Posts tagged ‘Nigerian football’

Segun Odegbami on Nigerian U-17 Age Cheats (a must read by FIFA and NFF)

Written By Segun Odegbami

It is Wednesday night. I am sitting and wondering what to write about this week. The eye of the world is riveted on the World Cup Draws event. I may be there for the show and shall report my experiences on this page.

From next week those of us in the business of football analysis will have a field day peering into our crystal balls and predicting how games will go, how players will play, and how far Nigeria can get from the opposing teams that will be thrown up by the draws. Until that happens I am checking my mailbox for anything interesting.

I open my box and find one amongst tons of letters that attracts my full attention. It accuses me of complicity in the matter of the recently-concluded under-17 FIFA championship and wonders why I have not commented since the conclusion of the event either about the ‘successful’ organisation of the event or the exhilarating performances of the Golden Eaglets, a performance that seems to have soothed the nerves of Nigerians and lifted their spirit in contrast to the Super Eagles’ World Cup qualifying matches that kept people’s blood-pressure soaring high through most of the months of the campaign.

The writer wonders if Adokie Amiasimaka has not now been vindicated by the silence that has now followed his explosive revelation during the championship that the Nigerian captain is a twenty-something year old man and not the teenager he claims to be.

The majority point of view is that even if Adokie had the evidence his timing was wrong and that he should have waited until the end of the championship, allowed the visitors to go, and then raised the matter! Well, it has been weeks since the championship ended. Nothing has happened. No one is saying or doing anything. Is the issue raised by Adokie not of significance any more? Has time diminished the relevance of inquiry and verification of the issue? Has the matter been overtaken by events? Should it be forgotten and swept under the carpet?

I am thinking. Obviously my silence has not escaped the attention of some observant public. I owe it to my readers to express an opinion one way or the other. My first reaction is a reminder of an article I wrote ahead of the championship. In that piece I promised I shall only celebrate Nigeria’s victory or performance if it is achieved with integrity.

The greatest gift I give myself all the time is the right to choose who I want to be and how I want my every action and word to reflect the greatest version of myself. I’d rather be silent than embrace standards and values that diminish who I am. It has been with great difficulty that I have resisted the temptation to ventilate my feelings on the under-17 championship and damn the consequences. But common sense has held me back, and, so, my deafening silence.

I guess I am waiting, like many others, for the ‘appropriate’ time, when no one shall be accused of being unpatriotic; when no one shall be accused of taking cheap shots at those in NFF today because they want to discredit them so as to remove them and take over their positions; when the international community will not be around and no one can be accused of washing dirty linens in public; when my words would not be seen as a stain on my country’s image and reputation; and when it will not be considered ‘sinful’ to keep silent in the face of tyranny!

Unfortunately, the more I think of it the more it dawns on me how bad our situation really is. Such time will never come! As far as most Nigerians are concerned the Under-17 championship has come and gone; Adokie’s ‘wrong’ is making his allegation during the championship; the FIFA President has made his own pronouncement on the matter and insisted indirectly that it was not FIFA’s business to question the integrity of a country’s documentation to determine the age of its players; and the matter is dead and buried and over! Next chapter!

Unfortunately for some of us the fundamental issues in the matter cannot be swept under the carpet because they impact on the future of our children, on the development of our cherished game, on the image and reputation of our country and on our individual and collective values as Nigerians. When, therefore, will be the ‘right’ time to speak up and do something?

For the sake of the reader whose mail has precipitated my present thought process permit me to reproduce excerpts from an article I wrote a few weeks before the championship. It provides the answer for my present silence and why I did not join in celebrating the Eaglets.

The Golden Eaglets Must Win With Integrity!

In 1988, after the 1987 World Youth championship, in my naivety and with the purest of intentions I did not have to do more than a cursory logical computation, peeling the skin from the information that was in the public domain, to scream out loud that some of the players we used in the championship could not be the ages they claimed.

