With due apology to Charles Dickens, the author of the famous novel, “A tale of two cities”, a combination of my last week’s write-up and that of this week can aptly be titled “A tale of two elephants’. Last week an elephant was highlighted.
We are back with the tale of the elephants. This time, it is not about the one reported before. Our focus is on different species. The elephants that have ventured successfully where the others have failed. The elephants that have been victorious where more than 15 others including flying antelopes, stars, insurers among others had failed for decades.
What a great comeback it was as the great elephants came back after having to pick the ball from their net on five occasions (three in regulation time and two in the opening session of the penalty shootout).
It was almost in the fashion, missing two of their first three penalty kicks, that the Super Eagles came back against Tunisia to win 6-5 in the quarterfinals of the 2006 Africa Cup of Nation in Port Said.
This is a tribute to the heroism of the Nigerian people’s elephants. The ones who have decided to contribute not just to our social wellbeing and revival of hopes in our domestic football, but also bringing the scarce US dollars into our ailing economy.
Thank you, the Enyimba of Aba, the People’s Elephants of Nigeria. At the moment, their crossing into the relatively lucrative CAF Champions League has ensured at least $400,000. If they remain focussed the stake gets higher for them.
Should they finish third in which ever group of four they fall into in next month’s draws, they get additional $100,000 to take their haul to $500,000. But that should not be their limit. Should the Nigerian People’s Elephant top their group or even place runners-up, they move to the semi finals and are assured a total of $700,000.
Should they be contended with that? Certainly, no! To the final they must go. The final matches assure them of $1 million. A win takes their total package to $1.5 million in an era of scarcity of dollars! In addition, they get a berth to the FIFA Club World Cup, a tournament contested between the champion clubs from all six continental confederations.
A win of the CAF Champions League is the best advertisement our domestic league can get. That will certainly atoned for the premature elimination of the tree other clubs in the continental competitions and may assure we still get four representatives in 2017.
But it won’t be bed of roses. The way to the ultimate is not paved with gold. Rather, there are landmines. All, but one of the remaining adversaries are former champions. Only Zambia’s Zesco has never won the championship before.
A power pack may therefore be the apt word for the last eight clubs standing. In fact, the trophy has possibly paled in importance in Egypt where giants, Al Ahly and Zamalek are still in contention.
In between them, they have won 13 times to reinforce the North African dominance of the championship. This fact is further confirmed with the presence of Tunisia’s Entente Setif – two times champions – and Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca, the 1992 champions.
With four North African clubs in the race, the probably of Enyimba drawing two if not three is very high. It is better they prepare for that worst case scenario. No doubt, more than any other region, the North Africans understand the chemistry of winning the championship.
Whatever the situation, the Nigerian People’s Elephants will have encounters with these North Africans even in the unlikely situation of not falling in the same group with them. There will be encounters in the semi finals and also in the final if we progress to that point.
The North Africans are not the only threat. The fear of the unknown is also a potential threat. Zesco may have not been among the big clubs in the continent, there is always a first time a hitherto unknown club breaks into prominence. Enyimba was a vivid example with the 2003 feat.
Of course, no sane football follower will dismiss Asec Mimosa of Cote d’Ivoire or even the Vita Club of DR Congo which in its march to success in the then African Club of Champion Clubs, in 1973 walked over Nigeria’s Mighty Jet in Round 2.
“The return of the elephant!”
FIFA, rules concerning the running football, need to be reviewed, in order to allow he who pay the piper to dictate the tune. If the government was given the right to intervene anytime there is crisis in NFF, one individual, can’t just wake up, and begin to do things selfishly that will cause us FIFA ban. The laws are meant for countries with mature minds, not Nigeria.
– Lezin, Samuel E. (08147975852)
The threat by FIFA to banish Nigeria to local football activities only, is a serious one. But my concern is the unfortunate position of a section of the NFF on the festival of shame now going on in the ‘stone’ house. Or else, how can a so called ‘football administrator’ come out to tell us that FIFA’s threat was not real. Me think it is high time we told the gladiators that we will not accept from any anyone any action that will lead to the return of the elephant! Even if one is the best in any sphere of life, one still needs to be decent in his quest to serve.
– Cliff Kalu Obia, Ohafia. (08036545519)