By Kate Obodo
Many summed the year 2009 as a near disaster for football in Nigeria. The countryâ€™s qualification for the World Cup in South Africa was indeed a face-saving measure for football in the year.
Undoubtedly, the New Year is believed to have tremendous packages for better things especially with the Africa Nationâ€™s Cup which begins in Angola next week and there is the belief that things will turnout for good with the nationâ€™s football.
One man who has been a crusader against the ills of sports in the country is Barrister Richard Nwabufo Obienu, who believes that with some changes, things would turn around for the best.
According to him, restructuring sports, football to be precise, should start from the top, stressing that for a long time, the same set of people have been handling sports without effective results.
The former vice chairman of the Nigeria Football Association said that positions in the FA should be occupied by people who have the passion and zeal to push the game forward, not people whose focus is on the financial gains.
The Enugu-based lawyer said with the same set of people still at the helm, there is every tendency that the nationâ€™s football will keep nose-diving, adding that there is a need to look at the grassroots which is the bedrock of sports. He stressed that if there is proper handling of sports at that level, it will help in correcting the problems with the countryâ€™s football.
â€œNigeria is blessed with so many good things of life, especially with a rich pool of talented players. But having the wrong people at the managerial level is the worst thing that has ever happened to us. This is why we need to go back and think of the right people who have the passion and zeal for the game not people whose mind set is based on financial gains.
â€œWe need people who can put right all the wrongs in our sports especially football. Most of the problems we are confronting in our football originated from these people. We also need to start making efforts to make sure our grassroots sports, is of standard. We need to catch them young because this is bedrock of sports.
Reacting on the Amoduâ€™s comment on the poor standard of the local league, Obienu said itâ€™s uncalled for especially with players who are experienced, and had participated in continental competitions.
He believes there is the need for Amodu to include at least 60 percent of the players, instead of giving excuses on the state of the league as the bane for playerâ€™s performance. He recalled how Clemens Westerhof utilized home-based players and produced good results with the team.
â€œBlaming the Nigerian League as reason for not including much local players should not be an excuse. Because if we donâ€™t develop our league today, when are we going to do that. We have good players in the league who are even playing more than the professionalsâ€, he said.