It is with a concerned heart that I write this open letter to you. Like most Nigerians, if not all, I mourn not only because the Super Eagles failed, in the third time of asking, to progress beyond the 2nd round hurdle at the FIFA 2014 World Cup, but also because the team put up an unconvincing performance which culminated in a comprehensive 2-nil defeat to Le Blues. When the jury was out on the Eagles disastrous campaign, the first name that easily came to mind for execution was Mikel. The reason is not far-fetched: a player of your stature, possessing the essentials to influence matches, and who plays for no less a club than Chelsea should definitely lead the Super Eagles beyond the previously attained round of 16.
There is no gainsaying the obvious that currently you are the most vilified player of the ill-fated Super Eagles. From rib-cracking caricatures to stinging personalisations, you are being depicted in such a way that would make Sanni Keita and Yakubu Aiyegbeni turn overnight living legends of the round leather game. For once, I am compelled to agree with the army of disappointed fans. I have followed your career with keen interest, beginning from when I first watched you in action during the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in Netherland. Boy, how you exhibited flair, vision and confidence that belied your age! You held the world spell bound with your passing range, composure and coordination in midfield, providing the impetus for the attack to flourish. Though the Flying Eagles gallantly lost in the final to Argentina in a pulsating 1:2 scoreline, you left no one in doubt that of your potentials and greatness. And when you mounted the podium as recipient of the Silver Ball, alongside the precocious Lionel Messi, who won the Golden Ball, the world rose on its feet to applaud a star not just in the making, but for the taking. I recall hearing Nigerians mused that the Super Eagles have got a successor to, if not an upgrade of the mercurial Jay Jay Okocha. That you had two giants of the English Premier League battling for your signature was indicative that the footballing world has taken notice of your talent, and the unquantifiable potentials inside of you, bursting for expression at the grandest of global football stage. You finally settled for Chelsea, the rest they say is history. At the national level, your reputation as the real deal was further boosted by the returns you posted in your AFCON debut in Egypt 2006 against Zimbabwe: 1 assist, 1 goal. It could not have gone any better.
A career that really kick-started eight years ago with 10 major trophies, including Premier League title, Champions League crown, and African Cup of Nations, is really one to be reckoned with. However, these club/national team honours could be flattering and deceptive. This same period has also seen a gradual retrogression in your game in terms of growth/progression towards attaining peak, influence on matches through direct & indirect assists and goals, and personal recognition. It would not be helpful to roll out the stats table, likewise to compare you to your peer, Messi, who has gone on to break numerous records, collected individual prizes and club trophies, and even took the Albiceleste to the final of the FIFA WC. But one undeniable reality has been the wide margin of difference ever since the two of you broke into world’s stage at the same time. Many would argue that a lot of factors are responsible for this chasm, the constant however remains that Messi perhaps is more fired to improve and succeed. The alarm has started ringing. Last season saw you in a more limited role for Chelsea, especially in the Premier League. This incoming season, could see you down below the pecking order with the emergence and arrival of the duo of Matic and Fabregas. Football, as you know, has evolved to the point where deep lying midfielders aside executing to perfection their defensive responsibilities must also provide impetus to the attackers. Jose Mourinho, who coincidentally altered your game to suit his defensive style, shares this view. Now is the time to rise up to the occasion; now is the time to live up your real potentials. Go Mikel, it’s still in you!
By Da Epic Pen
You can follow Da Epic Pen on his twitter handle @IMELIKACHIEKENE or email: [email protected]
HON. GBENGA ELEGBELEYE – OTOLORIN
“Further motivated by the desire to serve in higher capacity, he resigned his appointment as Chairman Ondo Waste Management Board in 2006, to contest elections into the Federal House of Representatives. Between June 2007 and June 2011, Hon. Elegbeleye was a member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Akoko North East/North West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, where he served as Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Sports;”
Hon. Gbenga Otolorin Elegbeleye, popularly called “Otolorin” by his admirers was born in Ikare, Akoko North East Local Government Area of Ondo State. His educational background is made up as A.U.D Primary School, Ikare, St. Patrick’s’ Secondary School, Iwaro-Oka, University of Ife (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile Ife and Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti.
