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Behold the typical Nigerian football activist!

It is either the team he supports or is emotionally attached to wins a match of significance, with all decisions going in its favour, or else it is ojoro (officiating robbery)! To the typical all-knowing analyst (including, unfortunately, a good number of analysts and commentators on radio and television), the most convincing way to prove you are a sound and acceptable one is to swagger about (or get behind the microphone) and begin to castigate referees. This is even when the thrust of his argument betrays nauseating ignorance of the laws of the game. Ask him what Law Number One is all about and he responds, in self-glorifying sarcasm, with the taunting question : “what do you know about football?” If the decision was in favour of the team after his heart, then it should be a penalty because "there was contact." If same was against his team, then it should never have been a penalty because "football is a game of contact." What matter are the laws as they conform to his sentimental disposition. In fact, Law Number One is all about ojoro! Thus whenever the outcome of an event does not tally with the narrow-minded expectation of the analyst/commentator with populist proclivity, even in high places, he resorts to propounding some curious, funny-sounding conspiracy theories. It is either one Issa Hayatou wanted his country to win a competition in which it was no participant or another Sepp Blatter was having a business relationship with a club manager‟s daughter. If not, then it would certainly be because there were more Francophone nations in Anglophone countries! Such alleged “mau mau movements,” according to Nigeria‟s untiring ojoro drum beaters, was the only reason under the sun why Cote D‟Ivoire‟s Yaya Toure would be adjudged African Footballer of the Year 2013 (an individual award) ahead of Nigeria‟s John Obi Mikel. At least, the Nigerian “won” both the AFCON and Europa League titles in the year in question. But the one who does it with his head rather than his heart is aware the best student in a general examination does not necessarily come from the school with the best overall result. The fastest individual athlete in a relay race field does not necessarily belong to the winning quartet. This was proved at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where Uruguayan Diego Forlan was adjudged the Most Valuable Player despite his country‟s empty -handed return to Montevideo. Forlan‟s visionary creativity, intimidating mobility and aweinspiring ubiquity, at all times registering his authoritative presence and influence all over the pitch, were unrivalled by any other player in that competition, including those from the medal-winning sides. His individual contribution in taking his team to the semifinal was simply class act that ought to be patented. The team silverwares – gold, silver and bronze – belonged to Spain, The Netherlands and Germany, but the individual award clearly belonged to medal-less Forlan. When Nigeria‟s Rashidi Yekini won the African Footballer of the Year 1993, he had only been playing, for most part, in the Portuguese league‟s second division with Vitoria Setubal That same year, Ghana‟s Abedi Pele was a key figure in the Olympic Marseilles‟ team that won the European Champions‟ League. When the award was announced, Abedi was among the first to announce that the Nigerian's award was

deserved. It was all about the solidity, the decisiveness, the worth and the impact of his individual contribution on the overall football played by his teams, how virtually indispensable he was in the set-ups. From 1993 to 1999, there were seven „African Footballer of the Year‟ awards. Nigerian players alone (out of 53 African nations) went home with a whopping five! It is worthy of note that Nigerian footballers were simply at their authoritative best in those glorious years. Yekini, Emmanuel Amuneke and Victor Ikpeba (“The Prince of Monaco”) were playing the best football of their lives while King Nwankwo Kanu was virtually a spirit, as Lionel Messi has been described. Even one who was never crowned, Finidi George, in Ajax Amsterdam, was at a time acknowledged, in many quarters, as the best right winger in the world. No wonder in the 1994 edition won by Amuneke, six Nigerian players, including Yekini, Finidi, Amokachie, Okocha and Oliseh, in that order, were in the Top 10. What were the prevailing circumstances when all these happened? Was the numerical balance of scale skewed in favour of the Anglophone nations? Were the Hayatous and Blatters of this world not yet born? Was the sagacity of Nigerian strategists in “the politics of the game,” as usually rhymed by the ubiquitous ojoro analysts, so overbearing? Reports even had it, over the Mikel issue, that a very important agent found it self-fulfilling to ask Segun Odegbami, one of Nigeria‟s precious real-time intellectual giants in sports, what he knew about “modern football.” So, if the “scientific” and “mathematical” Odegbami played archaic football in his days and, with all his intellect, knows nothing beyond it, what “modern football” did Mikel play beyond Toure in 2013? The 2013 AFCON and Europa League titles were won by the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Chelsea FC of England respectively, and not by Mikel. He was only a member of both winning sides and that fact would not, all by itself, qualify him for an individual award. That is the real ojoro! At the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) just rounded off in South Africa, Nigeria‟s Ejike Uzoenyi, though his team could only conjure a bronze medal at the end, was unquestionably adjudged the Most Valuable Player. Yaya Toure won the 2013 African Footballer of the Year award, not because Francophone countries outsmarted Anglophone nations in “the politics of the game” but because he was simply class ahead of Mikel. And that does not look like it is about to change. Ninety nine per cent of the chances are that the Nigerian has climaxed, individually. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts advise that when you get a new battery for any digital device, ensure you charge it to the fullest first before putting it to use. If you charge halfway and start to discharge, according to them, the censor takes note and assumes that as the level to which it is permitted to charge and may never charge beyond that level again. That looks like the story of Mikel who, as he was coming into limelight with his immense talents and potentials, was given up to be consumed even before he had been

produced. Jose Mourinho, Chelsea and managers and clubs like them are consumers whose culture and philosophy are all about throwing money around. Kanu came out of the age-grade level and took his great talents first to a producer club to be nurtured into the peak of his potentials and that was why there was the Kanu that we had. Imagine Mikel, as a budding talent after the 2005 Junior World Cup, in a producer set-up like Arsene Wenger‟s Arsenal, somebody would today be breathing down the necks of the Messis and Ronaldos of our time. 2013 Under-17 World Championship Golden Ball winner, Kelechi Iheanacho, is now being taken through this same clumsy path. Several players rated ten to twenty places behind him at the tournament are being offered to be produced before being consumed. And when, in years to come, one such player is adjudged an award winner ahead of him, we will go to town again with contemptible theories that do nothing but portray us as mean men of little minds, perhaps with his father pouring acidic venom on one poor Hayatou. In the meantime, if this media house fails to publish this piece, you can announce it on Mount Everest: the Francophone caucus in the Editorial Board must have played a fast one on the outnumbered Anglophone editors, having been held by the jugular by the President of The Guild. And what do they know about “modern writing”? Ojoro buruku! Editorial robbery extra-ordinary!