By Frederick Mordi
Kanu Nwankwo, the lanky ex-skipper of Nigeria’s national team, the Super Eagles, made the list of the world’s best 48 football legends that was recently released by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). According to IFFHS, a body that keeps an account of the records of footballers, the list is based on the positions the footballers played in the game in their heyday.
Apart from Kanu, who was the only nominated Nigerian, six other Africans made the list. They include: Mahmoud El-Khatib and Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt); Rabah Madjer (Algeria); Roger Milla (Cameroun); George Weah (Liberia); and Lucas Radebe (South Africa).
The body rated Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, popularly known as Pele (Brazil), as the number one football legend in the world. Pele’s rival, Diego Amando Maradona of Argentina, also made the list that paraded other legends such as Eusebio and Luis Figo (Portugal); Dino Zoff and Roberto Baggio (Italy); and Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini (France). Others include: Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Lothar Matthäus (Germany); Johannes Cruijff, Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit (the Netherlands); and Bobby Charlton, David Beckham and Stanley Matthews (England).
Kanu’s nomination did not come as a surprise as he boasts impressive records. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) recently named Kanu, who won ‘African Player of the Year’ award twice, as one of the 10 best players the continent has produced in the last 50 years. In addition, Kanu featured prominently at Ajax in the Netherlands and Arsenal in the EPL, where he won UEFA trophies for his clubs. He also won the Olympics gold medal for the Nigeria U-23 football team in 1996.
His latest recognition is well deserved given his antecedents.
By Frederick Mordi
On February 26, 2016, 45-year old Swiss-Italian football administrator, Gianni Infantino, emerged new FIFA President, after a keenly contested election held at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich. He beat four other contestants to replace the embattled Sepp Blatter, his 79-year old compatriot.
Infantino, who is a lawyer by profession, was educated at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. He is a polyglot. He speaks Italian, French, Swiss, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic, quite fluently. This, no doubt, would be an invaluable asset as he would be dealing with 209 football federations across the world. Before his new position, Infantino was the UEFA General Secretary.
While he was the boss of UEFA, he pushed for reforms to promote the integrity of football in Europe. Apparently taking note of his sterling achievements, FIFA appointed him to join its Reform Committee in August 2015, following the embarrassing revelations about the pecuniary peccadilloes of Blatter and former UEFA helmsman, Michel Platini, who incidentally happen to be his friends. He later threw his hat into the ring, apparently bent on personally spearheading the reform process in FIFA.
The new FIFA President has expressed his desire to increase the number of participating countries for the FIFA World Cup from the current 32 teams to 40 teams. This is a brilliant idea as it will give more countries the opportunity of qualifying for the Mundial.
But he will have to contend with high-level ‘politics’ that has come to characterise the beautiful game of football. For instance, while Russia’s place as the next host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup may been secured, that of Qatar scheduled for 2022, is still in contention, over an alleged bribery scandal. However, his immediate task will be to clean up the rot that has tainted the image of FIFA, the world football governing body. Blatter has described him as a worthy successor.
Infantino, who is said to be a diehard fan of Italian Serie A club Inter Milan, is married with four children.
Title: The Familiar Stranger and Other Stories
Author: Frederick Mordi
Publisher: New Africa Book Publishers
Reviewer: Funke Osae-Brown
Literature, the arts generally, has always been known as an endeavour that speaks in many voices. And contemporary African literature cannot be well understood and appreciated as an isolated expression. It is about the entirety of human experience.
It is in the light of this that writers have tapped into the folklore tradition to tell their stories. One would have thought it would be impossible to infuse the oral tradition into the novel but writers across ages have done this effortless.
Late Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe is famous for his use of folklore in his novels likewise Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard is very successful in this genre. Contemporary African writers have employed the use of the folklore tradition in varying degrees. Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie used this extensively in her debut novel, ‘Purple Hibiscus’.
And so, Frederick Mordi in his debut collection of short stories, ‘The Familiar Stranger and Other Stories’ borrows largely from the oral folklore tradition to tell his stories. Divided into eight chapters, the book is a collection of exhilarating stories that are well told.
The narratives are didactic in nature, a by-product of the folklore tradition. The first story titled: ‘The Familiar Stranger’ tells the story of Tambolo who would rather follow the voice of avarice than that of conscience as he embarks on the dangerous mission to steal the King’s priced sculptures and other artefacts on the eve of his departure from the village after the completion of the village road.
