Odegbami: Nigeria Versus Tanzania – Matters Arising! 

Odegbami: Nigeria Versus Tanzania – Matters Arising! 

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I watched the Super Eagles, two weekends ago, labour against Tanzania in the last match in the series for AFCON 2018. Both sides had been earlier knocked out of the race. So, the match was a mere formality. 


However, it was a match I needed to watch to glean the mind of Gernot Rohr, the new German technical adviser whose engagement by the Nigerian Football Federation had attracted a lot of public opprobrium, controversy and debate over its propriety or otherwise. 


I was one of those who loudly protested the return of Nigerian football to the era of journeymen foreign coaches masquerading as the redeemers of African football. I believe it is a mental enslavement that needs to be halted, as there are Nigerians with the basic qualifications and need the experience to take them to the highest level of coaching that the country seeks by hiring foreigners.   


So, you can understand that, even as I prayed that the Eagles should did well and won, I was also looking at the team critically to see what difference the presence of a foreign coach would make to the team even from day-one.


So how did the Super Eagles and their coach Gernot Rohr fare that night?


To start with, Tanzania are not one of the super powers of African football. If the Eagles needed a soft first match to kick-start the Gernot era and build their confidence, Tanzania were the perfect choice. 


After 90 minutes these are my thoughts. 


The Super Eagles were the better team and deserved their victory. 


There is an emerging new look about the team. In goal, Carl Ikeme justified his first choice ranking amongst several other good goalkeepers available in the team. 


In the defense, the pair of Leon Balogun and William Ekong were an interesting new combination. They looked better composed, efficient, organised and more promising than other previous pairings. They did not ‘leak’ with organisational indiscipline as had been the case in earlier matches and rendered the Tanzanian attackers harmless most of the game. 


In the midfield not much changed. That area had lacked compactness and creativity for several years now. The main man here had been Mikel Obi. Unfortunately, he has lacked that fine but necessary ingredient of a leader that takes charge, almost single handedly taking a difficult game by the scrum of the neck and delivering victory in critical matches.  He has not been that kind of player or captain and so, is hardly missed when he is not fielded. Last weekend that was clearly again what reflected when he was substituted. 

Mikel Obi is a great player, but as captain on the field of play his style does not impact his team enough. 


Unfortunately, the man who deputises for him, Ahmed Musa, is also burdened by the responsibility of leading the team from an attacking position. Rather than deliver the goals as was wont, Musa’s performance often drops as a result of the additional burden of being captain. It showed again in the match. 


The players that played like potential captains in the Nigerian team are in the Nigerian goal, and also in the centre of the Nigerian defense line up. 

As captain of the national team in the twilight of my career, I was weighed down by the same responsibility, and although I was the highest goal scorer in Nigeria’s football history up till that point,I additional responsibility of captainship became a burden that I could not properly carry on the field of play. 


Outside the field, championing causes, speaking up for the team, in conduct and character and motivating the players, I was a great captain. On it, scoring the goals, I became a poor example! Even I knew that. That’s what Ahmed Musa also suffers from every time he doubles up as captain and expected goal scorer. It happened again in the Tanzanian match.


In attack, Iheanacho is a new addition to watch very closely in the years to come. He has the potentials to be the new anchor of the Super Eagles attack if he sustains his present level of confidence and freely expresses the full range of skills that he obviously has in abundance. 

As for the other players, we have either seen their best already (not good enough before Gernot) or they are just another bunch of ordinary players that cannot be depended upon to fulfill Gernot’s lofty ambition to qualify Nigeria for the 2018 World Cup. 


I read several things that the German had to say about Nigerian football since his arrival. He has sounded very cautious and diplomatic, saying all the right things, spreading hope and assurance. 

He says that Nigeria is awash with talented players; that the Eagles’ defense needs to be better organised; that he has no problem working with his Nigerian coaching assistants as well as the Technical Committee of the NFF; that he would not return to the Uyo stadium for another match until the grass turf is properly fixed to enable good football to be played. 


In short he has not said anything to annoy or offend anybody. 

