TOUCHLINE UI:NIGERIAN FOOTBALL IN 2013: THE CORONER’S REPORT.

By Omisakin Ayobami

Another year has gone by. Questions abound, opinions vary as to how successful the year was for Nigerian Football. A fact that cannot be denied, though, is that Football fared much better than other sports in Nigeria; Team Okagbare (or is it Team Nigeria) was the only consolation in Athletics, and relative success was recorded in Weightlifting and Cricket. However, for this write up, I have decided to narrow it down to the N.F.F and male national teams, others will follow soon. But before I throw my weight behind any assertion, I would like to run through the good, the bad and the ugly events that shaped Nigerian football in 2013.

THE GOOD

The Super Eagles victory in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa came as a surprise to Nigerians. Interestingly though, the Super Eagles AFCON 2013 success could turn out an albatross to Nigerian football if the situation is not properly managed for therein lies the key to opening the door to a whole new vista of opportunities that can either take Nigerian football to the highest level or cripple it totally.

Super Eagles celebrates winning the African Cup of Nations

In retrospect, Former Super Eagles defender, the late Uche Okafor once described the Atlanta ’96 Olympics success as the worst thing to have happened to Nigerian football in that success got into the head of the players and they saw themselves as untouchable, all to the detriment of the team. According to Okafor that was the beginning of the slide of Nigerian football into an abyss of poor performance, in-fighting, power tussle, administrative ineptitude etc. that has taken decades to creep out from. A similar scenario of managing success presents itself with the 2013 AFCON victory and it is only proper that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

About nine months later, Nigeria won their record fourth FIFA U-17 World Cup championship with a 3-0 win over Mexico in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates; producing the best player and best goalkeeper of the tournament in the process. It was one of the most enticing football events this year for Nigerian and African fans alike. African soccer analyst, David Legge says the Golden Eaglets played a beautiful brand of passing football in the UAE, and the team, if it stays together, has the potential to win more medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and in future international tournaments. The victory serves as a ray of hope for the future if the right steps are taken to ensure the complete metamorphosis of these Eaglets into Eagles.

The Golden Eaglets celebrates after winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup

CAF unveiled a shortlist of 10 players in early December for the continent’s premier individual football award billed for Lagos, Nigeria on January 9. Four Nigerians: Ahmed Musa, Emmanuel Emenike, John Obi Mikel and Vincent Enyeama are in line to be named as Toure’s successor. This is very good news as it has been long since Nigerian players ever stood a chance of claiming the most coveted individual crown in African football.

Mikel ,one of the Nigerians nominated for Africa's best player hoists the AFCON title

Looking ahead to 2014, Nigeria has its sights set firmly on Brazil, where it’s grouped with Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and two-time champion Argentina for the first round of the FIFA World Cup. This will be Nigeria’s fifth World Cup appearance and even though I regard it as a birthright, it can still be listed as one of the year’s achievements.

The whole year can be summarised thus, 11 wins, 8 draws and 3 losses; the Super Eagles moved from the 52nd position in the Fifa ranking at the beginning of the year to 37th position at the end of the year.

THE BAD

The performance of the Super Eagles at the Confederations Cup will definitely come under this heading. The outing was horrendous; conceding a goal against Tahiti was bad enough but adding the defeat against Uruguay and the lack of finishing experienced against the La Rojas makes it absurd. Hopefully that outing is not an echo of what is to come in Brazil 2014. The performance of the Super Eagles at the tournament tells us two things; the team lacks depth and needs clinical and experienced striker.

Gambo against Valdes of Spain in the FIFA Confederations Cup

THE UGLY

Only administrative faults will be listed here and when we talk about the administration’s misdeeds, the slashing of players’ wages without proper notice and consultation readily comes to mind. The action in itself is not wrong but the timing and method of its implementation by the N.F.F leaves a lot more to be desired. The ugly nature of this decision pales in comparison to its consequences; the Super Eagles refused to represent the country at the Confederations Cup. It was a very ugly incident indeed.

The NFF secretariat

Furthermore, the N.F.F added to this list of woes by failing to pay Keshi and his assistants for several months and eventually declaring bankruptcy. While I would not be dwelling much on this issue is because it has already been discussed in a previous article, it is germane to note that the N.F.F has never owed its foreign coach their salaries which are much more than what Keshi earns.

Hopefully, events like this will not rear their ugly heads in the coming year.

THE REPORT

The year 2013 was a year of trophies and victories on the pitch but failures at the glass house. The hope of Nigerian football does not just rest on the shoulders of on-pitch performances but also on the effectiveness of the administration which will always have its bearing on the on-pitch performances.

TOUCHLINE UI: TOUCHLINE UI TEAM OF THE YEAR

Merry Christmas Everyone! Today is Boxing Day, the day of giving. TOUCHLINE UI, in our little way gives our highly esteemed readers our WORLD XI for the year 2013 because you deserve the best. The following have been the stand out performers in their respective positions this year. The 4-3-3 formation has been adopted.

GOALKEEPER

MANUEL NEUER (BAYERN MUNCHEN & GERMANY)

neuer

 

 

 

 

 

HONOURS

2012/2013 season

  • DFL-Super cup
  • German Bundesliga
  • DFB POKAL
  • UEFA Champions League

2013/2014 season (till date)

  •   European Super Cup
  •   FIFA  Club World Cup

STATS

2012/2013 season

  • He kept an incredible 18 clean sheets in just 31 league matches.
  • He conceded 18 goals in the league which is a Bundesliga record.
  • He conceded a total number of 43 goals and kept 32 clean sheets in 61 games in all competitions (club and country)

2013/2014 season (till date)

  • In 30 games between the sticks in all competitions (club and country), he has conceded 20 goals and kept 16 clean sheets.

MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

  • The 27 year old conceded just 18 goals in Germany’s top flight in 2012/13, breaking the record previously held by former FCB and Germany legend Oliver Kahn (21 in 2007/08).
  • He also reached a personal milestone in September when he became the youngest player to reach 100 Bundesliga clean sheets.

RIGHT BACK

 PHILLIP LAHM (BAYERN MUNCHEN & GERMANY)

Lahm

 

 

 

 

 

 HONOURS

2012/2013 season

  • DFL-SUPER CUP
  • German Bundesliga
  • DFB POKAL
  • UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

2013/2014 season (till date)

  • European Super Cup
  • FIFA Club World Cup

STATS

2012/2013 season

  • In a total number of 58 games for both club and country, he had a total number of 22 assists, the most by any right-back.