Tambolo works with a construction company who is contracted to construct the major road that leads to the village. After a job well done, the King decides to host the chief engineer and his team to a banquet to have a taste of the traditional food. While at the banquet, Tambolo’s mind drifts to how he hopes to carry out his mission of stealing the artefacts and becoming a millionaire in the city.
Throughout the collection, Mordi is able to fully employed the didactic element of the folklore tradition to awake the human conscience. As with the story of Tambolo in ‘The Familiar Stranger’, every man is always faced with that moment in life when there is a battle between avarice and conscience. However, man is at liberty to decide which voice to follow. Often, avarice wins over conscience as it is the case with Tambolo. Man does not learn his lessons until the deed is done.
Furthermore, Mordi highlights the hypocritical nature of a typical society in ‘The Senator’s Car.’ He tells of how the society unconsciously encourages corruption through its utterances and disposition to people in government. Here is the story of a Senator who would rather jumpstart his car than steal the state money to buy a brand new Mercedes Benz car, for instance. He prefers to be ridiculed for driving a rickety car than steal state funds. Yet the society he tries to save is the one crucifying him. A character says of him:
“Stingy man!” ‘He must have hidden the money he made somewhere in Ghana!” (P. 134)
Unknown to them, he has no money stack up somewhere. He is just a man who detest corruption as depicted in his treatment of the erring traffic management officer. Mordi goes further to teach a lesson with this story that curbing corruption in the society is possible if everyone will play his part.
One of the unique features of Mordi’s style of writing as shown in the two stories discussed above is his ability to create universal characters. There is a Tambolo in every man and society the same way there is a Senator who can still hold his head high. He drives home the message through his characterisation that it is not all Senators nay politicians who are corrupt. The same could be said of his characters in Mr Erastus Udoka, Mazi Achara in ‘The Farmer’s Daughter’.
Through the use of simple language, Mordi, shows that folk tradition in African literature has become part of the essential qualities of its literary expression.
By Frederick Mordi
Africa has a ‘new’ king of football. His name is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Aubameyang, 26, a Gabonese player and Borussia Dortmund striker, won the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) Player of the Year Award, on January 7, 2016, in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. He beat Ivory Coast’s Yaya Toure, who won the trophy last year, to the award, making history as the first Gabonese to wear the crown.
It was a very tight contest as coaches and technical directors of CAF member nations had awarded Aubameyang 143 points, while Toure, 32, who plays for Manchester City, earned 136 points. The third player in contention, a Ghanaian and Swansea midfielder, Andre Ayew, came third with 112 points.
Aubameyang certainly deserves the crown. He is the leading scorer in the German Bundesliga this season, with 18 goals in 17 league games. Had Toure won, he would have been the first African to wear the crown five times, having held the trophy for the last four years.
Though no player from the Super Eagles, the Nigerian national team, got to that stage of the award this year, the junior team managed to redeem the image of the country. Victor Osimhen of the Under 17 team won ‘Youth Player of the Year award,’ while Etebo Oghenekaro, whose efforts at the African qualifiers’ stage late last year, earned Nigeria a ticket to the Rio Olympic Games in football, received the ‘Most Promising Talent of the Year’ trophy.
For Gabon, which will host the next Africa Cup of Nations in 2017, Aubameyang’s award will no doubt serve as a motivation. The football-loving President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, who made global headlines last year, when he invited Lionel Messi to visit the African nation, is particularly delighted with the award. He described Aubameyang as an “exceptional Gabonese [who has] demonstrated dazzling intuition and an attack of unparalleled velocity,” in a statement.
There are rumours that Arsenal is trying to entice Aubameyang. But from his body language, the Gabonese does not seem to be in a hurry to join the Gunners. But then, everyman has his price, as they say. It is certain that other suitors will line up before long with bigger offers for the new African champion.
By Frederick Mordi
When Fidelis got a Federal Government of Nigeria scholarship to pursue his master’s degree in one of the top universities in the United Kingdom a few years ago, he thought it was a dream come true. Although he had acquired an MBA while working, he believed a foreign master’s degree would make him more marketable.
But when Fidelis requested for study leave from his employers then, HR said he was not eligible as he had spent less than three years with the company. To qualify for study leave, Fidelis was told, he should have put in at least five years. He was faced with the dilemma of either resigning from the organisation or forfeiting the scholarship. It was a tradeoff, he knew. In the end, he chose the former option, confident he would secure a better deal when he concludes his study abroad. And so Fidelis tendered his resignation letter and travelled to London for his post-graduate studies. A year later, Fidelis graduated from the prestigious UK university in flying colours.