He obtained the following qualifications in his educational sojourn:
- Primary School Leaving Certificate
- West African School Certificate
- B.A. (Ife), Ile-Ife
- MPA (UNAD), Ado-Ekiti
As a result of his exemplary leadership qualities, in the Nigeria Youth Service Scheme, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye was made the Administrative Officer of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Zone RS3 Kaduna, between 1988 and 1989, from where he ventured into private business.
Motivated by the desire to serve humanity, Hon. Gbenga in 1997 contested and won election as the youngest Chairman, Akoko North East Local Government Council in Ondo State. As a Local Government Chairman, he was also a member of Board of Ondo State Primary Education Board between 1997-98. Before this period, Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye was the Assistant State Secretary of the National Republican Convention, NRC for the old Ondo State between 1990 – 1993.
Impressed by his achievements as Local Government Chairman and his successful exploits in other areas of human endeavour, the then Governor of Ondo State, Late Chief Olusegun Agagu in 2003 appointed him Chairman, Ondo State Waste Management Authority, and under his erudite leadership, Akure was adjudged by the then Federal Ministry of Inter-Government Affairs, the second cleanest State Capital in Nigeria, after Calabar, in 2004.
Further motivated by the desire to serve in higher capacity, he resigned his appointment as Chairman Ondo Waste Management Board in 2006, to contest elections into the Federal House of Representatives. Between June 2007 and June 2011, Hon. Elegbeleye was a member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Akoko North East/North West Federal Constituency of Ondo State, where he served as Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Sports; Member House Committees on Defence, Appropriation, Works, Environment, Rural Development, Inter-parliamentary Affairs and Solid Minerals. As a member of the House of Representatives, he attracted several projects to his Federal Constituency. These includes the following: Neighbourhood Sports Centre Iye road, Arigidi; Sports Stadium at Oyinmo st, Ikare; National Library Ikare; Extension of electrification poles to Ojeka camp road; Odo Irun electrification, Oyimo, Ogunsusi road, Ilepa Ikare; erosion control and school furniture in Ogbagi, Block of classrooms in the following schools, St George’s Pry School, Okeagbe, Salem School, Ekan Ikare, AUD School V Ishakunmi, Ikare, AUD School 2, Iku, Ikare, Local Govt Pry School Ajowa, Ebenezer Pry School Okorun, Ikare; several boreholes in most towns and villages, among many others
Hon. Elegbeleye was a member of the Ondo State Football Association between 1998 and 2000, Chairman Ondo State Table Tennis Association (2004-2007), Vice Chairman Ondo State Sports Development Committee (2005-2009) and Chairman Rising Stars Football Club, Akure from 2004-2007, Proprietor, Ikare United Football Club, Member, NFA Fair-Play Committee, from 2004-2007, President Youths Sports Federation of Nigeria, Ondo State Chapter from 2003-2009. He also served as a member of the Ministerial Committee on the Reform of Football Administration in Nigeria between August and November 2011 and Member, Board of Directors, Abuja Investment Company between 2011 and 2013.
On May 15th 2013, the then President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, found his rich credentials in Sports Administration irresistible and appointed him, the Director General of the National Sports Commission. President Jonathan made the announcement during the Federal Executive Council meeting of May 15th, 2014.
During his stewardship as the Director General of the National Sports Commission, the Commission has experienced a change in fortune as Nigerian athletes, sportsmen and women have been winning international laurels across the globe.
On Friday 8th November 2013 at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria defeated Mexico 3-0 to win the FIFA U- 17 World Cup a record fourth time having won it in 1985, 1993 and 2007 to emerge as the most successful country in the competition up to date.
This was also followed by another laudable achievement in the 2013 Commonwealth weightlifting game tagged Malaysia 2013 where the Nigerian female lifters won the women’s category of the competition with 8 golds, 3 silvers and 3 bronze medals in the competition held in Malaysia in November 2013. This was also followed up with a 3rd placement of the Home based Super Eagles in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) held in South Africa. Nigeria had never qualified for the competition, but the Eagles not only qualified but went as far as winning the bronze medal of the competition after beating hard-fighting Zimbabwe 1-0 in the 3rd place match decided at the Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town on Saturday February 1st, 2014.
