This is more of an open letter containing jabs, discussions about Nigeria’s failing state of football and some bit of advice.
I have been around long enough on the continent Africa (not as long as your mind is thinking) to be forever concerned about the state of Nigerian football and the Nigerian Football Federation (abi shey na association them be).
Things have gotten so complex these days that there’s now usually a long list when talking about the problems of Nigerian football.
And when solutions are proposed (of course everyone usually has an idea), there’s an even longer list than before.
A long list of problems. An even longer list of solutions.
You can understand my plight when I ask, “Where do I even begin?”
First off, Nigeria’s Super Eagles, AGAIN, failed to qualify for yet another African Cup of Nations. It is now the first time we’ve failed to qualify for the tournament back-to-back and the third we’ll be missing out on out of the last five organized.
We refused to go to the 2012 edition. The Super Eagles (Super Chickens maybe?) as defending champs, decided against qualifying for the 2015 edition in Equatorial Guinea. And now, they won’t be taking part in the 2017 edition in Gabon.
Let’s blame it on the Pharaohs of Egypt who killed us off with the one-all draw in Kaduna and then a lone goal victory in Alexandria.
But really, how did we get to this sorry state in our football history when just three years ago we were African champions?
To back-date a bit, Atlanta ’96 may be a bit foggy but I read about it and watched a few clips. I must say, a few of the matches were glorious and beautiful to watch then. The memories. The tears that came to your eyes then were those of “oh, what a beauty” and not “Jesus Christ! what in the heavens did I just watch.”
From findings, Westerhoff was gone then and on came Bonfire JO (lol its Bonfrere Jo actually, but I like to think he was the one who set the fire to our team). After then Naija began to hire and fire coaches at will sometimes even re-hiring fired coaches sef (Bonfrere Jo, siasia, amodu etc).
Maybe one of the reason Nigeria’s football has been so unstable is the chronic instability as regards coaches.
Once outsted from a competition, the mandate is that the coach must follow. He’s shown the exit door. No time to build rappport with the players.
Another steps in, with a new management and a new style. The players have to adjust in such a short time.
Rinse and repeat.
Of course that’s one way the NFF has failed me as Nigerian football fan.
Another is poor funding which, has been responsible for why our home-based football clubs are finding it difficult to match others in North Africa and elsewhere and hence can’t produce players who can compete in the national colours.
Can’t blame people for watching the EPL and other leagues more than the NPFL when the moment you start to watch a Nigerian Professional Football League match, the environment alone kills your morale. The equipments cause backaches (talking of the stadium chairs) and the pitch just has the “save me” cry.
Only 3 of the 20 clubs in the topflight, IfeanyiUbah FC, MFM FC and Ikorodu United are privately owned. The rest are funded by state governments.
Before the down turn in the country’s economy, most states never really considered these clubs as big businesses that should be managed as big businesses. Instead, they were given to politically-correct persons to run.
A back-log of owed salaries with players playing half-heartedly.
The ripple effect follows the players when called up and are in the midst of guys that have just flown in from all parts of Europe. The international ones. By this time, they’re not even motivated enough to give them a run for their money.
The lazy ones get the starting berths and the even lazier ones get the bench role. The home-based ones can only watch from home. Nigeria struggles to beat the likes of Sudan and the cycle continues.
But if the international ones have become too big (more on this later) and the local ones are feeling too inferior to step up to the plate, the younger ones should give it a shot right?
I wish they could. The failure of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to encourage football academies, check the activities of football agents and monitor the progress of super kids (see Germany) has helped the free-fall of the Super Eagles.
The total under-development of our football academies/ U-17’s, U-20’s. I recall the likes of Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwingie, Kelechi Iheanacho and, of late, Kelechi Nwakali coming through the junior national teams.
Nigeria is feared in every world U-17 or U-20 football tournament as we never cease to produce great kids. Yet, it’s still so difficult to produce great footballers for our generation.
But the kids, no matter how good they are, can’t get to play until that lousy politician’s cousin, without skills or talent whatsoever, is done playing.
Grooming the young and giving them a shot is the model most teams in the EPL and in Europe at large use. They all have decent-enough football academies that are responsible for grooming footballers of the future. And it works for them.
If only the same could be said about our nation.
The NFF need to focus more on trying to get the most out of the many talents we’ve got in Nigeria instead of wasting time analysing how lesbianism has caused the downfall of the Super Falcons (the joy of Nigerian football).
What has a person’s sexuality got to do with how a person plays her football? Of course we’ve all got different stances on the issue but… if a gay player plays better than a straight person, biko why not let her play?
Talent over sexuality!
Afterall its about Nigeria and it’s to the benefit of all. Abi when they win the trophy, no be all of us go celebrate?
Wages are not paid early. Due tournament bonuses are withheld. Training facilities remain the same without improvements. Yet you can blame their sexuality?
Back to the international ones. On one hand, in the on-going EURO 2016 tournament, you see players extremely pleased and dedicated about playing for their nation.
Men and boys playing their heart and soul out in a bid to bring glory to their nation. Countries trying to “out-sing” the other whenever their anthems are played (welldone Buffon).
On the other, you have Nigerian players who have a different idea to National Loyalty. For the nation, IT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT THE MONEY. I don’t think there is any nation that pays its players better than what the clubs pay so, grow up! Play with heart! If you can’t, don’t heed the call.
Of course I’m scared of the next WC Qualifiers. Truth be told , I am on the side of those who believe Nigeria won’t make it.
Call me pessimistic but I look forward to what Mahrez and co. would do to us. I doubt we can even pick up a point against Cameroon. Perhaps we would get to finish above Zambia, but then, the Super Eagles are known to disappoint so maybe we shouldn’t expect too much.
Bottom line: Let’s play this WC qualifier in preparation for Qatar 2022 because we aren’t going to Russia.
Let’s look for a good coach, and improve our tactics and dedication to the nation’s football spirit.
Although I refuse to give up on supporting Nigerian football, I am tired of the whole permutation process we as fans have to go through during qualifications like this. Letting our fate be decided by the results of other teams and all.
The coach change and leadership of the football federation is the BIGGEST CONCERN of all.
Nigerians are known to be spiritual, so I am calling on my God in heaven to save us and help us.
GOD BLESS NIGERIA.
Bamgboye Ayodele is a writer of all genres, passionate sport analyst and a freelance game blogger. You can keep up with writing and also engage with him on Twitter @LORD_Obote.