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When some people go to jail, our football will be better

Onochie ANIBEZE
IDAH     Peterside is appealing to Nigerians to try to understand the major problems of Nigerian football.
“And unless we identify these problems and face them squarely, we will continue to slide because we are attacking the wrong issues,” Peterside said before he left Nigeria for his base in South Africa where he has joined hands with new Eagles coach Lars Lagerback to prepare a good camp for the Eagles, preparatory to their World Cup campaigns.

Idah was reacting to the ouster of the local Eagles by Niger from the local Nations Cup. Daniel Amokachi led the team. Felix Emordi led the past team that also did not qualify for the maiden edition of the event. After losing 2-0 in Niger, the local Eagles played goalless in Kano.

“I have heard people condemn Amokachi and the football federation over this big disappointment that I agree is a shame,” Idah started.

“But it is important that we appreciate the truth. And the truth is that the problem is from our domestic league. I live in South Africa and we watch, courtesy of supersport, league matches from other African countries. When they show the Nigerian league, I hide my face in shame.

The pitches are horrible, the football atmosphere is lacking and the game follows in that order  horrible. The standard is not good. And the future of Nigerian football lies in our domestic league. Those running the league should wake up and raise the standards otherwise the same problem will persist and we will continue to change coaches. This is not a blanket cover for the players, coaches and the federation.

They could have their faults but the major thing remains our domestic league. Our league is not good and what happens when we gather the players from our league is a reflection of the standard of the league. There are problems of officiating. Here we can talk about the corruption in the league. Club officials bribe referees.

It has gotten so bad that when teams lose matches, some of their players blame club officials for not playing their own part well. In Nigeria they call it ‘tactical.’ “Have they done ‘tactical’?,” they will ask.   It’s a shame that some players will go into a match hoping that the referee has been settled.

There’s no longer the element of surprise in our league matches. It has become a taboo for teams to lose at home. So, how can we develop like that? Then there’s the issue of pitches. You can’t play good football on the pitches we have in Nigeria.

There are some stadia used for the FIFA Under 17 World Cup but what about many others?
“The standard on coaching has also gone down. If you watched our players from the 70s to the 80s and even early 90s, you will agree with me that the coaches then did a better job on the players than what is going on now. I played at a period within this time. The players in our league now lack some basics and the coaching is partly to blame.

I’ll explain. In those days, almost all the coaches went abroad to train. They all went to Brazil, Germany or England. Remember the likes of Alabi Aissien, Brodericks, Ukeachi, Eto Amaechina all trained in Brazil. Even the later ones like Christian Chukwu and Kelechi Emeteiole trained in Brazil in the 8os and they were able to impact into their players then what the players now are lacking. And between that time and now football has changed a lot. So how far have the ones still coaching now been able to update themselves?

That is the big question. But if you get close you will find out that they are better equipped than those who went to National Institute of Sports, NIS in Lagos. Now we have NIS coaches everywhere. So, how do you expect our football to grow like that?

“Another area we have to look at is security. We have to protect fans coming to watch games. We must stop hooliganism. I have not heard that they jailed any soccer hooligan in Nigeria. By the time they do so, people will desist from making trouble in our football arena and our football will be better for it. This will also help protect the referees.

Some of them are good but they get beaten up when they insist on fair officiating. So, how can such a league produce outstanding players? How can such a league attract fans again? But if you note the attendance in places like Kano, you will not entirely lose hope on our domestic football. If we do the right things, our league will produce outstanding players like it did before and we will not be losing to Niger and the like. That is my position.”


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