2013/2014 season

  • In 27 games played for both club and country, he already has 6 assists to his name

MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

  • He had the highest number of assists by a defender in the 2012/2013 Bundesliga(11)
  • He won his 100th cap for Germany against Austria on the 6th of September, 2013.

CENTRAL DEFENCE (RIGHT)

THIAGO SILVA (PARIS SAINT GERMAIN &BRAZIL)

Thiago Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 HONOURS

2012/2013 season

  • French Ligue 1
  • FIFA Confederations CUP

HONOURS

2013/2014 season (till date)

Trophee des Champions

 STATS

2012/2013 season

  • He made a total 46 appearances for club and country, scored 3 goals with an assist to his name
  • Out of the 23 clean sheets Paris Saint Germain kept in the league last season, 14 were kept in matches Thiago Silva played. He made 22 league appearances.

 2013/2014 season

  • He has made 27 appearances for both club and country and has scored 3 goals.

MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

  • 2012/2013 Ligue 1 Team of the Season
  • 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Team of the Tournament

CENTRAL DEFENCE (LEFT)

DANTE (BAYERN MUNCHEN & BRAZIL)

dante

 

 

 

 

 

 HONOURS

 2012/2013 season

  • DFL-Super cup
  • German Bundesliga
  • DFB POKAL
  • UEFA Champions League
  • FIFA Confederations Cup

 2013/2014 season (till date)

  • European Super Cup
  • Club World Cup

STATS

2012/2013 season

  • He made 50 appearances for both club and country last season, scored 2 goals with 3 assists to his name.

2013/2014 season

  • He has so far made 30 appearances with 2goals and 5 assists to his name.

LEFT BACK

 DAVID OLATOKUNBO ALABA (BAYERN MUNCHEN & AUSTRIA)

David Alaba on the right

 

 

 

 

 

HONOURS

2012/2013 season

  • DFL-Super cup
  • German Bundesliga
  • DFB POKAL
  • UEFA Champions League

HONOURS

2013/2014 season (till date)

  • European Super Cup
  • FIFA Club World Cup

STATS

2012/2013 season

  • In 48 games for club and country, the 21 year old scored 11 goals and had 9 assists to his name.

2013/2014 season

  • In 29 games so far for both club and country, He has found the back of the net 3 times and has 6 assists to his name.

MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHEIVEMENTS

  • Austrian Player of the Year
  • Highest scoring defender in the World Cup Qualifier(UEFA) with 6 goals

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

(BOX-TO-BOX)

ARTURO VIDAL (JUVENTUS AND CHILE)

Arturo Vidal

 

 

 

 

HONOURS

2012/2013 season

  • Italian Serie A
  • Supercoppa Italiana

2013/2014 season (till date)

  • Supercoppa Italiana

STATS

2012/2013 season

  • He scored 15 goals and had 12 assists in 48 appearances for both club and country

2013/2014 season (till date)

  • He has so far played 25 games for both club and country to which he has 12 goals and 5 assists.

 MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Fastest goal in the 2012/2013 Serie A season against Inter Milan-18 seconds(3rd November 2012)

DEEP-LYING MIDFIELDER

BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER (Bayern Munchen and Germany)

Bastian Schweinsteiger

 

 

 

 

 

 

HONOURS

2012/2013 season

  • DFL-SUPER CUP
  • German Bundesliga
  • DFB POKAL
  • UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

2013/2014 season (till date)

  • European Super Cup
  • FIFA Club World Cup

STATS

2012/2013 season

  • He played a total of 50 games for both club and country; found the back of the net 9 times and had a total of 14 assists.

2013/2014 season (till date)

  • He has appeared 17 times for the Bavarians, scored 2 goals and assisted his team mates twice.
  • MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
  • He won his 100th cap for his country on the 15th of October, 2013 against Sweden
  • On the 28th July, 2013, he won the 2013 German Player of the year.

ADVANCED MIDFIELDER

FRANK RIBERY (Bayern Munchen and France)

Frank Ribery

 

 

 

 

 

HONOURS

2012/2013 season

  • DFL-Super Cup
  • German Bundesliga
  • DFB POKAL
  • UEFA Champions League

 2013/2014 season (till date)

  • European Super Cup
  • FIFA Club World Cup

STATS

2012/2013 season

  • In the league, he scored 10 goals and had 15 assists in 27 matches.
  • He played a total of 55 games for club and country, found the back of the net 16 times and had a total number of 29 assists to his name.

 2013/2014 season (till date)

  • In the league, he has scored 6 goals and has 9 assists in just 13matches for the German giants.
  • He has so far featured 27 times for both club and country and has 13 goals and 14 assists to his name.

 MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Highest number of assists in the 2012/2013 German Bundesliga with 15
  • He is currently on 7 assists in the 2013/2014 German Bundesliga which is the highest of any player in the league.
  • Bundesliga Player of the Year 2013
  • UEFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
  • CLUB WORLD CUP PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT
  • On the 11th of December, 2013, Ribery was named French Player of the Year.

FORWARDS

 LIONEL MESSI (Barcelona and Argentina

Lionel Messi

 

 

 

 

 

 HONOURS

2012/2013 season

  • Spanish La Liga

2013/2014 season

  • Spanish Super Cup

STATS

2012/2013 season

  • In the La Liga, he scored 46 and had a further 14 assists in just 32 league games.
  • He played 54 games for both club and country, found the back of the net 64 times and assisted his team mates 20 times.

2013/2014 season (till date)

  • In 16 appearances for Barcelona this season, He has scored 14 goals and created 4 for his team mates.

 MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

  • He won the Pichichi award for finishing top scorer with 46 goals in the 2012/2013 Spanish League season.
  • Messi’s hat-trick against Guatemala on the 15th of June saw him move ahead of Diego Maradona in all time goal-scoring charts to 35. He is now on 37 goals, 19 shy of legend, Gabriel Batistuta just at the age of 26.

 ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (Paris Saint Germain and Sweden)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

 

 

 

 

 

HONOURS

2012/2013 season

 French Ligue 1

2013/2014 season

  • Trophee des Champions

 STATS

2012/2013 season

  • In a total of 58 games played for club and country, he found the back of the net 45 times and had 22 assists.

2013/2014 season

  • He’s so far made 27 appearances for both club and country, scored 28 goals and has 8 assists to his name.
  • He is currently the highest goal scorer in the French Ligue 1 with 15goals in 18 matches.

 MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Highest Goal Scorer in the 2012/2013 Ligue 1 season with 30 goals in 34 appearances.
  • 2012/2013 Ligue 1 Team of the Season
  • He had 7 assists in the 2012/2013 UEFA Champions League which was the highest of any player.
  • He won the Guldbollen (the Golden Ball) on the 12th of November. It is an award given to the best player in Sweden. This latest feat makes him the first player to win the award 8 times(2005, 2007,2008,2009,2010,2011,2012,2013)
  • He scored the fastest goal of the 2012/2013 Ligue 1 season (27 seconds) against Lille on the 2nd day of November, 2012.

CRISTIANO RONALDO (Real Madrid and Portugal)

Cristiano Ronaldo

 

 

 

 

 

HONOURS

2012/2013 season

 Spanish Super Cup

 2013/2014 season (till date)

  • None till date

 STATS

2012/2013 season

  • He scored a total of 62 goals and had 17 assists for both club and country in 66 appearances.

2013/2014 season

  • He has so far made 24 appearances for both club and country and has found the back of the net 32 times (18 in the league). He also has 8 assists to his name .
  • MAJOR INDIVIDUAL RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS 
  • He finished top scorer in the 2012/2013 UEFA Champions League with 12 goals.
  • He has found the back of the net 69 times this year beating his previous mark of 63.He achieved the feat in just 57 games for Madrid and Portugal.
  • His treble against Sweden in the World Cup playoff saw him reach 47 international goals and equal the Portuguese record held by Pauleta.
  • He’s currently the top scorer in this season’s UEFA Champions League with 9 goals; which is a record for number of goals scored in the group stage beating the previous mark of 8 set by Heraan Crespo, Ruud Van NIstelrooy, Fillippo Inzaghi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
  • Up till this year, Ronaldo had never scored a hat-trick for Portugal. He now has two; against Northern Ireland in Belfast during the Qualifiers and against Sweden in the World Cup play-off.
  • His strike at Juventus in this season Champions League was his 14th this year, which beat Messi’s tally of 13 from last year.

SUBSTITUTES

  • Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (A.Madrid/Chelsea & Belgium)
  • Defenders Pablo Zabaleta (Man City & Argentina), David Luiz (Chelsea & Brazil), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund & Germany) and Leighton Baines (Everton &England).
  • Midfielders Andres Iniesta (Barcelona & Spain), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund & Germany) and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munchen & Netherlands).
  • Forwards Neymar (Barcelona & Brazil), Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund & Poland) and Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales).

 Coach of the Year: JUUP HEYNCKES(won the treble with Bayern Muncheen 2012/2013 season)

juup

 

 

 

 

 

Kindly give us your team of the year

What’s your take on the team?

Enjoy the holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

TOUCHLINE UI:KESHI AND THE FRINGE PLAYERS: TO RECALL OR NOT TO RECALL.

HE SHOULD NOT RECALL THEM

By Omisakin Ayobami

Never change a winning team! That is the best advice a coach can ever receive. Apart from unforeseen circumstances like injury, sickness, etc., it is inconceivable that a coach would change his winning team. This is because such a change would disrupt the team -momentum, team- morale and team -cohesion, to mention but a few. That being said, it is pertinent to point out the fact that every rule has an exception. However, in the case of Keshi and the Super Eagles, can any exception to the rule be justified? My quick but thought-true answer is a big NO! Thus, as the blue-hue blood of my pen flows and I give words to my thoughts, I shall give you excuses to support my stand.

The issue of experience is very important in every tournament. It is obvious that just a few players in the current Super Eagles have ever been to the World Cup, hence, the call for the infusion of more experienced players. In as much as I agree that the Super Eagles need more experience, I beg to differ on the point that the likes of Yobo, Osaze and Uche will offer us the much needed experience. We need players who have tasted success at the World Cup but all we have are players that have experiences of failure at the mundial, all we have are players who have never progressed from the group stage. These are not the kind of players we need because in terms of World Cup experience, they are no different to the ones we currently have. A lot of self-acclaimed pundits claim that the Nigerian World Cup Team of 2002 were dumped out at the group stage due to a seeming lack of experience but the question I ask is this, did our  “abundant experience” help us to fare better in our subsequent trips to the World Cup? The 1994 World Cup marked our first appearance at that level but it also marks our best ever appearance and none of the players in the ’94 team had prior World Cup experience. Keshi has successfully ingrained a winning psyche in the team and it would be fatal to add more players that have tasted World Cup failures.

Italy v Nigeria - International Friendly

 

 

 

 

 

Furthermore, an important factor that can help propel Nigeria beyond better teams at the World Cup is team cohesion. The Super Eagles team is not yet a coherent unit but efforts are being made to make it one compact unit, the fact that the team has more or less remained the same throughout qualification is a move in the right direction. The team’s hope to meet expectations at Brazil is dependent on its ability to play more as a team and the addition of “new players” would deal a devastating blow to the team spirit. Also, the fact that the addition of these players would bring more competition to the team should not be a welcome idea. Players who are consequently left behind or promoted to the bench would feel hard done; they would feel terrible that after helping the team qualify, they were ousted by some who just joined the party after all the hard work was done. This kind of thought could negatively affect the whole psyche of the team; majority of the players would feel that no matter how well they perform, the starting shirts would always belong to a select few. As it is, there is already enough healthy competition among the players.

In addition to all stated, the standard of discipline in the team could be compromised if some of the fringe players are recalled. For example, the likes of Osaze Odemwingie and even Joseph Yobo who felt they were bigger than the coach could trigger some disruptions within the team. Some might argue that they have learnt their lessons but the state of a man’s mind can never be really ascertained and the World Cup is too big to take a risk.

In conclusion, I bring to fore the words of Jesus Christ- the greatest teacher of all times, “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wine skins, or else the wine skins break, the wine is spilled, and the wine skins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wine skins, and both are preserved.” This team won the Nation’s Cup and qualified for the World Cup, they are good enough.

HE SHOULD RECALL THEM

By Umeike Chike

What a year it has been for the Super Eagles of Nigeria; a year that began with the Eagles crowned as African Champions, a not too disappointing performance at the Confederations Cup and ended on a high by clinching the World Cup ticket. With our group opponents known, the big question is: Should Keshi stick with those who have been flying with him or extend his hands to those still hanging in the air? There have been arguments that he should stick with them based on the fact that they got the World Cup ticket; so the principle of “what you sow, you reap” should apply, some others have said calling others might unsettle the team. I’m however of the view that the Big Boss should extend an olive branch to those who he has fallen out with and call-up those he feels merit it.

