It was ironic putting out this production at the time I did. Because it was a time when the impact of the subject needed more scrutiny and lines needed drawing clearer and with more elasticity. In life’s journey, we tend to pursue our goals. We have talked many times about optimism, hope and positivity – the never-say-die, never-give-up mindset that needs to be in us. However, we also need to bring to awareness the fact that when we pursue things, there is a point where we need to draw the line and admit that it is not going to plan;that the game is up, and it is time to change tactic or strategy, or change direction entirely. I give the example of a football team, going many goals down in the course of a game, and knowing what to do to manage the situation, and limit the damage and still get something of a respectable score line from the game. Knowing when the game is up and admitting it in time makes one focus on positives and approaching life with flexibility.
The mind has a funny way of dealing with situations. Many times, we subconsciously take one look at a project in front of us, and we decide how much effort we want to put into it. Some are subconsciously deemed too small to give everything to. While to the mind, others are the ‘big ones’ and no effort can be spared in giving everything to.
The problem though, is how to determine what is a big one against what is not a big one. And that is where we mostly allow our minds to guide us. When the mind guides, the body reacts, and many times, reacts accordingly.
Many times we see people who are great at what they do, apply themselves well at starting stages, and when it gets to the crucial point, they falter, because their mind is not dealing with the magnitude of the project, and they crumble when the stage is big.
But to many successful people, every project is the same. They turn up and do what they need to do, put as much energy into the small, as well as the big ones. They see every situation as a ‘final’ and their preparation and application is the same.
This is where we need to be. At a mindset point where we are able to turn up and deliver at all times, and making every situation one that truly matters to us all.
Today marks the end of the month dedicated to black people. October 2020 was labelled Black History Month and it was a month that many of us tried to celebrate, recognise and appreciate the impact of many black people who contributed immensely to the society and left one legacy or the other, through their words, their beliefs or their deeds over the years.
Much has been said of these great individuals and their position in history can not be overstated. This month has been that reminder of what qualities black people did have and how far the fight for equality had come.
But there also are black people in the present day, who are, again through their actions and words, gradually working their way into the annals of black history, and who are worthy of being appreciated and celebrated.
And today is for them, the present that makes us remember the past, that the future will be blessed with memories of their deeds and inspire more excellence in the black race.
Many always wonder what it takes to be a good leader. We always find it easy to analyse and scrutinise people and judge the qualities of individuals on who was a leader and who was not.
But there also is always the question of whether we truly know what qualities of leadership one needs to possess to qualify to be a good one.
Leadership is a strong word and everyone has a duty to be a leader at what we all do. But we need to find that bridge, that understanding as to who is a leader and what leaders should really possess to qualify to be good ones.
Success is a form of leadership. But can we all be leaders?
My heart is bleeding, and I am so sad as I write this. I despair watching the news and seeing what is happening in Nigeria.
About two weeks ago, we were in Austria attending the international fixtures with friendly matches against Algeria and Tunisia, when the whole #EndSARS protests started in Nigeria. Some of our players responded to it and posted their support on social media.
I was asked by a few media people why we did not, collectively as a team, seek to make a stand at the friendly game to want to join the protest.
I must say I did not realise the gravity of what it was until later. Yes we hear about police brutality in Nigeria. Just like the Americans and the Brits have fought social injustice and police unfair profiling and brutality against a certain group of people.
But the stories that started to emerge out of Nigeria showed that this was at a different level and something needed to be done.
The youth of Nigeria, supported by many high profile celebrity personnel, launched a hashtag campaign and spread the word calling on government to End the SARS arm of the Nigerian Police.
Street protests were carried out and we were seeing a ramping up of support and signatories for the clamour for the scrapping of the said SARS. Government of Nigeria responded somewhat but the youth were not convinced. And they set about further protests – supposedly peacefully to drive the change that is required.
This is the fundamental right of citizens, to conduct protests and show their displeasure at all times. There is always a protest and a march and a convergence of one set of people or the other outside the Houses of Parliament in London at any given time – a protest at, for or against one thing or the other. So, the fact that the youth of Nigeria want to air their grievances on matters is no bad thing at all.
Where I start to weep is the point where I ask the question – at which point, for what reason and to what end did it turn to a platform to start killing people, to start burning fellow citizens’ property and inflicting pain on each other? Is this still part of the protests? What will the end result be when this dust finally settles?
It pains that Nigeria is in upheaval. It pains that lives are being lost. It hurts that the whole purpose for which the protests were initiated has been negated by acts of violence and thoughtlessness.
