By Eddie Akalonu
Though Tony Ukeachu and Folorunsho Okenla represent different generations in Nigeriaâ€™s football history, one in the 1970â€™s and the other the 1980â€™s, nevertheless both have welcomed Wednesdayâ€™s government decision to set the tone towardsÂ repositioning the nationâ€™sÂ football following the governmentâ€™s on.
In separate interviews with Saturday Vanguard Sports, coach Ukeachu reacted thus on telephone, â€œI am giving my full support to the government action. At least let us start from somewhere to re-organise. I think it will take two to three years to fully put up the structures that would ensure a functional body running football.
I am saying two to three years because that would be enough for us to place emphasis on raising truly Under- 17 and Under- 20 players who can play in the senior national team when we return to international football.â€
Ukeachu suggested that Nigeria should use the period of hibernation to make a return to school football, arguing that this was the way in the 1970â€™s into the 1980’s when players like Sylvanus Okpala, Henry Nwosu, Stephen Keshi and other notable players who played a part in the glory years of football were discovered and nurtured for the national team.
Speaking in Lagos Okenla, a consultant on his part said â€œ my personal opinion is that itâ€™s the right step in the right direction. The decision has the overwhelming support of Nigerians, thereâ€™s no doubt something had to be done to stop the rot and the shameful state we have found our football, far from what had been achieved in the past.â€
Okenla, a left-wing attacker who featured prominently for the Eagles back in the 1980â€™s, said â€œit was expected that something drastic had to be done otherwise in a year or two football will be at threat of extinction.
It was imminent and inevitable, the government may have listened and taken the measure to meet the yearnings of the people who have seenÂ the drift of the team from path of honour as those running the sport turned deaf ears to wise counsel.
So, it makes sense to attempt to reposition Football and as long as right structures are put in place to lay a new foundation, then itâ€™s okay.
Many Nigerians believe that while the teamâ€™s performance continued on a downward slide, players attitude was appalling andÂ administrators lost focus yet they profited from the huge financial commitment by government to the sport while they still caused international embarrassments to the country.