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Transfers, Nigerian stars and poor domestic calendar

The transfer season is in full swing with Erling Halaand’s move to Manchester City in the English Premier League (EPL) a big signing that could make the Citizens retain their title again. On his league debut, last weekend, he scored two goals in City’s 2-0 win over West Ham. Striker Gabriel Jesus also switched to Arsenal from City just as defender Antonio Rudiger moved to the La Liga to join Real Madrid from Chelsea.

In his place, the Blues secured the services of Senegalese captain, Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli just as Bayern signed forward, Sadio Mane from Liverpool while Barcelona also strengthened their attack with the acquisition of one of Europe’s most prolific strikers, Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich.

For Nigerian stars Joe Aribo moved from Rangers to Southampton and Taiwo Awoniyi moved from Hertha Berlin to Nottingham Forest, a newly-promoted EPL outfit. Calvin Bassey also moved from Rangers to Ajax while Ademola Lookman also joined Serie A side Atlanta from RB Leipzig.

It must be stressed that Eagles stars are not always in focus during transfers; if not, Napoli striker Victor Osimhen and Paul Onuachu of Genk should have secured better deals. There is also Wilfred Ndidi who has remained with Leicester City over the years despite his brilliance in the middle of the pack. As the new season gets underway, top stars like Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chukwueze Oghenekaro Etebo together with new lads Ademola Lookman and Emmanuel Dennis must double their efforts to make an impact. Lookman should hit the ground running at Atalanta while Dennis should get himself another club since Watford has been relegated. Same goes for defender William Troost- Ekong.

The players need not only good agents but also a solid team of professionals to manage their respective careers like those of their foreign colleagues, who often spare no expense in securing the services of top football agents to manage their affairs. An exciting season is anticipated because we are in a run-in to the World Cup in November but it will be more pleasant to have Nigerian stars excel for their teams like Egypt’s Muhamed Salah is doing with Liverpool and Sadio Mane for Bayern. We need Eagles stars to play leadership roles in top clubs across the world and to do this they can ask questions on how their colleagues abroad set up management teams to handle their affairs in various aspects of the job and beyond.

Sadly the calendar imbalance in Nigeria’s domestic football is set to rear its ugly head again this season. Football fans are still lamenting over how Ghana eliminated Nigeria from the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup but now, the homebased Eagles have been drawn to play Ghana again in the CHAN competition organised for home-based senior national teams across the continent. This is a tough one because unlike Nigeria, the Ghanaian team has been in camp for close to two months because the country’s league has been on break like that of other countries in Europe.

The fixture is billed for the weekend of August 26 to 28 but the home Eagles are just entering camp this week because the league only ended about three weeks ago. The Federation Cup that should have been integrated into the football season is just getting into full swing across the country. It’s a shame that the competition which has Aiteo as its sponsors is in the round of 16 but the winners of the last edition in the male and female cadres are yet to collect their prize monies.

Aiteo should be asking the NFF questions because such should not be happening when there is a title sponsor. Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens have cried out asking for their 2021 prize money to be paid. This is too bad. The domestic league is not inspiring with a lack of a good welfare package for the players and the problem of sponsorship still prevalent as the league is not on television. Only recently, Ghana announced a sponsorship deal of six million dollars for their domestic league and that is enough to show that the NFF is bereft of ideas because the administration of the game is not about bragging but about taking the right decisions to develop the game. Raising a solid team for the CHAN competition is a tough task. Even if the home Eagles manage to beat Ghana, they might not be strong enough to do well in the CHAN finals proper.

It hurts that the administrators of the game make the same mistakes to drag our football into disrepute with bad results. Serious countries are warming up for the new season now just as the European season is already upon us with interesting transfers. We make bold to say the NFF should take the domestic league seriously since the yardstick to measure the league is the local league. Nigeria is blessed with so many talents but the task of identifying and exposing them to get to the next level is the issue. Overtime, stakeholders in sports cry out for a template in the running of affairs, we join them in asking for a systemic approach in getting it right in all areas of the country’s sports development.

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