By Steve Alabi
The media are awash with reports that the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Pinnick has accused Kano Pillars and Rivers United of lacking “steel” in their regrettable performance in the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup preliminary round. Pinnick’s angst is borne out of dissatisfaction with Kano Pillars’ 1-3 loss to ASC Jaraaf in Senegal after taking an early lead and Rivers United’s 1-2 defeat by debutants, Futuro Kings in Equatorial Guinea. Pinnick’s anger tallies with the mood of Nigerians about our flagbearers’ poor delivery. The minnows of the game are no longer in awe of the giant.
The NFF boss was so pissed off that he blurted out, “Our clubs should be made of sterner stuff. I am at a loss to understand how Pillars can take the lead in Senegal only to collapse and lose 3-1 against Jaraaf. I am so disappointed with Kano and Rivers. I expected much greater spirit and steel from these clubs when they represent Nigeria in Africa. My challenge to both teams is to win convincingly at home and qualify for the next round of the Confederation Cup.” I am sure Nigerians agree with this seemingly forthright view of Pinnick. It is a view that shows that for once, our football supremo is on the same page with Nigerians’ legitimate expectations of good performance from their soccer ambassadors.
But it seems that Pinnick finds his forthright range when he is not the one in charge. Let us interrogate his angst, particularly the part on Kano Pillars’ loss, “I am at a loss to understand how Pillars can take the lead in Senegal only to collapse and lose 3-1 against Jaraaf. I am so disappointed with Kano and Rivers. I expected much greater spirit and steel from these clubs when they represent Nigeria in Africa.” Is it not amazing and baffling that Pinnick can hold such candid view? The same Pinnick who defended the indefensible meltdown of the Super Eagles from 4-0 to 4-4 against lowly Sierra Leone, not at away but in our own backyard in Benin City.
What Pinnick said about Kano Pillars is what Nigerians are saying to the Eagles. Using his own words, Nigerians are saying, “We are at a loss to understand how Eagles can take the lead (4-0) in Benin only to collapse 4-4 against Sierra Leone. We are so disappointed with the Eagles. We expected much greater spirit and steel from the Eagles when they represent Nigeria in Africa.” The truthfulness of these adapted words of Pinnick is self evident. You cannot, like Pinnick has been doing, cover open failure with the façade of craftiness. Pinnick cannot demand performance from others and not demand it from himself and his bench. We will not allow him to use different and lower scales for himself and his employee, Gernot Rohr.
It is sheer hypocrisy for Pinnick to demand performance from others and not demand it from himself and his bench. How can he pontificate so righteously on the performance of our club flagbearers when the team he presided over has a delivery worse than what he condemns? Whereas Rivers United acquitted themselves in the reverse fixture by escaping by the skin of their teeth via a 2-0 penalty shootout victory after a 2-1 regulation time score, the Eagles failed to react against the Leone Stars in the second leg. Most unfortunately, like the Eagles, Kano Pillars could not get a result against Jaraaf in the second leg
What irks is not only the poor results the Eagles got but the self-serving defence Pinnick put up to justify the retention of Gernot Rohr. Hear him, “Nobody is happy about what happened against Sierra Leone in both matches. But it is not enough to sack the coach because his team is still top of the Nations Cup group after four matches. His statistics speak volume for him, so on what indexes do we want to sack him considering the contract recently signed by both parties. No matter how emotional and disappointed the fans are, there’s no basis to sack him now and he deserves to keep his job.” Gracious God!
Pinnick will do well to review his attitude towards the results from Rohr. It will be better for him to understand the importance of the Eagles’ delivery or otherwise to the national psyche and wellbeing. Let him feel future results with the feelings he had for the results of Rivers United and Kano Pillars. It is a more realistic way to do a better job of getting good results for the national standard.
Last Line: The sporting family bleeds again. Muyiwa Daniel, the one we called MD, has passed on to the great beyond. MD pounded this demanding sports beat with the defunct Concord newspapers. Witty, incisive and hard-hitting, MD packed so much into his diminutive frame. He was a feared but respected adversary to sports administrators. May his dear soul rest in peace, Amen.