Super Eagles & Dilema: The Solutions

burning super eagles52 years ago (1960) Nigeria gained its independence from Britain. , “birthplace” of the beautiful game, football. 34 years later (1994) we were ranked as high as the 5th best nation in the world by FIFA!

Nigeria was voted as the World’s second most entertaining team of the 1994 world cup in America! Boasting players like Rashidi Yekini,Daniel Amokachi,Finidi George, Emmanuel Amunike, Victor Ikpeba, Stephen keshi, the late but, great Uche Okafor, Peter Rufai, Uche Okechukwu, Tijani Babangida, Ben Iroha, Mutiu Adepoju, Michael Emenalor, Jay Jay Okocha and my humble self, Sunday Oliseh. Nigeria dominated simultaneously the African football scene and became in the eyes of the world, a world ‘footballing’ power and the team to beat in Africa.

However, times and Nigeria’s football fortune have drastically changed! Nigeria at the weekend was eliminated from the upcoming Nations Cup 2012 by modest Guinea! A predicament that has not befallen Nigeria since 1986. 25yrs ago! The connotation is that Nigeria is at today, no longer amongst the best 16 Teams in Africa talk less of the world! Tragic!

Gone are the days when Nigeria qualified for the African Nations cup with a game still left to play. In this particular game against Guinea, our team needed a Home victory to just qualify and at 2-1 just had to hold on for 5 minutes, but were caught on a counter attack that cost us qualification. Information filtering in from the players was that they had been asked to continue attacking to score more goals! Further buttressing how we have once again undone ourselves due to some form of incompetency or the other!

Nigeria needed a miracle to qualify for the last world cup 2010, in South Africa. Nigeria’s football is in the doldrums, to say the least. So why is this so? And can Nigeria’s lost glory be re-instated?

As said above, we are far from being considered, one of the best ‘footballing’ nations in Africa talk less of the world. We are yet to record a world cup match victory since the 1998 World cup in France, when Sunday Oliseh’s goal against Spain propelled us to our second consecutive first place in the group stages of a world cup.

With an estimated population of 150 million people, Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world. Football is miles away its number one sport. Loved passionately like a religion and is the number one unifying force in Nigeria.

In the year 1980 Nigeria won it’s first major football title, on home soil: the 1980 African Nations cup. We had to wait 14 years later (1994) to win the African nations cup once again in Tunisia. Then followed the Afro-Asian cup in 1995 and the ever prestigious Olympics football gold medal in Atlanta 1996.Four major titles, in a space of 36 years! But most significally 3 titles in 3 years! ’94,’95 & ’96.

This was the golden Era of our football. And am Grateful to God to have been an active part of this era.

We had a result seeking technical crew in Clemence Westerhof and Jo Bonfrere. The players were so hungry for victory, played in major European leagues and the fixed venue for National Matches was the ever fan demanding National Stadium, Lagos.The Football Association was blessed to have the likes of Sanni Toro and the late but very educated Samson Emeka Omeruah administering Nigeria’s football coupled with the “one eyed overseeing” of the super eagles by the Late Vice president, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu.

That the Administration of Nigerian football is very bad is a worldwide consensus. Some of the nation?s former administrators were even arrested and tried for corruption and money embezzlement recently, the new football federation is so contested that its legality is contested in the courts.

They lack (be it the National federation or club administrators) the technical knowledge, forsight and knowhow and sadly do not see the need to employ a real professional to help them in the day to day running of the clubs and related. Hence, stagnation and even retrograding as we have now.

There is an obvious lack of a well-studied plan or strategy to football administration, or stopping its decline, hence no direction or success.

 In the 80’s & 90’s Nigeria had a very competitive local National league, producing the above mentioned players and more before them (Segun Odegbami,Christian Chukwu,Adokie Amasiemaka, The Late but great Muda Lawal, Emmanuel Okala, amongst others) some of our players went as far as playing for the best clubs in the world: Ajax Amsterdam, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus Turin, Monaco, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, amongst others; Confirming just how good the Nigerian players were. As at Today We have just one playing in such clubs: Chelsea?s Obi Mikel.

Today the local league in Nigeria is short of being called a joke. It is not a secret that it has become so disvalued, corrupt and disorganized, and lack of spectacle that the populace neglect it and in preference spend more time watching the major European leagues like the premier league, la liga and the Bundesliga. Where the credibility is guaranteed, spectacle is available and no match results are “pre- determined”.

