Can Nigeria now abandon its Greed and Arrogance?

By Dominic Nimpson

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 12, 2002

During the qualifiers just before the world cup, Nigeria claimed Liberia's team was inexperienced and they (Nigeria) were the experienced team. At the end of the 1st round of the world cup, Nigeria is now saying they have an inexperienced team.

Prior to the world cup qualifiers, the only activities the international soccer media reported about Liberia was about King George Weah. And so when the qualification for the 2002 World Cup soccer event began, no one counted Liberia among African soccer elite. Consequently, no one counted Senegal. Therefore, these two nations were not favored to qualify from their respective zones for the 2002 World Cup.

Between Senegal and Liberia, Liberia was the most disadvantaged. Liberia has been disarrayed due to a civil war that started in 1989. Since then, Liberia has had no reliable source of income. In spite of all the odds, few patriotic Liberians headed by King George made a commitment to enter the pre-qualification round for the 2002 world cup with the determination to take their country to the world cup, which in my mind may have achieved the following:

· Attract some kind of international attention to a nation engulfed with civil unrests

· Help restore peace and order

· Attract foreign donors and businesses to resurrect the wrecked economy

· Bring hope to the suffering masses of Liberia

· Entertain Liberia soccer fans and other Africans around the world

· Unite all Liberians.

Another African country, probably Zaire, did the same thing after a protracted period of civil war. Zaire's participation in the world cup after the war helped tremendously in its rebuilding effort.

The soldiers of Liberia's soccer team started their journey without any significant financial and moral support from the government. King George and his boys fought with all their might. Soon, their commitment, valor, and persistence put them ahead of all the teams in their zone, which included African soccer giants, Nigeria and Ghana. The Liberian national team juggled its scarce resources between World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers.

The stage was set for Liberia's entrance into the world cup. Then human flaws crept in. The team took its attention off the target just for one second. That cost them the game they played against Ghana in Liberia. Poor Liberia, little did they know that Nigeria doesn’t only use its skills in major soccer competitions but its purse as well.

As soon as Nigeria and Ghana realized Liberia would qualify over them, they started a concerted effort to do everything possible to ensure one thing that Liberia did not qualify for the 2002 World cup. Ghanaians expressed these sentiments on national radio broadcasts. Nigeria’s GREED, that they should be the only ones to go to the world cup since they made two world cup appearances, overshadowed them. Nigeria’s arrogance: a little country like Liberia that doesn’t even have a stable government should not qualify over us. Ghana’s interest: it would be a shame after all our soccer achievements for Liberia to go to the world cup before us. And so these two great African soccer giants connived against Liberia to ensure Liberia didn’t go to the world cup. Nigeria pumped in the money, and Ghana used its manpower on the soccer-pitch to realize their aims and objectives: eliminate Liberia.

The hurtful part is that no one (government or other rich Liberians) came to the aid of King George. “Poor boy” could only do so much. At the end, Nigeria qualified over Liberia.

As I sit here, the only question I want Nigerians and Ghanaians to answer is, could Liberia have done worse at the world cup, not winning a single game and going out of the first round? What is even more pathetic is what I read after the game between Nigeria and Argentina. Nigeria’s press and citizens proudly saying and I quote, “Nigeria did well by loosing to Argentina with only one goal.”

Nigeria’s limp excuse after their early exit from the world cup is that they have an inexperienced team. Count the number of professional players that played for Nigeria and compare that number to the players for Senegal or South Africa. Is Nigeria contending that these players (Babayaro, Yobo, West, Okacha, Kanu, etc.) are inexperienced? Please! All eleven players Nigeria featured are playing first division soccer outside of Nigeria, some of them in first class leagues (France and England). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that Nigeria’s excuse of an inexperienced team has no merit.

During the qualifiers just before the world cup: Nigeria claimed Liberia's team was inexperienced and they (Nigeria) were the experienced team.At the world Cup, after the qualifiers: Nigeria is now saying they have an inexperienced team.

I guess critics are now saying; should we have given Liberia a chance just like Senegal? This is Senegal's first world cup appearance. Senegal won its first game against the defending champion France, drew their second and third games, and is on its way to the second round of the competition. Just like Senegal, this would have been Liberia's first world cup appearance.

King George and the rest of the Liberian soccer crew, Liberia will never forget your patriotic deeds.

I would like to conclude by saying this; the intent of my article is not to say that Liberia should have been picked over Nigeria even if they (Liberia) didn't qualify. Instead, I want to articulate that Nigeria bought Liberia out of her chances to qualify for the world cup, but they could not buy their chances into the second round of the world cup competition.

Nigeria and Ghana - Mission Achieved:

· Nigeria made it to the world cup

· Liberia didn't make it to the world cup

· Ghana has chances of going to the world cup before Liberia.

George Weah
For those of you who do not know George Weah, affectionately called "King George", he is the first African to receive the European Player of the Year award. He joins rank with other great African players including Roger Milla of Cameroon and Abedi Pele of Ghana. It is unfortunate that Abedi and King George never played in any of the world cup competitions cause these two players would have brought the walls of cheers down with their soccer skills and leadership.

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