Chronicles of an exiled Nigerian: Searching for Answers (Part 2)
- Posted by Ghana
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By: Adaora Ogbue, Toronto
As we reach the latter stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, I'm filled with sadness and regret at the sorry performance of the Nigerian team, but I am even more distraught since the worst is yet to come.
In the news this week, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has ruffled the feathers of Super Eagles fans at home and abroad by banning the team from international competition for the next two years.
This has put a severe damper on the enjoyment of football for Nigerian fans as a whole.
The idea behind the government's move is to "clean house" by investigating the reasons behind the national team's dismal showing and to suss out any possible financial indiscretions which may have been perpetrated by the board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
The problem is that by instigating this action, the president has incurred the wrath of FIFA, which takes a hard-line stance against governments that interfere in the affairs of their national football associations.
In fact, if President Jonathan's ban is upheld, then football's international governing body has already threatened to impose maximum sanctions against the NFF, which would bar Nigeria from participating in much more than just the World Cup. FIFA's discipline would extend to all Nigerian clubs, national teams, referees and officials who plan to participate in international competitions.
In light of this, nobody should be wasting time right now talking about the fact that the president has effectively spanked the national men's football team and sent them to bed without any supper. Yes, there are deep-seated issues, which plague the NFF and its board, and they should be resolved.
However, with the quarter-finals of the world's most popular sporting event upon us, is this really the time for the President to be airing the team's dirty laundry? In fact, should he and the Nigerian government be involved at all?
Shouldn't we instead, as Nigerians, as Africans, be searching for other ways to gratify ourselves in the absence of our team from the knock-out stages of the World Cup?
I, for one, have been inspired by the fact that Nigeria was one of the six teams to feature in the first World Cup competition to be held on African soil. Not too long ago, the thought would have been unheard of; especially since only one-third as many teams from the African zone were granted spots to compete in Italia '90.
In my view, the time leading up to this year's final would be better spent following the progress of the last remaining African side in the competition. I'm proud to call the Ghanaians my near neighbours, and am quite happy to ride the wave of optimism that their fans have displayed throughout the tournament.
They are now about to contest their first-ever World Cup quarter-final match against Uruguay.
Apart from Uruguay, need I remind you how heavily represented South American teams have been in this year's knock-out stages?
The natives of the Rainbow Nation seem to know exactly what's at stake here as they are avidly rallying behind the Black Stars, and have even christened the team, "BaGahana BaGhana." The citizens of the host nation seem to have brushed themselves off after their team's failure to advance from the group stage, which is a first for any World Cup host nation. If they can overcome perceived embarrassment to enjoy the rest of the tournament, then can't we Nigerians try to do the same?
Before rushing to any hasty decisions as to how to rectify our national team's problems, why don't we take some time to breathe, to rest and to reflect, and then hit the drawing board when we are more relaxed? It's difficult to think clearly when our blood is boiling with the shame and anger of an early World Cup exit.
We ought to take this opportunity to observe the success of those teams, which are close to us geographically, as well as those, which have enjoyed continued representation at the highest level of football competition.
Afterwards, we can apply what we've learned to the betterment of our own football operations.
At this point, we need more than luck and the blustering of a misguided president to fix the problems, which are faced by the national football team and its board, no matter how genuine and admirable the intentions may be.
It's often said that there's no "I" in team. Well, as far as I'm concerned, there's no "G" in team, either. Rather than sitting back while the Nigerian government plays armchair manager and causes even further problems for Nigerian football as a whole, let's encourage them to open their eyes to what truly matters: the sport of football is for the enjoyment of all. Don't believe me?
Just ask South Africa's new poster boys, BaGhana BaGhana.
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