So, overall, the team made Gernot Rohr to pass his first test as coach of the national team. 


Greek Gifts – A Dangerous New Trend!

There is, however, a rather disturbing development from the Nigeria/Tanzania match. 


At the end of the match both teams were presented monetary gifts of thousands of US Dollars by the Governor of the State of Akwa Ibom that hosted the match. 


The first worry is a question: where did the money he donated come from – taxpayers’ funds or his personal resources?

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  • I have some issues here with Odegbami’s submission. First: Why does it take about 2 weeks or so before writing about match we have all left behind and are looking forward to the WC qualifier with Zambia. The Paralympic is ongoing now. Second: He gladdened my heart when he was writing all those things about the coach. You captured what I feel about this coach since he was engaged. I believe in one thing for cooperation sake and that is we can express our views for or against but when the authorized individual or entity has taken a decision we all cooperate to make it a success. So we will support the coach. I also agree to an extent what you said about the different positions of the eagles. There is an improvement with their play but I don’t agree with your assessment of Mikel. He just finished with the Olympics then and has not rested but on a normal day, Mikel is strong and is captainlike too. Where I totally disagree with you is the gift to the players. It is the state government money and it is an incentive to the boys. I thought it would have been better to write something about the NFF hijacking the money from the boys. #10000000 to the team is small and could easily be gotten from adverts, sponsorship, individual contributors and so forth. How many state government will like to host such a match? The NFF is broke and so cannot host any match for now. After Akwa Ibom, Rivers do try to to help Nigeria in hosting. These governors should be commended. Not the kind of overzealous barbs Odegbami just carelessly threw around without even explaining further in his blog. We remember how a Japanese doctor helped the Olympic football team when we have Nigerians who are 1000000× richer than that doctor but did not come to their aid. Sometimes it is nice to weigh what we write so that good needs are not affected.

  • Rufus O. 5 years ago

    You absolutely missed the point.  If that money is the personal belonging of the governor, he can spend it the way he wants and we, the people, in these lean times have the right to question the source of the money.  If however the money comes from the public coffers, we need to know what right the governor has to spend tax payers money like that?  Where is accountability to the people?  How can a governor just spend the tax payers' money as he wishes?  Does that not encourage corruption?  If that money, no matter how small  had been spent on providing much succour to our dilapidated educational structures, wouldn't it have been better?  Nigerian love to make noise about this and that but when comes the time to question authority, they go awol. That will not happen here in the US.

  • Rufus O. 5 years ago

    As for Mikel, he's no longer the creative menace he was at the 2005 U-20 game in Holland.  The coach should invite Rabiu Ibrahim and try to control his excessive dribbling.  That is the attacking midfielder to replace Okocha.

  • @rufus O. Maybe you are from Akwa Ibom State, I can understand your support for Odegbami’s barb. I do not support corruption at all. I hate it but this does not mean that I start suspecting every action of any office holder. I will want you to look at it from my point of view. Odegbami was not tactful at all. If the governor or his PR guys read this, I believe they will write back or complain as it looks as a disrespectful statement. As I said the money could come from any source- advert, sponsorship, contributors, PR fund, even the State purse. Athletes are been rewarded year in year out and we are happy about it for we know it is a good thing. Footballers, basketballers, Scrabble players, Olympians, etc. It is only Odegbami I have ever read questioning the source of money. He called it “a dangerous trend.” It is not a new thing. Even in your USA, rewards are given to sportsmen and they are paid outrageous salaries. Some sports men have been given houses. Even Buhari has given money and other things to our sportsmen and women. We do not question the source as it is not hidden. Other state governments have given out money and other gifts to our sportspeople. We generally appreciate these people for uplifting our poor sportsmen. So what is Odegbami’s problem. He at one time has also benefitted from such “Greek gift” when he was in his active days playing football. No questions then? I just think it is uncalled for and mischievous. Akwa Ibom and Rivers State governments should be commended for their helping out in hosting our tournaments and rewarding our athletes, even our guests. I believe it is you that is not seeing that article as uncalled for.