The recently released Legend 11 during the inaugural edition of the AITEO-NFF Football Awards held at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on Monday, February 19, has continued to headline major topic of discuss among football stakeholders’ that includes ex-internationals as well as various media platforms.
The lines of argument in favour or against the names that were honoured on the night, centered largely on the non-inclusion of late Super Eagles stars, Rashidi Yekini, Stephen Keshi, Teslim Balogun, Mudashiru Lawal, and Best Ogedegbe (even post humorously).
Others are Peter, Rufai, Samson Siasia, Emmanuel Okalla, etal among the awardees’. For some of the stakeholders, they are still in the dark over the criteria or criterion employed by the football house in arriving with the final list of the Legend 11 that saw the likes of Ann Chiejine, Austin Eguavoen, Felix Owolabi, Nwankwo Kanu, Christian Chukwu, Uche Okechukwu, Segun Odegbami, Mercy Akide-Udoh, Thompson Usiyen, Augustine ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, and Adokiye Amiesimaka make the cut.
In all fairness, the names of the ex-international on the Legend 11 contributed positively in defending Nigeria’s pride at major international football competitions at regional, continent or global competitions both in Super Eagles and Super Falcons.
Over the days, it has risen to an all time high as new comments/reactions are emerging in their numbers daily.
Sports journalist, Adewale Ajayi feels bitter judging from his comment on the Legend 11 list on his Facebook timeline.
“They came up with a list of Nigerian legends and deliberately omitted a legend of African football. The first Nigerian to be named African footballer of the year, Scored Nigeria's First World Cup goal, his goals, qualified Nigeria for a debut world cup appearance and he also won us the Nations cup in 94,” Adewale’s comment read in part.
Reacting further, ex-international and former Abiola Babes defence ace, Taju Disu, insists some of the names on the Legend 11 are not good enough.
“The recent list of all time Nigeria legends, you will know that it was a scam, few people among that list qualified to be there, very few of them, some names were omitted from that list because of lack of knowledge, lack of information by the NFF,” Disu said.
On his part former Golden Eaglets’ winger and team manager for Shooting Stars Football Club, 3SC, Oladimeji Lawal insists that despite the exclusion of Yekini in the Legend 11, the goals king remains a hero.
“King Rashidi Yekini betrayed while alive nd now in death no doubt. But some of us he remains golden nd heroic in our hearts. Rest on our HERO,” added Lawal, popularly known as Kabongo.
On the other divide, Communication expert, Chris Adetayo prefers to allow the sleeping dog lie, even as he was quick to proffer more explanations.
“This is unnecessary histrionics. The Legends 11 was of those still living. And it was composed of both men and women. It certainly was not an All-Time Eleven of the Super Eagles. Take a look at the list and you will find other greats that were not mentioned,” Adetayo stressed.
Painfully, the organizing committee of AITEO-NFF Football Awards, never outlined how the awardees were selected, while stressing that “there will be special recognition of a ‘Legends Eleven,’ a squad of outstanding former Nigeria international players.”
However, AITEO’s Deputy Managing Director Francis Peters in his address on the night, offered explanation why the energy company decided to venture into Nigerian football as Sponsors
“The amazing power of football to heal wounds, enrich the gifted and entertain the majority is the reason why AITEO, Africa’s leading energy solution company, is investing in the game. We remain grateful to the Nigeria Football Federation for giving us the opportunity to begin charity at home."
Therefore, throwing up more questions; how do we heal wounds or enrich the gifted when we are still in the dark on what should constitute a true Eagles legend?
Obviously, many permutations will easily come to the mind on how the Legend 11 should emerge. In other climes there are parameters to be considered before a footballer is classified a ‘legend’ and for the benefit of this, we are going to explain with examples what really constitute a legend, as well as types of legend and characteristics of a legend.
What then constitutes a Legend?
Today, the phrase ‘Legend’ previously reserved for the special few, is now thrown at anyone. Apparently, ‘legend’ has become devalued. It has become overused. And it has become confused.
Attempting a definition of the word, ‘legend’ Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines ‘legend’ as [countable] someone who is famous and admired for being extremely good at doing something.
Summing up on what constitutes a ‘legend’ in the write up titled: What Does it Take to be Called a Legend of Football?
Bleacherreport.com’s Stefan Vasilev said: “A legendary player has to have the necessary qualities to be an example for the next generations of footballers. He has to epitomize the ideal footballer, to which future talents will strive to become,” he explains further.
“That can be achieved not only by having a unique and impressive style of play on the field, but also by showing a socially acceptable and admirable behaviour outside of it,” he added.
From the above explanations, it is obvious that football legends are not just legends on club level. They have legendary status at an even higher football level.
The likes of Zinedine Zidane (France), Roberto Baggio (Italy), Ronaldo De Lima, Marco Van Basten (Netherlands), Diego Maradona (Brazil), Pele (Brazil), Michel Platini (France), Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany), Franz Beckenbauer (Germany), and Johan Cruyff (Netherlands), and many more stand out as clear examples of football legends.
These set of players while active elevated from club legendary status; not only did they achieve special things at club or country level, they were also listed amongst the greatest contributors to the round-leather game.
In their respective careers, they ‘annexed’ a technical level that saw them become ‘Model’ for future generations to learn. They equally created new ideas and concepts never known before to the beautiful game. And that is what it required to be called a ‘Legend of Football.’
Super Eagles’ Legend
For the records, Yekini’s (37 goals) haul in 58 caps for the Super Eagles between 1984 and 1998, stands out the former Victoria Setubal legend as the all-time leading goal-scorer of the national team till date.
Yekini represented Nigeria in five major tournaments, including two World Cups. In 1994, Yekini netted Nigeria's first-ever goal in a World Cup, in a 3–0 win against Bulgaria, his celebration after scoring, crying while holding the goal net, became one of the iconic images of the tournament and the 1998 FIFA World Cups.
The Goals King, who was named African Footballer of the Year in 1993, helped the Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, emerged top scorer as well as best player of the competition.
On the other hand, Keshi remains one of only two people, along with Egypt's Mahmoud El-Gohary, to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach; a feat the former New Nigerian Bank defender achieved in Tunisia ’94 and South Africa 2013.
Keshi also earned 60 caps, scoring 9 goals for the Nigeria, making him the nation's second-most capped player at the time of his retirement.
At club level, The ‘Big Boss’ as Keshi is fondly called by fans and admirers, played club football in five countries, most notably Belgium, where he won the Belgian league championship with Anderlecht in 1991.
As a coach, Keshi set a record in African football by being the first African coach to successfully qualify two African nations (Nigeria and Togo) to the World Cup Finals. He also helped Nigeria become the first country to achieve an African Cup of Nations trophy and World Cup qualification, both in 2013.
Therefore, in summary the duo of Yekini, and Keshi deserve to be on Legend 11 list, above all, the duo rank among the very few who had the greatest of ability, to change the course of a game simply through their act of brilliance as far as the Nigeria national team is concerned.
Do you share the same opinion or do you think otherwise?
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