Wild Goose Chase
Posted: Mar 03, 2011
IT WAS A CASE of double wild goose chase for Nigerian football last week.
First, our “high-powered ministerial lobby team” to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) general assembly in Khartoum, Sudan came back red-faced and empty-handed after failing in their quest to get former Nigeria Football Association (NFA) chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, elected into the FIFA executive committee. Amongst the five candidates that contested for two FIFA seats on Africa’s platform, Nigeria’s Galadima finished in the last position with only five votes from a possible 100 plus votes.
We were still smarting from that comprehensive defeat when the national team, Super Eagles, flew into the United States of America only to discover that the “Green Soccer Bowl” tournament for which it had travelled all the way from Nigeria had been postponed. The team led by coach Samson Siasia has since returned home without kicking a ball.
When I first heard the news of the Eagles botched tourney, I was furious. Coming only a couple of weeks after another botched friendly match supposedly arranged against Guatemala, I was quite exasperated that the new executive committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was seemingly driving inexorably in the failed direction of its immediate predecessors. Therefore, when a journalist from Ray Power called to ask my opinion, I simply tore into (NFF president) Aminu Maigari and his team of incompetent officials. “Couldn’t they do something right for once?”
As I write this, however, I have overcome my immediate anger and what I now feel for the NFF is pity. I have read the explanations by the tournament organiser, former Nigerian international Pius Oleh and the apology by the NFF. My conclusion is that the whole episode is quite unfortunate.
There is no doubt about the genuineness of the tournament because it was obviously endorsed by the United States Soccer Federation, without which the United States embassy in Nigeria would not have issued visas to our team. Oleh explained that Nigeria was the only country that arrived the venue before the postponement because we were the farthest and had to travel early. Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica are closer to the US and were due to arrive later. They were able to cancel their travel plans when they got news of the postponement. Satisfactory explanation is my opinion.
What is not satisfactory, however, is the reason for the postponement given by Oleh. The venue of the tournament, match tickets and other logistics should have been properly secured to avoid the last-minute disappointments that botched the tourney. Oleh should therefore be held accountable for not completing his home work.
However, the NFF must learn it’s lesson from this latest embarrassment. Nigerian soccer fans have no business with Oleh or any match agents, so when things go wrong, the fans are right to heap the blame on NFF. It’s the job of the NFF to ensure that they do the proper checks on the match agents they work with, and demand for the proper guarantees before signing and then announcing friendly engagements for the national teams.
I suspect that the rush to impress the media and the public is getting this NFF into all sorts of trouble. They are not taking their time to check things properly before signing contracts and making announcements. Now that they have suffered successive embarrassment over the Guatemala friendly and Green Soccer Bowl tourney, I hope they will henceforth be more circumspect and secure the necessary guarantees before announcing the Eagles next friendly date and opponent.
I will appeal to the fans to let us accept NFF’s apology on the latest friendly mishap. But if they fumble again on the next assignment, we should march on the Glass House to demand their resignation letters.
Wild Goose Chase To Sudan
WHILE I think we could excuse the “Obama Cup” fiasco as human error, I am in no such generous mood concerning the NFF and ministry of sports’ handling of Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima’s campaign for a CAF and /or FIFA membership seat as a candidate of Nigeria. Galadima’s candidacy was doomed from the start. It is the height of hypocrisy and deceit for the ministry and NFF to have led Nigerians to believe that he stood any chance at all.
If I was vice-president Namadi Sambo, I will institute a probe into the grand deception by the two bodies and instruct every person that travelled to Sudan ostensibly to campaign for Galadima to refund every kobo and every dollar collected from the national purse. The campaign was a fraud.
Three weeks BEFORE the CAF Congress in Khartoum, I made the following prediction in this column: “ADAMU is suspended from all football activities” for three years, but he will have some say (by proxy) on whether Galadima takes over his CAF seat or not. If Galadima doesn’t already know that, he will soon find out.” (SOCCERTALK, February 9, 2011).
Well, I guess Galadima has now found out!
I did not elaborate on that prediction because I have resolved this year not to “waste” my time writing about the politics of Nigerian football any more. Besides, I thought the “Adamu factor” was glaring enough for everybody to see anyway. I am surprised that Galadima and his campaign managers either did not see it or they thought it was not important.