And what is worse is that one does not even know what to say to what group. The looters who are inflicting these pains and are disrupting the peace will probably not read this….so we can’t appeal to them to stop. The police who are being accused of shooting and killing civilians will claim to be acting to protect law and order (by shooting live ammunition though? Please, No!).
So when you are faced with a situation, and you know what is wrong but can’t right what is wrong, yet can’t advise for people to be resigned to what is wrong and yet can’t push them to do things to make it right, then the heart bleeds.
There is the need to shift the mindset in Nigeria. A mindset shift is required. Something is not right, and it has to be sometime. Whether it is the protests that will effect the change, or the sudden realisation by the powers that be that something is needed to empower and engage the population meaningfully, something has got to give.
We certainly need the youth to be more involved in what is going to be the shaping of the future of the country. But with violence? Most definitely not.
So we need to separate the many groups – the genuine protesters who want peaceful change; the so-called hoodlums who have taken to looting and burning properties down; the heavy handed police personnel who have allegedly resorted to shooting and killing protesters; and the government authorities that are required to listen to the calls and cries.
Let the peaceful ones stay peaceful. Two wrongs never make a right, so attacking the attackers will not see them achieve their aim.
Let everyone stay safe and far away from violence. There is no point losing lives to a cause where there will be grief at the end of what might be a successful drive.
It is imperative that we all look out for one another, and hope that the country comes out on the other side, with desired result and success, that life can return to normal with minimal casualties.
My heart is bleeding now, but I am hoping that things will improve and I can have a happy heart knowing that peace has achieved and delivered desired change in the mindset of the Nigerian – for now and into the foreseeable future.
For now, please let all stay safe, and air our grievances with safe precautions at all times.
You spend your life wondering why you are not satisfied within yourself with what you are doing.
When you get that way, take stock. Sometimes you find that you might have mortgaged your happiness and satisfaction and left them in the hands of other people.
Now is the time to take control, and do what pleases you, and only you.
A picture tells many stories, and it is important that the picture of you that will be perfect must be one that is seen as perfect to suit your own satisfaction, your own desires and your own requirements.
No two people have the same desires, therefore no two people can be 100% satisfied with being in the very same place.
The mindset message is to seek your own personal satisfaction, be contented with it and blot the noises around you as much as possible.
Your success is for you to savour! Enjoy the video.
We are being dealt with severely by this virus. It has ruined the year for most of us. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any better anywhere. Nations’ economies are staging a brutal fightback at the expense of further spread of the virus. But drastic measures are being taken and one can not say we don’t see why.
Industries are shutting down and the situation remains bleak for many.
Football is struggling. Really struggling. We can not be fooled by the big figures in the transfer market. It is only the big clubs that are doing it. And even those big clubs are restricted only to one or two countries in Europe.
And this brings us to wonder what will become of the young football generation in dear continent Africa. The youth of Africa are taking a massive hit by this thing. And while governments and big bodies are seemingly looking out for each other, there are some who will ever benefit from all forms of largesse and palliative, and those are the ones we should be concerned about the most – the young generation of Africans.
We need to preserve the future.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of being featured on the BBC South Today bulletin, where I had to talk about the growing menace that is racism in football. As it turned out, the BBC was running a weeklong series of features and focus on the issue of racism, and, although the intended feature with me was to be in connection with my work for the Nigerian senior national team in my coaching/scouting capacity, the prevalent issue of racism took centre stage.
It took that stage so much that when the recording went back to studio, the editor at BBC deemed it more appropriate to amplify my message on racism much louder than the call on Nigerian players to switch allegiance from the country they live to their country origin.
It was a pleasant surprise, and very heartwarming, considering my position and strong feelings about race issues in the world that we live in. And thanks to the BBC, I was able to express, in that short time, my true thoughts on what is growing to be a real nuisance in our society.
However, it also brought me to ask myself the question – where really are we on this matter of racism?
Racism has been going on many many years. We have spent the last few months talking a whole lot more about it than before. But it is still there.
We have done the Black Lives Matter, we have started the kneeling down in sports events, we raise our fists, we do all these things….all in the name of fighting racial injustice.
It is great and refreshing to see big organisations like the BBC, like SkySports among others in my world – my football world – taking notice and making active moves that show their desire to be more inclusive, engaging and absorbing.
This is all great. But to what end?
Are we looking to eradicate racism? Can we actually bring an end to racism?
When these big movements talk, in football, and say ‘Kick-It-Out’ and all, is the aim to actually kick racism out of football?
