The current state of football in Nigeria is porous and obviously, this deserves urgent attention. We can break this down in many ways. The ouster of the country’s Eagles B team from CHAN competition meant for homebased senior players was purely an administrative failure. The team was not called to camp early enough and so they lost the ticket in the first leg with the 2-0 defeat suffered against the Galaxies of Ghana. For a tournament that was in the continental calendar, it was a shock that their preparation was delayed.
Skipper of the CHAN team, Tope Olusesi, was furious about the defeat suffered against Ghana. He said: “We were left to our fate. The preparation was not good for the away game and we were also not well-motivated for the return encounter in Abuja. We gave our all but it was obvious our opponents prepared better.” We are aware that the failure of the league to start on time is another big issue that affected the CHAN team and sad enough it could ultimately affect the four teams on the continent who were on duty last weekend.
In the CAF Champions League, Plateau United recorded a 2-2 draw against ASO Stade Mandji in Gabon just as Rivers United defeated Watanga FC of Liberia 3-0 in Port Harcourt. In the Confederation Cup, controversial entrant, Kwara United defeated AS Douanes of Niger Republic also 3-0 in Lagos while ASFAR Club of Morocco surprisingly played 1-1with Nigeria’s Remo Stars. Overall, it was an amazing start for the country’s representatives even before the second leg ties but we strongly believe match rustiness remains a big challenge for these teams since the league is not in session.
Over the years, Nigerian teams often crumbled even before the league stage of the continental competition and this year, the situation is likely going to be the same when the competition gets into crucial stages like the money spinning last eight stage of both the Champions League and Confed Cup.
There is also the Aiteo Cup brouhaha which has been in limbo over the past few weeks because the competition started late and Kwara United was picked to represent Nigeria even when a winner is yet to emerge in the Federation Cup. The NFF promised the teams cash incentives to continue with the tournament in which nothing is at stake but the teams are saying the money must be in their account before they will take part in the quarterfinals. However, we believe the 10-Year Football Masterplan report presented to President Muhammadu Buhari last month is a serious paper that must be implemented to move the game forward in the country.
We have seen many such reports but the truth is there is a need to administer the game with a document so that the template created will be used by every regime from one tenure to the other. It is a wholesome, wellresearched document put together by the Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima-led group made up of highly experienced football and sports people, carefully picked by the supervisor of the project, the Sports Minister Sunday Dare. We are impressed that no relevant institution was left out and no aspect of Nigerian football was left unattended to. The report is broken into several segments, each part identifying what is wrong and prescribing how to make it right.
Some of the key segments include the legal framework and structure of football administration in Nigeria; football development and professionalism; sponsorship and funding; youth development as well as the changes needed to uplift the Nigeria Professional Football League and other domestic championships and competitions.
The report recommends more robust policies for football in line with the vision of President Buhari and Dare to make it a real business that will provide sustainable employment for hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youth. Other suggestions by the contributors include a review of the National Sports Policy, encouraging private ownership of clubs rather than the current proliferation of poorly-run state government-owned clubs, improved patronage of National Institute for Sports programmes, and the provision of total healthcare and solid retirement plans for footballers.
While receiving the report, the President said: “This government is interested in developing a football culture that will accommodate global best practices, and help the nation to lay a solid foundation for her domestic football, put in place professionally and efficiently run leagues, entrench a consistent and stable football calendar and create a value chain which will boost the sports ecosystem.”
We make bold to say that with the level at which football has degenerated in Nigeria, it is crucial to immediately embrace the Masterplan as advised by President Buhari. There has been a case of ‘no policy’ in the running of football in the country and that has to change going forward especially with the election into the board of the NFF around the corner. The next NFF President must be the one that will embrace a policy template to run the game and take it to a higher level.