Nigeria’s Football -Tattoo Of The Mind, Challenges Ahead Russia 2018 And Sunday Oliseh
The memories of Nigeria’s super Eagles appearances in the recent past, particularly, after the Brazil experience should be a parameter to dissect the national team’s performances and its strides and ambitions for the future. Sometimes you never know the true value of a thing or a moment until it becomes a memory that you wish you could experience again. The memories here,bitter or sweet would be used to assess the immediate past, the face of the present and our status for the future.
Nigerians are divided into two categories,some feel good about the performances, while the other group lament the state of the nation’s football, and understandably so. Nigerians being a patient and kind people,ruled by emotions, their opinions as expressed, notionally, differ as to what were and what were not good outings. The refrain “Our boys tried ” became a euphemism that taught another way of calling a goose a swan, it goes without saying that it only made the” eagles ” lack lustre performances and defeats easier to bear, but did not make them disappear.
Here, we need to recondition our mindsets about winning and victory which is what all sports is about. The nation’s football Technical department, should have by now turned in their various technical reports, which by now are gathering dust on the football house shelves, but, certainly would come out in the wash at the fulness of time. The running commentary in those reports should be something like this,
In sports, as in life, if one has not given everything, one has given nothing.
Perhaps,one should state ab ovo, that we really need to change our lukewarm stand on issues that affect the nation, and also learn to recondition our mindsets about winning and victory, which is what all sporting contests and indeed life and living is all about.
In all these, a lot hinges on small things. These small things, might have a lot more meaning than you think; as they are the deep and vast chasm that separates success and failure, life and death, wealth and poverty.
But beyond the glum and dismal appraisal of the Nigerian project, the new National teams coach must not be caught in a cleft stick like his predecessor.If I say that the out gone manager had an air of intense weariness, and was at the same time very much alive, it sounds like nonsense, but that’s the feeling I got in Brazil and in subsequent matches he superintended, joking apart, the resigned martyrdom in the out gone coach’s voice after each spanking, never ceases to amaze one, that you may wont to ask – having considered all variables and with the abundance of talents in the land, has he earned his corn!
In my humble opinion, as a personnel in the ‘ A ‘ class,he turned an otherwise enjoyable and enviable task to an ass’s burden,while leaving Nigerians ever-restive belligerent nerves cupped in expectations they could not manifest! However, its trite to say, that timbers that are strong do not warp, the Yoruba equivalent is ‘ Ako igi ò gbodò s ‘ oje; after all, were the players not products of an uninspiring environment and systems.
The manner the last crop of players went about executing their game plans had a shade formed around it that lacked fluidity and sense. It showed that while we are still at our mediocre best and still grappling with mere basics, the art and science of footballing has moved some notches up.
All the same, our appraisals and indignation should be as indignation can be. In the heat of indignation – things that we normally shrunk from are easily tackled in a flush of anger, sometimes they bring the desired results or take us to an expected end.
This brings me to Sunday Oliseh and the task ahead. The Eagles latest gaffer, having passed through the maze himself, should be aware that the”big boys “of Nigeria’s football whom he may wily nilly have to work with having accessed and experienced most of the ordinary sensations of life, it’s only normal and human, that the hunger to conquer more grounds might have fizzled out; while complacency sets in, and with it too, all the guile, passion, pep and audacity needed in modern contests left them. I am not an Amebo oo.
There is therefore, so much for Oliseh to do rightly, which Nigeria was hitherto doing wrongly, in the area of discipline, psyche, methods, will, correct mentality, commitment, directions, tactics, strategies and technical depth of the team, and why they couldn’t fly;and the interplay of age, maturity, experience and exposure etc.Rhetorics, did you say.
It is not strange to Oliseh himself, that in one of life’s little ironies, it took the Eagles the better part of sixteen years to score a world cup goal. The moral in this fact, which is the simple truth, is that, our football had not progressed in all this years with a team that is as dull as ditch water and too mild as milk, used to coming out of competitions less with a bang than with a whimper, and in a way that was weak and not impressive, all of these stifled hopes in our breast,as they could neither brave the elements nor ride out the storm.
It is often said, that soccer can be a game of inches. It is also a game of extra effort. The last crop of players movement on and off the ball was at best, off the cuff,crumpy and predictable, under a gaffer that had a way with his talisman who often did not come to the party.
The out gone gaffer, also, cut the picture of one who worships the ground the talisman walks on and all of the rest of the boys had to worship too. Its expected of them! Just that the talisman hasn’t got the aura of a cult-hero.Because the gaffer and his talisman’s influence were already lessen ing. One could feel that admiring and working hard for such manager is almost impossible .
