The story from Germany ahead of the friendly against Mexico is disturbing. We are being told of our players seeking to play for clubs rather than our dear country. This is not the first time this has happened. And we are not capable of stemming the tide.
We have thrown our arms up, but my fear is that we may have burnt our candles at both ends. I had thought that with the European season coming to a close, our players would assemble in Germany to plot the country’s strategies towards ensuring that we make the 2016 World Cup in Brazil.
But that is not the story. Ahmed Musa has opted to play in the Russia Cup finals rather than participate in the Mexico friendly. Musa told the Super Eagles secretary that in the event that the Russia Cup final clashes with the Mexico friendly, he would play for his club.
Could Musa have had the temerity to contemplate such a move if he were a fringe player in the squad? Is it not through Nigeria’s matches that he got the Russian deal? Is the Mexico friendly not meant to provide the platform for the players to understand themselves before the crucial 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Kenya in Nairobi on June 5 and Namibia in Windhoek on June 12?
The flipside to the Musa story is what are the Mexicans doing for the game? Mexico’s big stars such as Manchester United’s Hernandez aka Chacharito, want to play the game. The Mexicans have three crucial World Cup qualifiers and they are in the Confederations Cup. For them, the Nigeria friendly is an opportunity to prepare for both tournaments.
Stephen Keshi definitely needs God’s grace to have a full house of committed players for the Mexico game.
Musa is not alone in the choice of clubs over country. Agency photographs showed John Mikel Obi and Victor Moses boarding the flight with their Chelsea mates to the United States. Obviously, they are out of the Mexico game.
Moses, who played Chelsea’s last Barclays English Premier League game against Everton, is said to be nursing an injury, according to a letter purportedly sent to the NFF by Chelsea’s doctors.
The question is: when did Moses sustain the injury? Was Moses not the person who headed down the pass that resulted in Chelsea’s goal against Everton last Sunday?
We all saw him play the game. At no time did he fall down or collide with anyone. He walked off the pitch in celebration? Or could this be another conspiracy between the player and the club?
Our players must stop insulting our sensibilities with their conduct. Chelsea couldn’t have listed Moses in their squad to the United States if he was injured. By the same token, John Mikel Obi can’t just wake up in the US to say that he is fatigued and can’t play the Mexican game. If so, what is he doing with Chelsea in the US? When last did Mikel play for Chelsea to necessitate the purported fatigue story he is selling? Did he not struggle to be fit for the Europa Cup final?
Mikel’s history of boycotting games played on undulating pitches around Africa is legendary. When he didn’t play Chlesea’s closing stages games, I knew he would opt out of the game. I knew that he would not play the World Cup qualifiers because he wants to participate at the Confederations Cup, where he hopes to battle midfield supremacy with the bigger boys of the game.
The story of Kalu Uche’s injury is weird. He even wrote to say that he was injured. Not one report revealed that he was. Is this his payback for Keshi for missing the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations held in South Africa? Kalu Uche is Nigeria’s highest goal scorer in Europe this past season. His injury would have been the biggest news. Anyway, let us see how Keshi fixes this “injury” puzzle.
However, I’m worried about the silence from the NFF. Ordinarily, these unexpected withdrawals ought to elicit comments from it. Unfortunately, the NFF has cast an indulgent eye on the matter. Times past, it would have directed the players to report to Germany for the Eagles doctors to ascertain the veracity of their claims.
NFF doesn’t want to interfere in this clay-pot-and-rat setting. It is leaving the matter for the coach to handle. I hope this doesn’t signal Nigeria’s ouster from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
My fears are not unfounded because the boys could miss the stiffer of our two World Cup qualifiers against Kenya on June 5. And we would be in big soup because Moses and Mikel are the pivots of the team in the absence of recuperating Emmanuel Emenike.
Curiously, the manner in which the coaches have handled players who played in the past has been awful. The coaches have made the players dispensable, such that no one would honour any late invitation.
The dropped players sulked over their exclusion from the AFCON winning squad. This setting has tied the coaches’ hands in terms of seeking for substitutes, except they resort to the home-based. Therein lies one of the problems with our 2014 World Cup qualification ticket.
If the coaches had cultivated the habit of talking with the players while with their clubs, it would have been easier for them to foil this late exclusion from the Mexico game.
The coaches are shocked that the players didn’t give them any hint about their plans. How could they when their views are not sought before invitations are made?
What is clear is that Keshi has lost the players’ confidence and trust. They are not ready to die for him. They feel he will dump them the way others were dumped, if their form drops. So, they would rather spend quality time with their clubs or proceed on their vacation.
Perhaps, if Keshi had honoured the truce meeting scheduled in Abuja by the NFF before he left for the United States on vacation, the players would have laid their grievances on the table. All the issues would have been resolved and we would have had a fuller camp with our best players contending for positions.
Keshi has assured us that there is nothing to worry about. I believe him because we have the talents. Yet the questions I want to ask Keshi are – when will the rebuilding of the Super Eagles stop? Won’t Keshi tell us some day that Moses is not in his plans? Will the Big Boss not shut out Mikel from the Eagles over this surprise change of heart?
Eagles are suddenly a tournament team. They need to be in camp for long periods to gel. I had thought that the 14 days before the June 5 tie against Kenya would serve the purpose.
Many people will argue that Moses, Mikel, Kalu and, indeed, others are tired from the season’s matches. True. How about those who are in the camp? Most countries eager to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil have scheduled warm-up games for their teams ahead of the qualifiers. Yet stars such as Frank Lampard are with Chelsea and would play in the friendly against Brazil at the end of the month.
No ambitious country goes to a soccer war with her best players sitting at home. If they were injured, then their absence is tenable. Where they opt out of the country’s matches on spurious grounds of being injured only to star for their clubs, is a slap in our faces. And it is grossly unacceptable.
If they knew that they won’t be available, they should have discussed their decisions with the coach before the list was submitted to the NFF.