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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Austin Ejide’s ‘Own Goal’ in Nigeria-Scotland Friendly Exposes the Latest Rot in Nigerian Football

Austin Ejide in action against Scotland
The kick off to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil is only days away with 32 teams expected to contest for the World Cup title currently held by Spain.

Africa will be represented by five nations including Nigeria who’s best run in the tournament was in 1994 where they came to within two minutes of advancing to their quarters in their maiden participation. The Super Eagles are preparing to go one better this time and were in action against Scotland in a friendly match played at Fulham’s Craven Cottage grounds in North London.

Coach Stephen Keshi opted to test some of his fringe players in the squad with the likes of custodian Vincent Enyeama and John Obi Mikel rested altogether while Chelsea wingman Victor Moses, Celtic’s Efe Ambrose and Stoke City’s Peter Odemwingie entered the fray after the interval.

The Super Eagles dominated the early exchanges but it was Gordon Strachan’s men who took the lead through Charlie Mulgrew in the 10th minute. Michael Uchebo got the equalizer for the African side before the interval but it was what happened at the half hour mark that had tongues wagging.

Blackburn Rovers defender Grant Hanley leaped to challenge a ball in the Super Eagles penalty area but he was met by the hands of Nigeria second-choice keeper Austin Ejide. The Hapoel Be’er Sheva keeper then did what in my opinion confirmed the earlier fears that the match could be fixed.  He appeared to deliberately throw the ball into his own net and although the referee saved his embarrassment by blowing for a foul, that attempt did little to whisk away fears that the game would be brought into disrepute.

Make your own conclusion on the challenge as shown in the video below but this latest incident showed to the world once again just how rotten Nigerian football is both at national and international level.

In July last year, Nigeria Football Federation reportedly suspended four teams who were suspected to have been involved in some match fixing. With two league clubs, Plateau United Feeders and Police Machine, needing to overturn their goal differences to gain promotion into the professional league, Plateau, a club which where the likes of John Obi Mikel, Celestine Babayaro and Victor Obinna started their careers annihilated Akurba FC 79-0 with 72 of those goals scored in the second half!      

Police Machine were equally ruthless thrashing Babayaro FC 67-0 with 61 goals coming in the second half.

But that’s lower league clubs, you might opine.  Wait, there was the Nigerian Premier League. Kano Pillars became the first club to win back-to-back titles in a decade beating Enyimba to it by just two points. Everything normal so far.

A close look at the league table though and you see all the rot. Kano won 20 games in the 38 match league but 18 of those wins were at their Sani Abacha Stadium home ground. They recorded only two wins away from home. Enyimba won all but two of their home matches which ended in draws. More curiously though, they did not concede a single goal at home but soaked in 19 away.

That apparent poor away form and close-to-perfect home form was evident throughout the table. Bottom side Shooting Stars was one of the only seven teams not to win away but recorded 13 home victories. Half the teams in the league finished the season unbeaten in their own backyard.

See the table to make further conclusions.

And That's thesteifmastertake!!