A popular saying goes “don’t change a winning team”. The reason for this is that a rapid change to a winning team would tamper and unsettle it. On the other hand, sticking with the same set of players could lead to a too comfortable and complacent team. The Eagles have been rightly commended for finally putting smiles on the faces of Nigerians after years of “sleeping pill” performances, but in all fairness, it’s only a couple of these players who have really been consistent all year. The likes of Vincent Enyeama, Godfrey Oboabona, John Obi Mikel, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike have all been the obvious stand outs.  For example; Emmanuel Emenike is the only striker in the team who has really borne the goal scoring burden. The likes of Brown Ideye, Mohammed Gambo, Shola Ameobi and Bright Dike have either flattered to deceive or not been consistent at all. In order to make sure these stand out players don’t get carried away, they need some form of competition to keep them on their toes which would even ensure better performances. Let’s take a look at the Bayern Munich team. Pep Guardiola inherited an all-conquering team that won everything the previous season but the likes of Gotze and Thiago were still added to the side not to unsettle them but to amongst other reasons make sure no one got too comfortable. In contrast, look at the Manchester City team of last season. After winning the EPL in 2012, the club failed to add quality players as the likes of Rodwell, Javi Garcia and Maicon were not in any way improvements on the likes of Yaya Toure and Zabaleta. It was not surprising amongst other reasons that the performance of the team dipped last season. There have been those who have also failed to impress. Ahmed Musa is a good player with lightning speed but unfortunately his decision making still leaves a lot to be desired, his crossing  erratic and his finishing exemplary, Ideye has had  opportunities but still misses when it’s easier to score. Oduamadi has shown only flashes of his brilliance. For all of his twitter rants and clashes with coaches, Odemwingie still remains a better finisher than the above mentioned players and he’s got a decent goal scoring record with the Eagles .The Prodigal son has also indicated he would love to return. It means he’s learnt his lessons and Keshi has to embrace him if he deserves it. Ikechukwu Uche might have had a disappointing Nations Cup but he’s been brilliant so far with the Yellow Submarines of Villarreal. Sone Aluko has also been decent with Hull City in the English Premiership. Having these players hot on their tails means any fluff of chances could be a doom to their chances of being called up next time. He can only get the best out of his players if there’s competition or we would fall back into the dark ages where players literally strolled into the Eagles camp.

yobo

 

 

 

 

 

It might amaze you but only Enyeama, Echiejile and if you still add Yobo in the current Eagles setup that have ever played at the World Cup. That says a lot about the experience of this team at the international level. While it would look unfair to discard away with those who nicked the ticket for Nigeria, one cannot however over-emphasize the value of experience at this stage. This is no African Cup of Nations where we’ll face the likes of Ethiopia (with all due respect). Every little error, show of stage fright at this level would be punished. There would be games where they’ll be under the cosh, where they’ll have to dig deep and where they’ll have to draw out from the well of experience. Estranged players like Yobo and Odemwingie have participated at the World Cup and their wealth of experience would come in handy. Experience could be the difference between a victory and a loss. Situations of trying to hold on to a slender lead could come down to the experience of the team or not. Experience is also vital off the pitch. For most of these players, barring any injury, they would make their first appearance at the show piece and it’s only human that nerves would show. The experienced ones in the team could help calm the nerves of such players. The off the pitch influence of skipper Joseph Yobo at the African Cup of Nations 2013 played a big role in the successful campaign. England at the 2010 World Cup drafted David Beckham to the Three Lions back room staff due to his experience garnered from previous tournaments and to also serve as a link between the players and Fabio Capello. The fact Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard are in the twilight of their careers does not mean Roy Hodgson would discard them any time soon.

PeterOdemwingie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, the depth of the team bar the starting eleven is bleak. The second string players lack the class to combat with the world’s finest. Azubuike Egwuekwe is no doubt a decent defender but his lack of positioning was exposed by hot and cold Mario Balotelli and returning Rossi of Italy in a recent friendly. In the full back positions, we have backups in the likes of Solomon Kwambe and Francis Benjamin but how would you feel if one of them was called upon to replace an injured full back against Argentina and face the likes of Di Maria, Aguero and Messi. These players would send millions of Nigerian hearts racing. Even in the middle of the park, apart from Mikel and Onazi, do we really have quality players and upfront, it’s only Emenike who has always brought his goal scoring boots to camp. The Confederations Cup served as an eye opener into what befalls a team of few quality players. The absence of Emenike, Moses, Omeruo and Onazi were all felt as those who replaced either gambled to miss or could not just step up the plate. Keshi should start preparing for any eventuality.

All said and done, any player Keshi invites should be on merit as it won’t make any sense to have a Nazi Camp with little or no player offering any selection problems. I firmly believe that if the Eagles are going to make an impression next year, then the best legs have to be called up.

 

 

 

TOUCHLINE UI: UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCH DAY SIX:THE TALKING POINTS. SPECIAL FEATURE: THE ROUND OF SIXTEEN DRAWS

The UEFA Champions’ League Group Stages came to an end this week with eight teams booking their place in the Round of sixteen to join the already qualified eight. It was certainly filled with drama, for some it went from hope to despair while for some others, despair to hope. There were goals aplenty and there were certainly talking points.

CAN ANYONE STOP BAYERN?

I asked this question a couple of weeks ago and from my points and comments, everyone seemed to agree that it would take something special to stop the Bavarian giants from hoisting the crown for a second year running. Their match against Manchester City has shown us two things that could likely stop the Bundesliga Champions.

One is the tendency to get complacent. After storming to a two goal lead in the opening 12 minutes, football fans expected a cruise for the German giants. What followed was the most unlikely of comebacks as the Citizens led by the virtuoso display from James Milner won 3-2.While it would be unfair to discredit the Eastland’s performance; it however puzzled me the way Bayern Munich got complacent and relaxed. Had Negredo found the back of the net or Pellegrini aware of the goals Man City needed to score, it would be the Citizens and not the Die Roten who would have been seeded for Monday’s draw. Memories of last season’s narrow win over Arsenal are still fresh. After a comfortable 3-1 victory at the Emirates, most Arsenal fans feared the worst in the second leg. What happened? Arsenal equalled the tie and another goal would have sent the Bavarian giants packing.

The other is their recent poor record at the Allianz Arena against English teams. Their last 3 home games against English sides have all ended in defeats for the Die Bayern. They lost 2-3 to Manchester City, 0-2 against Arsenal and the Champions League Final defeat against Chelsea. They’ll look at the draw balls with one eye on Monday and hope they don’t get drawn against Arsenal.