I ask these questions because we need to get a handle on this subject – what racism is, how bad it is, and why it is….for example, in our football.
But then….I also ask – like in football, we say racism is there and growing. Is it only in football?
The movements that want to kick racism out of football, can they do it effectively without engaging with those in the wider and outer society?
Because racism in football can not go, due to the fact that racism is wider, broader and is a reflection of the wider society.
How can someone grow up, go to work feeling hatred for a black man at work; go to school and harbour racist hatred for a black classmate; be in a shop and take a look at the black person in front of the queue and a raw hatred wells up in them towards the person; is on the road driving, sees a black driver and just decides to cut the driver up because he is black?
How can this person, who has all this hatred inside him, now go to a football stadium and suddenly feel warm and nice towards a black player?
If such things can happen, then we can say racism in football is history. But it does not. Because racist tendencies are in the DNA of many individuals, and it is hard to get rid of.
We can not get rid of racism in football without tackling racism in the wider society. And that is what I want to dwell on at this time.
The wider society needs to be educated more. We need to get rid of this long-buried mindset in the hearts of many about what it means to be of a different race and colour.
Many who practice racism, and who develop racist tendencies do it without even knowing the root cause of why they are being racist. Many just inherit the passion and hatred from peers and elder ones and never found out just why it was so.
And some are so selectively racist. They could be friends, be in relationships with a black person; sometimes in football, support a team that has black players, but when they get on the wrong side of one, their expletives against the black person will be loudest.
You can not break down racism enough. There are just too many sides to it.
But also it must be acknowledged that the bitter part of racism is practiced by a relative minority of the wide world, and it makes it impossible for us to generalise and state that we live in a racist world.
It then brings one to a basic fundamental question. How do we curb racism? Do the perpetrators of the act really care about the consequences?
In football, they impose financial penalties on a player who racially abuses a fellow player – maybe a couple of games’ ban. If it is a fan that racially abuses a player, the club or country comes down on such a fan and perhaps bans such a person from attending football matches for a period – sometimes for life.
But what is the deterrent for the fan who racially abuses a fellow fan in the stands? What about the parent in grassroots football who racially attacks another parent or a young player (someone else’s child) on the Sunday youth league game pitch?
We don’t hear much of that, do we?
Leaving football, how many racial discrimination cases actually come up and get heard and judged in normal life? How do we treat racist acts in our offices? Do we even spot them?
How many black people have had the courage to come forward and complain that their manager called them a derogatory name in the course of work?
Racism is in the wider society and we should really not be surprised at the filter into our sports arenas unchecked, because the wider society has not checked it; or shall I say…can not check it.
So we need to take the education back to ourselves, and the grassroots, and now not only to the potential perpetrators of racism, but to the other side of that divide.
We have flogged the issue of racism and begged that it stops. We have done the whole PR stuff and protested, rallied, demonstrated and devised slogan after slogan since the 1950s that it must stop.
The situation is improving, but it is so deep that it is hardly noticed, and it only takes one single event to spark it all off again.
So I want to propose that we do more….more in the area of providing support, reasonable and impactful support to the abused, and focus less on the abuser.
Let us try that. Let us try and be there for the abused, a whole lot more than we are at the moment.
In football, we have those programmes that I mentioned – Kick-It-Out, FARE and all those racial equality groups. When a football player is racially abused, they run up and take action. They publicly and outrightly condemn the act, and provide support and sometimes counselling to the specific person who was abused.
This is all great. But we need more. We need to act more, and provide sustained, continuous support, not just to ease the pain of the abused after he or she has been abused, but to encourage a shift in the mindset of every individual on how not to be pained by racial abuse.
That is the support we need, not just in football, not only in the sports sector; but in the wider world.
I will share a story today, of my youth days.
I started driving at a very young age. And at that age (can’t exactly say because it was very illegal to be driving when I was!), I still managed to get my parents to bequeath one of their older cars to me, and it was like I owned the car.
But young teenager that I was, anytime I had the chance, I still wanted to drive the relatively newer car that even my parents used to wrap up in cotton wool and took only to special places on special occasions.
So when they were not around, I will sneak into the garage, take the ‘cotton wool’ wrapping off the car, and go see my friends and enjoy the luxury of the new car! Naughty, I know!
But again, teenager that I was, I was unable to cover my tracks well. And many-a-time, I got caught. My parents will know that I had been to the car. I get the necessary reprimand but does it deter the teenager? No. So I did it again and again.
