This column is not for the faint-hearted, the line here is bold and brass, and this surely is the place where we call succubus by name. My gaze for now is firmly fixed on the character of the coach of the Green Eagles. I believe Mr Onigbinde owes us an explanation! My question is this; why did he choose not to use Pious Ikedia at the beginning of our two opening games, nevermind that the young man was instrumental to the goals that Aghahowa scored in the friendly matches in Ireland and Scotland, and that his lively style of play, adds colour to the front line, and, by putting pressure on the defence of our opponents, puts our defence at relative ease. So it has been with some shock and constant readjustment, that I have sat down to watch the matches played (and I mean PLAYed), by the Eagles against Argentina, and then Sweden.
The game against the Argentines should have been a warning to Mr Onigbinde, and as he quite rightly admitted, we were playing with 10 men against 11, as Kanu Nwankwo was less than fit to play from the 5th minute onwards. The question that therefore begs asking is this; “Why persevere with a player that is injured for the whole of the first half, and even in to the second? Is there no replacement for Kanu? As the game progressed, it was clear to all, that sooner or later the Argentines were going to score. Eventually, they did. Too much pressure on the defence; our inability to deal with corners that cross the goal mouth, and, I believe, most tellingly, abscence of any aggression on our part to put pressure on the Argentine defence.
Only at this juncture does the coach condescend to bring on young Ikedia, by which time of course, the match is already nigh on lost. For a man who raised our hopes so much in the friendly matches following the disgraceful performance in Mali, Mr Onigbinde has let us all down very greatly. For this very reason, and on account of the fact that he is a respected thinker, I would like to hear from him. Surely he must have an explanation! Afterall, it has not been unknown for Nigerian leaders (politicians and/or Soldiers) to force decisions down the throat of managers. Maybe the team selection was foisted upon him by the NFA, perhaps a fiat was issued to force him to use certain players, against his better judgement, or was he simply out-foxed by more wily managers, who had progressed two steps further than him in the chess-game of modern international football.
Whatever, the reason, this will go down as Nigeria’s worst performance in all our entries into the world cup tournament, and we, one and all, would like to believe that this will not happen again. The only sure guarantee though , is that we learn some lessons from this fiasco in Japan. The beginning of our learning should therefore be, the last words of Mr Onigbinde on “What happened in Korea/Japan 2002”. I for one cannot wait for the class to begin. “Otolorin” 10th February, 2002