EARLY this week, President Muhammadu Buhari set target for the country’s Senior national football team, the Super Eagles, as they prepare to face the rest of the world in the Russia 2018 FIFA World cup finals.
PRESIDENT Buhari during a meeting with the Minister for Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung told the minister to do everything possible to ensure that Nigeria does not go to Russia as a mere specter but as a strong contender for the ultimate football glory.
made it clear during the meeting that performing well during the world cup finals in Russia would ensure that the country sustains the tempo of successes recorded in the sports sector in 2017.
EVEN though the minister did not disclose the minimum stage the President demanded from the team, he said that President Buhari encouraged him to retain the tempo of successes recorded in sports in 2017, especially the world cup finals in Russia.
DALUNG had told sports writers that the President challenged him to make sure that the Super Eagles surpass the world cup records of their predecessors in Russia. He explained that he told the President that part of the strategies put in place by his ministry to achieve success in Russia was to ensure that by March, all the match, training and allowances are paid up front to the players while their bonuses would be paid in terms of their progression according to performance at the Mundial.
SPEAKING further on the preparations of the team towards the task of giving Nigeria and Africa good representation in Russia, the minister said, “for the world cup, I think we have lined up so many friendlies to play with countries participating in the world cup and top ranking countries that did not make it to Russia, so as to strengthen our team”.
GOOD as the plans sounded, it must be noted that doing well at a competition like the world cup that involves the best teams in the world goes beyond lining up top friendly matches, other technical, administrative and psychological preparations are involved. Fair enough, the minister and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) realised the importance of early and prompt payment of players allowances and bonuses.
IN THE past, Nigeria had her smooth sailing in some previous editions of the world cup destroyed because of issues partaining to payment of allowances and bonuses. It is our belief that the planned up-front payments of the players’ entitlements would serve as a strong morale booster and motivation. It would also bring with it unity and atmosphere devoid of rancour, internal wranglings and bickering. And by so doing, Nigeria would follow some great footballing nations of the world that are doing so.
FOR instance, the German Football Federation has lined up some improved incentives for their players to retain the world cup trophy which they won in Brazil four years ago. Not only that they plan to pay the allowances and bonuses of the players up-front, they also opted for the payment of winning bonuses in terms of their progression according to performance during the world cup just like Nigeria.
IN THE area of technicalities, the Super Eagles bench led by Gernot Rohr has shown that they have the know-how to lead the team to the expected heights. To encourage them to do well, the technical crew must be given absolute free hand to select the 23 players that would make the team. In the same vein, they must also be allowed to choose their players for every match during the competition and no federal character formular should be allowed.
IN THE important area of psychology, most of the players are playing at the world cup level, which is the biggest stage in football for the first time, they need good psychologists to prepare them to be equal for the task ahead.
NIGERIA is in a tough group, the group comprising great footballing nations in the world like Argentina, Croatia and Iceland has been variously described as group of death by soccer analysts and pundits. Nigeria has a young and talented team no doubt, the other teams also have their fair shares of talented footballers. The factors that would make the different are adequate preparations, unity, self confidence among the players, motivation etc.
WE BELEIVE that the victory of the Nigerians over one of their group opponents and second placed team in the last edition in Brazil, Argentina, should serve as a morale booster during the competition. Although the victory came during a friendly, the watchword, should be, if we beat them during a friendly match we can also beat during the world cup.
WE ADVISE at this juncture that the Super Eagles and their handlers must avoid the temptation of focusing all their attentions on Argentina and ignore Croatia and Iceland that can cause them heartaches if neglected.
THE players and their handlers must also not forget that victories over Croatia and Iceland would give them qualification before the match against Argentina which would have little or no effect on their qualification from the group stage, win or lose.