At the end, the team was lacking unity. The boys appeared to all pass the butter to each other too politely, friendly strangers. If people are too much cooped together, its got a way of getting on their nerves and heighten the queer atmosphere of tension in the camp. In that situation it becomes an egg that can’t be unscrambled. Managing tactics, strategies and techniques on the field of play is one, but, the path to success is strewn with off-ball situation and displays. The best team don’t win,its the best 22 players.
These generated minor contre temps. The performances were so bad, that some of the argument in their favour, though, forcefully put, but they lacked conviction. With a dawning and damning conclusion, that we were not all right and were not all wrong.
The import of all these for Oliseh is to prime him up for the challenges ahead and that for him to be the best, he must be bold, cerebral and upwardly mobile,as the state of affairs in the team is always directly due to the influence of the man at the top, to his judgment and sympathetic manipulation of the group.
These days, in football, as in warfare, the secret of success – the secret of strength is to be hard and ruthless, ruthlessness like a dog that’s being chained up – would be bitter and snarling – would bite anybody; where went our hardness, toughness and ruthlessness and grit, Oliseh must quickly find out. The world know enough of the war language in living and in sports, to grasp the general tenor, hence, it worships physical strength displayed in sports. The reason why Men travelled to the end of the earth to watch sporting events, women do not love the horse or the power bike for the physique and built only .Little wonder,sports is tagged the opium of the people,and Nigeria must participate to excel.
The gaffer must note for guidance that in any successful business, sports inclusive, there’s the how people think it works, and then the truth about how it really works. In either of these, it definitely does not include Nigeria’s listless, depressed and lethargic idea of work as something that should be undertaken lightly and airily – trifled with . No ordinary moderately observant human being would drink a glass of acid in mistake for one of water.
The idea of knocking the ball around, with no creativity, passion, pep and losing it to opponents without much of a fight is not an idea of a good game. It was an indication that we are getting into deep waters with our football.
It is good for one now and again to realise what an idi(ot)one can be, but, nobody relishes the process one time too many as we tend to be doing with our football, and for as long as we keep using the African version of the European model and template, as we have repeatedly done with our politics and economy since independence, rather than a wholly home grown model, and without pitches and other facilities, so long shall we continue to lag behind as wannabes. The fifa age-grade competitions, where we used to hold sway as perennial favourites ,leaves us in the lurch, when we cannot clone or replicate the success at the big stage.
The statements that the whole contraption, players, the football house were quite zealous and hard working in every respect was a pernicious lie even by Nigeria’s permissive standards. I know no one statement that annoys and pissed me off more, when the nation and the world know that were the statements true, Nigeria’s participation in world meets should have gone beyond the mere feelings and not too natural, sheer visceral excitement of a motor – bike ride.
For Nigeria,all our sports mimicked how a human baby reacts to a cold stethoscope, and Sunday Oliseh came at the time the nation’s football is tinctured with the dye of failure and our football like all other areas of our national life bedevilled by fickle minded and inchoate ideas: perceived rot that are offshoots of deep rooted systemic and tragic organic failure in our body politic, and we advertise the surreal reality with glee, by our apparent collective disdain for orderliness and inability to get the easy things done right and without strains.
The COYG would say, only “deeper foundations yields stronger fortress,much as we do not need to continue to trace responsible causes in an endless daisy chain of deffered guilt, but, Oliseh,need to identify the underlying issues and get right to the root of the problems. Such is the enormous task ahead of Oliseh, the time to set an agenda is now.
As we can’t see reflection in boiling water, we cannot pretend as if everything is alright and keep looking through the key hole. There is every need for the nation to do a reality check that would help propel it into the next decade and beyond. Russia 2018 is around the corner,to be able to make any meaningful impact,we must stop viewing things from the narrow prism of illusion, wishful thinking and instant gratification; it is certain as daylight that the lack of a philosophy base anchored on culture of harnessing the sport’s interests,aspirations and ambitions of the parts and the individuals, formulate an ideology or world view that gives the nation a focus to streamline its policies, in this case,football corporate morality from which the individual is supposed to take a cue.
Here, philosophy has an immense role to play in the society. The concern for values, goals, ends creates more enlightenment and gives more meaning. Philosophy is a response to society and to social problems of which our sports is one. More than wealth and prestige, philosophy provides for man an opportunity to fulfill life’s purpose which is a more basic need.
However, we must be wary, though, of time wasting and speculative endeavours that could not tackle the problems in our experiences.
Nigeria’s Football having been exposed for what it is-a porpoise rolling in the water, it keeps turning over and over while remaining in the same place,and this should be giving the nation bigger feeling of disappointment than pride,even as products of age-grades competitions could not interface to the senior team. The failure to interface the young products brought to the fore, the arguments that the nation’s problems in sports generally, like everything else,including but not limited to education, agriculture, NNPC, remained comatose, due to inconsistent policies and penchant for doing new things the old way.
