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Eagles Super in Atlanta!

Although a friendly match, this was a friendly game with a difference, as the pedigree of both teams was never in question and the fact…

Although a friendly match, this was a friendly game with a difference, as the pedigree of both teams was never in question and the fact that all three previous matches between the two countries at senior level have ended in stalemate – except a 1995 King Fahd Cup match that had to be settled and which Mexico won on penalties.
The enthusiasm of the new players in camp (Michael Uchebo, Ramon Azeez and Imoh Ezekiel) was as important as the confidence and stability provided by the old guard. At the team’s training sessions before the match (on Monday and Tuesday), the new boys showed excellent spirit and did not disappoint on match day.
While in truth, one desired one or two goals considering the way we approached the match (with every seriousness and energy), the 0-0 was not a bad result if you consider the quality of Mexico and the team’s accomplishments over the years.
As the game wore on, it became apparent that the Nigerian officials and fans were not the only ones impressed with the strength and savvy of the African champions. Sitting down in the Nigeria suite with a couple of Board Members of NFF and Management, and a surprise guest in Professor Adebayo Williams and some ex-international players, I was shocked to see the President of CONCACAF, Mr, Jeffrey Webb arrive to have a chat with my humble self.
Webb is a very powerful figure in world football, and I remember that a couple of months ago, FIFA President Sepp Blatter had suggested, during a visit to the Caribbeans, that Webb would succeed him as FIFA President. Although the man from Cayman Islands denied any interest in the job, the message had already been passed that he was among the annointed.
Webb came with very kind words after watching the first half and being wowed by the performance of our African champions. He said he had no doubt that the Super Eagles would dazzle at the World Cup in Brazil and wanted to know the team’s final preparations for the competition.
After learning of the proposed games against Scotland, Greece and USA, he was much more impressed and expressed admiration for our plans and programme.
Taking a look at the Group F in which the Super Eagles would play, Webb insisted that the order of games, as well as the opposition, was favourable.
“I really believe you have a good team capable of doing very well at the World Cup. You play Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Argentina. I know you are old customers with the Argentines, but I think you can take your chances against Iran, then Bosnia-Herzegovina and by the time you meet Argentina, it may not matter much what the result is.
“I was in South Africa when your boys won the Africa Cup of Nations last year and the team has even improved, from what I can see. Your final preparations and the confidence that the boys are able to muster in Brazil will determine a lot in what you do at the finals.”
Mr. Webb’s words opened a window of how the world of football perceives the Super Eagles and what our country can do at the World Cup finals in Brazil. I gave the message to the players and coaches and they were quite happy that someone that high up in the world’s game has so much confidence in their ability.
My heartfelt appreciation to the Consul-Generals of Nigeria in USA (Ambassador Geoffrey Tenelaibe, in Atlanta and Ambassador Habib  Habu, in New York) who also made it to the match and were delighted with the Super Eagles’ showing. The FIFA ranking says we are 47th and Mexico is 19th, but we could as well have won the game if we took our chances with the likes of Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike, Ahmed Musa and Obinna Nsofor getting shots on goal.
At the end, the 0-0 was a fair result and the Nigeria Football Federation is impressed with the team’s general play, discipline, dedication and sure-footedness as we look forward to the month of May when the real final preparations will begin.
New players such as Michael Uchebo and Imoh Ezekiel were enthusiastic and full of energy, and Ramon Azeez, a former captain of the U-20 team, was not overawed either.
My colleagues kept hoping that Obinna Nsofor would get an opportunity to unleash a powerful shot at goal and give us victory, but he could not get that opportunity and both teams had to settle for share of the spoils.
LMC And New Heights For Our League (1)
As the Professional Football League season 2013/2014 gets underway this week, I hereby call on the entire Nigeria football fraternity to give full backing to the efforts being made by the League Management Company to turn around the fortunes of the domestic elite League for the better.
I have read several comments about the new measures put in place by the LMC (which some wrongly see as ‘barrier’), but the truth is these measures are imperative if we want to really grow and get to the top where our game belongs.
The sign-on fees regime (which LMC has prohibited) was an atrocious and deceptive practice in which players would be promised heaven and earth but would end up with very little. Some clubs would, at the end of the day, refuse to pay the sign-on fees, despite the media blitz that usually follows the announcement.
A labourer deserves his wages, and the more realistic minimum salary of N150,000 and the bond being demanded by the LMC are all steps in the right direction.
More on this next week…
Next Week: LMC And New Heights For Our League (2)

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