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

Weekly Trust - - Interview - David Ngobua s a mem­ber of the NFF Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee, what can you say the fed­er­a­tion do­ing to en­sure the Su­per Ea­gles pre­pare ad­e­quately for the 2018 World Cup? Most Nige­ri­ans want the Ea­gles to reach at least semi­fi­nals for the first time in Rus­sia.

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

Satur­day, May 12, 2018

Ti­mothy Dan­ladi NFF Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee mem­ber and Chair­man Borno State FA, Baba­gana Kalli

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