We had a first, second and third national “footballing” divisions. States had their own first, second and even regional mini leagues, which served fundamentally as a breeding ground for youth players. I personally came out of this system off Durbar hotel, Lagos. It now is in an almost non-existent state.

Kids and adults walk around the streets of Nigeria spotting Manchester united, Barcelona, Chelsea or Arsenal jerseys just to mention a few. They barely know the names of the local clubs in the professional Nigerian league talk less of the local star players. The devastating effect of this is that the nation is no longer producing home-made quality star players, because kids are not dreaming anymore. And the ones who genuinely can play are denied. Experience has shown us that every great athlete started out by dreaming of achieving greater heights, myself and my generation included.

The poor state of the national league and the little opportunities giving to the young upcoming players to play in an organized quality league directly gives no room for new talents discovery.

In a nation as populated and talented as Nigeria, 30 quality, young home based players are certainly attainable!

There is an obvious lack of a well-studied plan or strategy to football administration, or stopping its decline, hence no direction or success.

We could go on and on. But the aim of this blog is not to point fingers, rather it is to propose and try to stimulate solutions to get us back to where we belong.- 5th place in world soccer rankings at least.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

1. Genuinely, assemble qualified soccer professionals, native, to diagnose in detail our short comings and map out a plan conducive and in line with our peculiar society to diagnose our ailing country’s football, in view of finding a cure to our illness. Like the Germans, English, South Africans, Egyptians, Spanish and most recently Ghanians have done.

Only after this, can we start effectively appointing people to strategic development positions with qualities similar and complementary to our plan. It is counterproductive to appoint a completely physically oriented coach for example, to a Nigerian national team that is technical, offensive and flair oriented like we showed in the 90’s. Qualities that mirror our people.

Our chosen set out objectives and Direction will determine who we employ to do what.

Before you turn your car’s ignition, the first thing you do is have a destination in mind. This will determine the route to ply. Shouldn’t football job appointments and management be the same?

2. Rejuvenate and update the National coaching institute to modern day level, thereby improving the football intelligence and team play amongst our incredibly, individually, talented youths and teams. Producing good coaches at the same time.

Having being an ex-successful soccer player does help in being a good coach but does not guarantee it. Learning and formation added to self-experiences does. It would help if some of our much needed ex-footballers got some more quality coaching education.

3. Restructure and have a 20-team national pro league with Professional paid referees to at least try to curb the nemesis of ?alleged? match fixing. Without a viable local league there is no way out of this mess we are in now.

4. Change the mentality of the Football Association. People going into the Association should not only see it as a means of enrichment but also as a career job worth doing well, while getting paid!

5. Fix and maintain a fixed venue for the national team games. e.g like Wembley Stadium in England, why? That way our players feel at home on these pitches and not have to discover the pitches same time as their opponents. Playing away at home as we call it in football circles.

In summary, the national team’s state is of paramount importance to the development of our youths and local football. Its fortunes has a multiplier effect on the nation’s football.

If the results are sound, it encourages foreign clubs to buy more players from the national team and the local leagues. This action at the same time makes available hard currency to our people, clubs and eventually permeates youth development. It will trickle down from the top.

Before Our 1994 Explosion, we had most of our national team players, and professionals plying their trade in Belgium. After our 1994 brilliant performance in the World cup’ Clubs came buying from everywhere. Holland, France, Italy, Germany just to name a few, and hence started the exodus of Nigerian players and at the same time, the consequential improvement and uplifting of our nation as a world soccer force to be reckoned with.

We can still repeat this feat again. I believe, Don’t you?

 

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December 13, 2012 6:57 pm Published by

2 Comments

  • hgh says:

    Hello my friend! I wish to say that this article is awesome, great written and include approximately all important infos. I’d like to see more posts like this.

  • Afolabi Oluwatomiwa says:

    Hmmmmn…. very nice post and i know too well that Sunday was not aware that he would be approached again to handle our once highly respected Super Eagles. I have always listened with rapt attention to Sunday’s analysis of football and comments whenever he features on air.
    I believe in You to take us to the promised land again considering your antecedents and your Qualifications. There’s always a first time to everything and also an opportunity to learn on the job.
    Our Dear Sunday Oliseh, i seize this opportunity on behalf of some Nigerians that have so much faith in you that you can deliver, to congratulate you in advance on your recorded successes and achievements that will launch the Super Eagles again back to reckoning at the global stage. The entire world awaits this manifestations, never joke with it Sunday because you can do it!

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