Then it dawned on them (I think) that if they couldn’t heal the rascal in me, they had to do something about themselves. So they devised ways of keeping their precious car keys in places where I would never find them. They found ways that my actions did not hurt them as much as it did at the start.
Did it work? All I can say here is that after a while, I lost the appetite for driving the precious cars and remained satisfied with mine. And believe me, no force was applied.
The truth is that racism is like any other vice. And for as long as you still see crimes being committed in other areas, in spite of the fact that there is law and deterrent, racism will still occur. No amount of punishment will be enough to stop people from doing what they aim to do. Especially as we said before that it is in-bred, and has been there a long time.
It is bitter, it is hard, but it is true.
So, like my parents did all those years ago, I am saying we can also do this.
We can also provide support to ourselves to minimise the impact of what is being done to us, even before it is done. We can rally round each other and let the minority racists see that they are attacking a block of united, cerebral and self-confident people and that their actions do not as much as lay a faint touch on us.
That is the kind of support we need to provide. A support network that helps the black and ethnically diverse people so that they see very little in what is thrown at them, while also using the same network to engage those who potentially might get into racist acts and discourage them.
I want to see a lot less of black and ethnic minorities being sad and acting like victims in the face of abuse. We can not allow the minority of people score verbal, moral and psychological victories over people who did no wrong at all, other than being a different skin colour.
I want to see many of our black people hold their heads high, confident in who they are, what they are and how they are….and focus on getting better at what they do well, and think as little of the abuse as is possible, and most importantly, not to let it hurt them.
We are writing a Report Card on racism, and that Report Card shows that we are making all the noises; Black Lives Matter has gained ground immensely worldwide, we are pumping fists, raising arms and fighting racial inequality.
We are getting the people who do the abuse to stop. Companies and organisations are reviewing their recruitment policies and promotion strategies. Media organisations are doing their best to promote the slogan.
We have the elite sports people standing up, not just for themselves, but for people like them.
Now is the time, to complete that Report Card by recording SUCCESS – by providing consistent and sustained, effective support for the education and the development of the mindset of the black and ethnically diverse in society to stand up, raise their chins up individually and collectively, and be able to shout “I AM NOT A VICTIM – YOUR ACTIONS WILL NOT GET TO ME”.
It is all in the MINDSET!
Les Ferdinand was a great player – a good example of what a striker should be in his day.
He had a fair share of Premier League appearances, and was well travelled within England. He played in clubs like Tottenham, Newcastle United, Watford, Bolton Wanderers; and he spent a lot of time playing for Queens Park Rangers.
Les has played for England, he has 17 caps to his name, and he is the eighth highest scorer in the history of the Premier League with 149 goals! No mean feat that – try scoring one in that league and you will appreciate what a feat it is to have scored 149 times!
So Les stopped playing like many would, when their bodies start to tell them it’s time to quit. He listened to his body and he quit, but never quit football.
So today, ‘Sir Les’, as I call him, is the Sporting Director in the club where he first made a mark as a player – Queens Park Rangers FC in London.
A big introduction for a soft-spoken gentleman; and why ever not? This week, this man talked his way into my heart and I really needed to share it.
Flashback to a few days ago – and Sir Les’s team – QPR had a game against Coventry City. And before the game, referee’s whistle goes and viewers at home expected both sets of players and the officials to ‘take the knee’ ahead of kick off.
And you may wonder – why do they ‘take the knee’? What does it depict? For avoidance of doubt, I will explain. We ‘take the knee’ by kneeling on one knee for a short while as a symbol of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. And the Black Lives Matter movement in turn is a protest slogan which is aimed at protesting the social injustices in the world around us, racism, discrimination and all manner of segregation that exists and has riddled our world for years.
We tend to kneel because we want to echo the brutal, inhuman killing of American George Floyd by a policeman on May 25. This policeman, in an attempt to restrain Floyd during the process of arresting him, knelt on his neck with full force for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, and sapped life out of the pleading, helpless 46-year-old father of 5.
It is the kneeling on the neck that the world transformed and decided to go down on one knee to replicate the brutality of that killing.
Many sportsmen and women have been ‘taking the knee’ preceding games over recent months.
And so it happened that on this day (18 September), both QPR and Coventry players did not ‘take the knee’.
The barrage of criticism started, and QPR came under a lot of it, given the diverse and cosmopolitan nature of the club.
I can handle criticism, but when it came out as it did, I had to give credit to Les Ferdinand for speaking up.
Because I saw things from where he was speaking from.
What really is this ‘Take the Knee’ thing these days? ‘Sir Les’ said it all – it is now no more than high-profile PR (public relations). But in truth, what has it achieved?