James Milner of Manchester City celebrates the winning goal against Bayern Munich
James Milner of Manchester City celebrates the winning goal against Bayern Munich

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUVENTUS, THE MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM IN THE GROUP STAGE

After back to back Scudetto titles, their deficiencies in front of goal solved with the signings of ‘golfer’ Carlos Tevez and ‘rebel’ Fernando Llorente and with the experience garnered from last year’s Champions League, many felt this was supposed to be the year where the Bianconeri made their mark in Europe. They also got a fair group with Real Madrid supposed to be their threat to top place finish. What followed turned out be a nightmare for everyone. Comical errors by Bonucci and Buffon that allowed Drogba score, wonder saves by Johan Wiland of Copenhagen, the heavy snow in Turkey can all be given as excuses. That would however not take anything from the fact that they were poor. A 3-1(two of the three goals were spot kicks) win over Copenhagen was their solitary victory in the group. Disappointing draws against Copenhagen and Galatasaray, the highlight of a sorry campaign.

From a tactical point, Antonio Conte is too rigid with his 3-5-2 formation which is 5-3-2 off the ball. While it would continue to work in the Serie A due to the superior quality of his players, the same can’t be said in Europe where there are stronger sides. Teams with width and quick transition from defence to attack would stretch the 3-man defence. Bayern Munich exposed it last season and Real Madrid this season. A better performance next season is needed to avoid the unwanted tag of ‘local Champions’. For now, they should enjoy the Thursday night football.

Sneidjer celebrates the winning goal against Juventus on wednesday
Sneidjer celebrates the winning goal against Juventus on Wednesday

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATLETICO MADRID: UNDERESTIMATE THEM AT YOUR PERIL

From having the tag of an also-ran, the Los Rojiblancos are currently undergoing a massive transformation and that is down to Head Coach, Diego Simeone. He’s built a side that is difficult to break down, play with a high work rate and can score goals. He plays with an unconventional 4-4-2 formation where either Diego Costa or David Villa drop back  when they are not in possession. He’s broken the mental barrier against eternal city rivals, Real Madrid and closed the gap on Barcelona. They were of course expected to qualify out of a group that had Porto, Zenit and Austria Vienna but the way they went about it shows that playing in the Champions League does not faze them. Five wins out of six which should have been six if not for an own goal by Toby Alderweireld against Zenit. Winning it would be difficult as they still lack depth in key positions and they have to combine the demands of the Champions League with La Liga and cup competitions. However, With Courtois in goal, Miranda and Godin marshalling the defence, Gabi and Gracia doing the dirty job, Koke and Arda Turan the creators and of course Diego Costa the goal poacher, anyone praying to be drawn against the Los Colchoneros on Monday had better have a rethink. They might not win it but would give any side that has such ambitions a run for their money.

koke and Raul Garcia

 

 

 

 

 

GERMANY O V ENGLAND 4

Manchester City comeback win over Bayern Munich further strengthened the fact that German soil has so far been a good hunting ground for the English sides in this season’s competition. Four trips to Germany have ended in four victories for the English teams. It all started when Chelsea romped Schalke 04 3-0 at the Veltins- Arena, then the Gunners eased past last season’s finalist Dortmund at the Signal Iduna. Manchester United then made things worse for the Germans by annihilating Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 at the Bay Arena, their “noisy neighbours” then went a step further with a comeback victory at the home of the European Champions, Bayern Munich. Whether this means an English side would win the UCL remains to be seen. What it however means is that no English side in the competition would be daunted by the task of playing on German soil.

RONA-GOAL!!!

At the mention of Ronaldo, the next thing that comes to one’s mind is goals. The Portuguese has been excellent this season for the Los Merengues and Portugal with combined goals of 33 in 23 appearances. It’s the Champions League he’s however chosen to break another record. His goal haul of 9 goals in just 5 games which is an average of 1.8 goals per game is now a Champions League Record for goals scored in the Group Stage. He’s broken the record of 8 goals held by the likes of Ruud Van Nistelrooy (2004-05), Hernan Crespo (2002-03), Filippo Inzaghi (2002-03) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2013-14).Whether that would sway the Ballon d’or votes in his favour is a matter of time.

cristiano ronaldo

 

 

 

 

 

THE SEASON OF GIVING

The Christmas season is upon us and the gifts are certainly rolling. This being the last round of Champions League action before February, there was no better time to give a few gifts. There were goals by players, drama by the fans but none certainly brought the Christmas giving spirit to the pitch like German referee, Wolfgang Stark. The 44 year old who refereed the game between Olympiakos and Anderlecht, which the Greeks won 3-1, was rather generous in some of decisions. He awarded three penalties to the Greek side of which two were missed. Not done with that, still in the spirit of giving, he also issued three red cards to the Anderlecht players including Proto who stopped the first two spot kicks.

wolfgang stark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not saying this to bring up the issue of whether they were deserved or not, or whether he’s a controversial referee. The fact that it was his last game in the Champions League and also being in the festive period meant there was a chance he would get excited-hence the free giving. Mikel Arteta and Riccardo Montolivo also received their gifts albeit deserving from Howard Webb and Viktor Kassai against Napoli and Ajax respectively. In all, it was a week of giving. Merry Christmas in advance everyone!

 THE UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ROUND OF SIXTEEN DRAW

All roads lead to Nyon, Switzerland on Monday, 16 of December for the Round of sixteen draw. Seven of the sixteen teams are former European Cup Winners. Two seeding pots have been formed; one consisting of the group winners and the other of runners-up. No team can play a club from their group or any side from their own association. Seeded group winners will be away in the first legs on 18/19 and 25/26 February and at home in the return match on 11/12 and 18/19 March.

COUNTRIES REPRESENTED BY THE TEAMS

–          Germany: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen

–          England:  Manchester United FC, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City

–          Spain:      FC Barcelona, Real Madrid CF and Club Atletico de Madrid

–          France:   Paris St Germain

–          Italy:       AC Milan

–          Greece:  Olympiakos

–          Turkey: Galatasaray AS

–          Russia: FC Zenit

 

 

GROUP WINNERS

  • A: Manchester United (ENG)

 Likely opponents: Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Schalke 04, Zenit and AC Milan

  • B: Real Madrid CF (ESP)

Likely opponents: Bayer Leverkusen, Olympiakos, Manchester City, Schalke 04, Arsenal, Zenit and AC Milan

  • C: Paris Saint Germain (FRA)

Likely opponents: Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Manchester City, Schalke 04,Arsenal,  Zenit and AC Milan

  • D: FC Bayern Munchen (GER)

 Likely opponents: Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Arsenal, Zenit and AC Milan

  • E:  Chelsea FC (ENG)

 Likely Opponents: Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Zenit and AC Milan

  • F: Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Likely opponents: Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Manchester City, Zenit and AC Milan

  • G: Club Atletico de Madrid (ESP)

Likely opponents: Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Manchester City, SChalke 04, Arsenal and AC Milan