To start with, elections into CAF and FIFA are largely about the INDIVIDUAL candidates, not necessarily their COUNTRY of origin. Your country’s FA can only nominate you. Thereafter, you win or lose the election based largely on your personal contacts with , and acceptance by the delegates.
Sepp Blatter became FIFA president not because he is from Switzerland, but because of the contacts he had made as FIFA secretary general. Issa Hayatou has remained CAF president since 1988 not because Cameroun has spent one kobo hosting African competitions, but because he is deeply entrenched in the CAF cabal. When Amos Adamu won his CAF seat, I can’t remember the Nigerian government setting up a campaign team for him. In fact, the then minister of sport, the late Ishaya Mark Aku would have stopped Adamu if he could but Adamu fought his way through and won by sheer personal determination.
Adamu may have a bad reputation in Nigeria but he remains very popular in CAF. There have been repeated rumours of his falling out with Hayatou, but that has often been disproved. Hayatou backed Adamu throughout the cash-for-vote scandal at FIFA and even reportedly lobbied Blatter to let Adamu and the other accused Africans off the hook. For anyone to have thought that Hayatou would turn round to sack Adamu from CAF for Galadima to take over was wishful thinking.
Second, the commitment of the sports minister Alhaji Taoheed Adedoja to Galadima’s campaign must be a curious one indeed. Soon after assumption of office, Adedoja who is reported to be Adamu’s old friend, told a press conference that Adamu was not guilty of the cash-for- vote allegation even when the FIFA appeal committee was yet to announce its verdict. My suspicion is that Adedoja only went to Sudan just to please vice president Sambo who reportedly signed a letter requesting Hayatou to assist Nigeria’s Galadima. It is doubtful if the minister truly believed that Galadima stood any chance.
Third, the NFF. It is an open secret that more than half of Maigari’s NFF executive committee members and secretariat staff are Adamu loyalists. Maigari’s NFF reluctantly nominated Galadima only under pressure from former sports minster, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, who was determined to dismantle Adamu’s political structures. The moment Bio resigned and Adedoja took over, Maigari’s commitment to the Galadima candidacy waned.
With all the foregoing FACTS on the table, I am surprised that some so-called lobby group claim that they went to Sudan ostensibly to “win” a FIFA seat for Nigeria!” What seat? And when they failed, they claimed it is because they didn’t start the lobby on time. Which lobby?
The ONLY way Galadima could have stood a chance under the circumstance was if Adamu agreed to step down for him, and also campaigned for him. I know that Galadima is not a desperate man; he is a man of strong character and he wouldn’t beg Adamu to step down for him. In which case, he shouldn’t have bothered to seek to replace Adamu at Hayatou’s CAF. It was never going to happen. And it didn’t happen. It was a wild goose chase.
My take on Adamu’s refusal to step down for Galadima is that he (Adamu) has the legal and democratic right to do as he chose in this particular case. Nigeria may have originally nominated him for the CAF seat, but we should not compel him to drop his case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) because that would mean denying him the right to clear his name. It is only if CAS also returns a guilty verdict on him that we may formally request CAF to allow us present another candidate to complete his tenure. Ironically, even that is not automatic because , as I said earlier, CAF members are elected in their individual capacity, not necessarily as their country’s representative. The executive committee may pick just anybody, Nigerian or not, to complete the term of a member that is expelled or becomes indisposed.
However, if Nigeria feels slighted by Adamu’s refusal to step down for Galadima, we could wait for his present CAF tenure to expire and then refuse to endorse his candidature for another term. That resolution can be made now by the Federal Government and gazzetted so that whoever is NFF president or sport minister at the expiration of Adamu’s CAF tenure will be compelled to act accordingly.
But who will move that motion or present a memo on it to the vice president? Nobody, I can bet, nobody. Not Maigari and certainly, not Adedoja.
Long live then, Amos Adamu. May your CAF days be long!
Thank You, Home Boys
ALL the home-based Super Eagles players that went on the trip to the botched Green Soccer Bowl tournament in Dallas, Texas, deserve a pat on the back for not absconding in the United States.
Had any of them run away, it would have been a bigger scandal than the postponement of the tournament and it would have made it more difficult for our teams to secure visas in the future.
I’m sure that some of the players were visiting the US for the first time and the temptation to abscond would have been strong. I thank them most sincerely for not compounding our international disgrace. God bless you, boys.
