Along with a long professional career in France, Joseph-Antoine Bell was a member of three Cameroon teams that played at the FIFA World Cup, and he is considered among the greatest goalkeepers to come from Africa. Despite the Lions failure to qualify, the outspoken 57-year-old was at the recent CAF Africa Cup of Nations, which was co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, and he had some interesting observations about African goalkeeping in general and at the Nations Cup in particular.
He said that the standard between the sticks on the continent was a mixed bag. “You have had some good and some not-good-enough goalkeepers at the tournament, but this is something that you can see everywhere in the world. It is really a very special position, where coming from the good to the bad can be just one game. It is a hard position,” he said. “I think most of the performances have been average. I don’t remember seeing any excellent goalkeeping, but I have seen good goalkeeping.”
Not surprisingly, Bell believes Côte d’Ivoire’s impressive Boubacar Barry was the best goalkeeper at the tournament as the Elephants became the first side to fail to win the tournament despite not conceding even a single goal. Bell believes that Barry, who played in five of his side’s six matches, is a better netminder because of his attitude and mentality. “He understands that you need to be focused. He saved Ivory Coast a few times because he was serious, and maybe because he was so serious, his team became serious too. This is a very important quality you have to have,” he said.
Bell, who started playing in Europe at a late age, when he was already 31, believes that the best African goalkeeper at the moment is Nigerian Vincent Enyeama. “He had a very good World Cup, but now he is not playing regularly [with Lille], and Nigeria were not at the nations Cup. That will make it difficult,” he said.
“To be the best, you need to play hard and good matches, tough matches to show what you are capable of. To be considered among the best goalkeepers, you need to play consistently well. If you watch him this week, you will see him to be good, and if you see him in two months, he will still be a good goalkeeper. I am not sure if we have somebody like that in Africa.”
Bell, who did not play as a member of Cameroon’s 1982 and 1990 FIFA World Cup squads and had to wait until he was 39 at USA 94 before playing his first game at the finals, says that African goalkeeping at the moment is overall far away from the standards set by world-class players like Iker Casillas or Gianluigi Buffon.
“Goalkeepers like that are real personalities, but that is not what is wanted in Africa,” he explained. “We fight against personalities. We don’t need charismatic people, we don’t need those who can really be leaders. But to be a good goalkeeper, you need to be a real leader. This is the way that I see it: You need to think as a leader, you need to act as a leader and you need to be a leader.”
The former goalkeeper says he thinks that if he had gone to Europe at a younger age, he would have been an even better goalkeeper. “Yes, I would have had enough time to show what I was capable of. But this is the problem: if we don’t upgrade our competitions in Africa, it is going to be hard to compete. And this is why our players are going to Europe at a younger and younger age, and this may not help Africa. The way we put things together is the most important issue.”
‘Super Eagles Coach Lacks Class’
Former Nigeria international, Victor Ezeji, has slammed Gernot Rohr, describing the German as a coach who has not improved the Super Eagles, with reference to their style of play and talent management.
Rohr recently helped the three-time African champions qualify for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon after their third-place finish at the 2019 tournament in Egypt.
Despite the team’s success, the former Enyimba striker said the tactician, who has been at the helm since 2016, has not impacted the Super Eagles with a particular style of football and he lacks the class to co-ordinate the players.
Ezeji expressed his frustration after Rohr’s men failed to score a goal in their twin friendlies against Cameroon. They suffered a 1-0 loss against the Indomitable Lions last Friday before playing out a goalless draw on Tuesday.
“I have never been a fan of Gernot Rohr but the truth is, sometimes it is not even about the result and sometimes, your team can play very well and lose, people could say they lost and there is prospect for the team,” Ezeji told news men.
“But in the case of this Gernot Rohr’s team, they are not playing very well and they are not winning; so, people will definitely complain. We have known our Super Eagles to have flair when playing, but that has not happened under him, whichever way he wins his game.
