crew. They must strife hard to harmonize their technical opinion with that of the coaching crew. They must update the coaching crew with lots of tactical tips. They must be up to date with FIFA rules and endeavor to educate relevant people. With the use of slides, visual aids and other modern teaching gadgets they must conduct technical trainings for the coaches and players. Followed closely is the Coaching crew. The best hands should form the coaching crew. The head coach is the arrow head who must be fully empowered to command strong influence on and off the pitch. He must enjoy free hand to operate. He must be turf, discipline, with managerial and coaching skills. The issue of the coach would pop up later on. The human resource crew would be constituted with people who have skills and talents to show case. Some people may marvel and question the connection of HR with soccer but the perceptive mind would agree that it’s an area often neglected in our sporting activities. In this context the football players need some motivations and leadership drive, they need sport psychologist to work on their mindset, they need achievers, ex footballers, sportsmen, to share from their wealth of experience, they need well groomed person in human management to take them through inspirational books, films, true life experience, football clips etc. They need good motivational speakers to enlighten the players to see the resultant effect of good performance from the prism of socio economic point of view. The political leverage that is bounds to accrue to Nigeria. How to manage victory on and off the peach, playing against the crowd, playing as a one big family, mutual respect for one another, handling of ploys and antics of opponents etc. More crews could be added to the broad spectrum to further take care of the wide and growing stakeholders but not too much so as to effectively managed the committee.
We would be on definite course to make a superlative impact in South Africa 2010 if the semblance of the above crews is well constituted and highly functional. Other frontal issues which will be in the front burner of public opinions any moment from now would be highlighted below. But before that if the above caricature model is up and running, all these issues which more often tend to tear us apart can be absolved and tackled neatly by this committee. Proactive approach to issues by this committee would save us from time wasting, distractions, petty squabbles, waste of resources, ineptitude and policy somersault.
The media would soon be a washed with issue of the coaching crew. It is often a three prong representation. Some people will be pushing hard for the employment of a foreign coach. They have all their valid points to pursue this agenda and the rest of the populace would have no peace except their whims and egos are satisfied. They have always been there and it’s a matter of oiling their megaphone for the campaign. The second group would want the current coach to vacate for another local coach while the third group would want the current coach to stay and complete his task in South Africa. This is how our process of selecting coaches for the Super Eagles has often been characterized. Now the committee can nip in the bud this needless argument.
The other close issue is that Nigerians want the technical crew and the coaching crew to work on a long list of field of play issues that have often characterized Nigerian Super eagles’ flabby, sloppy and shoddy performance. Nigerians want to see a newly improved Super eagle that would have work on and perfect their professional skills in so many areas such as taking advantage of set pieces like corner kicks, free kicks, penalties, throwing etc. In addition a new determined super eagles should be able to mark opponents squarely, they must sharpen their attack and able to counter attack. They must increase their speed and pace. Their passes must be purposeful, penetrating, defense splitting and accurate. They must have a fairly balance ball possession. They must concede less of set pieces. They must have tactical discipline. Nigerians want to see the hard work of the coaching crew combined with the technical crew to produce or improvise utility players whose inclusion would upset the game plan of opponents. In south Africa Nigerians want to see the Super eagles precise shot at goal, a structured build up attack and clinical finishing, maximum utilization of chances the list is endless. I must not fail to add that since the exploit of Emmanuel Amunike in the national team we have not got another suitable left footed player to replace him. Now the committee knows its hand is full.
The recruitment and selection of players can also be a hard task because of so many vested interests, and because of our dichotomy. This naturally takes us back to the coaching crew whose part of functions include recruitment drive program for players both home and away. The preliminary stage of recruitment should be broadly categorized into home based and foreign based eagles. No stone must be left unturned in this recruitment drive. We must do away with this lazy, ready made, quick fix process of populating our national team with only foreign based players. It has never helped our course and so shall it continue to be. With hard work we can ferret home based raw skills that are ready to die for Nigeria. In view of this, searchlight must be beam on those ubiquitous cadet centers, our local league, under 17 players, under 20 and any other age grade players we have. With hard work the two should naturally fused into one quality super eagles that are ready to storm the world and reclaim our lost glory. Players must struggle and sweat before earn shirt and not seen as birth right. It must not stop there; they must be psychologically attuned to the fact that they are dispensable at any time and not necessarily doing anybody any favor. In the days of Clemence Westerhof every department of the game was manned by at least two players. Invariably no player would feel indispensable because there were available choices and that makes it competitive and Nigeria profit immensely from that healthy rivalry. This is an arduous task for the coach but with determination he must be ready to walk the talk. We want the best at South Africa and not mediocrity. Many other sundry issues should also be addressed by the committee. Now the committee has something to worry about.
On the last note the committee should set a target for itself. Getting to the last four of the world cup could be an appropriate target goal. It is not impossible. Now is the time. Funding may make or mar the set target in South Africa. If it is business as usual we can as well shift our focus to something else but if we want substantial feat there is need for open door policy, proper accountability, effective and meticulous disbursement of funds.
Shamsideen Adebowale Olasanya
Former Vice President Union of Nigerians in Denmark
Lives and studies in Denmark
(Masters Program in Culture, Communication & Globalization, Aalborg University, Denmark)
17 th Nov.2009