By Onochie Anibeze
Participants at yesterdayâ€™s Vanguardâ€™s Conference Hall reached many conclusions among which was that the future of Nigerian football lay in the domestic football. The conference said efforts should be made to develop it if Nigeria is to be a force on the road to 2014 World Cup. This was after a thorough analysis of the problems bedeviling our football in recent time, which the conference noted were not different from the problems plaguing the larger Nigerian society. The conference agreed that there should be a re-evaluation of the statutes on which football is run, amending them where necessary to enable people with adequate knowledge of football to run it.
The conference called for the re-evaluation of the Nigeria Football Federation, their targets, failures, achievements; the process of appointing coaches and the ways to improve the management and marketing aspects of the game. It welcomed the newly introduced Magnetic Resonance Imaging, MRI, test adopted by the world football governing body, FIFA, for Under-17 teams as a way of developing our football and doing away with cheats and win-at-all-cost syndrome which before now was the bane of our game. It also called for competition at junior levels where budding talents are discovered It advocated for clubs to have feeder teams.
The conference appealed to the Federal Government to stop applying the zoning formula in the leadership of football administration in Nigeria as this has stifled the growth of the sport since mediocrity is encouraged.
It emphasised the need for clubs to develop their facilities as they are meant to be run as limited liability companies and set up academies from which to feed their teams. Conference reiterated the need for competence of match officials. Similarly, it called on club chairmen and officials to refrain from
bribing match officials as this is not good for the game.
In the same vein, coaches are called upon to improve themselves. It felt that reorganising the national team for the Nations Cup in Angola would be good for Nigerian football. Corruption in the league was also addressed.
Conference expressed fear that if these measures were not taken seriously and implemented, Nigeria may not qualify for the Nations Cup not to talk of the World Cup in the years ahead.
Participants at the conference included, Chief Oyuiki Obaseki, Nigeria Premier League board chairman, ace journalists Mitchell Obi, Paul Bassey, ex internationals Sylvanus Okpala,Â Emeka Ezeugo, among othersÂ with Ikeddy Isiguzo, Vanguard Editorial Board chairman,Â moderating.
â€œA situation where members of the football federation are playersâ€™ agents and they impose players on coaches will never help us. Another thing is the orientation of Nigerians some of who think European football. Even from kindergaten ages, they are dreaming of playing for big clubs without minding of any foundation which should stare here, â€ Ezeugo said.
â€œWhat is our football cultureâ€, ace sports journalist Mitchel Obi asked repeatedly, arguing that sports is part ofÂ the systemic failure in all aspects of the Nigerian polity. He narrowed the problems of Nigerian football to the same poor leadership that has crippled the economy, infrastructure, education, health etc. Obi was emotional in concluding that as far as football was concerned Nigeria which remained a mere geographic expression initially appeared to have direction but has derailed He suggested that leadership problem must be addressed so that knowledgeable people can run our sports.
Sylvanus Okpala, the Quick Silver of Nigerian football regretted that Nigeria had failed to catch up with the pace of the game and other sports.
â€œBetween the last Olympics in Beijing and now is one year but you could see the remarkable difference
judging from what happened at the last World Championship in Berlin.
It is so in football. The world is moving fast and we are not catching up. Mitchell started by asking what kind of football do we play? We play athletic football, very athletic and we can make it a brand. We do things with the ball and explode. Our teams can be individually athletic and if we build in the tactical aspect well weâ€™ll always get it right but we lack professionalism. So we now play political football.
Coaches and players are no more professional and we have to address this and the aspect of officiating because referees have destroyed the game. The league board is now trying to change things,â€ Okpala said.
Chief Oyuiki Jackson Obaseki was worried that a lot ofÂ talks, seminars and workshops have been held on Nigerian sports especially football but the major problem remained implementation.
He decried the corrupt practices of club officials who try to influence match officials but said that his league board was seriously addressing the problem. He said orientation of all stakeholders of Nigerian football must change, from the media to the players and to club managers and owners.
Paul Bassey emphasised the home-base factor in football with regard to quality of venues for league matches. He said Nigerian clubs must take cue from Europeans clubs and be run professionally.
â€œThe league board can, on a temporary basis, ask clubs to relocate to television friendly venues but that should be a wake-up call to the clubs in question. Clubs should have homes for the support base that makes for ambiance etc.â€ We need rich domestic league with each club enjoying strong support base, the way it is in the football countries.
Emeka Nwana, a sports journalist warned that there would be no headway until club officials were stopped from corrupting match officials in the domestic league, arguing that our league remained our bedrock in football.
Watch out for the details of the interesting Conference Hall. There are solutions to Nigerian football. We serve the best in sports.