  • H: FC Barcelona(ESP)

Likely opponents: Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Manchester City, Schalke 04, Arsenal and Zenit

RUNNERS-UP

  • A: Bayer Leverkusen (GER)

Likely opponents: Real Madrid, Pars St Germain, Chelsea, Atletico and Barcelona

  • B:Galatasaray AS (TUR)

Likely opponents: Manchester United, Paris St Germian, Chelsea, Dortmund, Atletico and Barcelona

  • C:Olympiakos FC(GRE)

Likely opponents: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern, Chelsea, Dortmund, Atletico and Barcelona

  • D: Manchester City( ENG)

Likely opponents: Real Madrid, Dortmund, Paris St Germain, Atletico and Barcelona

  • E: FC Schalke o4 (GER)

Likely opponents: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris St Germain, Atletico and Barcelona

  • F: Arsenal FC (ENG)

Likely opponents: Real Madrid, Paris St Germain, Bayern, Atletico and Barcelona

  • G: FC Zenit (RUS)

Likely opponents: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris St Germain, Bayern, Chelsea, Dortmund and Barcelona

  • H: AC Milan (ITA)Likely opponents: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris St Germain, Bayern, Chelsea, Dortmund and Atletico.

       Questions of the day

– Who would you want your team to face?

– What’s your dream tie?

 

 

TOUCHLINE UI: WORLD CUP GROUP F PREVIEW: FOCUS ON THE SUPER EAGLES AND THE DRAGONS

 

 

 

3 NIGERIA

The Eagles celebrates after winning the AFCON.
The Eagles celebrates after winning the AFCON.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nickname: Super Eagles

FIFA Ranking: 36th

Best Showing at the World Cup Finals: Round of 16 (1994, 1998)

Coach: Stephen Keshi

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3

Key Player: John Obi Mikel: He’s finally come of age this year with impressive performances for the Eagles. The Mikel we see at international level is a far-cry from the one we see at Chelsea. At the Confederations Cup, we saw glimpses of what he could do when played further forward though his best position still remains as a deep-lying midfielder. It is worthy of mention that it would be his first appearance at the mundial at the age of 27.

Other Players to Watch Out For: Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Moses and Vincent Enyeama

Route to the Finals: First in African Qualifying Group F, then dispensed with Ethiopia in the play-off 4-1 on aggregate.

Strengths:

  • In Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria boasts a wonderful attacking triumvirate that can trouble any defence. Others like Ameobi and Dike offer something different to Keshi in terms of aerial threat and direct play which would no doubt be an asset.
  • Strength in midfield is also very impressive with Mikel orchestrating the play and Onazi the ball-winner.
  • The Super Eagles at the moment boast of one of Europe’s in-form goalkeepers in the person of Vincent Enyeama who’s been nothing short of excellent for French club Lille.

– Weaknesses:

  • The defence is a suspect. The defenders no doubt have the physique and are difficult to beat in the air but they lack positioning. Spain, Uruguay and Italy have already exploited Nigeria’s defence and players like Messi, Aguero and Dzeko would no doubt love to do the same.
  • The fullback positions also remain an issue as they tend to play more like wingbacks than fullbacks which the bigger sides would take advantage of on the counter.
  • Beyond the starting eleven, this team lacks quality backups and experience at this level is almost non-existent.
  • The lack of cohesion and concentration in this side means they play well against the bigger sides but still ultimately lose. This has not been solved and could rear its ugly head at the show-piece. Defeats against Spain, Uruguay and the draw against Italy all met the regular chorus “they played well”
  • Off the pitch, issues relating to non-payment of salaries, bonuses and the non-factors in the team which have not been resolved could threaten to derail the progress of the Super Eagles at the World Cup.

Keshi’s Reaction: “I would rate it as a six because we play against three teams with totally different playing styles. We don’t know Iran or Bosnia in great detail yet, but it seems as if we play against Argentina in every World Cup – and it has always been difficult. Obviously I respect all three, though we have no reason to fear any of them. The most important thing is to prepare for the first game because that will show us what we are made of”

Group Chances: This is a fair draw for the Eagles which would no doubt leave most fans optimistic of their chances of progressing. History has shown that while they play better against the stronger sides, they struggle against the less fancied ones. The Eagles picked up only one point in the 2010 Group B that contained the likes of Greece and South Korea and it took them until the third game of the 2013 AFCON to seal their qualification after being drawn against Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ethiopia. None of their group opponents; especially Iran and Bosnia should be underestimated. The key game would however be against Bosnia with one of the two most likely to qualify alongside Argentina. Games against Argentina, “Nigeria’s fierce lovers” have always ended in slender margins so fans should probably not expect a romp.

Head to Head against Group Opponents:  ( W-D-L): 1-1-4 against Argentina, 1-0-0 against Iran and yet to play Bosnia.

World Cup Odds: 250/1

 4 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

The Bosnian national team
The Bosnian national team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nickname: Zmajevi (Dragons)

FIFA Ranking:21st

Best Showing at the World Cup Finals: This is their first appearance

Coach: Safet Susic

Preferred Formation:4-1-3-2/4-2-3-1

Key Player: Edin Dzeko: Dzeko is the man who leads this team. He plays well for his country even when out of favor at his club, Manchester City. He finished second in the European qualifiers with 10 goals.

Other Players to Watch Out For: Miralem Pjanic, Asmir Begovic, Vedad Ibisevic and Senad Lulic.

Route to Finals: First in European Qualifying Group G with 25 points. Finished ahead of Greece on goal difference.

Strengths:

  • The Dragons boast an incredibly dynamic offensive system with two natural goal scorers in Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic.
  •  The midfield is packed with creative talent and has decent depth.
  • This team finished fourth in the European qualifiers in terms of goal scoring which should be a warning to weary defences that this team has the prowess to net goals.

