By all standards, the national football teams of Nigeria are the epitome and melting pot of our national unity. Before now and despite our ethnic differences which have often come to haunt us, our national football teams have been designed to mobilise and galvanise our citizens towards achieving national cohesion, without hindrance.
Time was when tribal warlords who accidentally found their way into corridors of our sports administration ride roughshod over the nation particularly on sensitive issues that ordinarily ought to have helped advance our collective interest.
The output of our national teams then was not only abysmal but completely failed to meet the aspiration of the teeming citizens of this country and thus, failed to command national support. This was not solely because the nation lacks talents, but that the courage to take the right decisions when it mattered most was not there.
Some notable consequences of this sentimental approach was that the selection of players out of the abundant talents that abound in the various geopolitical zones in the country was hinged on ethnic and tribal sentiments rather than to promote national cohesion.
Coaches are appointed to man the national teams based on the disposition of the man in charge of the federation. The compensation for such appointment was that the coach now battles to select only players that hail from the ethnic stock of his benefactor. These are done at the expense of our national interest.
The resultant effect was an unmitigated drawback on our collective aspiration. The list of coaches and top officials who have fallen prey to this underhand tactics are endless, hence the urgent need to address some germane issues that cropped up of late from some cynically-minded sports aficionados that picked up the gauntlets against coach Emmanuel Amuneke, over his selections for the just concluded FIFA U-17 World Cup, which Nigeria won in grand style.
Some of these ethnic chauvinists feel that with President Muhammadu Buhari now in power, the perceived “marginalisation” of the north in terms of players’ selection must come to an end.
They wondered why out of the 21 players registered for the tournament, none came from the North, as if selection of players was based on ethnic or geopolitical representation instead of merit.
They argued that coach Amuneke chose to populate the team with his Biafran brothers who are an endangered species in the country with sprinkle of few others from other ethnic or tribal groups.
With this, one begins to wonder when equal representation becomes the yard stick for invitation to the national teams. Agreed that talents abound in all the geopolitical zones in the country but selection into any of the national teams is not supposed to be automatic for any player.
No matter how good you are, you have to prove your worth to the coach, who ultimately decides on the calibre and quality of player he requires at any particular time to fill any position in the national team, depending on the tactics he decides to play, since the bulk falls on his shoulders.
The problem with most soccer followers in Nigeria with tribal bias is that they fail to see beyond their noses. They forget that coaches take responsibility for the failure or success of their teams.
Ironically, most critics are quick to question the coaches’ decisions when it comes to players’ selection, which ultimately falls within his mandate.
In one of the heated arguments on a social media platform recently, one of my brothers known for his strong anti-establishment stance categorically declared that the victorious U-17 would fail in Chile, simply because the coach did not select some Northern youths into the team.
Not only did I find such comments offensive but calculated to return the nation’s football to the dark old days, where sentimental considerations used to be a major yardstick in measuring the prowess of a coach, coupled with his ability to select the right calibre of players into the national teams.
I have waited frantically for his apology on this issue, since the team defied his prediction to win, but none is forthcoming. Rather, he has resorted to name calling and wild but unfounded allegation of age cheats to justify his stance.
For goodness sake, I have said it for an umpteenth time, that if a family could produce best eleven players for the national team, they should go ahead and do so, rather than the current recrimination and allegation of nepotism currently renting the air.
However, I have every reason to thank God that Nigeria’s team appears to be the youngest in the tournament considering bearded men we saw that looked like the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, that played for our opponents.
The list of suspected over-age players paraded by other nations are endless. Nonetheless, the beauty of it all is that we won and our players passed MRI test, which made them eligible to play under FIFA laws.
Culled from: http://newtelegraphonline.com/a-big-no-to-tribal-eagles/