Like thousands of other foreign students, he decided to stay back in London to look for a job. After combing the streets of London for several months, he settled for a job that was far below his status: washing plates at a restaurant. He also secured another job as a part time security guard to pay his bills in the tiny flat that he shared with his friends. This continued for over a year before he decided to relocate to Nigeria. He came to London full of hopes for a better life, but left bitterly disappointed.
If Fidelis thought his condition would improve when he returned to Nigeria, he was wrong. It took him almost six months before he could get a low-paying job in a Lagos-based marketing company. He resigned after just one month because he did not get on well with the managing director of the company, who constantly monitored his movements. The man had a good reason for snooping on him: he suspected that Fidelis would not stay for too long in the company given his qualifications. Indeed, Fidelis’ academic credentials scared away other potential employers that felt he was ‘over-qualified’ for the jobs he sought.
He eventually got a job with another company that did not take into consideration, his local and foreign degrees, before fixing his salary that was conveyed to him, in his employment letter. Beggars, as they say, cannot be choosers. He knew he was in no position to negotiate for higher pay. But at least, it paid his bills, or so he thought. After about a year on his new employment, he resigned. He secured another job. The pay package remained practically the same, as his new employers had asked him to submit his pay slip for the previous three months.
Now Fidelis is regretting his decision to resign from his former company, where he should have climbed up the ladder had he stayed back.
Sandra’s story is slightly different. She also had the opportunity of doing her master’s abroad, but she opted for a Part Time programme in a local university, while keeping her job. Now she has completed her MSc degree, and still has her job intact.
There is no denying the fact that a master’s degree enhances the status of its holder, particularly in terms of creating better job opportunities. As a matter of fact, many employers in Nigeria, particularly the private sector, appear to have a strong preference for applicants with foreign degrees.
These days, Nigerian graduates, whose parents are relatively well-off, usually travel abroad for their master’s degree, often immediately after one year of compulsory National Service, or in their first or second year in employment. And when they have completed their studies, they usually stay back to work, or if they choose to return to Nigeria, there is a probability that they would get high-paying jobs, unlike their peers that did their master’s programme in the country. That explains the rush by many young Nigerians like Fidelis for foreign post-graduate degrees.
But all that may soon change, as the UK, a major destination of education seekers, is trying to discourage non-EU students from staying back after their programme, through a new strict immigration policy. Home Secretary, Theresa May has been championing this policy, which is designed to safeguard jobs of Britons. Under the new policy, students that opt to stay back after their programme, have only four months to find a job as against the previous two years. Also, few UK companies are willing to sponsor the often prohibitive high cost of work visa for prospective foreign applicants.
These rules seem not to have discouraged foreign students, particularly Nigerians, from going to the UK for further studies. But for Fidelis, who learnt his lesson the hard way, the popular saying, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, may be quite apt.
Title: The Familiar Stranger & Other Stories
Author: Frederick Mordi
Reviewer: Justice Ilevbare
Publisher: New Africa Book Publishers
Frederick Mordi, journalist and blogger probably had Nigeria in mind when he was writing the book; The Familiar Stranger and Other Stories. Indeed, the book addresses the contemporary issues that still bedevil us as a nation.
Most importantly, as the country is currently going through a season of change as championed by the current administration of Muhammadu Buhari, the book is sure to give a road map to actually bring about the desired change.
The language used in the book is plain and simple making it a book for everyone. The stories are laced with deep proverbs that make an interesting read.
The eight chapter book is filled with inspiring stories that cut across all sectors of our everyday lives- economy, education, politics etc.
The opening chapter entitled: The Familiar Stranger captures vividly the struggle between the rich and the poor and how power play exists in our present day lives. While it places emphasis on how a group of people use their influence and wealth to bring about the needed development in their country homes, it also buttresses the fact that those vested with power to ensure our development as individuals, turn around to steal from our commonwealth – they are actually our ‘familiar strangers.’
The character played by Tambolo, one of those who came from the city with the intention of building a village and ended up becoming a thief in the village he was supposed to develop, is very instructive. These set of people are devoid of conscience even as they hobnob with people who will advise them wrongly.
