Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Nigeria and 2010 World Cup

As one of world’s notable footballing nations, Nigeria’s participation in next year's World Cup in South Africa should have been taken for granted.
Events have shown how risky it is to do that, and many Nigerians are now nerves. Failure to qualify will not only dampen the spirit of Nigerians but could also trigger negative consequences for the country’s number one sport.
Luckily, this point seems to have registered well in the Presidency. While inaugurating a 12-man Presidential Task Force to facilitate Nigeria’s qualification for the mundial in Abuja last week, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua said, "The 2010 World Cup is one event that Nigeria cannot afford to fail to qualify for. It will be a major tragedy if the green-white-green flag does not fly alongside the national colours of the other 31 countries in South Africa; a tragedy for the millions of Nigerians for whom football has become a religion.”
But in order to stay on course and avoid the embarrassment of being absent from two consecutive World Cups, those words should be matched with pragmatic action. Interestingly, that responsibility has been handed over to the committee which must now supervise and work in conjunction with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to achieve this onerous objective.
Considering the shoddy manner in which the football house, technical crew and players have prosecuted the campaign so far, there is no time to waste to remedy the situation. The barren draw of the Super Eagles against the less fancied Mozambique side the other day has brought back sad memories of Nigeria’s failed attempt to qualify for the 2006 edition of the world’s foremost single sport championship. To avoid the painful re-enactment of that misfortune, all the direct stakeholders - coaches, players, marketers, administrators and others - need to urgently re-examine the attitude, input and level of preparedness they have so far contributed to the project.
The footballers, most of whom play their hearts out for their various clubs abroad, are yet to exhibit enough commitment to the nation’s success in the qualifying series. On its part, the NFF has not shown that it has learnt enough from the missteps of the past in terms of providing adequate opportunities for the bench and players to excel. By international rating, the The Super Eagles is a world-class team, and we expect its coaches led by Shuaibu Amodu to rise up to that level of achievement. It is clear that they have a lot of work to do. The two friendly matches against Ireland and France in preparation for the June clash with Kenya present timely chances for them to prove their competence and determination to win.
Blind experimentation at this point would be disastrous. No mediocre player, no matter his past glories or contributions to the team, should be included in the team. It is also not too late to overhaul the technical staff if they fail to rise up to the expectation of Nigerians. As for the NFF, President Yar'Adua's rescue effort is an indirect indictment and expression of the nation's lack of faith in its ability to deliver. It should now wake up to create the required environment for picking a slot in South Africa.
More than any other aspect of national life, football has done better to unite Nigerians. An instrument like that must not be left to lose its potency to inefficiency and lack of sincerity of purpose.
As the president said, this country possesses whatever it takes to appear in South Africa and perform brilliantly. Nothing short of that will be acceptable to Nigerians