Recently, the Nigerian female senior team, Super Falcons and the male Under-20 team, the flying eagles, were both eliminated from the FIFA Female World Cup in Canada and FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand respectively. What pained me the most was the way and manner they got eliminated. The flying eagles got knocked out at the second round stage after loosing to Germany 1-0. The ball was lost by the eagles central defense midfielder and the shot came in from the edge of the 18 yard box.
The female team didn’t do any better. Reports has it that the female team prayed into the night before their game against Australia, of which they lost scandalously 2-0 to the Aussie ladies. Again the coach, Edwin Okon, depended on God and his religion to beat the Aussies. The Aussies did their home work and discovered that the falcons never changed their game patterns in all competitions and were lucky to discover that the dumb coach who never made any substitutions in the match against Sweden, had the same team file out against them. the result! We lost 2-0! But the statement by a board member of the Nigerian Football Federation and chairperson of Women Football Committee, Mrs. Dilichukwu Onyedinma baffles me and makes me wonder the type of men and women we have managing our football. How can she be more concerned about the welfare of the players and not the manner of play they exhibit? So they didn’t sit down with the coach to discuss tactics? What sort of foolishness is this? Do we hire nimcompoops to manage football in Nigeria?
The game and not just football is dead in Nigeria. Our footballers and all other sports men and women participate in sports so that they can escape abject poverty. Most of them didn’t go to school at all. Not even at the primary or secondary school level. I know that somebody will be talking about school sports organization right now but the truth is do we really know whose duty it is to discover new sports talents and whose duty it is to train them? This is the sole responsibility of sports clubs. Barcelona discovered Messi when he was still a kid in Argentina. Messi started playing at the age of 5. When he became 11 years old, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Argentine club River Plate, refused to pay for his $900 a month medical bills and Barcelona came in an agreed to do so and made a demand that Messi and his family moved to Spain and since then, Messi is paying them back. He was discovered at the age of 5, how many of our footballers or other sports men and women have been discovered at that age? NONE! And yet we keep deceiving ourselves that we are sending youth teams to participate in international competitions. Most of these players are over aged.
Sports today is a huge industry worldwide. This is an industry that brings in income in huge amounts. We all have ideas on how this works. In England, the English Premier League brings in money in different ways. One of them is Pay Per View TV. The deal is worth over 5.4 billion British Pounds. That is over N1.7 trillion in Nigerian naira. I am only going to use the EPL as an example.
We need to restructure Nigerian football and all other sports. Government, and especially state governments should hands off our football and other sports. Sports associations should stop running to state governments to bail them out. If they do their homework right they can raise funds from sponsorship deals to take care of their expenses. But these associations are not accountable to themselves, their members,the governments that fund them and to the few sponsors that do business with them. How can we be spending huge amounts of money in sports and we can not see any in it. There has been no change in our sports since 1994!!! What a shame!!
Our sports clubs should be privatized and run as businesses. There are several ways to earn money as a sports club. It is easy for these lazy sports presidents and chairmen to understudy foreign clubs and learn how they make money. Even watching football matches will show you that were football coaches sit in dug shades, companies pay money to have their brand logo advertised on the sits. I am an Arsenal die hard fan and you will notices that automobile makers have their brand logo inscribed at the sit Arsenal managers sit on. Some of these clubs have more than one sponsors and they also generate money through players image right deals. Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo have huge image rights and shirt deals.
Clubs should be more interested in players from a young age and stop scouting for already made players. The NFF should deal with the threat of football agents who are destroying Nigerian football players careers. Our football is dead because we ship all our players, the good and the average ones to leagues that don’t play the same pertain of football we play in Nigeria. That is why Mikel Obi can’t blossom in the Super Eagles. If he went to Spain, Holland, France or even Germany and not England, he would have been a better player.
My final note is this, sports ass for the running of your associations should wake up. Do your job and stop stealing money meant for your associations for yourselves. Introduce youth leagues in all sports and ensure that only clubs send their players to participate in. State governments and the Federal government should stare clear of the affairs of sports in Nigeria. THAT IS A TALL ORDER TO COME BY!