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Posted by Kingsley Okiwelu on 07/10/2010

Nigerians, like the geographical entity we inhabit are a people filled with the most incongruous contradictions. This is a country where Resources are abundant but 70% of the population still live below the poverty line, which is the world’s 7th Largest Oil exporter and yet has to import Petrol to satisfy the demands of it’s teeming population, which has produced some of the world’s brightest people straddling various fields but only in the last year produced it’s first University educated President.

It’s also one of the countries where popular opposition to an idea, a government, a culture of doing things can be the most vocal. Where the press can be so chaotically vibrant and the plurality of views on any issue can be so varied that arriving at a consensus is often a futile venture. Indeed, it often seems as though the country is being pulled in the direction of the more than 250 ethnic groups that constitute it.

If there’s anything that unifies this vast country however, it is football providing as it does the best escape from the humdrum existence of people who live in a society where nothing works. It is therefore understandable that the Super Eagles rather less than glowing performance at the World Cup in South Africa continues to attract virulent vitriol from the populace. Invectives have been hurled at everyone associated with the team from the players to the officials of the Nation’s FA. There is universal disenchantment with the caliber of players that end up donning the colours of the National Football side. Everyone seems to be able to identify the problem, namely the win at all cost syndrome which ensures that there is an overwhelming desire to see the country’s teams whether at the U-17, U-20 or at the Senior level, do well. How those results are achieved, nobody cares. It’s this syndrome that makes an entire nation turn a blind eye, when players who are clearly over the age limit are drafted in to represent the country at age grade competitions. Yet we are all outraged when the products of this flawed developmental system appear past their best at the Senior Level when the ages on their passports indicate that they should be in their prime.

Even when an individual tries to take action to expose this sham, the entire nation with the active connivance of the country’s print media promptly shouts him down. This was the case last year when Adokiye Amiesemeka, an ex-international, attempted to lay bare the can of worms in the Country’s football establishment. One would have normally expected the media to champion his cause, instead they published only the views of those who were opposed to his one man campaign to bring sanity into the administration of football in the country. This was in-spite of the fact that there were allegations of age-cheating leveled against some members of the team. In the euphoria that gripped the nation during the course of the tournament, which was held in Nigeria, no one was anxious to dig deeper into the uncomfortable insinuations that several members of the team were over the allowed age limit.

There can be little doubt that with a population of over 120 million people, the vast majority of whom are soccer mad, the potential talent pool available to the country is limitless. The lack of emphasis placed on grass roots development is one of the prime reasons why Nigeria is unable to harness this treasure trove of talents.

The issue has never been a paucity of talent, but the development of a football infrastructure that can discover this talent at an early enough age and nurture it to ensure that fewer potential World beaters disappear through the cracks. The setting up of football academies is a step in the right direction, but of equal importance should be improvements in coaching and sport science.

The country’s domestic league also has to be looked at. Clubs in the Nigerian League are notorious for their disinterest in young talent and have to be encouraged to set up youth teams of their own. Perhaps a policy mandating that a certain quota of players should be either developed from within the club structure or should come from football academies would help.
Most of all, less emphasis should be placed on winning at all cost at youth tournaments. The development of a winning mentality is important, as successive German teams have shown, but this should not take precedence over the development of genuine youth talent.

If we are serious about becoming a global football Super Power, the Super Eagles woeful performance at this world cup should serve as a catalyst to engaging in reforming the shambles that is the current state of Nigerian football.

Comments

Posted by chuka on 07/10/2010

Nicely put mate.

Posted by odus on 07/10/2010

My brother,the rot in our nation is so enormous that putting soccer right takes the rear...a lot more's gotta be put right
Eg: if every birth is registerer n everyone's got a national I'd, I guess it'll be good bye to over-aged players in our youth teams

Posted by kingsley okiwelu on 07/10/2010

@ Chuka, thanks.
@ Odus, I agree with you. However, some things can still be done about putting our football house in order, while we hope the country's put right in other spheres. Countries like Brazil and Argentina had decades of success on the football field even when their countries were having problems in the political,social and economic spheres.
What we have to combat first of all is the culture of silence that makes us turn a blind eye to age cheating. You and I know these players and we should name them and shame them.
Once that is done, we can begin to attain some progress. In addition, the win at all cost syndrome has to be tackled head-on.

Posted by mbaebie chinonso on 07/11/2010

The nigerian problem is predicated on the fact dat NFA is corrupt and ethnicity and tribalism becoming the basis of selection.i suggest a total overhaul of the entire crew .generate committed home based players for national assignments,like the world cup

Posted by EFE JUSTICE on 07/12/2010

Everybody should take the blame cos nobody is bold enough to mention names. It has become a tradition in the Nigerian National team for a captian to be the GENERAL OVERSEER. We do not know the difference btw a Coach and a Captain anymore. A player should not be selected based on personal recognition and past contribution but on current form. More home based players should be introduced. The post of the Assistant coach has also be 'zoned' to THE BULL. Na wa o!

Posted by Ben Oligbo on 07/13/2010

Point of correction. Nigeria's present and last president are graduates, so was Ernest Shonekan.
Otherwise good points!

Posted by kingsley okiwelu on 07/13/2010

Ben, I have to admit I rather overlooked Shonekan, perhaps because he was only an "interim" President. However, If you include him, you're right on that score. Note that I specifically mentioned "University educated President" and based on that criterion, Obasanjo doesn't qualify as he was a graduate of Yaba College of Technology when he was President.

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