The Super Eagles flew out of the country on Thursday night on the first leg of the journey to the 29th Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa. The team flew to Accra to connect Portugal where the squad will be joined by the 17 overseas-based players called to camp.
Following the meeting of the Technical Committee of Friday, 21 December, a list of 32 players was released and though there had been one or two issues about a couple of players, the bulk remains and will battle for the 23 shirts available at the training camp.
I am excited because the Head Coach has expressed confidence in the squad that he is taking to the training camp, from which he will pick 23 for the final list that he has said he will release on January 8 - a day before the deadline imposed by the Confederation of African Football.
The Nigeria Football Federation has always given the support and will continue to give all support necessary for the team to make Nigeria proud. in an interview meant for the Team Nigeria brochure for the 29th Africa Cup of Nations, South Africa 2013, Keshi extolled his relationship with the NFF and said he cannot wish for a better relationship from his employers. He has also said that he is enjoying the job because of the support, co-operation and understanding of the top echelon of Nigeria Football Federation.
While I am happy at this, I am also aware that we must continue to do more for the interest of Nigeria football, and must also be ready at all times to provide what our various National Teams, Super Eagles inclusive, need to do well at major competitions.
As I said at the inauguration of the 2012/2013 Premier League Management Committee on Thursday, football is the biggest unifying factor in our country and we must always give it our best shot, at all times, by ensuring that it is better run and better administered by those in charge.
The Honourable Minister/Chairman, National Sports Commission, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said recently that there is no pressure on the team from any quarter, not even from President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR). However, that does not mean the team should go to South Africa without ambition. I am happy that in a private chat with Keshi this week, he told me that it was great for the Honourable Minister to have said what he said, but that the team itself has its goal and objective at the Africa Cup of Nations.
It is 18 years since Nigeria last won the Africa Cup of Nations and the present NFF administration is keen to end the long wait. In discussions with Keshi and his crew, the focus has always been to give it our best shot. Keshi has also spoken about taking it one match at a time.
Which means that whether he is playing Burkina Faso (in Nigeria's first match in South Africa) or Cup holders Zambia, or Ethiopia, or Ghana, or Cote d'Ivoire, the goal would be to win the match in question, before thinking of what awaited at the corner.
Keshi does not want to make the mistake that our team made at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, when players were already looking ahead to a possible mouth-watering quarter final clash with Brazil even before taking the pitch against Denmark in the Round of 16. The result was a 4-1 bashing.
I also believe that if we take it one match at a time, we will go far. Without too much pressure and overbearing posture of some officials, the Super Eagles will definitely make Nigeria proud in South Africa.
Welcome on board, 2012/2013 Premier League Management Committee...
The 2012/2013 Premier League Management Committee was inaugurated in Abuja on Thursday, fulfilling a mandate handed to the NFF Executive Committee by the Congress at the 2012 Annual General Assembly in Port Harcourt on Thursday, 13th December 2012.
I am equally elated at the membership of the Committee, right from the Chairman, Honourable Nduka Irabor - a man with a very high stature in football and other sectors of Nigeria life.
There are also Hon. Sabo Babayaro, no newcomer to Premier League Management, as well as Modele Sarafa-Yusuf, the Madam who did so well for the League while at Globacom Communications. Nwankwo Kanu and Mike Enahoro sent their apologies as they were not in the country, but Hon.
Abubakar Nuhu Dan Buran, Honourable Commissioner for Commerce in Kano State and Mike Idoko made it to Abuja.
Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi, chairman of the Lagos State Football Association was also there as well as the highly-respected Shehu Dikko and Barr. Ifeanyi Dike.
Part of the address at the inauguration: "For avoidance of doubt, this is a national assignment of no mean significance. The management of the top tier of the domestic League of any country has serious consequences for that nation's football. None of the National Teams can be said to have been composed without players from the domestic League, and even those who play overseas start from the home front.
"The exercise we are conducting today is the fulfilment of a mandate handed down to the NFF Executive Committee by the Congress of Nigeria football, at the 68th Annual General Assembly in Port Harcourt on Thursday, 13th December 2012. The Congress had directed the Executive Committee to compose a League Management Committee to run the affairs of the Nigeria Premier League for the 2012/2013 season, pending the conduct of fresh elections...
"Certainly, each member of the 2012/2013 Premier League Management Committee has been carefully chosen, based on quality of experience, broad-mindedness, capacity, proven ability, painstaking virtues, love of the game and diligence and dedication.
"Time, I dare say, is not the friend of the 2012/2013 Premier League Management Committee. The 2012/2013 League season must commence by January, even if only a few matches would have been played before the 29th Africa Cup of Nations start in South Africa."
NEXT WEEK: Expectations for First Quarter of 2013!