Again, this captures the true story of what happens in our society today. While many people are engaged in corrupt practices, there are other accomplices who only turn out to betray them when the chips are down.
From the issue of corruption, to power play, to lack of trust and corruption, Mordi carefully and aptly captures our everyday lives using befitting story line.
The Farmer’s Daughter tells a typical African story that exemplifies the struggle to educate the girl-child. Mr. Erastus Udoka, the Chief Inspector of Education of Akama village practically had to fight Mazi Achara to allow his daughter gain a formal education. Today, there are still some cultures and societies that believe that the girl-child should be married out early without proper education.
Money Palaver is another story that relates to how people amass wealth and cart away what belongs to others. While some family members like the case of Pa Azuka’s wife would not care about the source of wealth of anyone so far as the money is used to meet some family challenges, her husband, Pa Azuka, believes otherwise.
He would rather choose to remain on the path of truth, conscience and integrity, which unfortunately is lacking amongst us as a people. Very few people in Pa Azuka’s shoes will find huge amount of money and damn family pressures to return it. Key point to note in the story is that there are still few who stand for integrity and uprightness world over.
Again, you would find out how poverty has pushed a lot of people into compromising their standards. Perhaps were it not because of poverty and the way things were in the family, Ma Azuka would have advised her husband to actually return the money.
“My children, it is a funny world we live in. People will talk no matter what you do. If you do wrong thing, they will call for your head; if you do the right thing, they will say you are stupid. So, why don’t you do the right thing and leave the rest for God?” Pa Azuka counseled his family when he was under serious pressure from his wife and children. In the end, it was songs of joy for Pa Azuka who was adequately rewarded.
Call it moral battle if you like, Mordi has again painted a vivid picture of what goes on within our society and until we do the right thing the much talked about moral uprightness will still be a mirage.
The use of humour to tell his story is quite refreshing, making the 135 page book with beautiful thick cover design, to stand out amongst others.
Mordi, a seasoned journalist, holds an MSc degree in Media and Communication from the Pan- Atlantic University, Lagos. Mordi’s passion for African Literature and traditional storytelling is evident with the recent release of the collection of short stories.
The author’s attempt in addressing issues considered as worrisome in our society is commendable.
It is believed that if the lessons contained in Mordi’s collection of eight short stories are imbibed, not only will people change, but the society at large will be better for it.
For the full version of the review published in The Nation Newspaper, please click on the link below:
By Frederick Mordi
Exactly 30 years after Nigeria first won the FIFA junior World Cup in China, the ‘giant of Africa’ entered the Guinness Book of Records, by becoming the only nation in the world that has won the FIFA U-17 World Cup, five times, after defeating Mali 2-0, this morning.
The Golden Eaglets of Nigeria beat the hard-fighting fellow West Africans in the final match of the tournament in Chile, to lift the trophy. Nigeria also became the second side to retain the trophy that it had won in 2013.
Victor Osimhen, the revelation of the tournament, stole the show once again with his record-breaking 10th goal, shattering the previous record of nine goals. Funsho Bamgboye, a fellow teammate, added a second. Samuel Diarra, the Malian goalkeeper, had saved an early Osinachi Ebere penalty as the Malians played their part in a pulsating finale. The Malians are not going back to Africa, empty-handed, as Diarra won the best goalkeeper of the tournament award.
The Golden Eaglets had, in the run-up, defeated USA 2-0, before coasting to victory with a crushing 5-1 win over Chile in their second group phase match. The last group game against Croatia, ended 1-2, in favour of Croatia. The team went on to beat Australia 6-0 in the second round and defeated Brazil 3-0 in the quarter final, before stopping the determined Mexicans 4-2 in the semi-final.
With four wins (1985, 1993, 2007 and 2013), Nigeria has the highest record of triumphs in the global cadet championship, followed by Brazil with three. FIFA is said to be studying the tactics of Golden Eaglet’s Coach Emmanuel Amuneke, an ex-international, who led the youthful team to victory. Amuneke himself, scored the winning goal for the senior national team, the Super Eagles, to lift the African Cup of Nations in 1994, and also netted the deciding goal to clinch Gold in football at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
Interestingly, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who was then a military Head of State, received the junior World Cup crown, in 1985. By sheer coincidence, he will again receive the trophy, this time as a democratically elected President, when the boys return from Chile. Before the match, Buhari had called the boys to give them pep talk.
Nigerians are celebrating.
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