5 thoughts from last week in football

Monday 21 March 2016

/ by Colin Udoh

With just two match days played, only one Nigerian club remains in the hunt for continental accomplishment.
This, despite four years of improvement on almost every front spurred by the League Management Company.
In previous years, exit from continental competition was generally blamed on the corrupt shenanigans which did not allow for the best teams to emerge as the country's representatives in Africa.
With those practices mostly eliminated, there are few who will doubt that any of the current representatives did not earn their respective spots.
This suggests that the problem lies within the club's themselves and a long term view will be required to provide a lasting fix.
Pointing fingers at match officials, like one club has already done, helps no one. Instead, a long hard look in the mirror, followed by an honest x-ray of the campaigns over the last few years will serve the clubs and league better.
There is no plaster that can cover this ulcer. What is needed, is surgery.

More than a few eyebrows were raised when Sunday Oliseh called up Alex Iwobi to the Super Eagles squad for two friendlies in his tour of Belgium.
Many of those were in relation to the apparent overlooking, at the time, of Manchester City's Kelechi Iheanacho who had notched up more minutes.
There were even open claims of nepotism playing a part in his call up.
Few remembered that he had first been invited to the under 23 team by Samson Siasia, but was ineligible to play because he had already represented England at cadet level.
But there is more to the Iwobi case than meets the eye. The youngster, with his parents' backing and inspired by uncles Emma and Austin Okocha, had decided to commit to Nigeria. Federation officials were keen to lock him down with a senior cap. Siasia's invitation was for him to get a feel of the Nigeria environment while Oliseh's was the first step towards cap-tying him.
Iheanacho, naturally, was only eligible for Nigeria and there was plenty of time to get him into the senior set up.
Iwobi's case is one that represents the unsteady beast that is Nigerian fandom. On the one hand, every Diaspora-born player is tapped to be capped. When one actually is, holes begin to get picked in the selection.
Coaches (sometimes with a nudge from the federation) have their own reasons for selecting different players outside of a core team. 
Iwobi is so far proving Oliseh and Nigeria right. And with the likes of Iheanacho, the Nwakali brothers, Victor Osimhen, Taiwo Awoniyi, Isaac Success, William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo and more, the future suddenly looks bright for Nigeria. If they can develop and progress  properly.

Since the relocation, then demise of Julius Berger, Lagos, Nigeria's commercial nerve-centre and the heart of almost everything the country does, had been without a premier league club for over a decade.
At the beginning of the season, two promptly came along, securing promotion in remarkable circumstances.
While both carried the private ownership standard, Ikorodu United looked the moneybags. Backed by serious private investment and with shirt sponsorship from GOTV, they made all the right noises.
MFM, on the other hand, were commercially restricted by their faith-based association. On the field however, the story could not be more diametrically separated.
MFM, on the back of some sterling away results, have quickly shot to the top of the standings after 7 rounds of games.
Ikorodu, on the other hand, face the clear and present danger of a relegation scrap even before the season has properly broken sweat.
It's panic stations already. Sunday's 1-2 home reverse to Giwa FC proved the final straw for coach Edema Benson, who was already a dead man walking. He has been fired. Former Super Falcons coach Sam Okpodu has been brought in to steady the ship.
But Ikorodu are now at the point where they need more than a coaching change to tilt their fortunes in the right direction.
They have conceded in almost every game, and missed far too many chances. That personnel revamp must extend to the playing squad.

If you're Louis Van Gaal, taking broadsides from every Man United fan and his brother, a trip to bitter city rivals Manchester City is the last place you want to travel to. Especially not after elimination from continental competition by yet another hated rival.
But travel crosstown he did with his motley band of possession hoggers. And return with three points he did.
For some, every next loss has been prophesied to be LVG's last. But this old cat appears to have more lives than nine. And with this win against a hopelessly listless City, he has bought himself more time,
In fairness to the Dutchman, he had United playing like the Red Devils of old, something the fans have craved and continue to crave for.
On the debit side, it was his shackles that had them in straitjackets in the first place, anyway.
But look away now #LVGOut proponents. Doesn't look like old sour face is going anywhere soon. . . 

News of the death of former Nigeria international John Okon Ene last week came like a gut punch. 
Not only because, at 47, he was so young, but because of the circumstances. Ene died of kidney problems. His former teammate and friend Etim Esin says he hid his illness from club officials
"He had kidney problems, but said he did not want to tell the club chairman because if they knew they would sack him," Etim said.
"That is very unfortunate. And now he is dead. What happens to the job now?"
Unfortunate indeed. With Ene's standing in Nigerian football, it is doubtful that either or both of the Akwa Ibom and Cross River State governments would not have pitched in to help him with the surgery and/or organ donation that would have saved his life.
But it also tells a lot about our society, especially its sports subset, that a former international would suffer to his death because he was scared of being fired for being sick.
Enough to make you stop and ponder.

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