OPINION: Nigeria’s Ex Footballers – Divided Brothers In Arms.
By Emmanuel Babayaro
Have you ever been in a place with, or in the midst of Nigeria’s Ex Footballers? Then you will know that the common topic of discussion is always The State Of Nigeria’s Football.
You will hear Us (ex footballers) passionately engaged in frustrated expressions describing the Decay and Underdevelopment that has characterized Our Football today.
The next phase of the discussion will be the More Than Frequently Asked Questions from the Non Football Member (s) of the discussions that goes thus; ‘So What Are you Ex Footballers Doing to change the narrative? Why can’t you Ex Footballers come together, join hands and take over our Football? Why are you Ex Footballers so divided?
These are honest questions from concerned and patriotic football loving Nigerians you might wanna say and as the saying goes, Every Question Deserves an Answer.
Concerned Nigerians over the years have been yearning for answers to these questions.
It is my belief however that the Answer ( in this expression) the people want (or seek) is not the occasional verbal explanations and sourly pained vituperations but a more physically strategic Engagements, a pro active mien and professional camaraderie.
In a Nutshell, beyond Football, our concerned football loving Nigerians want to see Us ( ex footballers) successful.
Their Questions are only Expressed Metaphors of Underlying Hopes, Wishes and prayers.
And the Answers they seek lie in the Actions and or Inactions of a Group so Great in their Accomplishments that a Nation revels in its history. The name of that group is called Nigeria’s Ex Footballers.
The Tragedy of a fact is that this Group (en quote) does not exist as a physical entity.
What exists are Groups ( pockets, factions) of Ex Footballers estranged along some of the most mundane things that even this writer is not proud to hi light.
You hear of Ex Footballers with Ownership Mentalities, who ( as a result of their accomplishments on the field of play) feel Nigeria and Nigerians owe them an infinite debt of gratitude thus the Nation must revolve around them.
These brothers of mine believe albeit erroneously that they are the only experts as far as the Beautiful Game is concerned and therefore must be the Game’s only voice.
There is another Group who believes in Age. They are quick to take offense and feel angered to see or hear a younger Voice of Reasoning. From this Group you hear things like, ‘Dat Small Boy’, Wen We Dey Play,Him Still Dey Suck Him Mama Breast, How Can Dis Small Boy Tell Us What To Do etc etc’.
There is even another Group I prefer to call The Self Isolation Group.
This is a group of my brothers who are under the illusions that they are doing well and therefore could care less about the plight of the rest. They mostly detest the collective name tag of Ex Footballers and would always allude themselves to the belief of being superior.
Some members of the Group as a result of their alliance ( by appointments and or association) with the Football Administrative Leadership even view some of their brothers as Nuisance. SAD.
There are still yet others, The Supposed Academias ( na we know book pass Group), et al.
These are the reasons why we ( Ex Footballers) have Failed to Answer the Questions posed by Nigerians.
But do We really have the Answers? I will say an Emphatic YES. Can We Provide Them (the answers)? Yes We Can, Already have, Still Is.
I came across this beautiful piece of Nigeria’s History I read Where, one of our great Founding Fathers. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe said to Sir Tafawa Balewa ( another of our Founding Fathers), ‘ Let us forget our differences and move forward ‘. To which the later ( Sir Tafawa Balewa) replied and said ‘No, Let Us Understand Our Differences instead ‘.
The key word here is Understanding Our Differences.
By creation we are already different, Each his own talent, the holy book says. Just like the playing days, The Jay Jays with the skills, the Rashidi Yekinis and the Aiyegbenis can’t stop themselves from scoring, The Christian Chukwus and Stephen Keshis born Leaders while in the safe hands of the Emmanuel Okalas and Peter Rufais a Nation hopes. Give Ikpeba the ball at the left wing and pray he dribbles into the field then surely you have your goal. From the most impossible situations , the great Kanu Nwankwo will create magic.
The Truth my Brethren is, Our greatness lies in the understanding of Our differences .
Even today, some of Us are Professionals in various disciplines , some out spoken, some articulate, coaches, managers, agents, politicians. ambassadors etc that logic still applies.
The idea that Ex Footballers are Divided is in itself Divisive in nature, so also is the idea that we hate each other.
Envy, yes maybe but absolutely not Hate.
Try getting yourself ready to give everything for your country’s victory and prelude to match day, all you see in the news is, Da Bull vs Yeking ( instead of Yekini vs Ronaldo ), Oruma vs Jay Jay, Rufai vs Okala?
Are you still wondering why some of us still has that complex of Envy and Competition spilled over into the post Football life?
During this Covid lockdown my eyes and ears were filled with headlines that pitched brothers against each other, A or B who is the greatest, Richest Nigerian players, 5 Poorest Nigeria’s Ex Footballers etc Pervasive Readings they made. But like the proverbial, What Doesn’t Break You, Makes You, Nigeria’s Ex Footballers dey Kamkpe.
At this point in time of our great Nation’s history all we ( Ex Footballers) need is UBUNTU.
Yes UBUNTU, that beautiful South African word with the most beautiful translations; ‘ I am because you are ‘, ‘One For All, All For One ‘, ‘My Success, Your Success ‘ etc.
All we need at this point in time is that psychological and mental understanding and support for each other at individual levels ( aspirations, goals) and collectively as a family ( Agenda, Stakeholders forum).
Just as it is on the football pitch, we must protect each other as a measure of protecting ourselves. Yes just as it is on the football pitch, one man scores the goal but the victory belongs to the team. Ubuntu must be our policy.
Don’t get me wrong, just like the playing days also we must not fail to scold that team mate (s) not playing well neither should we fail to speak the truth. We must Aspire to Inspire.
The Military have successfully ruled ( probably still ruling) our country as a result of their Espirit de corp code, maybe we should call ours Espirit de ballon.
Thank God I see the number of Ex Footballers WhatsApp groups growing (that of our active younger players should too), sign of a good omen .
This Epistle will not be complete if I do not cease the moment and say thank you to the Ex Footballers who , in my opinion have , and still are, making all the difference; Emmanuel Okala, Segun Odegbami, Austin Eguavoen,Samson Siasia, Kanu Nwankwo, Peter Rufai, Harrison Jalla, Victor Ikpeba, Edema Fuludu,
Tajudeen Disu, Benedict Akwuegbu, Austin Popo, Emeka Ezeugo, Taribo West, Garba Lawal, Emmanuel Amunike,Emmanuel Okocha and more for being great role models and stabilizing factors.
Before I sign out, I have only one word for my brothers ( Ex Footballers), U.B.U.N.T.U. Live Free.