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This weekend, the first leg of the final-round matches for the five tickets allocated to Africa for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be played in five different countries. Nigeria's Super Eagles will be the guests of the Wayla Antelopes of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. The winner of the two-legged match will pick one of Africa's tickets to the Mundial.
The posturing of the helmsmen of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) towards the Super Eagles' preparation for this all-important match leaves much to be desired. The Super Eagles have had a chequered history in their earlier qualifications for the world showpiece in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010 editions. Only direct government intervention saved the day.
The presidency, through the sports ministry, should therefore take a cue from the past. It is not late for the federal government to set up a task force for the Super Eagles' qualification for Brazil 2014.
For one, the issue of how much estacode the players are entitled to is still an unresolved issue, in spite of the Olusegun Adeniyi-chaired committee report that recommended the payment of US$5, 000 to every player for every win. The players are not favourably disposed to accepting this recommendation. The time is quite inauspicious for this disagreement. The Windhoek embarrassment must not repeat itself.
The NFF must ensure that a perfect travelling arrangement is put in place, which should include the type of aircraft that will airlift the team to Addis Ababa, hotel reservations, return tickets for the foreign-based players and other sundry needs. Since it is not possible for the team to be in Addis Ababa for long to acclimatize because of the high altitude, NFF should explore the option of arriving in Ethiopia within 48 hours to the match.
Again, it should be realised that football is now a veritable tool in international politics. Nigeria must not fail to take full advantage of this. The goodwill and diplomatic mileage our qualification for the 2014 fiesta will bring to the country cannot be quantified. This is besides the fund the world football governing body, FIFA, gives to all the federations that qualify. The all-indigenous technical crew led by head coach Stephen Keshi needs the support of all Nigerians. By the results they have achieved so far, the technical crew is at the threshold of making history. Only in January this year, they guided the team to win the Africa Nations Cup in South Africa after 19 years.
With the successes Nigeria has achieved in global football, it should be a given that the country's flag will be hoisted in Brazil. However, the Wayla Antelopes should not for any reason be underrated, as the difference between football teams are now marginal.