Have we managed to change the mindset of the big corporate organisations to engage more with people in the ethnic minority (black people) and give them equal opportunities? Have we seen a shift in the employment pattern in our world?
In football, have we seen an upsurge in the employment of black managers since May, since the Black Lives Matter saga started, and since we started ‘taking the knee’?
How many of the people who are actively ‘taking the knee’ will go to their desks, see an application from a black potential and consider him or her without favour or prejudice?
I spoke on my YouTube platform a couple of weeks ago. I said it was high time we zipped up and acted more.
We talk a lot about what we believe we should be doing. Black Lives must matter, yes. We say racism must go from all sports. We chastise the police for profiling black people in the streets. Everyone sounds like they buy into the noise we are making – seeking equality.
And if we listen and hear the people talking, you would wonder why everyone is not in white flowing angelic robes in clean streets and roads in our cities – making ours a World of Angels.
But alas, it can not be. Because we are not a World of Angels; but a world of hypocrites. We pay lip service to these causes but we do very little in action.
Les Ferdinand is one example of a player who was racially abused all his life. If he saw genuine action being made towards eradicating racism from the society, he will be first in line. But he sees nothing, and yet people abuse him for not ‘taking the knee’ and joining in toothless propaganda!
Lewis Hamilton is another. Hero of the black race for making a stand, a Formula One superstar who was investigated because he wore a T-shirt demanding that justice be served on the group of policemen who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in March of this year in America.
These are the brutal images of victims of racial discrimination. Has it stopped? Are black people more respected and celebrated in the world today….more now than before we started ‘taking the knee’?
The report card does not make pleasant reading – not yet it does not. The opportunities are still not flowing. And any small appointment that is made of a black person is amplified so loud that it is like they were doing the entire black race a favour for employing one person.
That is not what is needed. The black race do not need empathy or preferential treatment. They do not want to be employed for reasons of ‘political correctness’.
Rather, like Micah Richards (former player of Manchester City and now pundit on British TV network SkySports) said, black people actually want to work hard and get to that top post on merit. But that merit has to shine through and must be transparent and genuine.
Taking the knee is optional. We must not castigate anyone for not doing it. But we must all look inward and see whether we are DOING enough to enhance the quality of life of all mankind – black and all other races, with equality.
That is where our heart should be, and this is what, today, makes ‘Sir Les’ a man after my heart.
I woke up this morning (17 September) to the news that the latest FIFA rankings were out for the month of September. FIFA rankings are the only measure we have of knowing the positions of each country in the world of football and a lot of factors come into play when determining these ranks.
For me, today was particularly pleasing, because, for the first time in a long time, the country I have a hand in coaching; my native country of origin as well – Nigeria – is now in the top 30 of world football by the latest FIFA ranking! Number 29 in the world, which has 211 officially accredited footballing nations!
This is no mean feat, and I am particularly pleased and elated at this.
We have not played international football since November 2019. The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone. But what is remarkable is that the countries who have played, who were in and around us on the ranking, still were not able to upstage us and keep us out of the top 30!
For me, this is an achievement that I want to celebrate.
Suffice to note that in 2016 when I officially joined the coaching crew of Gernot Rohr who took over as Head Coach of the Super Eagles, Nigeria was number 67 in the world, and 13th best in Africa.
It has been a long and rocky road. There have been challenges. Adversaries have been very active in trying to downplay what we have done so far. And today I shout out to us all – those of us who believed, those members of the team that stayed together in unity, in harmony and in solidarity to ward off the adversities – because this achievement is for us all.
Every member of the team – from the Head Coach Gernot Rohr to his technical staff (past and present), to every single player who has played a part in any of our 39 matches so far, to every member of the backroom staff – medical, administrative, equipment and media and the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation – all played a major part in achieving this far.
The fans, the people of Nigeria….the ever aware, ever present and ever loving people who have used their words and prayers to guide and support us….can not be ignored.
Our discipline and togetherness is one feature that I have not seen in many years of my involvement in football, and I am dead proud to be a part of it.
Some have said we probably have not done enough – that by now we should be ruling Africa, ruling the world. Some have been even more scathing in their criticism.
Their words have motivated us, and galvanised us, and will continue to do so, as we believe we can do even better, and can rise even higher in the rankings.
We remain humble, steadfast and committed, and we believe that the support and love of those who have been behind us till this day, will spur us to even greater achievements, going forward.
Watch this space – the Super Eagles will continue to soar.