Hopeful Eagles, Hopeless League?
Posted: Sep 06, 2012
IT TOOK some time to coin this week’s title of SOCCERTALK. The Super Eagles return to action this weekend as they face Liberia in the first leg of their final qualifier for 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in January. Also this weekend, the 2012 Nigeria Premier League (NPL) is scheduled to end with the final round of matches. I wanted to capture both important events in a short title, and what you see is my best effort.
When the draw which pitted Nigeria against Liberia was held a couple of months back, my reaction in this column was “see you in SA” (with the Super Eagles, that is). I was confident that Nigeria would eliminate the Lone Star over the two legs and qualify for South Africa. Well, nothing has changed. Irrespective of the first leg result this weekend in Monrovia, I expect the Eagles to come back home and finish the job. I repeat confidently: See you in SA!
While I’m not losing any sleep over the Liberia tie, I have an opinion on coach Stephen Keshi’s exclusion of Osaze Odemwingie and Mikel Obi which has dominated discussions in the run-up to this game. For the umpteenth time, I repeat that the coach has the final say in the call-up of players. And while the rest of us might have our say, the coach must have his way.
Personally, I am satisfied with Keshi’s explanation which has not been contradicted by either player. Keshi says Osaze was left out because he has not demonstrated the commitment to return to the team. My view of Osaze’s general behaviour in recent times is well documented so, I won’t dwell on him. I think we should let him enjoy his career in the English Premier League while we get on with our lives.
As for Mikel, however, my view is that the player has the right to refuse risking his career on an artificial turf where the Monrovia game will reportedly be played.
For years now, Chief Segun Odegbami has been campaigning against the spread of artificial surfaces in Nigeria.
As a former national team captain, Odegbami should know and he does know about the dangers the plastic pitch poses to footballers. But because most of the people running our sports care only about their pockets, artificial pitches have continued to spring up in every Nigerian stadium because it brings “good business” to those awarding the contracts.
It has taken Keshi’s arrival as national team coach to bring the pitch problem again to the fore. A former
national team captain himself, Keshi has repeatedly expressed his frustration that a country that prides itself as a “football-playing nation” cannot boast a standard grass football pitch. This is a big shame indeed and it is a serious indictment on the ministry of sports that are primarily responsible for providing and maintaning sports facilities in Nigeria.
If the ministry cannot maintain the grass at the Abuja National Stadium for a national sport such as football, how will they provide facilities for other “minor sports” such as weightlifting and boxing? Any wonder that our athletes couldn’t complete effectively at the Olympic Games? But I digress.
Back to Mikel Obi, I will say Keshi is correct to grant the player’s request to be excused from playing on an artificial pitch on the advice of his employers at Chelsea Football Club. Knowing the dangers involved, it would have been insensitive of Keshi to insist on his coming.
So, what about other players who have accepted to play for their country irrespective of the nature of the pitch? Well, it has to be assumed that they have weighed their options very well and calculated the risks involved. On a personal note, I salute their courage and patriotism. But that is not enough to dismiss another player’s concerns about his own personal welfare and professional career.
Good luck to the Eagles as they jet out to Liberia.
Journalists Challenge NPL
THE poser in my main headline on whether the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) is hopelessly beyond redemption might have been answered one way or the other by the time you read this. The issue in contention is whether Ocean Boys FC shouldn’t have been relegated automatically and all their previous results wiped out according to the rules after dishonouring more than three league matches this season.
At the time of writing this, the NPL had scheduled a meeting to take a decision ahead of the final round of league matches. The rules are clear and that decision should be a simple one. But just in case League boss Ramson Baribote and his board members are reluctant to do the right thing because they have been compromised as alleged in some quarters, three sports journalists have served them (NPL) notice through Fred Agbaje’s Chambers, that they would be dragged to court. (See “Letter to NPL Chairman”).
Toyin Ibitoye (Channels TV), Colin Udoh (SuperSport analyst) and Bode Oguntuyi (Sports Vision) are three of the foremost football league reporters in Nigeria. When Toyin told me of their plan, I encouraged him to go ahead and promised to feature the subject in SOCCERTALK.
Our veteran senior colleague, Fabio Lanipekun, or soccer historian Kunle Solaja may be better informed, but to my own knowledge, this is the first time a group of sports journalists are truly walking the talk by tackling lawlessness in Nigerian sports administration headlong. I am positive that they will succeed, and they would have pioneered a new form of advocacy sports journalism in Nigeria using the country’s legal system, rather than the tons of newsprint and decades of airtime that have frustrated most of us due to their seeming ineffectiveness on recalcitrant and incorrigible administrators.
If Baribote and Company know what is good for them, they should simply follow their own EPL rules. And the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) which is the supervising body should also direct NPL to do just that: Follow the rules.
The Premier League has more than enough problems to deal with already with its current lack of sponsorship, poor spectator support and general lack of appeal. Those problems shouldn’t be compounded by deliberate lawlessness by those appointed or elected to manage it.