He was Head of Delegation, Nigeria U-17 African Youth Games in Botswana, tagged “Gaborone 2014” where Nigeria gathered a massive 41 medals the best outing so far against the record of 10 medals, to emerge overall 3rd best in the Games after winning 19 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze medals.
Still under the leadership and stewardship of Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, also as Head of Delegation, Team Nigeria also finished strong in the Glasgow, Commonwealth Games in Scotland. It was Nigeria’s best outing in the history of the Commonwealth , winning 11 golds, 11 silvers and 14 Bronze medals in the 20th edition of the Games held between July 23 and August 3rd, 2014. Team Nigeria also emerged the best team at the 2014 Marrakech Africa Athletics Championships held in Marrakech, Morocco in August, 2014. The Super Falcons beat all African countries to emerge Champions of Africa Women’s Championship (AWC) held in Namibia in October 2014.
Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye was recently appointed as a Member of the CAF Disciplinary Board. He is a member of IBB Golf Club and a recipient of several awards and honours. These includes, Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Local Govt and Public Administration; Fellow, Chattered Institute of Public Administration; Fellow African Business School; Fellow, Certified Institute of Sales Management; Patron, SWAN, FCT; Patron SWAN, Ondo State; Patron NUJ, Ondo State; Gold Personality Award by Skye Sports; African Film Academy Award for Sports Development; National Youth Council Award for National Development; City People Award for Excellence in Politics; African Leadership Award for Sports Development among several others, Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye is married to Solape, they are blessed with four children
BROWN IDEYE: TRANSFER FLOP OF THE SEASON?
“With barely 10 rounds of games played in the EPL, Ideye is already feeling the heat. And with just 3 league games to his name, he is yet to find the back of the net. His solitary strike came in the league cup game against Hull”
Nothing builds up excitement and expectations of avid followers of the English Premier League to a crescendo, than the transfer window. Consisting of two streams: Pre-season (9 June – 1 September) and Mid-season (1 January – 1 February), the transfer window offers clubs a veritable breather to bolster their ranks and offload players surplus to requirements.
In recent seasons, it has assumed a reputation of springing up surprises and shocks; or rather EPL clubs, luxuriously swathed with the financial clout of record breaking television deal, have been indulging in big budget recruitments of players across the globe.
|Date||Name||Moving from||Moving to||Fee|
|Summer 2014||Brown Ideye||Dynamo Kiev||West Brom Abion||£10 million|
|Summer 2014||James McArthur||Wigan Athletic||Crystal Palace||£7 million|
|Summer 2014||Romelu Lukaku||Chelsea||Everton||£28 million|
|Summer 2014||Abel Hernandez||Palermo||Hull City||£10 million|
|Summer 2014||Leonardo Ulloa||Brighton||Leicester City||£8 million|
|Summer 2014||Angel di Maria||Real Madrid||Manchester United||£59.7 million|
|Summer 2013||Mesut Özil||Real Madrid||Arsenal||£42.5 million|
|Summer 2013||Pablo Osvaldo||Roma||Southampton||£15 million|
|Summer 2013||Wilfried Bony||Vitesse||Swansea City||£12 million|
|Summer 2013||Erik Lamela||Roma||Tottenham||£30 million|
|Summer 2013||Andy Carroll||Liverpool||West Ham United||£15 million|
|Summer 2012||Steven Fletcher||Wolves||Sunderland||£14 million|
|Summer 2011||Sergio Aguero||Atletico Madrid||Manchester City||£38 million|
|Summer 2011||Peter Crouch||Tottenham||Stoke City||£10 million|
|January 2011||Darren Bent||Sunderland||Aston Villa||£24 million|
|January 2011||Fernando Torres||Liverpool||Chelsea||£50 million|
|January 2011||Andy Carroll||Newcastle||Liverpool||£35 million|
The last transfer window (Pre-season) saw the arrival of Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal FC, a move widely acclaimed as a major coup, considering the Chilean returns of 10 EPL goals/assists in as many games for the Gunners.
