Babagana Kalli: Russia 2018: Super Eagles will handle Nigerians’ expectations
IV A member of the NFF Executive Committee and chairman of Borno State Football Association, Alhaji Babagana Kalli has assured that the Super Eagles will live up to the expectations of Nigerian fans at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He spoke to SHOT! on wh
First and foremost, glory be to almighty Allah. I think we started our preparations long ago and if you look at the crop of players we have in the present Super Eagles, they are young and hungry for glory. I strongly believe everything humanly possible is being done by the present leadership of the NFF to ensure that the Eagles prepare very well and achieve success in Russia. It will interest Nigerians to know that in order to avoid problems of the past, the Executive Committee has since sat down with some of the key players and longest serving players in the team to discuss the issue of their match bonuses and allowances. If you will recall, we had the embarrassing problem of match bonuses and allowances four years ago in Brazil to such an extent that some of the players threatened to boycott the team’s training and matches. It was a huge embarrassment. So this time we have sat down and ironed out everything with the players. So the only thing we can say as a board is to ask Nigerians to keep praying and supporting the team so we can achieve success in Russia.
If you look at the way the team performed in the qualifiers and if you take time to study the team, you will be able to predict how far they can go. Although football is not mathematics where one plus one is two, we can make predications to some extent. So just like other optimistic Nigerians, I hope and pray that the Eagles will meet the expectations of Nigerians.
As far as I am concerned, and as an ex player, I know that every teams goes into competition with the aim of winning. You don’t just go to make the numbers. Nigerians are only projecting that we may reach that stage. We might even go beyond the semi-finals. You and I know that football is unpredictable. What Nigerians are doing basically is to tell the players not to be complacent. They must have it at the back of their mind that Nigerians want them to go very far in the World Cup. Moreover, Super Eagles players are professionals and some of them like Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, Onazi Ogenyi, Kenneth Omeruo and Elderson Echijele have been to the World Cup before so they should be able to handle the expectations of Nigerians.
It is something to worry about because a player like Ndidi is very important to the team. However, if you look at the calibre of players in the team, no one is indispensable. We have enough talents to replace any regular player at any particular time. However, we are praying for them to get well soon because we all know their importance to the team.
I am extremely happy because he is an important member of the Super Eagles. He has the experience we need at the 2018 World Cup. Ahmed made the right decision when he returned to CSKA Moscow. I know that most times players decline when they move to new clubs. It once happened to the legendary Ronaldinho of Brazil. He moved and struggled until he joined another club. So I was not surprised that Musa struggled to find his form at Leicester City.
How confident are you that the Super Eagles will beat Argentina when they meet again in Russia?
I understand what you are saying but if you go to Argentina, they may tell you that the only country they are afraid of in the group is Nigeria. And here in Nigeria, if you ask most football fans, they will tell you that they are afraid of Argentina. So it has been the tradition anytime Nigeria is to meet Argentina at the World Cup. However, this present squad is among the best Super Eagles we have produced. On a good day, they can beat any team in the world. There is unity in the team and every support is being given to the technical crew for Eagles to fly in Russia.
I know most people are saying we have crisis in the goalkeeping department but I want such people to know that this life is dynamic. Does it mean we cannot move on from Vincent Enyeama? After Emmanuel Okala, came Peter Rufai, after Rufai, Ike Shoronmun stepped in before Vincent Enyeama arrived. When the team had issues with Enyeama, we had Carl Ikeme before the unfortunate health condition that has sidelined him. In the absence of Enyeama and Ikeme, the team must forge ahead. Enyeama did not become a reliable goalkeeper over night. He started gradually. I know many Nigerians doubted his capabilities when he kept his first World Cup match at Korea/Japan 2002. He was able to prove himself and that is why most people believed in him. We have to give confidence to our present goalkeepers. They are young but if we support them, they will do the job for us. So to answer your question, we do not have any serious problem in the goalkeeping department. The issue is that most of us are so used to Enyeama that we are not ready to trust the younger goalkeepers we have now. Well, the position El-Kanemi Warriors are occupying presently is not where they should be. They had a good pre-season so expectations were high. As a matter of fact, before the start of the season, the management appointed one of the best coaches in the league, Imama Amapakabo to head the technical crew. He in turn signed some quality players, including players from other African countries. Unfortunately, despite the success recorded during the pre-season, things are not working according to plan. We are still calling on our fans and supporters to remain calm. I have discussed the way forward with the chairman, management and coach of the team. Now that the transfer window is opened, we have advised the coach to beef up the team with more quality players.
Nobody wants to be a failure. If El-kanemi Warriors are relegated, it would mean something is wrong with football in my state and I am the Borno State FA chairman. Although I am not the chairman of the club, I have a good relationship with the management of the club and I have continued to give my support. As a former player of El-Kanemi who also served the club for over three years as secretary, I cannot fold my hands and watch the club go on relegation. We are doing everything humanly possible to keep El-Kanemi Warriors in the topflight.
The club is getting all the necessary support from the state government. Our sports loving governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Kashim Shettima is so passionate about the club. He is aware of the needs of the club and he is doing his best within the available resources to support El-Kanemi Warriors. We are all aware that El-Kanemi Warriors have played a huge role in helping to restore peace in Borno State.
Super Eagles dependable defender, William Trosst-Ekong in action for Nigeria during one of the 2018 World Cup qualifying matches
Timothy Danladi NFF Executive Committee member and Chairman Borno State FA, Babagana Kalli