By Onochie Anibeze
Baring unforseen circumstances the people who will run our football for next three to four years will emerge after the FA elections tomorrow.
For years communications giants, Globacom,Â committed billions of Naira to our Premier League, hoping that those who run it would transform it and make it the pride of Africa.
That was possible with the huge money they paid. When it dawned on them that their sponsorship money was not making the expected impact on the league they kept further payment in view especially after startling revelations on how their sponsorship money was being spent.
Many football stars, from Amodu Shuaibu, to Daniel Amokachi and to the likes of Jonathan Akpoborie, Victor Ikpeba, blame the dearth of quality players in Eagles on the league. Amodu condemned the league as lacking in quality to produce stars. Many others have added to his voice.
The bedrock of Nigerian football should be the local league. Time was when big scouts came here to find good players. Then, according to Amokachi in the interview we will publish tomorrow, â€œwe moved from our local league direct to top European clubs. I did it, Kanu did, Finidi did it and so many others. It is no longer so because of the state of our league,â€ Amokachi said.
When the new board of the FA emerges tomorrow the members must make the league a priority in their agenda. They have no choice but to work with the league board. The outgoing FA and the league board fought and disagreed over issues till their tenures ended. It should not be so. If something drastic is not done to raise the standard of our league the Eagles will continue to fail and our football will continue to suffer. Statutorily, the league board is a creation of the FA.
They should, therefore, work together to raise the standard of the game in Nigeria. This should be an agenda for the incoming FA. NPL, which is the league board is also new, so letâ€™s have a new dawn. I have written on how to improve our league many times and Iâ€™m sure others have brilliant ideas. But briefly again, clubs must be made to be professional.
Players and coaches must have contract, clubs and players must respect the terms in the contracts, their match venues must meet certain standards for our games to be televison friendly.Â They must have Feeder/ Reserve or youth teams as the case may be. Security must be beefed up so that the must win at home syndrome will stop. Merchandising and other forms of revenue generation must be introduced.
The base culture should be introduced so that more fans will visit match venues. All these will increase the television value of the league and the clubs will earn more from television rights and not the N10m the league board payed each season after collecting almost a billion Naira.
The Reserve or Youth Teams of the clubs must play some competitions. I know that the economy may not allow them to play league games along the line of the Premiership. I know that it may not be possible for us to adopt everything that happens in the advanced football countries. But we can have our own way. How to make the Reserve/Youth teams competitive and viable should be a paper for another day.
But let the FA make it a point in their agenda for the transformation of our football. How to manage and set standards for football academies could follow this or made a different subject. There are many mushroom academies and the FA could begin to recognise those which meet set standards.
The FA must take seriously the functions of their Youth Department and do everything to check cheating in age group competitions. Youth development should be a major challenge to the new board. Ghana did theirs simply by checking age cheats in their youth programmes.
Two departments and committees should stand out and top the list in the agenda of the new FA. They are Technical and Marketing. The Technical Department, as I wrote last week, should be the engine room of the FA. Marketing is another.
If thereâ€™s no money to execute all the brilliant programmes of the Technical Committee/Department the story will not change. And if you have all the money in this world and you lack technical knowhow the money will not lead you anywhere in football. Thatâ€™s why I donâ€™t buy into the school that argues that if you pay our players and coaches well they will perform wonders.
You canâ€™t give what you donâ€™t have. If, for example, you pay Kaduna United players $1m each and expect them to beat Real Madrid or Barcelona based on the bonus you will only be dreaming. What did the Eagles do after they realised that they would earnÂ millions if they progressed at the World Cup? It is naive to say â€˜pay any of our coaches what Mourinho earns and see what he will doâ€™.
The new FA must begin to think about how to structure the Technical Department. They must hire sound technocrats to do a good job of implementing technical programmes that they, with the Technical Committee, will arrive at. The new FA must run football the way FIFA does. FIFA runs football by committees. FIFA recognises the fact that not all those who win election into its Executive Committee are technocrats or experts in various areas of the game. They therefore co-opt experts into the committees.
Their departments are also full of experts from various fields. I expect the new FA to do something about Technical and Marketing departments. We lack the sponsorship culture in Nigeria and Africa in general. Thatâ€™s why I respect the little the likes of Mike Itemuagbor of Pamodzi are doing for our national football and the sponsorship drives of Delta FA led by Amaju Pinnick.
The new FA must have agenda for all their coaches. The Technical Department/Committee must see to this. They should, therefore, sign coaches who will fit into their programmes and deliver. Programmes matter a lot. There are those who argue that programmes could be more important than the hiring of coaches. This is because when a coach fails, a programme should not collapse.
When a coach is derailing, it is the duty of the Technical Department to advise the FA in the best way to react. Greater damage is done when a management fails to check a deteriorating situation. That management may not be able to appraise the situation if it lacks a competent technical department. This is another major problem in football and not only hiring of a wrong coach. Coaches are hired and fired.
They succeed in one place and go to another place to fail and vice versa. It is the ability of the employers to read the situation and react that matters. If a country has aging players and the programme is to build a young team and the coach hired appears to be one who lacks the talent to develop potentials you may not hesitate to fire him and your programme will still be on.
But if you hire one that is doing the job well but who may be losing matches and you are sure that he is on the right track and needs time to achieve results the FA must not cringe. They must back him in spite of the harsh criticisms expected from the media and many passionate followers of the game who may not understand.
The ability to protect such coaches from the teeming fans who want immediate results and theÂ ability to know when to part ways with a faultingÂ coach should be an attribute of a competent FA. This will not be so if they lack a competent technical department.
Iâ€™ll continue on the agenda for the new FA but,Â together, we can built a better FA for Nigeria. Feel free to send yours. Make it brief.