NIGERIAN fans have been drawing consolation from the medal-winning performances of our athletes at the on-going London 2012 Paralympics Games, following the disappointment suffered at the Olympic Games proper where we returned empty-handed.
Even I was inpressed particularly by 48kg weightlifter Yakubu Adesokan who broke the games record with his first lift, set a new world record with his second lift and immediately broke that world record and set yet another new one with his thrid lift. That was remarkable indeed.
At press time, Nigeria had won five gold, five silver and one bronze to place 14th in the medals table. Obviously, our less-able athletes have fared better than their able colleagues. But the fact remains that it’s your achievement at the Olympics proper that is considered when the truly great sporting nations are being counted.
Let’s celebrates our Paralympic athletes but know that our sports still need a total overhaul.
Re: The Gold Standard
As a young boy, my world always had great passion for few games available, soccer and table tennis being in the forefront. Then, names of Nigerian sports men in local soccer clubs were more important than those of internationals like Pele. Then, I saw so many local sports enthusiasts’ unrelenting passion and supports for Principals’ Cup competition for high schools. Gradually, the thieves, branding guns and military uniforms bought with our taxes, entered politics through the back doors! Ignorantly, my forebears applauded them. The rest can only be appropriately captured by history ever.
Shall we be free? It depends on our readiness not to follow the wilderness experience of China. China has been in existence thousands of years before Christ. They have lived in squalor, poverty, miseries and subjectivity for thousands of years. They just began tranformation into modernity few decades back! Same goes for India! Same goes for Brazil! Ghana has taught us many lessons! Shall Nigeria ever be free? Time will tell.. – Adeyemi Adetoye, Online.
Letter To NPL Chairman
Nigeria Premier League
31, Karaye Close, Garki 2
After FCT Police Command
Attention: Victor Rumson Baribote
OCEAN BOYS IN THE NIGERIA PREMIER LEAGUE: A COUNTINUED INFRACTION OF THE NPL RULES & REGULATIONS
We are Counsel to Messers Colins Udoh, Toyin Ibitoye and Bode Oguntuyi (hereinafter referred to as “Our Clients”) who are a trio of concerned media practitioners and have covered Nigeria domestic and international football for between 15-20 years each. Our clients are sport writers of repute, tax payers, football enthusiasts, Nigerian citizens and therefore have the necessary locus to demand that laws of this country especially laws governing sport be complied with. As a matter of fact, every Nigerian, whether sports journalists, bankers, housewives, market women, drivers; have since become sport enthusiasts and therefore the locus standi of these Nigerians, including our clients, can never be in doubt.
We write in reference to the 2012 season of the Nigeria Premier League (NPL). We are duly informed by our Clients that the Ocean Boys, a Club in the NPL, have failed to honour a total of four (4) league matches this season, three of them consecutively. For the sake of clarity, the said matches in issue are:
Wk 31 – Pillars vs Ocean Boys
Wk 35 – Oceans Boys vs Kaduna United
Wk 36 – Wikki Tourists vs Ocean Boys
Wk 37 – Ocean Boys vs Rising Stars
The act of Ocean Boys in missing these four (4) matches is in clear breach of Article 4.2(3) of the NPL Rules.
More so, the Ocean Boys Manager Tony Ogola and Media Officer Asein Ohis have also been on record in the media claiming that they have withdrawn from the league and are only being forced to continue by the leadership of your League. This is also a clear contravention of Article 2.0(3) of the NPL Rules.
It was however alarming that despite all these contraventions, your management has not deemed it fit to expel Ocean Boys but rather takes all steps to shield the said club including setting up a three-man Committee to investigate Ocean Boys’ inability to honour their fixtures. The said committee was given neither scope nor terms of reference and no deadline to submit their report. We are not fooled by the purported activities of your so-called Committee to investigate the aforesaid contraventions, knowing full well it was a ruse.
We are further informed that your management has gone ahead to release an official league table showing Ocean Boys as having played and lost the matches in question by 3 points and 3 goals stipulated by the Rules. In other words, Ocean Boys were walked over by their opponents in the matches in question. In a funny and fraudulent twist however, the table shows Ocean Boys as having ‘played’ 37 matches like all other clubs. We find this totally unethical, unacceptable and contrary to the NPL Rules. Nigeria operates the Rule of Law and everything, including the activities of your league must therefore revolve around its enabling Rules, the laws of the land and the Nigerian Constitution.
We hereby demand that Ocean Boys be expelled without further delay and its matches played and unplayed be cancelled forthwith in accordance with Art. 4.2(3) of the NPL Rules.
TAKE NOTICE that if you fail to comply with our demand within 48 hours by complying with the extant laws we shall immediately proceed to the Federal High Court to compel your management to obey court injunction which we shall seek shortly. In essence, it is either your management complies with the laws of the land as enshrined or be prepared to comply with Orders of Injunction and possibly be visited with contempt.
FUTHER TAKE NOTICE that whatever contrary decision the said Committee reaches would be visited with nullification by a court injunction.
Do well to comply and act immediately without delay!
FOR: FRED AGBAJE & CO.
Fred Agbaje LL.M, M.Phil, B.L
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