Those who were in charge of Nigerian football at the time were enraged. It was such a ‘heinous’ crime that I became victim of unwritten ostracisation from football administration for many years after that. It was such a serious charge, with potentials for massive international scandal that, were there no elements of some truth, I would have been sued for treason!

The shock is that there was not even a whimper from the football authorities. Against a lack of evidence to ‘convict’ anyone it became a matter of time before everyone went silent and became part of the complicity!

The most annoying defence put up by some people is that other countries (mostly from Africa) must be guilty of the same offence. A few years after the 1987 incident the country was caught in a documentation malpractice and was suspended by FIFA for a few years suffering international humiliation.

After that, rather than create better ways of verifying documents, the country ‘invested’ in perfecting documents submitted on the players to FIFA.

So, the initial cancer ate deeper into the fabric! The rewards for success at that level became too alluring that many Nigerians joined in the racket. It became such a lucrative business that hordes of academies sprung up all over the country marketing supposedly young players and as a result parents and agents in the country would do almost anything to get their wards into the under-17 category of the national team!

Cheating became an acceptable practice with parents and some football institutions as willing agents. Sports greatest values were abandoned on the altar of lucre. Hard work, morals, discipline, and fair play lost their place as the means to success!

Everyone in sport knew what was going on but was helpless against the practise, silenced by the overwhelming celebrations of ‘successes’ that left a hollow feeling in the pits! It was great to be part of a national celebration of ‘success’ but it was such a moral burden that many people had to live with, accepting unashamedly that cheating was okay for as long as others were probably also doing it. (I then wrote about a Nigerian lad who played at the NUGA games two years ago, was in 300 level when he did, had left the country for two years after NUGA and was a member of the under-17 team in camp!)

The arithmetic is easy to work out! No matter the computation one comes up with, no matter the allowances one makes up for early schooling, ingenuity and academic excellence, no matter the parameters used in measuring rapid acceleration through the classes, there is no way such a player that left secondary school 7 years ago would be less than 17 years old by October 2009!

There would have been many Nigerians that know this young man, starting from his parents, his teachers in primary and secondary school, his mates in the neighbourhood he grew up in, his class and school mates through Primary, secondary and university.

In October 2009, we all would have sat and watched this young man outplay children 7 or 8 years his junior, ‘excelled’ and brought ‘victory’ to Nigeria. We would have feted him, celebrated him and made him a hero. We would have rewarded him with gifts and honours along with his co-conspirators in this racket, made him a model for the next generation and perpetuated falsehood and cheating!

Yet, we would have known all the time that this is a moral baggage; that the victory, the glory, the honours, the accolades, all was fraudulently achieved and undeserved.

This country is in darkness. Even in sport that brings us so much joy, and draws from us the best in our talent and potentials as human beings so abundantly blessed by God, knowing fully well that we can win cleanly, with dignity and integrity, we choose instead the short cut and selling our souls in the end!

Nigeria does not have to win the FIFA under-17 championship by all means. But who says the country cannot win it with its best students under-17? Even if they don’t NOW the country would have started the process of developing authentic talents, the ones that represent the values we want to stand for as a nation that would go ahead into the future with experiences and exposure from the 2009 event to become winners of bigger trophies in the years to come! That I can truly celebrate!

So that’s it. That’s why I did not celebrate. Let me take the argument one step further than Adokie. Let me put my foot in it properly, after all there can be no more international sanctions following confirmation by the FIFA President himself that all the players that took part in the championship were of the correct age. So, that’s settled. I have no problem with one player being over-aged in the Nigerian team. What I actually have problem with is the challenge of identifying just one in the entire team that is actually under-17.

Just as the lord told his prophet that if he finds only one person righteous in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah he would spare both cities from destruction, so am I thinking that if I can find just one player in the entire Golden Eaglets team, still in secondary school, and below the age of 17 at the time of the last tournament I shall never write a line about cheating again in Nigerian football and shall apologise to all Nigerians. It is that bad!