– Weaknesses:

  • If there’s a weakness in this team it’s the defence. It has failed to show any form of consistency and it was exposed by group opponents Argentina in a recent friendly.
  • The right back also remains a worry to Head Coach Susic, No thanks to injuries and the left back is a revolving door.
  • Inexperience at this level could also be a problem

Safet Susic’s Reaction: “Having seen the other groups, we can be satisfied. We don’t need to be unhappy, even though we share the group with Argentina, who are one of the favorites to win the world championship. Of the other teams, one is clearly weaker than us: Iran. The other, Nigeria, has in the worst-case scenario the same qualities we have, although they have more experience in World Cups. I believe we will fight for the second place with them”

Group Chances: They’ll be happy with the draw and would be optimistic of their chances of qualifying. Like the Super Eagles, they’ll probably fight for second place which means their game against Nigeria would most likely determine their fate. They should not have problems finding the back of the net but stopping the goals at his end is a riddle Susic has to solve. `

Head to Head against Group Opponents: ( W-D-L) 0- 0-2 against Argentina, 0-1-4 against Iran, yet to play the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

World Cup Odds:150/1

TOUCHLINE UI: WORLD CUP GROUP F PREVIEW

By Umeike Chike

On Friday, December 6, 2013, in the city of Salvador, Brazil, contingents of the 32 teams that qualified for the FIFA 2014 World Cup gathered to know their group opponents. It was an ecstatic atmosphere which had in attendance legends like Zidane, Cafu, Ronaldo and other greats. The draws for some coaches brought relief and optimism while for others headache. Touchline UI aims to give you a feel of the Brazilian football climate in your denizen. We’ll take you from your room to the pitch to see you kick the Brazuca and not the Jabulani. This week we’ll be starting with Group F and here is the first one with Argentina and Iran.

GROUP F: THE ROMANCE THAT WOULD NOT END!

Argentina and Nigeria would once again rekindle their rivalry at the Group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. For the Super Eagles, it would be the fourth time in five appearances that they would be paired up against the South American giants having being in the same group in 1994, 2002 and 2010.They are joined by débutants Bosnia-Herzegovina and Asian side Iran.

  1 ARGENTINA 

Sweden v Argentina - International Friendly

 

 

 

 

 

-Nickname: La Albiceleste

FIFA Ranking: 3rd

Best Showing at the World Cup Finals: Winners in 1978 and 1986

Coach: Alejandro Sabella

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

Key Player: Lionel Messi. He’ll be hoping to the lead his beloved country to glory next year having underwhelmed in his first two attempts. There’s no doubt he’s one of the finest in world football when on form, and he’ll take extra care to be physically ready for Brazil having already succumbed to a number of injuries this year.

Other Players to Watch Out For: Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega and Javier Mascherano.

Route to Finals: First in CONMEBOL with 32points

Strengths:

  • It’s obviously got to be the attack. The likes of Sergio Aguero,Gonzalo Higuain, Lavezzi, DiMaria, Erik Lamela and of course Lionel Messi; would strike fear into any opposition defence .Goal scoring should not be a problem for this side.
  • The middle of the park led by the controversial Ever Banega is also strong. The favorable weather conditions could also be an advantage.

Weaknesses:

  • Despite Sabella’s efforts to improve the central defence, it still remains the Achilles of this highly talented team. Even though the inclusion of Federico Fernedez to partner Garay has added some stability to the defence, pundits still feel they are prone to the occasional error and would suffer against the stronger sides in the tournament. Sabella once said about his defence in a qualifier match “Every time they headed towards my team’s goal, I had my heart in my mouth”.
  • The full back positions is another cause of concern .Sabella, in a recent friendly against Bosnia even experimented with a backline of central defenders. Only Zabaleta looks assured. Maybe a recall of the evergreen Javier Zanetti could solve the problem temporarily.
  • There are also problems in the goalkeeping department as shaky goalkeeper Sergio Romero is currently out of favor at Monaco and if that continues; match fitness could be a big issue. Orion his back-up does not inspire much confidence behind a problematic defence.
  • Also, “Bad boy” Tevez who has not featured under Sabella is still a topic of discussion in the local press who ironically hold him high. A good season with the Old Lady and the outcry for his inclusion would probably break the Berlin wall.

Sabella’s Reaction: “Ratings and predictions are difficult and I don’t like them, but if the ‘groups of death’ are a 10, I would say we were lucky because we avoided them… It’s a good group in terms of geography because we have two short trips and we also play a game in Belo Horizonte, which is where we will be based. To kick off at the Maracana makes us proud for what it signifies in both South American and world football. I’d be a hypocrite if I said Argentina weren’t the strongest team of the four, but football is the most illogical of sports. In general terms, I’m moderately optimistic”

Group Chances: An easy draw and football fans would be shocked if they don’t top it. The attack should cover for whatever deficiencies they have at the defence line at this stage of the tournament. The last group match against Nigeria should be the pick of the group matches

Head to Head against Group Opponents (W-D-L): 4-1-1 against Nigeria, 2-0-0 against Bosnia, yet to play against Iran.

World Cup Odds:5/1

2 IRAN

Thailand v Iran - AFC Asian Cup 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Nickname: Team Melli Iran

FIFA Ranking: 45th

Best Showing at the World Cup Finals: Group Stage(1978,1998 and 2006)

Coach: Carlos Queiroz

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

Key Player: Reza Ghoochannejhad: Captain Javad Nekounam may be one of the most recognisable names on Iran’s team sheet thanks to his knack for a thunderbolt goal, but Ghoochanneljhad is the man who has truly solved the nation’s scoring woes. The Standard Liege striker, who was spotted at Sintt-Truiden by Queiroz in 2012, has scored eight goals in his last 11 apperances for the Persian Stars.

Other Players to Watch Out For: Karim Ansari and Javad Nekounam

Route to the Finals: First in Asian Qualifying Group A. Finished ahead of South Korea.

Strengths:

  • In a typical Queiroz style, the side is solid and well drilled.
  • The right flank boasts considerable talent in the form of Ashkan Dejagah and Mohammadreza Khalatbari, though the latter is rather unpredictable and doesn’t always win a starting role.
  • The defensive unit, led by Seyed Jalal Hoseini, has recently welcomed two new additions but still looks as trusty as ever.
  •  Oueiroz counter-attacking philosophy which spectacularly failed in his stint as Portugal’s head coach suits the players at his disposal and has so far being effective.

– Weaknesses:

  • The level of fitness of this squad continues to ring tune.
  • The depth is almost non-existent
  •  Creativity in midfield against bigger sides is very much a worry.

– Carlos Oueiroz’s Reaction: “I cannot give a number. The key will be in our preparation. If we work hard, we will have a good opportunity. If not, we won’t be in a position to take our chance. For us, qualification was hell, so being in this group now is like heaven. For my players, it should be an honour to play against these rivals and it is important they go out and enjoy every minute of every match, eager to make it to the second round. Facing Argentina at the Maracana? Let’s hope we can give Argentina a headache… Dreaming doesn’t pay the bills!”

Group Chances: On paper, they should be the group’s whipping boys. Football has however thrown and would still throw upsets. Who says they can’t cause an upset here? On the other hand, they would most likely not better their record but could still be potential group spoilers. The first game against Nigeria is in all fairness not the most difficult of starts but if there is any team they should feel confident against, it should be Bosnia who they’ve never lost to. That said and done, it would be a shock if they don’t finish fourth.

