The Nigerian president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan directed on Tuesday that the country should pull out of all football competitions till 2012. This is as a result of the country’s poor performance in the ongoing world cup in South Africa.
The president’s directive did not come as a surprise to me, considering the lackluster performances of our teams in recent time. The last time they gave Nigerians something to cheer about was in South Korea 2007, when the U-16 team conquered the world and came back with the trophy.
Our performance in Egypt 2009 (FIFA U-20 World Cup) was less than satisfactory as we could not advance beyond the second round in a competition that was eventually won by the Black Starlets of Ghana. We eventually hosted the U-16 world cup (Oct/Nov 2009) and lost to first-timers, Switzerland in the final; we should also not forget that we did not qualify for the competition because we were knocked out by little known Benin Republic, and only got there as the host nation.
Why The Dwindling Fortunes?
A lot of things have contributed to this downward spiral of our national teams; I will only mention few of them for the sake of time:
Corruption: This has remained the bane of our football as players get imposed on the coaches by certain people who are highly placed in government. This issue of God-fatherism has contributed to a large extent to the lackluster performance of our players, as those who are backed by these cabals believe no one could ever remove them from the team so long as their God fathers are still alive. So they do not give their best because they never got there by merit but through the back door.
Quota system: The use of quota system in almost all spheres of life has also affected our football as certain areas/zones must also contribute players whether they are fit or not. Players used to be selected to play for the national teams based on merit, skills and fitness and not by geographical affiliation; but today the reverse is the case.
Lack of continuity: Ghana is waxing strong today because they were able to graduate their young talents to replace the aging ones. But in our own case, the old players have held tenaciously to the national team’s jerseys, preventing the young ones from graduating. How do we explain a situation where Kanu Nwankwo, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, John Utaka, Joseph Yobo, Rabiu Afolabi, etc still maintain a regular shirt in the team? Only Haruna Lukman is now playing for the Super Eagles when all his team mates to South Korea – Rabiu Ibrahim, Yakubu Alfa, Oseni, etc. have all been left out. What also happened to Coach Sampson Siasia’s Olympic squad?
What Should We Do?
Administration: The old hands in NFF should be flushed out and ex-footballers should administer our football. They would bring in passion and commitment, unlike the present people who are after money.
Continuity: Our young players who have done well at various levels should be graduated to take over from the aging players who are struggling for fitness: we should borrow a leaf from Ghana.
Stop quota system: Players should be invited to the national teams based purely on merit and not on quota system that is bringing mediocrity into the teams.
Discipline: Our players should be subject to discipline; nobody should be guaranteed a permanent shirt anymore. Anyone who does not do well should be shown the way out, and more committed ones be brought in.
Good developmental plans: The foreign coaches have not done too well for us (except Clemence Westerhof and Otto Gloria). We should therefore begin to develop our local coaches who would show more commitment if appointed to handle our teams. Our football academies should also be improved to produce quality players.
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