(Culled from the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper 5th dec 2009)

Austin Jay Jay Okocha-Probably the Greatest Footballer since Pele. An unsung hero

Austin Jay Jay Okocha-an unsung hero

Jay Jay is arguably the best footballer ever from Nigeria. He is the most underrated player ever in the history of world football!!! No Nigerian or African living or dead displayed the same level of skills and techniques that Okocha gave to football. Okocha is one of the rare players who did in big matches what they would do on a training pitch. While at PSG in France, Brazil’s Ronadinho learnt so much from Okocha and he went on to display some of Okocha’s skills in big matches as well.

Okocha’s exploit at Bolton Wanderers are well documented and famous. For the Nigerian national team we are still looking for a replacement for the midfield tactician albeit a magician.

Okocha was a past winner of the BBC African footballer of the year. But Okocha was never recognised by CAF-The Confederation of African Football. This is a very serious indictment on CAF and the fact the Okocha is no longer active does not imply that CAF cannot make amends.

CAF must admit its error of judgment that Okocha never received the African Footballer of the Year award despite his popularity and contributions to the game in Africa and Europe. My advice to CAF is to use the World Cup in South Africa 2010 to make amends for this catastrophic error. There is nothing wrong if CAF institute an award or awards that will honour the likes of Okocha as part of the opening ceremony for the Mundial.

Even FIFA is not left out of this international scandal. If either David Beckham or Michael Owen has a quarter of Okocha’s skills and abilities, they would have won the award of World Footballers of the year at different times. It will remain one of the unsolved mysteries of this century that neither CAF nor FIFA gave Jay Jay Okocha the awards that he ought to have won, African and World Footballer of the year. Don’t ask me what year. Let them search their consciences.

That Liberian George Weah won the awards in the past is not enough for Africa. It shouldn’t be “symbolic” that an African had won it before. An African should win awards on merit.

Even the Nigerian sports establishments cannot be left out in this scandal. They didn’t do enough to presents Okocha’s peculiar case to the rest of the world. Austin Jay Jay Okocha remains a legend and should rank among the best 10 footballers of all time. I see him in the same rank as Maradona and Pele.

Sudan must not touch Nigerian footballer Stephen Worgu

By Adeola Aderounmu

Sudan should be warned, at least by the Nigerian Foreign Ministry. Sudan and the reckless sudanese police should not touch Stephen Worgu’s ass with one lash of the cane. I have seen a terrible video once when a man was flogged as a result os sharia sentence. The man was bleeding as his bare ass was flogged severely and at the same spot.

Stephen Worgu (photo; BBC)

Stephen Worgu did not drink alcohol, he has stated this in his own defence. A policeman stopped him and after questioning he was asked to drive to the police station. The sudanese policeman who has enjoyed a free ride in Worgu’s car alleged that he was drunk.

That policeman must be very useless and senseless. How can you allow a “drunk” person to give you a ride to your station? If he was drunk, shouldn’t the policeman have asked him to park the car instead? Stephen Worgu was never given an alcohol test, so how can the sundanes judiciary believe such a lie.

If there is anything the sudanese should be taking seriously by now it is the war crime offences that the sudanese president Omar al Bashir has committed. Sudan should also concern itself with solving the Darfur crises instead of “beating up” an innocent Nigerian footballer. This is very irritating and annoying.

The Nigerian embassy in Sudan must see to it that Stephen Worgu is not given any lash. The embassy must protect the rights of S. Worgu. The Nigerian embassy must protest vehemently to the Sudanese government about this false allegation. Stephen must be given compensation for this undue harrassment and embarassment.

The Nigerian Foreign Ministry must also warn Sudan that no form of injustice against a Nigerian on the Sudanese soil will be taken lightly. Sudan must remember that there are Sudanese living in Nigeria too and we are no fools.

To all who are concerned speak out now and don’t allow this mad act to be carried out. 40 lashes on Worgu’s ass will end his football career. I can bet on that. The guy could even be paralysed from those evil lashes.

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