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THE PARADIGM SHIFT IN WORLD SOCCER HAS BEGUN – NOW THAT ENGLAND IS OUT!

PHOTO: REFEREE FAILS TO AWARD ENGLAND A CLEAR GOAL AGAINST GERMANY WHICH MAY HAVE KEPT THEM ALIVE IN THE GAME AND THE WORLD CUP..
PHOTO: REFEREE FAILS TO AWARD ENGLAND A CLEAR GOAL AGAINST GERMANY WHICH MAY HAVE KEPT THEM ALIVE IN THE GAME AND THE WORLD CUP..


Remember how much fun the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup was because Nigeria and England weren't in it? Well, now you can recreate that feeling by enjoying the remaining WC matches. Strange that Nigeria and England is mentioned in the same breadth - either one has sunk so low or the other has matched the height of incompetence of the other.

Germany’s coach - Joachim Low Low said before the England v. Germany match that it was "youthful lightness versus international experience". It was apparent which won early on. Germany were simply faster in thought and deed.

This world cup has helped to celebrate youth blended with experience in the right positions (something Cameroun did not get right in their first game) and also rewarded those who work as a TEAM not the growing galaxy of STARS selling image rights and sponsorship deals. Football is trying to reclaim its lost soul again and Lionel MESSI best typifies this new face of soccer (something Christiano Ronaldo actually finds difficult to fully comprehend as he most certainly set to have a below par world cup). This world cup has shown that if any nation  desires to win a big title like the World Cup, the most important thing is to have and be a team, to work for the team and to fight for each other – not attention and headline grabbing performances from individual stars. The team must be the star performer.

England's false sense of superiority and lack of flexibility, often reflected on and off the pitch is an age old arrogance-inspired attribute that continually limits it from success. The football played suited an era long forgotten, at least in world soccer. The game has moved on from the run-run-run mentality of the EPL as evident at this world cup. Players are now more tactically aware to complement their creative, technical and physical attributes. Today, a decent footballer is required to know his position and role on the filed; as well as where other people's positions are and what has to happen.

You often hear the English commentators go on about how the players were not performing at the level they do for their clubs in the EPL. Well, the EPL is not comprised of all English players and they are able to shine because of the skill sets of the foreigners in their teams (the quality ones that is). These English players are over-hyped, over-paid and constantly provided with a false sense of superiority by the tabloid newspapers and Sky; who provide them the false sense of belief that because they are from the EPL, they are therefore the best players and team in the world. We now know better. The top 4 teams in the EPL – who have featured in the championship leagues consistently in the last 4 years – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United have never fielded consistently up to 5 players per game at the same time. Chelsea ranks first while Arsenal, unapologetically takes the rear.

The lesson here is that while the EPL has been a success from a marketing standpoint, the money the EPL teams have made has not translated into sustainable success in producing quality footballers playing modern football. Yet this presents a contradiction /challenge as these clubs operate as profit oriented enterprises - and have huge debts which alters perspectives and realities. They are compelled to buy the best (not necessarily English) to ensure their success.

This is why Nigeria represents a paradox - for we have neither the modern stadiums and big corporations backing our football teams nor do we sell season tickets or get a huge television, print and online media rights. Our top players in the national (lets stop calling it the ‘local’) league do not enjoy endorsement deals yet we have rich pool of raw talent – albeit, old with a few quality years left to give - so that by the time they get into a good team, age has caught up with them.

President Goodluck Jonathan said that a lack of commitment on the part of the players caused our early exit. The president is obviously patriotic yet economical with the truth – what happened had much more to do with administration of football as it has to do with aged players who could not match the requirements of success – commitment just happens to be one of them. Since the president is this interested, but knowing how busy he is, would spare him the long treatise about the decline of our national football pedigree – yet he might simply ask the minister of sports to explain why the National Stadium in Surulere is mostly used as a parking lot for private cars. The Abuja stadium on the other hand is simply locked away but should be useful for the golden jubilee friendly match being proposed to cost N550 million.

The Football Federation has been bashed and battered as inefficient and self centered – an association without an integrated plan to take us from scratch to somewhere. Yes, anywhere but this suspended space of emptiness that we now occupy in regional and international football. If outcomes serve as a measure of efficiency, then I agree with those pushing this argument with a proviso that I might add one of mine – if the comedy that occurred with the pre-games plan and logistics is a yard stick, then we have no business talking about a Federation in the first place. I would like to know why it had to take a Minister of the FederalRepublic to personally take charge of accommodation and travel arrangements. Frankly, we appear stuck in the eighties and should be learning our ropes in the minor leagues. Face it, the glory years are gone and if anything - the state of Nigerian Football apes the state of its social, economic and political landscape – full of potential and never materialising.

Football in a sense mirrors corporate culture. This African world cup has done much more than help us relieve stress and provide a distraction to the G20 (photo ops) meeting - how Obama would rue the love he showed Ghana early on as the exit of the team put paid to the growing shift of attention from the sad consequences or non-impact of the stimulus. Dynasties have fallen, empires are in ruins and a new order threatens as the South Americans continue to match on.

The boring and less tactically skilled teams are almost out and the key teams include the comical French, arrogant English, Italian late starters, out-of-sorts Cameroun, goal-shy Algerians, clueless Nigerians, and under-achieving Ivorians.

For some of these teams - the weather, playing turf, empty seats, fan support, fatigue from playing too many season games, the JABULANI ball (did anyone notice the skill and mastery of the ball by the Japanese with the free kicks!) and yes, the referees will forever be a good excuse for failures.....lest I forgot, the VUVUZELAS can now be included in the list of reasons (or excuse) to use when teams fail ; unless of course you are the French who, without provocation or bee-like sounds from the vuvuzelas, self-implodes.

Has anyone noticed that the surviving teams do not use the traditional 4-4-2 system? And for good measure, most of the goals have come from penetrating right through the middle of the defense. Attacking teams have once again risen to the top and the feel-good aspect of the game is once again in the air. There may yet be a few surprises down the road, yet it is worthwhile to acknowledge the consistency shown by the flagship teams of the world cup – Brazil, Argentina and Germany (Italy ironically went home early) – there must be something about their system of management worth emulating.

This is turning out to be a great world cup and allows us respite from the economic hardships we all face world wide. We need it as a stress relieving escape from reality.... Africa will for a long time be remembered for hosting the world cup that changed football. The disallowed goal by England against Germany and the offside goal scored by Argentina against Mexico should provide the trigger for the review of the stance on technology in football. Those moments showed the other side of football – one that encourages cheating in sports. This is one area that annoys fans and ridicules the beautiful game.

Ke Nako! It's Time!!

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