Football fans can go to any extent to show their love for the players who excite them. They name their kids, pets and treasured items after their favourite stars to underscore their love for them. So, when the news broke that some Egyptians cancelled the names on their voter cards and wrote Mohammed Salah, before casting their votes, it didn’t come as a surprise. Football great, George Opong Weah, is the President of Liberia. The football president bug is spreading fast – a welcome development for the game.
Salah is the hottest soccer star from Africa. He is making things happen for Liverpool FC of England and the Pharaohs of Egypt. Salah has broken the 29-goal in one season record set by Barclays English Premier League greats, such as Didier Drogba and the immutable Cristiano Ronaldo. This feat qualifies Salah for the class of greats, more so as he has scored 29 Barclays English Premier League goals for the Reds and still counting, with six matches to the end of the season in England.
Salah’s sojourn with Liverpool is his second coming to the English league, having being sold to Roma FC after an unsuccessful stay at Chelsea FC of London. The Special One, Jose Mourinho, felt Salah was too young to compete with the best, hence the Egyptian’s listing for the transfer market. The Italian league helped Salah’s game, such that he is the African Footballer of the Year. He looks the odds favourite to retain the crown, if he continues his goal-scoring exploits at the Russia 2018 World Cup, with his Egyptian side.
Going to the Mundial in Russia, Salah was Egypt’s highest goal-scorer, with five of the team’s seven goals. He also scored a stunner against Portugal, which persuaded Cristiano Ronaldo to talk with his Spanish side’s management to bring the Egyptian to Real Madrid next season. The Egyptian has given Real Madrid’s bosses a tall order to meet, if he must join them. He wants an assurance of a regular first team shirt and he also wishes to be the second highest paid player behind Ronaldo.
Real Madrid are no strangers when it comes to recruiting big players. European clubs’ chiefs always pray that Real Madrid doesn’t show interest in any of their players. They are big spenders; so, Salah’s demands are expected. For Liverpool, another mind-boggling figure would be paid to get Salah, with many suggesting that it could rise to 250 million pounds next summer.
Back home in Egypt, Salah is a cult hero, having participated actively in all human endeavours, including tackling disasters within the country. Surprisingly, during the last presidential election, some Egyptians struck off the names of candidates on the voters’ sheets and wrote Salah’s name with a vote. Of course, they knew such cards would be voided. But they had made their point – that the Liverpool striker should drop his hat in the ring in the future. Would you blame them? No. After all, Liberia chose Weah as President, after four failed attempts.
Everything that Weah (born October 1, 1966) did came on impulse. He witnessed all that happened in his hitherto war-torn country, Liberia, and empathised with his people, who endured the horrors of a mindless civil war. He was a soccer star, who started playing on the streets of Liberia, which became grounds for war machines and battle tanks. His rise to stardom and the number one job is the manifestation of an audacious desire, conviction, hardwork, iron-cast will and uncommon commitment to a purpose.
The dreamer in this case appears propelled by an inner spirit to save his country, his people from pain, poverty, destruction and all things odious to peace and the destiny of his fatherland. This trait and inclination he showed several times as a footballer, carrying the Liberian national football team on his shoulders time and time again. He paid bills and match bonuses of his teammates, besides chartering aircraft to take the team to match venues. Weah also engaged in charity work on which he spent his money.
It was widely reported on Easter Monday that Nigeria’s most decorated footballer, Nwankwo Kanu was going to run for president in 2019. Kanu is free to contest the election, but he doesn’t belong to any political party and he isn’t known to romance politicians.
Kanu is loved by Nigerians as much as Liberians love Weah, and Egyptians Salah. But the difference is that Weah was persuaded by his people to run. He was compelled to return to school to update his knowledge. The Egyptians have flown the kite for Salah to embrace. But Kanu isn’t waiting for his people’s call to serve. He is motivated by the events in the country.
“My presence here today is about the future of our country and the happiness of our people. The last 18 years of leadership has witnessed a decline in all critical sectors of life in Nigeria, plus general insecurity in the land. Also, I’ll do all it takes to wrestle corruption, which has become blatant and widespread. The rest of the world looks at Nigeria as the home of corruption.
“If I get your mandate, I promise to do things differently and restore honour and integrity to public service by keeping the best and attracting the best. George Weah’s victory in Liberia is a pointer that this dream is very realistic with you all on my side,” Kanu said on Goal.com.
Kanu, 41, will be hoping to unseat incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 16, 2019 elections. A few people would wish that Kanu vies for one of the football positions, either in his state or at the national level. Unfortunately, he isn’t eligible due to FIFA rules, having not been an active member of any state football association, though the Imo State governor could swing things in his favour by nominating him. Again, with the NFF elections slated for September, Kanu would not have met certain criteria.
Just when the story of Kanu’s presidential ambition gained momentum, the leggy striker granted the same medium another interview, stating that his comments were in the spirit of the Fools Day on April 1. What a joke? We all fell for it . Good one Kanu, akin to what you do on the pitch. That is the spirit, Kanu. Nice one.
“This is meant to be a joke but people haven’t seen it that way. I think there is a need to inform them that it is just April Fool. My immediate concern is using my vast contacts and experience to develop the Nigerian youth through sports. I also want to keep saving lives through the Kanu Heart Foundation,” he told Goal.com.
One is excited that Kanu has continued to give back to the grassroots what he gained playing the beautiful game in Europe. Kanu’s Heart Foundation has been marvelous, with kids benefiting the most. All hail King Kanu.
Thumbs down for Sports ministry, NOC chieftains
Blessing Okagbare needs no introduction. She is the poster girl of Nigeria’s athletics squads. In fact, at the last Commonwealth Games in Scotland, Okagbare annexed the gold medal in the female 100 metres and 200 metres. She anchored the country’s 4×100 metres relay quartet to win the female event.
Okagbare has been very unlucky with the Olympic Games after she made her debut with a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ long jump. Okagbare does the long jump, 100 and 200 metres for Nigeria, besides anchoring the relay quartet. Busy girl, you will say but she does it for our fatherland.
Sadly, officials who should reward her by ensuring that she doesn’t lack, sit aloof after every major event. These officials only remember that Okagbare exists when competitions, such as the ongoing Commonwealth Games holding in Gold Coast, Australia, are on.
Stories of Okagbare spending $19,000 to treat herself at a Swedish specialist’s clinic has been splashed in the media. But, Sports Ministry and Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) officials have looked the other way as if to say she is on her own. But, the story from Gold Coast is that these shameless officials are pleading with Okagbare to run in the 100 and 200 metres and perhaps anchor the country’s 4×100 metres relay for women, forgetting how much she spent to treat herself. Okagbare, we are told, is sticking to her guns to do just the long jump.
Can you imagine these Sports ministry and NOC chiefs being angry that Okagbare wasn’t going to defend her title? These officials’ lack of care for our athletes is phenomenal. Former Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan virtually underwrote Okagabare’s bills since she was discovered from the state’s grassroots’ programmes. Uduaghan has left government and Okagbare is on her own.
This is a plea to Okagbare – please participate in all your events and ensure you are in Nigeria when the team will be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari. You are not running for these thankless officials. It is Nigeria’s national anthem that is sung when you are on the podium. Do it for Nigerians, please