Murky Practices in our Football: Let Keshi Sleep

By Ogunaike Samuel
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The footballing world is a couple of days away to marking another memorable, historic, epic and tearful remembrance of an African great, both as a footballer and as a national head coach. I, indeed, feel speechless and awestruck to learn about the bribery allegation that bothers on his moral stand. At first, my discomfort was hinged on the ground of his defence. Who would defend the legendary football hero - at a time - that he has just been summoned from his eternal sleep to answer for his role in a supposed bribery scandal? Would his life record rise to the occasion? The big boss, as fondly called, may have to rely, among many others, on his encounter with Emmanuel Emenike, a former super Eagles' striker who had recounted how the big boss rejected his generous financial gift knowing full well that he - Emenike had extended the good gestures to him from his Guinness endorsement deal. While this scenario may not be considered perfectly substantial, however, it does demonstrate the strength of character of Steven Keshi in pre-empting himself from being bought over or have his favour curried. We know, for certain, that some officials of the NFF and national coaches operate a pay - to - play scheme in selecting players for national assignments. Steven Keshi might not, at least, in the estimation of the Bible, have been a perfect man, considering the fact that Jesus rebuked one of his disciples for calling him a good man - no man is good, except God alone.

As a young child, back then in the '90s, I grew up believing that death marks the end of everything. Similarly, that, the sleep of the dead is not truncated. However, it appears, that Keshi's soul has just been served a summons. In my view, the whole scenario reveals to the footballing world and the fans of the Super Eagles that there is the bad side or the ugly side of the sport they love. According to a report in the Telegraph, it will be difficult to find someone who has worked with FIFA, UEFA, or other football associations that has not done something wrong in the last 20 years. For Bill Coffin, the editor of the Compliance Week, there seems to be ethics and compliance failures in sports. Lastly, Nazaire Diabinda aptly mentioned that wiping out football corruption is impossible.

In Nigeria, questionable practices and malfeasance exist in our football. Some of them include pressure mounting on the head coach to select a particular player, who perhaps is loyal to one of the top-notch officials or has had the palm of the official greased, after all, the majority of Nigerians will collapse their integrity when tempted with the forbidden fruit. In some instances, tickets are scalped, matches are fixed, and sometimes, parochial behaviour highlights our football. It is sad to tell the story of an unlucky Salisu Yusuf, a former Super Eagles coach, who was fined $5000, having being found guilty of receiving a $1000 bribe from an investigative journalist, who had posed as a representative of the Tiger Eye Agency to influence the selection of two players. This, to say the least, points to the conclusion that our football industry is not free of corruption.

Admittedly, behind the scenes of our football lie many dastard practices, nonetheless, football corruption is a disease of the world. FIFA, on many occasions, has shown itself as been mired in murky waters, so, what should we expect from other football associations, leagues and professionals that look up to it. To cite some cases of foreign roots, in 2006, a probe into corruption in Vietnamese football discovered that more than 150 games played over a period of 20 years, might have been fixed. Tommy Wright, Barnsley Football Club's ex- assistant head coach was sentenced to 12 months and suspended for a year, having been found guilty of bribery.

At this point, however, it is perfectly imperative to note that while Keshi might not have been a total saint, the accusers may not be said to have vomited their possible pains to principally malign the Big boss, after all, even if Keshi were guilty, how do you seek a redress? Would the soul of the dead be jailed or be handed down to the gate of hell? Would this, then, imply that moral collapse in our football is agreeable? Far from it - that the shady practice is universal - does not make it right, however, let him who is without sin, be the first to cast the stone. Stephen Keshi, though, not an absolute saint or a completely impeccable coach, has made us proud. This, we shall not substract or wash away from our delicate history. The Big boss did accomplish a towering feat in less than two years, what had taken the great Westerhoff about five years to achieve. In recognition of his footballing heroism, the Asaba Township Stadium was renamed after him. To let the Big boss sleep, and sleep in peace is what we owe him as we set to mark his quatrain demise. May the souls of our football lords peacefully repose!

Samuel Ogunnaike, wrote from Lagos.

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