By Pat Muo
The African Cup of Nations tournament, undoubtedly; the biggest soccer showpiece on the African continent, will herald the beginning of 2015 with the attention of the entire football world focussed on Equatorial Guinea, where the competition takes off the ground this January.
Sadly, that big event will hold between January 17 and February 8 with our dear country conspicuously absent! The reasons for our absence are well known. Nigeria was clearly unable to organize a smooth general election that would have made a smooth transition possible in her football federation.
Thus, while the other federations in her qualifying group were busy plotting their successes in the run-up to the grand finale in Equatorial Guinea, officials of the Nigeria Football Federation were concentrating on who should lead the body in the next four years.
Whatever happened to the preparations by the Super Eagles to face opponents from Sudan, South Africa and Congo Brazzaville were completely left in the hands of the team’s technical crew.
Unfortunately, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, and his cohorts in that crew were not fully lettered to bear the big burden.
The remote and immediate consequences of this development is Nigeria’s ouster from this year’s edition of the African Cup of Nations tournament.
Nigerians, particularly those who love the game of footballs must take heart. They have found themselves bottled up in a situation where they cannot help themselves. For the first times, without any political undertone, they will watch smaller football nations compete on a centre stage which, until now, was thought to be their country’s exclusive reserve. Nigerians, will spend very valuable time in front of their television sets watching, Guinea, Congo Brazzaville and even Cape Verde Islands!
Pity for Nigerians, Pity. The pitiable state of things in Nigeria’s football administration is funnily not even at sight. While we be moan our absence from Euqatorial Guinea this January, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) does not. There is nothing to condole Nigeria for.
Issah Hayatou, the man from neighbouring Cameroon Republic who sits at the helm of affairs of that body, told reporters in Equatorial Guinea shortly after the four cities that will host the competition were announced: “Nigeria won’t be here because of Nigerians. The way they run their federation beats all imaginations.”
Hayatou is right. Our way of running our football is only peculiar to us. And this is the major reason why FIFA and CAF rate our Super Eagles any how they like. Today, Germany is the topmost team in FIFA ranking because they are world cup holders. Those that they beat – Argentina are second and have remained so since the last edition of the world cup ended in Brazil last year.
But after the Super Eagles conquered Africa in the last African Cup of Nations tournament in South Africa in 2013, Nigeria, has never been adjudged the best team in Africa by FIFA ranking. As a matter of fact, from the day of that victory till this very moment, Nigeria has never been ranked the best team in Africa by FIFA.
Rather, countries like Cote d’lvoire, Algeria, Mali, Ghana etc have constantly had their football respected more than ours by FIFA.
The explanation is simple. These countries have followed set-down norms in football administration. They have abided by FIFA and CAF regulations. They play friendly matches when asked to do so. Elections are sincerely held at the end of every tenure. Those who won were congratulated by others who lost and are truly and sincerely joined to develop the game. Inputs towards the progress of the game are made in full awareness of the benefits that will be derived by all if the game moves forward.
FIFA notes all of these. So does CAF! They have no respect for fire brigade approach. And so it will remain.
This month, 16 nations from Africa from South Africa, Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon Cape Verde Islands, Congo DR, Tunisia, Zambia, Algeria, Ghana, Senegal Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Mali will celebrate their participation in the nations cup. They will be welcomed by Equatorial Guinea their hosts, to vie for the most coveted football trophy in Africa – the nations cup. We shall be absent because we shot ourselves in the leg. How sad.