Cyril C. NwokejiFriday, April 12, 2013




t's with a great deal of dismay that I read of the squabble between the Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi and his captain, Joseph Yobo, over the latter's discontentment vis -a- vis his non-invitation to the Super Eagles, for the match against the Kenyans, last month. Yobo accused Keshi of disrepect by not informing him earlier on of his impending omition from the team. Much as in my considered opinion, Yobo, has a point in complaining about his non- prior notification, before the Kenyan list came out, I believe the underlying problem is more a case of a skipper, who is having difficulties accepting the fact that his days in the Super Eagles, are coming to an end; faster than he envisaged. I am of this conviction considering reports from the press, about his near face-off, with Keshi, in South - Africa, during the Afcon competition; with the concomittant threat by Yobo, to walk-out on the team, if he didn't get a starting role in the next match.

On the one hand, one can understand his frustrations, considering the fact that, having just captained, a team to a hard-earned success, at the Afcon, Yobo would, maximally, want to share in the trappings of that success; among other priviledges, as the playing captain of the new African champions.

On the other hand, however, it would be tantamount to a 'crime, 'against the 'soccer gods,' if in trying to please Yobo, Keshi, stunts the development of two highly talented ,young central defenders - Kenneth Omeruo and Godfrey Oboabona- among other promising central defenders in Keshi's squad, who have the potentials of making it to the top, if given the necessary opportunity. Common sense, demands that the development of these 'rookies,' should take priority, over the continued exposure of a player, who, by soccer standards, is gradually nearing his ' pension' time. For this simple logic, Yobo should accept the situation as it is. Moreover, Keshi, says he still has Yobo, in his plans; and he is still the official skipper of the team. Yobo, can still play his leadership role, from the bench.

Yobo,should not look at himself as being alone in what may seem to him to be an awkward situation. A number of great players, have at one time or the other, in their illustrious careers, been confined to the bench: The present coach of the Super Eagles, was on the bench, when Nigeria won the Nation's cup in Tunisia in 1994; Ruud Van Nistelrooy, one of the most prolific goal getters ever in modern soccer, was at a stage in his career at Man. United, confined to the bench, not withstanding his brilliant start at the club. Didier Drogba, even at the high point of his Chelsea career, was confined to the bench, by coach Luis Felipe Scolari. Presently, the legendary, Spanish goalkeeper, Iker Cassillas, is on the bench at Real Madrid. I can go, on and on, with examples of top players who have been or are currently on the bench in their respective teams. Any coach, worth his salt, will always go for the best legs at any point in time, no matter whose 'ox is gored,' Keshi, cannot be an exception. There should be no sentiments about it!

I also read with dismay, the purported plans by Yobo, to make a documentary, probably, with the aim of releasing it to the public, over the things that went wrong during the camping for the Nation's cup competition, in Faro, Portugal and South-Africa. This would be tantamount to a betrayal of his team by no less a person than one of the team's leaders- the team's captain for that matter! Every soccer camp has it's problems, if you agree to abide by the rules, among other rules -secrecy, why do you turn around to betray your team, simply because things don't turn out favourably for you any more? Another silly mistake, made by Yobo, is to suddenly see the light vis-a-vis the remarks made by Osaze Odenwigie, a few weeks ago; he initially disagreed with Osaze, describing his remarks as childish, now he agrees with him!

In the light of the foregoing, one would advice Yobo, not to make the 'fataal' mistake of doing anything that would ruin his reputation; having represented Nigeria, at senior international level, meritoriously for 12 years, which resulted in his being elevated to team captain. He has the rare honour of being one of only three players to have lifted the Nation's cup, as captain of the Super Eagles. Why would he soil all that reputation simply because of a gradual disengagement from the Super Eagles? In the words of chairman Christian Chukwu" No player, has a permanent place in the Super Eagles." For our beloved Yobo, he should remember the old proverb:" a word is enough for the wise."

The Nigerian press, with all due respect, should not over- sensational ise this small problem. It's no more than a storm in a tea cup; through over-sensationalisation, it could take the dimensions of a real storm. This could be inimical, to our soccer development. I have no doubt in my mind, that we are headed for soccer stardom at the highest levels, and should not allow this small problem derail our plans. As stake holders in the Super Eagles project, we all have a common interest in seeing our Super Eagles, become world-beaters. Sanity is required on all sides please!