When I visit relaxation centres like ‘beer parlours’ or ‘Palm-wine joints’, I enjoy more the political discourse because when other fields like entertainment and sports become the topic of discussion, there is a high probability that we get more of the ‘Nigeria Vs India 99-0’ tales and the views of people involved in the discourse might spark more rumours. Some of the ‘drinkers’ would claim they work in the governor’s office and when one says Mercy Aigbe is Ambode’s downfall, the other would say it is only Bukky Wright who can tell Fashola what to do and not to do because she owns his ‘other room’. Whatever story you believe in such discourse is left to you to defend.
However, I was struck with the contributions of people in today’s beer parlour talks. Almost everybody seems to share the same opinion about Nigeria’s chances of winning the world cup. Yeah, ‘winning the world cup’! Well, that would only be possible IF we really want to win the world cup. You could think there is absolutely no country that won’t relish the idea of winning a world cup but Nigeria seems not to. The first man to contribute was quite direct ‘One thing we can’t deny is the fact that there are raw talents that need to be fine-tuned in Nigeria, these guys are capable of winning the world cup. But those in charge would not give them the chance. Let me take you to that field at Ifako even on Monday morning, you’ll see excellent footballers who can even play better than Ronaldo and Messi, but those guys will never play for Nigeria because they don’t have the money to buy their way to the top. If the footballers that represent Nigeria in international competitions are well ‘recruited’ into the team, Nigeria will win not just one world cup but three’.
I totally agree with his submission and would have decided to say one or two things after he said that but the speed at which the next person joined the conversation was too fast for me to say anything. But being the owner of my space here, I would quickly add my opinion to what he said. Truth be told, the sports sector in Nigeria is deriving itself of excellent performance. It’s not just nepotism, it is bribery and corruption. I know a footballer who is better than almost all professional members of the Nigerian football team. In the position he plays, I’ve not seen any as good as him. Maybe I’m wrong but I am convinced. He wows the crowd when his foot touches the ball. Although his name is Tomi, we call him Aguero even though he plays better than the Argentine. There are however lots of good footballers out there but pathetically, such talents might go unnoticed because they are Nigerians in Nigeria.
The fate of the Nigerian football team according to most of those involved in today’s beer parlour talks rest solely on the Nigerian football Authority. ‘If we are to go by how we love football here, we should be better than Brazil when it comes to soccer’, another man said. ‘With the population of excellent players in the country, we shouldn’t see being in the round of 16 in the world cup as the best we can go. The reason for this is that the best among the players are dropped because they can’t ‘drop something’. I don’t believe those at the tops are in the center of these anomalies, the ones who scout players and the technical crew sees bringing in new players as a business venture. If you pay, you’re in; if you can’t pay, you’re out. If we can just eradicate such criteria, Nigeria will win the world cup in no time.
It is no wild goose chase in Africa if one believes that Nigeria has some of what it takes to win a world cup and if these ‘some’ are well utilized, the senior world cup trophy would be Nigeria’s own to win. The opinion shared by the next person wasn’t like the others, he Said “It’s not just about the administrators, those who represent the Nigerian team are to be blamed for our failures in international competitions. Some of them start well and they eventually flop. Mikel Obi and Iheanacho are good examples. Most of us felt Mikel was better than Messi when they played at the youth stage, Iheanacho was the best player during the ‘under 17’ world cup, but today they are not even the best football players in their family houses. We can’t blame that on the administration, it’s the players. Most of them feel relaxed when they make money and choose not to improve. I even heard somewhere that one Nigerian player that was the second runner-up during Mikel Obi’s set once celebrated his 21st birthday and the twin sister celebrated her 31st. Such a miracle happens in the Nigerian football scene alone. The players that have represented us at the international level should be blamed more’.
The scathing remark made in the last sentence, unfortunately, captures what those in the beer parlour think about some of the Nigerian football players. “It’s very easy to blame these footballers”, a man said, “but do you know what they went through before they got to that level? And football is not as easy as some of you think. Although, I expected Mikel Obi to be one of the top midfield players in the world based on how he started, but I wasn’t too disappointed that he didn’t, the same with Iheanacho and some other Nigerian footballers who showed excellent skill when they were first known. It is not so easy to be consistent in football but if they really want to push further and maintain the momentum they started with, they can! But that’s when they know that they would be appreciated for what they do home and abroad but not when they are thrown bananas abroad and not well-paid at home”.
‘What an eye-opening contribution, I thought. One unanimous idea I could infer from this discussion is that Nigeria CAN win the world cup. But we just need to get some few things right. Nepotism is at the centre of this, bribery and corruption come after it and the footballers’ lack of enthusiasm in developing their personal talent accounts for some degree of our failures at the senior world cup scene. If all these could be corrected, NIGERIA WILL WIN THE NEXT SENIOR WORLD CUP!