Something is fundamentally wrong with our football. For a country ranked 153rd by FIFA to secure a draw against the “almighty” Super Eagles in Uyo in a World Cup qualifier speaks volumes of how bad things have gone with our football.
Yes, there are no minnows in football anymore but it appears our present crop of football administrators are hiding under this excuse to destroy what is left of the joy and bond of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Lesotho with less than three foreign players in their squad cannot come to Uyo and our Super Eagles, loaded with players from the EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A among other leagues struggle to hold them to a draw thus sharing the points at stake. And anyone in his sane mind would expect us to either clap for our football administrators or fold our hands as usual to nod like a helpless lizard.
We can no longer keep quiet and watch the sport some of us invested our careers, time, energy and youthful life to build with glorious and visible results being destroyed all under the guise of “modern administration”, whatever that means. What manner of football administration is this?
I would have outrightly entitled this piece DISBAND SUPER EAGLES NOW! But on a second thought I felt the title would only present to stakeholders the weight of the problem bedeviling the team without giving a background information surrounding the problems and the solutions required.
For those fronting the ALL EYES ON JUDICIARY campaign as well as the ALL EYES ON INEC, I think it’s high time they shifted the campaign and narrative to ALL EYES ON SUPER EAGLES or better-still, ALL EYES ON NIGERIA FOOTBALL. May be the campaign is even belated. It is necessary to avoid a second dose of World Cup miss…and painfully back to back this time.
This was same way we started the qualifiers for Qatar 2022 World Cup. We were cajoled by the so called masters of football administration running our football then to believe that all was well even as we knew the team was headed for doom.
We pretended all along until Black Stars of Ghana came to Abuja and walked away with “our” World Cup ticket, making over 200 million people look very unserious, ordinary and lacking focus. The pains of that drama were too much for the fans to bear as some of them lost their minds and consequently unleashed their anger on the stadium, vandalizing it.
Of course, we are bad historians. We may have even forgotten the bitter pill the Super Eagles, their manager or coach and the NFF gave Nigerians to swallow by not qualifying for Qatar 2022.
Needless saying that they forgot or don’t care to know that football is a major factor binding the country and ensuring that it’s population is happy. When the world says Nigerians are happy people, they are referring to football, nothing more. Not getting it right with football is tantamount to inviting doom to the country which is already overheated by happenings from economy to politics.
To think that the Golden Eaglets are not participating in the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup is to understand the depth of the malady that has been going on in Nigerian football in the last 10 years. This was a team that won the World Cup back to back in 2013 and 2015 respectively in UAE and Chile, producing players like Kelechi Iheanacho in 2013 and Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze in 2015. Nigeria has won the Under-17 Word Cup more than any other country in the world. Not even qualifying for the same tournament for sometime now is unacceptable.
If the Golden Eaglets were in the present tournament, who knows, we may have had the opportunity to discover another top quality player coming out from the team to hit stardom at the global stage.
Back to the Super Eagles. It is an understatement to say this isn’t the Super Eagles we used to know and the team didn’t degenerate to this point in one day. This continuous crash of the team like the naira falling to the dollar didn’t start today. We have seen this all along but choose to either turn a blind eye or pretend that all was well. When last did you guess Nigeria’s starting Eleven?
The dismal performance of Super Eagles is a complete reflection of the state of things in our country in all sectors. From politics to the judiciary to education to security to the economy and sports, just name it. Everything is taking a nosedive if not outright collapse.
But sports and football in particular would hurt the most given their social value to the Nigerian people or the average Nigerian. Takeaway sports from the life of a Nigerian and you would have removed a life-support from him. He would be empty.
Therefore, those running our football aground are tactically and technically killing Nigerians, perhaps deliberately too. Take a look at the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) and the latest TV Broadcast Right saga. The talk over the contractual figure which many describe as scandalous and the process of awarding the right are indications that our football is sick.
The hiring of a foreign coach for the Super Eagles and the shoddy process plus non-transparent contractual deal which are not disclosed to the public are part of the bacteria causing serious ailment on our football. How can it be said that 23 players invited for the Super Eagles and six standby played are all foreign based? Is that not tactically destroying our domestic league? Yet you expect such League to attract sponsors? Which sane corporate organization will put it’s money on a league that would never produce a player or two that would feature prominently in the national team?
In all honesty, only a corporate organization with suspicious board or management would agree to put it’s money on such league. More so, the league sponsors must know that they take part of the shines too when players of the league feature prominently in the national team and get to ply their trade abroad for top European clubs.
Still on coaching, isn’t it shameful that those running football even before now deliberately retire, exclude or ignore the quality coaches we have to employ and recycle failures? Yes, we have all round failures handling our various national teams and between both genders of the teams.
It is ridiculous if not sheer stupidity to handover a World Cup bound U-20 team to a coach who took the same team to a woeful World Cup tournament 16 years earlier. And what was the result? Same shambolic performance. Will you blame such coach or those who hired him to obviously carry out an undertaker’s exercise on the team?
Using coaches appointments to settle cronies, loyalists, associates, friends and even family members is not in any way or form different from putting a knife on the neck of our football and slaughtering it like chicken. Worse still is the fact that the so called coaches don’t know what a cone is.
How else can we describe decline if not to say that it took Nigeria 55 months for the Super Eagles to secure a win in an international friendly? How else can you describe madness if not to say that the Flying Eagles who ruled Africa in the past have continued to struggle to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup and when they do, they crash out in the group stage?
How else do we describe dwindling fortunes if not to say that Nigerian clubs go into continental competitions just to make up the numbers? When last did a Nigerian club reach the quarter final of a club continental competition? The South Africans that came to Nigeria for football tutorials are now ruling the continent. Yet a group of persons beat their hands on their chests to claim to be the best football administrators?
Indeed, we need a Summit on the Super Eagles where major stakeholders would gather and brainstorm on how to get out of the woods. Is our football in the woods? Sure it is…and if it is not rescued now it may just be the end of anything exciting about it.
We may need to revisit the Golden Era of sports in Nigeria particularly in the area of football. The Era of Late Air Commdr. Emeka Omeruah when sports thrived and football excelled.
There’s no gainsaying that maladministration is the bane of sports development in Nigeria. Sadly, the hawks and vultures have taken over, hence, a summit could be the only solution to return them to the sky and allow patriotic, genuine and experienced administrators to revive the sector.
The sooner this is done, the better for the country.