– The Sun News

Motivating Eagles, Amiesiemeka’s recipe

As the Super Eagles of Nigeria prepare for the upcoming World Cup in Russia; former Nigerian international and renowned lawyer, Adokiye Amiesiemeka, argues that team motivation goes beyond settling match bonuses. He made his submission many years back at an event organised by the Sportswriters Association of Nigeria in Lagos

His views: ours is a society where problems are identified with amazing accuracy, issues analysed with incisiveness, solutions proffered with profundity, but implementation effected with reluctance-except, of course, where we perceive the possibility of personal prof- its. We are a self-critical society-an attribute which is good in itself, but which we debase as an end in it- self. We probably overflow with knowledge on the whys and hows on practically every issue but do too little for the common good.

The most valuable asset of any enterprise is its Human Resources, and one of the scarce resources of any enterprise is the creative energies of its people. In order to fully utilize this resource, people must be motivated to work. They must be put in a state of readiness for action, their behaviour conditioned and given direction to facilitate vigour and efficiency.

People need to be encouraged to exert their mental and physical energies. To this end, the provision of incentives is desirable and the creation of a conducive atmosphere to focus the mind on the task at hand is essential.

It is not the promise of a match bonus that motivates players to greater heights. In certain circumstances, it could even constitute an undesired distraction and impair concentration. It is not the best thing to let your mind wander in the course of a a football match, for instance, day dreaming about the houses and cars you can buy with a fat bonus. A heavy wallet has its uses no doubt,but every serious player knows hat if his team qualifies for the senior World Cup, he automatically enjoys a greatly enhanced status which he may exploit to advantage.

However, when a player’s services are needed by his country, he would expect to be compensated reasonably for financial losses attendant to his honouring a call. He would expect all the basic training facilities to be available. He would want to know that his country cares for him. These are basic requisites that should not de- pend on the whims and caprices of an individual in authority. They should be institutionalised. When a man realises that a lot has been done for his welfare, that his skill is relevant and appreciated, that he’s not a piece of tool to be used now and discarded later-he feels obliged to reciprocate. At that point, he is well motivated.

The point must be made however, that, no matter how well motivated a man may be, success in any endeavour of a competitive nature cannot be guaranteed. Just as you have been motivated so possibly has the other man, that is, your opponent. At that point, other variables over which you may not have any control come into play; the level of natural ability, for instance, and even that intangible factor called “Mother Luck”. Nevertheless, effective motivation guarantees excellent performance, and undeniably a worthy asset and companion in the quest for victory.

At this juncture, I wish to recall with nostalgia some of the football teams to which I was privileged to belong during my active playing years, and some of the factors that made us tick. Let me start with my Ishaga Boys Club as a growing child in Lagos between 1968 and 1972. Next was the Principal’s Cup Soccer winning C.M.S Grammar School, Bariga, Lagos team of 1975. We were known as Bariga Bombers and I led the team as the Head Boy of the school. Our performance was so remarkable that we won the Cup without conceding a single defeat. That experience convinced me that a conducive working environment coupled with a feeling of selfworth and responsibility, with the realization that you are engaging in an assignment of great importance are effective motivators.

That standpoint was reinforced by similar experiences in the University of Lagos soccer team (1975-1978), Rangers International Football Club of Enugu (1978-1981), and the senior national team-the Green Eagles (1981-1988). Alongside, there was education of how an apathetic management and a passive, uncommitted can ruin a team. This could also be aggravated by the absence of a clearcut management policy on how to run the team and when suggestions from wellmeaning individuals merely ended in trash cans.

To drive home the point more forcefully, the aforementioned successful Rangers of Enugu of the seventies and the Green Eagles of the late seventies should be revisited. Rangers F.C was a product of the civil war in Nigeria. It was a team with a mission; established by our Ibo brothers to represent the Ibo man and everything that he stood for. It was made up almost exclusively of Ibos until I was privileged to join the team in 1978. It had the full backing of every Ibo man, woman and child, and the players were never in any doubt about the responsibility placed on their shoulders.

The management of the team was a classical case of efficiency and commitment. Only the best players were recruited and they were encouraged to grow with the club. The Christian Chukwus, Emmanuel Okalas, Emeka Onyedikas, Alloysius Atuegbus, etc, started with Rangers and retired there. The pay was regular and match bonuses were good. Under such favourable conditions, how could they not have done well?

In the case of the Green Eagles of the period under reference, the story was hardly different. A combination of dedicated and responsive management, competent coaching crew, a carefully selected group of eager talents, supportive and sympathetic spectators, a watchful and objective press all of these have made the Isaac Akioye/Father Tiko /Sunday Dankaro era the golden years of the senior national team. It was a period when every match did not introduce a new set of unfamiliar names and strange faces.

Facilities were available and the team trained and played together over the years and became one big family. A well motivated team indeed. Unfortunately, a new management was set up and with it, things started falling apart. Instead of building on the solid foundation of the successful 1980 team, an undue preference was put on foreign based players who only succeeded in disrupting the established rhythm of play.

It is not only the promise of a match bonus that motivates players to greater heights.

Till next week, keep attacking.

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