As I write this piece, I am listening to my all-time favorite Highlife song, “Ketekete”, by the Juju maestro, Chief Ebenezer Obey. In this song, Obey used the story of a journeying man and his son with their donkey to show how impossible it is to please the world as everyone has his perspective on issues. I am enjoying it more now as I reflect upon the varying comments and stance on how to salvage the fortunes of our football, which, in a not-too-distant time, provided the nation a fair share of its few proud moments.
For a while now, international tourneys have served to relax a charged nation. But this World Cup, WOZA 2010, failed to serve that purpose and the visibly embarrassed government had to do something to pacify the citizens by suspending the national team from international competitions for two years! I am yet to get the position of the world football governing body on this. Would the Federation of International Football Federations (FIFA) deem the act of the Federal Government as meddling in sports and hit the nation with sanctions in the form of further suspension?
These events have elicited comments from the ever vocal Nigerian public that is always receptive of actions they expect will herald the much-awaited change in the Nigerian socio-economic order. The other day, a few friends gathered in our neighborhood pub to review the Nigerian soccer debacle. A number of them held the view that the players lacked commitment and kept questioning why the team was not handed over to Samson Siasia, who would have used players hungry for glory. Those who held this view pointed at his achievements at the Under-21 and Under-23 levels to buttress their position. Before one of the protagonists was done, he was countered by a fellow who remarked that Siasia has proven he is incapable at holding his own at the highest level. Another group argued that the team having not performed too badly, the man Lars Lagerback be allowed to commence building a new team. He went on to say that our quest for immediate results was the problem.
They went on for a while on whom between Lagerback and Siasia, or a few local coaches, is best suited for the redemption of our dear Eagles. At this point I drifted away and focused on my drink. Then they caught my attention when one said, “It’s all spiritual.” This fellow went on: “The national team will know no victory until Amodu is appeased. The man has qualified us for two World Cups and yet he was not allowed to take the national team to any of these.” The man, he said, has cried to the Lord and vengeance is now the Lord’s. For me this is getting really interesting, I thought. So to make progress in our football, we will have to bring our spiritual fathers together to lead us for may be a week or a month for us to become world beaters?
Through it all, they had a friend who had maintained a sober mood. He had obviously had enough. His vexed voiced silenced all. He said we are yet to critically reflect on our problems. This friend said when we do we will discover that our solution is in Ilorin. “Is Ilorin the place where the spell can be broken?” his friend asked. Well, he said that’s where the man that can deliver resides. Ifeanyi Clemens Westerhof, is his name. This was the climax and all disagreed. He was not the man doing the job; Bonfere was! This view was vehemently opposed and they broke up in groups with each group maintaining their stance. As they drifted away into the night, I reflected about their varying positions like those of the public opinion on the ‘Ketekete’ story: The Horse, the man, the son and the Donkey’.
Yes, it is true we can have different perspectives on every issue. But when I reviewed various positions on our football, I came to the conclusion that our challenge has nothing to do with all the excuses. All we need is developing facilities nationwide; improving the quality of our local league; setting up a program for early discovery of talents and putting in place a sound administrative structure for sports. There are a few more but my chain thoughts stopped when I remembered the news that the federal government have banned the national team for two years owing the poor showing of the Super Eagles at the on-going World Cup.
The decision I understand is to allow the football authorities put its house together. If the Jonathan administration has thought this through and was convinced that the solution to our failure is to shut our doors and put our house in order, then a few more bans are needed. The polity for a start! End of the contemporary ‘Ketekete’ story that is Nigeria’s.
• Nwachukwu is at Cornerstone Insurance Plc, Port Harcourt.