7 minutes with China: Dear Amaju Pinnick, your time starts now

Dear president Amaju Pinnick,
I am writing this in good time so you can read and digest as the
planning starts in earnest for the World Cup in Russia next year.
I heard on the news that you
said somewhere that Nigeria could win the World Cup in Russia next
year and I will just ignore that statement as something said in the
excitement of the moment.
At risk of Nigerians attacking
me for being unpatriotic (as if being realistic is now a bad thing) I
can tell you that Nigeria WILL NOT win the World Cup in Russia next
year and I would love to wager you that posh car of yours, I mean the
SUV, yes, that SUV and your allowances for two sittings on your CAF
committee. Nigeria WILL NOT win the World Cup next year.
In fact I would love to wager
you that no African country will win the World Cup next year, but I
digress like I always do as that is not my reason for writing this
open letter to you.
on the journey so far
Dear Amaju Pinnick, I am sure
that coming from me a lot of people will be surprised I am writing
all of these and not spitting venom at you, but after my chance
meeting with you in Uyo (twice for that matter) during the last
qualifier, you acknowledged that my criticisms have been constructive
and helped you navigate your way at times. That shows a man who wants
to succeed.
I must congratulate you and
your team for steering Nigeria’s ship well and finally qualifying
us for the World Cup because I remember how the race was at the
Nigeria failed to qualify for
almost every competition it went in for and those were some of the
darkest days of our football.
Just after you were
inaugurated, we had the shocker of failing to qualify for the AFCON
of 2015 and to make matters worse, we were the champions.
The manner you handled the
Stephen Keshi incident, sacking him twice, once being twenty four
hours after he won a qualifying game in Abuja left a sour taste in
the mouth.
Nigeria’s under 23 men team
failed to qualify for All Africa Games football event of 2015,
neither did the women.
I still remember the under 20
team at the 2015 World Cup departing in the Round of 16.
Super Falcons, also in 2015
failed to qualify for the Olympic Games of 2016 and it was back to
back failure for the Super Eagles as they failed to make it to their
2nd consecutive AFCON.
In 2016, we were disgraced at
the CHAN as Sunday Oliseh and his charges failed to make it out of
Nigeria’s group.
At the World Cups in 2016, the
Falconets and Flamingoes did not even get past their groups
Remember, we failed to qualify
for all tournaments in 2017 and unprecedented failure was when even
the under 17 and under 20 teams could not even make it to their
Nations Cups, how much more World Cup.
But having overcome those dark
days and the clamour by Nigerians for your quick exit things began to
take a good turn.
an interview, you blamed Nigeria’s poor performance on all fronts
as well as the inability to get sponsors (one of your major campaign
promises) on the crisis that engulfed our football, the various
courts too.
you were right.
to you, now that there was peace, things would pan out
our collective good.
be told, if you were blamed for Nigeria’s failure between 2014 and
it just makes common sense that you take the plaudits for any success
we find in our football, right? That’s what I thought… However….

Amaju Pinnick’s time starts now
time starts now
Football at the national team
level began to improve and the Eagles qualified for the World Cup.
Now, there is more to a
Football Association/ Federation than just qualifying for the World
Cup, but at least we are there which is much better than licking our
wounds and playing the blame game if we had failed.
After all the back slapping,
popping of champagne and parties, you need to know that the work
begins immediately.
I’m sorry to burst your
bubble, but as much as Nigerians, myself inclusive are happy and
thankful that we have qualified for the World Cup there is still
nothing special about you.
Between 1992 when the
qualifying race started and 1993 when we actually qualified for the
World Cup in 1994, we had Amos Adamu as Sole Administrator of the
Nigeria Football Association, NFA and then Emeka Omeruah as chairman.
They both achieved World Cup
qualification and It must have been even more difficult for them at
the time because it was our first ever and the pressure must have
been massive.
Others who have qualified us
for the World Cup include Abdulmumuni Aminu for France 98, Dominic
Oneya for 2002, Sani Lulu for 2010 and then Aminu Maigari for 2014.
Dear Amaju, by qualifying
Nigeria for the World Cup, you are not a hero, at least not yet
because quite a few had done that before you so I want to advise that
the partying stop. We have celebrated enough. It is time for the real
Let me also advise that you
still will not be a hero if the Eagles scale through their group into
the second round because we have done that three times already. I
just want to re-iterate this so you understand the work ahead of you.
Pinnick, you can deify yourself
Dear Amaju Pinnick, Nigerians
are not under any illusions that we can win the World Cup. That will
just be fan speak and when it gets to crunch time we will know our
Success for you would be
getting the country to the quarter finals.
Heck Ghana have done quarter
finals before and they make horrible jollof rice, so why can’t we?
In 1994, we had what the
majority still believe to be our best team ever, but there was total
mayhem in the USA when coach of the side, Clemens Westerhof, some how
allowed wives and girlfriends of players to stay in the team hotel.
Sensing it was a poor
decision, he could not send them away and thought the best way out
would be to change the team hotel. This was just before the game
against Italy in the 2nd round.
Most of the players in the
team who were already enjoying the benefits of having their partners
with them kicked against it and there was open mutiny in the team
We all saw how much of a
distraction that was.
In 1998, the team was divided
into different cliques that affected the harmony on the pitch. Key
players did not speak to one another and at some point it seemed as
though they took their bitterness and disagreements to the pitch.
The injuries to Joseph Dosu
and Ike Shorumu were not well handled by the coaches and even the
media. Abiodun Baruwa was hounded out of the team due to a mistake in
a friendly match and a holidaying retired goalkeeper was called back.
We saw the disaster.
Meanwhile, between the last
group game and the 2nd round tie against Denmark, certain members of the team allegedly made a trip from France to Nigeria
to visit their friends in government. All these eventually told on
the team. There was basically no control.
In 2002, the coach who guided
Nigeria to the World Cup, Shaibu Amodu was wrongly sacked a few
months to the event.
He was not just sacked, but a
massive clear out of the players who ensured Nigeria qualified also
destabilised the team.
Players like Victor Agali,
Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Finidi George, Sunday Oliseh, Wilson Oruma and
Victor Ikpeba were dropped from the eventual team for obvious non
footballing reasons.
Apparently, certain players in
the team spoke out and it did not go down well with the
administrators who thought it wise to punish them.
In 2010, the Nigeria Football
Federation made the same mistake of 2002, sacking the coach who
qualified Nigeria for the World Cup, Shaibu Amodu again and less than
three months to the event, brought in Lars Lagerback.
We know how it all ended.
In 2014, which is very recent,
there was the issue of money/ bonuses that caused disaffection in
camp with players refusing to train at least once before the game
against France.
Then we remember that the
battle to occupy the Glass House actually started in Brazil during
the World Cup.
But the good thing about the
team going to the World Cup in Russia is that you, Pinnick, if you
are a student of history like I am, already know where your
predecessors failed in terms of managing the team right.
You seem a very intelligent
man who would look at the on and off the pitch factors that stopped
Nigeria from progressing beyond the 2nd round in previous
World Cups and ensure they do not rear their ugly heads this time
It may not be in my place to
tell you what to do, but knowing the previous problems, I am so sure
you can figure out the solution. That is what good leaders do.
Dear Amaju Pinnick, a lot of
Nigerians are still not convinced as regards your ability to lead,
but you have the one chance to be legend, please take it.
Use it well, as you may not
get another. I wish you the best ahead of the World Cup, I wish the
Eagles the best and as a Nigerian, my sincere hope is that we go
beyond the 2nd round.

As our friend from Who
wants to be a milliona
ire, Frank
Edoho would say, “Amaju Pinnick, your time starts now!”


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