The nation in the last decade or so have consistently present sportsmen lacking in character. This shows that there were things wrong with our ethos. To be able to achieve the Nigeria Dream which we are all capable of doing goes beyond scouting, camping and other inducements, into the need for a proper ounce of bold and inspiring leadership; leadership – that leaves nothing to chances-that would motivate and boost our morale to be able to conquer everest.
Mind is all that counts. Success is in the mind – it is not given,it is earned,sometimes with toil, tears and more tears. One can be whatever one made up the mind to be. But, is anyone at the Glass House or at the” Three Arms ” radiating that contagious aura that oozes out of conviction from deep within; that could inspire patriotism. Only leaders imbued with a desire for social change that could inspire attitudes and values. A stream rises no higher than its course, therefore, leadership is the lid, and the catalyst that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. A catalyst facilitates change: it makes things happen. Without specific catalysts a certain results can never be achieved. For instance, Andrew liver salt without water has no effervescence, and flour without yeast produces no bread.
It takes only a moment to tattoo the body to tattoo the mind may take half a lifetime. The change from within might take too long, but ergo change must come from outside; from pragmatic attitudes of leaders,as poor leadership breeds poverty of the mind which is the worst form of poverty. Nigerians even while basking in the miry scent of poverty, have consistently shown that they are tenacious and extraordinary people who needed leaders that are enamoured with the will,not just a vague casual daydreaming but a vision of the future that has all the trappings of glory.
In a system whose leadership could not facilitate nor provide,sustain and maintain basic state-of-the-art sporting equipments and facilities, and an enabling environment for grassroots development would only passively encourage docility and the ill prepared athletes and players such as we have repeatedly and wantonly paraded, because a people couldn’t survive their leaders best thinking.
I don’t have any problems with gratification, after all, a golden rule of wealth-creation ,is,value what you have and start charging for it. In any case, the most sensitive nerve in a person’s body is the one that runs to their wallet. Of course, we are all motivated by reward,but the way and manner the nation have indulged the national team’s every want and whim and whip leave much to be desired .Only rational leadership can stop satisfying a legitimate hunger in an illegitimate way.
In conclusion, our players are mere metaphors of our environment, culture and systems of failed leadership and castrated background. As the twig is bent, so grows the trees, is a worn out cliché, but for all its worth, anyone who had the money to spend could put a man in a new suit,but only perfect mentoring can put a new man in a new suit or to a blind horse, a wink is as good as a nod.
If you ask me,however, the choice of Sunday Oliseh is really not our problem,but I feel, if he truly understands the workings of the Nigerian estate he should be circumspect and accept his appointment with the proper groundwork that would help him in the efficient discharge of his duties,otherwise the project has fallen apart even before it turns the first sod.
To the new sweat merchant, there are so many new talents to discover and uncover, and to succeed, himself, should champion the vanguard for the emergence and signpost Nigeria’s football intention in Russia 2018. When you know the truth of your purpose, the little foxes will not matter,because your focus will be on manifestation and the work that goes into cultivating the seed of greatness. Oliseh have to become present and settle in.
Should Russia 2018 be business as usual or should we have a road map: our Russia 2018 project must not be made to become a political football, but rather should henceforth, be seen churning out meaningful activities. Nigerians are by now tired of waste of scarce resources, that otherwise be efficiently deployed elsewhere in the polity,the Football house must up the ante,it must be more proactive in rationalising and analysis of the materials (human,capital) needed for a new beginning.It matters therefore, that we must chart a new path to progress,in a nation whose youths today are living without hope. Look at them smile, sing”Doro”and dance”Shoki”, but their eyes are dead. They talk but the music has left their voices. They are like mannequins: all dressed up and going nowhere because they feel hopeless. The nation can instill hope in a football way. The government must unburden itself by outsourcing stadia, upkeep and maintenance of sports equipments and other facilities etc.
Sports could deliver to our economy what crude oil is doing,especially now, that the people are battling with the realisation that i.the economy is not in charge of their lives; ii . that it is not what you have that determines your reward,but what you do with what you have and iii. Nigerians now know that there can’t be enough jobs anywhere; and their world as they know it without crude oil and a coast with oil slick would come to an end.
This is the right time for Nigeria’s leadership to capitalise on the peoples prevailing self-help ethos, we cannot always build the future for our youth,but we can build our youth for the future.
Sports generally have become not only a veritable tool for political diplomacy, economic emancipation, power and liberation, but, also a goldmine, with sports Nigeria can tackle the problems of unemployment and take a large chunk of the legion of unemployed youths off the streets.
Presently, Nigeria’s Football is in a quandary. It is a drama- drama is a play- a play is never serious. #
Jimi Bickersteth is a blogger and a writer.
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