What perhaps came as the biggest surprise of the 2014 summer window was West Brom’s £10m record signing of Nigerian International Brown Ideye who joined the Baggies from Dynamo Kyiv in a 3year deal, with optional one year extension.
From a player whose international career suffered a critical coma after he was dropped by coach Stephen Keshi from the Super Eagles party to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup 2014, to a player who is currently WBA record signing, Ideye’s story is a classical case of career resuscitation, one the seasoned football analyst, Oma Akatugba would term “the Darman Miracle.”
From the Creeks to the Peak
Ideye started his professional football career in Bayelsa FC, and later switched to sister club Ocean Boys of Brass, where he won the Nigerian Premier League in 2006. Like many Nigerian footballers, he pursued his dreams of European football when he signed with Neuchâtel Xamax (Switzerland) in 2008, notching up 23 goals in 55 appearances during a 3year stay at the club. He had a modest stint with Sochaux-Montbeliard (France) which he joined in 2010, with a haul of 17 goals in 52 matches.
Unarguably, the highlight of his club career till date was his transfer to Dynamo Kyiv in 2011, raking in 33 goals in 74 appearances. It was at the Ukrainian club that scouts of some top European clubs began to pay serious attention to the strong, pacy striker.
As fate would have it, Ideye got his first senior international call from Swedish tactician Lars Lagerback following Mikel’s injury-induced withdrawal from the 23-man Nigerian squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Three years later, he achieved the most significant high point of his career as a member of the Super Eagles team that won the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Darman Miracle
At club level, the Bayelsa born striker was dislodged by Dieumerci Mbokani, thus began his travails and search for a new club.
Following Nigeria’s group stage elimination at the 2013 Confederations Cup, Ideye was heavily criticised by a large section of the fans for his poor and lacklustre performance. It therefore came as no surprise when he was dropped from the 2014 World Cup team.
Though that would have made it extremely difficult for him to secure a dream move to the Premier League, but his agent, Hootan Ahmadi of Collective Sports Management pulled off the surprise deal of the season to secure Ideye’s record move to the Hawthorns, in what could be seen as a new breath of life to his hitherto dying career.
After the Joy comes the Pressure
With barely 10 rounds of games played in the EPL, Ideye is already feeling the heat. And with just 3 league games to his name, he is yet to find the back of the net. His solitary strike came in the league cup game against Hull. That certainly has not helped to ease the pressure from the fans who are desperate to see him justify the huge transfer fee on his head. He is beginning to find himself frozen out of the first team, and there are even rumours making the rounds that WBA coach Alan Irvine is willing to let him leave in the January transfer window.
A stitch in time saves NINE
‘A lot of people are writing on my Instagram and Twitter page saying “you’re s***” or “you’re not worth the money”
‘You can’t criticise me, I’ve not been playing. How can you criticise somebody who has not been playing?
‘I am just unlucky, it was unfortunate I got injured and when I was out the team was doing very well.’
In a series of tweets posted on his wall, Ideye lashed back at his critics, but went further to reaffirm his resolve to put his injury woes behind him to prove his worth on the pitch. Whether that will buy him game time remains to be seen. What he’s yet to appreciate, is that in the English Premier League patience is a luxury that cannot be afforded, and the faster he gets up and running in delivering the much-needed goods like the likes of Diego Costa, Diafra Sahko etc, the better for his bleak-looking career at the Hawthorns. A stitch in time saves NINE.
By Melly Da Epic Pen
You can follow Melly Da Epic Pen on his twitter handle @IMELIKACHIEKENE or send in your comments/messages via [email protected]
Why Nigerian Players Don’t make Big Moves to Europe?
No sooner had the FIFA Brazil World Cup 2014 drawn its curtains than the insatiable eyes of football fans shifted attention to the ins and outs of the summer transfer window of Europe’s ‘Big Five’, comprising Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France, the ultimate destination of every footballer.
Incidentally, the just concluded mundial, which tied France 1998 world cup on most goals scored (171), has provided those markets with the right impetus for transfer business. The 2014 edition of the world cup produced a record 121 scorers, making it unarguably a tournament for attackers. A few of the world’s biggest stars turned up with stellar performances to reaffirm their reputation, while a new generation of youngsters was discovered. This also bodes well for the transfer window, which serve as a veritable platform for players to relaunch their careers, and get bigger challenges.