Sorry, Arsenal Fans
MY HEARTFELT condolence goes to all Arsenal fans for the massive disappointment they suffered in the English Carling Cup final last weekend at Wembley.
After six trophy-less seasons, everything pointed to the end of the drought for Arsene Wenger’s team but Birmingham had not read the script and beat the Gunners by two goals to one.
If it’s any consolation, I urge the Arsenal fans to look at the bright side of the story: it was Nigeria’s own Obafemi Martins who scored the winning goal for Birmingham. That’s something to celebrate, I hope?
Where is Rashidi Yekini?
I WAS a guest on the floor of MICA (Movement for Islamic Culture and Awareness), Lagos last weekend. After sharing with the members my perspectives on “Legacy” and a bit of my “Complete Sports Story,” I had to take questions on any conceivable subject. One of the questions was “Where is Rashidi Yekini?”
That is one question that has been recurring in recent time as Yekini refuses to grant interviews or respond to any invitation to leverage his fame as a key member of the successful 1994 Super Eagles.
I told the MICA gathering that Yekini was in Ibadan, Oyo State but his decision to keep virtually to himself has continued to fuel speculations about his state of mind.
Is there anything that NANF and APFON (rather than fight over NFF) can do to reconcile Yekini with Nigerian football?
And if Yekini himself is reading this, I say to him please, forget the past. Your fans still love you and want to see more of you. Come out, Goalsfather, speak up!
Re: Emmanuel Okala
LAST week’s article on Emmanuel Okala enjoyed good reviews from readers. Following are a few reactions...
GOD bless you for this write-up on me. We will talk later. – Emmanuel Okala, MON.
THANKS for the great education on Soccertalk. You’ve been a mighty source of inspiration to me and others. God bless you and your family. – Matthew Edafe, Lagos.
IT IS A pity that it took so long to bring out the truth on Okala. Nevertheless, I salute your courage to put the records straight. – A.A.Z. Fashola (Esq).
FANTASTIC job on the Okala story. Who else to do such but you. Well done. – Josy, AJ.
YOUR story on Emmanuel Okala is priceless. I want to call him by that title now! “Emmanuel Okala, 1978 African Footballer of the Year.” Beautiful! – K.B. Father, Ojodu, Lagos.
CONGRATS on a job well done. – Dr. Abdullahi A. Maisaje, Kaduna.
THANKS, my brother for taking us down memory lane. My worry is that today’s sportswriters know more about foreign teams and players than they do of Nigerian clubsides and players. – Pat Odili, Ohio, USA.
THANKS a lot for this beautiful piece. I have always enjoyed your articles before leaving Nigeria and still continue to do so (via Complete Sports website).I must admit I never knew about all this before and I’m glad I know now. – Raphael Harry.
THANKS to you, now we know that Nigeria’s first African Footballer of the Year was the great Emmanuel Okala. For Salami of Shooting Stars, his club should write to the NFF for leniency. That’s the way it’s done, even here in Dubai. – F.M. Okoli, Dubai.
Re: Gbolahan Salami...
THANKS for the plea on behalf of Gbolahan Salami of 3SC. I also watched the scene on TV. A one year ban is not corrective; it is killing. I hope the NFF will review the decision. – Rev. Femi Asiwaju, Opebi, Ikeja.
I AGREE with you that Salami’s ban is excessive. Even Gennaro Gattuso of AC Milan who head-butted and held the throat of assistant coach Joe Jordan of Spurs in the UEFA Champions League recently only got a four match ban. If Salami had done that, NFF would probably hand him a life sentence! – Victor.
SALAMI deserves punishment, but one year ban is killing. How many erring referees have been so severely punished? – Niyi Akinbode, Ibadan.
NFF should reduce Salami’s punishment to a five match ban, period. – Felix, Port Harcourt.
I DO NOT agree that Salami’s ban should be reduced. His earlier attack on coach Ogunbote of Sunshine FC comes to mind. He’s proving to be a bad boy. – Dr. Emeka.
NFF SHOULD temper justice with mercy. They should reconsider Salami’s case and that of Bassey Akpan of Heartland, too. They should apply international standards in sanctioning players. One year ban for “suspected intent” to attack a referee is definitely too harsh. – Chukwuma, Warri.
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