Head to Head against Group Opponents (W-D-L): 0-0-1 against Nigeria, 4-1-0 against Bosnia, yet to play against Argentina.

World Cup Odds:750/1

Watch out for the preview on Nigeria and Bosnia tomorrow

TOUCHLINE UI: THE NIGERIAN FOOTBALL FEDERATION: THE OPEN SECRETS AND CAN OF WORMS

BY OMISAKIN, AYOBAMI

The poor state of Nigerian football has led many to see their rights as privileges. This same scenario can be likened to the state of political leadership in the country where our leaders are praised for performing their primary duties such as provision of water and good roads. It is very sad indeed. It is sad to see that rather than being condemned, the Federation is being praised for the “unprecedented success” enjoyed in Nigerian football under the Maigari-led administration. Aminu Maigari, the N.F.F president, was even awarded the ‘Football Administrator of the Year’; it is really true and worthy of all saying and acceptance that in a country of blind men, a one-eyed man is King.

I cannot but ask this question, what has the Federation achieved?  I boldly state that the recent spate of success in Nigerian football is not to the Federation’s credit, it is just a mere coincidence that it occurred during this tenure. For example, many add the African Cup success to the Federation’s bag of laurels but it is not widely known that days before the tournament defining q/final match against Ivory Coast, the Federation had already booked travel tickets for the Super Eagles to come home and concluded plans to sack Keshi for ‘a poor performance at the Nations Cup’. This is the same Federation that slashed the wages of our beloved players as a reward for their triumph at the Nations Cup, a badly-timed move that undoubtedly cost us a promising performance at the Confederations Cup. This is the same Federation that has failed to pay its coaches’ salaries for several months. Need I say more, the list of woes is endless. In addition I dare state that our qualification for the World Cup, considering the talents inherent in the country, is not a plus for the Federation; it is our birthright. I would rather praise the players and coaching crew of the U-17 and National teams, who have no doubt been excellent; but as for the N.F.F, they deserve none, they made wrong decisions at the wrong times and this recent success, on their own part, is best described as an accidental discharge, a premature ejaculation.

The Eagles celebrates after winning the AFCON.

Furthermore, there is a quite popular cliché that is used to describe very persuasive marketers, it goes thus- “he can sell ice to an eskimo”.To market merchandise like the Super Eagles, one does not need “a very persuasive marketer”; all that needs to be done is to just say “it’s the Super Eagles!” and sponsors will come wooing. Adding the fact that they are the African champions is just icing on the cake. But, it seems this apparently easy task is one too hard for the Nigerian Football Federation. Thus, the recent revelation by Federation of its broke state should be seen as a crime and an unforgivable sin.

When asked as to the reason of the Federation’s bankruptcy, the body’s General-Secretary, Musa Amadu, came up with not only a lame excuse but a deaf, dumb and blind one. He stated that; “We do generate funds, but we also have challenges in those areas because as we speak now, a particular major sponsor of our national teams, always associating with our programmes, has not paid its sponsorship fees.” Is it logical for a Federation to be so dependent on a sponsor that a default in payment by such would result in the inability of the Federation to perform its basic functions? Aminu Maigari and his ilk are more concerned with retaining their seats in the forthcoming elections than running a self-sustaining Federation. This is evident in the quick but questionable elimination of his 2 future enemies (a meal for another day). As earlier stated, the Federation should be a self-sustaining one, one that would not depend on assistance from the government. For example, an N.F.F delegation led by the first Vice President, Chief Mike Umeh met with Governor Imoke and the State Commissioner of Sports, Patrick Ugbe in Calabar. At the meeting, the governor consented to the idea of having the Eaglets camp in Calabar at the State government’s expense. Another example is President Jonathan’s decision to render assistance to the Federation by paying Keshi and his assistants all that they are being owed. This is a shame and it is an issue that should not go uninvestigated. Lawyer and renowned sports commentator Godwin Dudu-Orumen, earlier this year, stated that Nigeria Football Federation should maximize the new status of the Super Eagles and market the team rather than depend on the old fashioned way of waiting for state governments for cash donations.  He finds it funny to hear that the federation is counting so much on donations expected from state governments to clear their debts from AFCON and finance outstanding competitions. He said, “This is not the time to wait for any donations; that is baffling to me. The NFF has the biggest brand on the continent today in football and so why should they be hoping that states would step forward to donate when they have African champions as their product? For all you care, proceeds from the sales of Eagles replica jerseys are such a huge source of revenue. Calculate how much revenue you can make from selling just one million of those jerseys but still hardly anybody can buy those jerseys anywhere. It is either people are getting third-rate fakes of it or the ones handed them down somehow by chance by their friends around the FA. People want to own these shirts and other fans items of the Eagles but still they are not available in the land.”

Certainly, a body that is not accountable is a corrupt one. I make bold to state that this Federation is rife with corruption and mismanagement. Ills such as corruption, favoritism, tribalism and inefficiency are prevalent in this Federation. Leaders of the federation have been known in the past to embezzle and misappropriate huge funds from its un-audited accounts. Therefore, the intervention by the House of Representatives is a welcome development. The House of Representatives Committee on Sports has called for a total review of all the sponsorship agreements signed by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). The Committee chairman, Honorable Godfrey Ali Gaiya made the call while reacting to NFF’s public outcry on their state of bankruptcy. He argued that the NFF’s current sponsorship arrangement that gave only one marketing firm sole right to negotiate deals for NFF and take 20% of all sponsorship funds meant for football is counter-productive and needed urgent reviewing for football to move forward. “Why has it become a tradition that only one marketing firm handles all the NFF sponsorship deals? NFF has a marketing department that can deal directly with sponsors without any agent. The agents collect 20% of whatever funds that comes to the NFF. N360 million was given to the NFF this year as part by Globacom and agents collect N70m from the funds,” he added. He further stated that “If the NFF is serious about saving costs they should cut down their market agent fees. Apart from government funds, NFF also gets money from sponsors and in any competition be it CAF or FIFA organized championship there is always appearance fees for such participation and we have never been told how they spend these funds, but from now on they have tell us how they are spending these funds because we are going to review all sponsorship deals NFF has so that we can protect the best interest of Nigerian football and the country.”

In conclusion, I quote one of the greatest men to don the famous green jersey of the Super Eagles “I am a Nigerian and that is all I will ever be”. Like many proud and patriotic Nigerians before him, he played the game of football with passion, patriotism and commendable professionalism. But the same cannot be said of the state of the game and its administrators in Nigeria. The Federation cannot even match its counterparts in other countries; there is need for a change and it must be a fast one.