Countries such as Columbia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, and even Algeria can look up with pride at not only their team’s spirited performance at the mundial, but also the attention and deals being lavishly splashed on their players by top clubs in Europe.
Though the same cannot be said of Nigeria. The Super Eagles with an average age of 25.3 paraded the most youthful side at the 2014 world cup, only behind Ghana. Therefore, the world cup could not have come at a better time for the lads to sell themselves to European suitors. The fact that only eight members of the squad ply their trade in Europe’s Big Five puts the picture in clearer perspective. Not to mention the limited roles almost all squad members play in their respective club.
It is still fresh memory that each outing of the Super Eagles at the world cup was heralded by European clubs chasing for the signature of our players. Take for example in 1994, Emmanuel Emenike moved from Zamalek SC to Sporting Clube de Portugal after a good showing in USA. His team mate, Daniel ‘The Bull’ Amokachi also signed for Everton, thanks to his exploits in the same tournament.
There was a repeat scenario in 1998 when PSG splashed around $24 million on Jay Jay Okocha following his dazzling performance in France ’98 world cup.
The trend continued in 2002 with Joseph Yobo earning a move to Everton after an impressive display in South Korea/Japan, which he capped with an assist to Julius Aghahowa against Sweden.
In a rather bizarre year for Nigeria, the Super Eagles failed to qualify for the 2006 edition that was hosted by Germany. However, the team secured ticket for South Africa 2010 world cup, but the ignominy suffered due to first round elimination perhaps ensured that no member of that ill-fated squad got big suitors.
There is a general consensus amongst football administrators and fans that Nigeria is richly blessed with an abundance of footballing talents. From the swampy marshes of the Niger Delta groove to the street sides of Jos Metropolis, down to the hoods in Lagos, Nigeria possesses an amazing pool of real talents ready for harnessing and utilization.
Then, what is responsible for the paradoxical dearth of top Nigerian players?
A cross-section of stakeholders share the view that the existing structure and modus operandi of football academies in the country (Dare Football Wears, Anfield Lane Sport Promotion, Samuel Jones Jerseys, L And M Football Academy, Scan Soccer Football Academy, Star Football Academy, Peace World Football Academy, Kwara Football Academy, Pepsi Football Academy, etc) are not properly tailored to ‘catch them young’. The problem seems to stem from inadequate funding, with most of them surviving on the generosity of their benefactors, which may not be adequate for their programmes. So what we term ‘football academy’ in Nigeria is no more than a ‘clearing house’ of half-baked footballers, who are only fit for the leagues in Cyprus, India, Israel, Denmark.
There is also the issue of mismanagement of player transition in the national team cadre (U17, U20, U23, Senior Team). Unlike what is obtainable in Spain, Germany and other football developed nations where a successful team at youth level is properly managed along the various grades until graduation into the senior team, Nigeria is yet to successfully achieve that. The closest we got was the glorious ’94 set which had been together since 1988. Coincidentally, Steven Keshi, in the aftermath of the Golden Eaglets triumph at the U17 World Cup 2013, advised the team to focus on making gradual promotion up the hierarchy. In this wise, the Nigeria Football Federation must carry the can for its insensitiveness and lack of attention to the budding careers of our boys. Where are the Rabiu Ibrahims, Macauley Chrisantus’, Lukman Harunas, Yakubu Alfas, Edafe Egbedis, Ramon Azeez’ and the Stanley Okoros? It’s time we started getting answers from the NFF.
Where perhaps has been our greatest undoing in football is in the area of systematic age cheat in FIFA age-grade competitions. Factors attributable to this perennial and nagging issue are, our win-at-all-cost mentality, non-implementation of blue-print for our national team, especially age-grades, amongst others. That today Nigeria is the most successful nation in the history of FIFA U17 competition, yet cannot boast of a single FIFA world cup medal tells the story that cheating pays in the short run but hurts in the long run. As the Poet would write, O dearth, where is thy sting?
By Da Epic Pen
You can follow Da Epic Pen on his twitter handle @IMELIKACHIEKENE; email: [email protected]
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