“There is no flair in their game, I think he is done with the team if you ask me because he is not showing anything, no class. We’ve got the players but I think what we lack is who co-ordinates them.”
Last year May, Rohr agreed on a two-and-half-year contract extension to remain as Super Eagles coach with the target of guiding the country to the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar and also win the 2022 Afcon.
Ezeji argued that the former Bordeaux manager has not been a success in Nigeria and he recalled how indigenous coaches Christian Chukwu also led the country to a third-place at 2004 Afcon before Stephen Keshi’s side triumphed at the 2013 edition in South Africa.
“I don’t know what his contract with the NFF looks like but personally, I don’t think he has achieved anything because even our indigenous coaches got to third at Afcon and we became the continent’s champions,” he continued.
“In his own case, third-place is not enough at all with the kind of personnel and abundant of talents we have in Nigeria presently, he should do better. As I stated earlier, it is not about winning the cup but it is about playing good football and there are ways you do that.
“Remember Imama’s [Amapakabo] U23 boys’ game against Libya in Asaba [U23 Afcon qualifier in March 2019], we needed three goals to go through but after the first-half, everybody was like even if they did not get through we are satisfied with their performance but the boys got the result and advanced.
“We need to start seeing that kind of performance in our Super Eagles, nobody has any confidence now that even if we play market women they will win. We need to have that confidence in our team and be rest assured of good football against any opponent.”
350 Golfers Set For IBB Golf Captain’s Tourney
No fewer than 350 golfers and 50 tennis players will be competing in the inaugural IBB Golf and Country Captain’s Tourney in Abuja.
The tourney which is expected to tee-off from Friday, June 10, to Saturday 11, 2021 at the IBB Golf and Country club which will see professional golfers battle in the Handicap 19 to 36 event while the amateur will clash in the Nest event.
According to the Chairman Organising Committee of the 2021 Inaugural IBB golf Captain’s club, Olabanjo Obaleye said preparations are in top gear to host a successful tournament.
He also noted that the golfers and officials would be in adherence to all the COVID-19 protocol towards ensuring the safety of all Stakeholders.
“This tournament is to usher in the new Executive Members of the IBB golf and Country, which is done after every new executive Member is elected.
“We have gotten some sponsors for the tournament and I can tell you that they would be mouthwatering prizes for the winner and consolation prizes for best loser.
We will also have a dinner on Saturday where the prizes will be presented to the winners.
“Also we have put some modalities in place to ensure the safety of all players and Officials for the tournament.” Olabanjo said.
HiFL: UNIBEN Royals Tackle UNICAL Malabites
Pace Sports and Entertainment Marketing Limited, the organisers of the Higher Institutions Football League (HiFL), has released the draws for the round of 16 games at an event held in Lagos. The games are scheduled to be held between June and September 2021.
In Week 1, AAUA Luminaries will play OAU Giants in Ondo, FUTA Tigers will tackle UNILAG Marines in Akure, LAUTECH Hunters will attempt to hunt down the FUTMINNA Transformers in Ogbomoso while KSU Steelers engages UNILORIN Warriors.
For the week 2 games, Uniben Royals will play defending champion UNICAL Malabites, IAUE Minders will tackle UNN Lions in Port Harcourt, ABU Nobles will confront UAM Tillers in Zaria while BUK Stallions slugs it out with UNIMAID Desert Warriors in Kano.
Speaking at the draws, Director, PACE Sports and Entertainment Marketing Limited, Sola Fijabi acknowledged the efforts of all participating schools and encouraged them to maintain their sportsmanlike conduct as the games go on. “We are now at a very exciting stage of the league. What was witnessed during the qualifiers was the tip of the iceberg. The schools are ready and what we assure lovers of collegiate sports is double excitement. We appreciate the support of NUGA and our sponsors Nivea Men and Minimie for their trust in HiFL and as we deliver value to all our stakeholders,” Fijabi said.
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