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As the lawmakers jaw jaw…

By Onochie Anibeze
The Sports Committee of House of Representatives yesterday concluded a three day hearing on what led to our failure in the World Cup and recommendations on the way forward for our football.

I appreciate the effort of the lawmakers but I want to remind them that there have been so many of such hearings, seminars, workshops and talks in the past but nothing happened after such exercises.
Asking what is wrong with our sports is like asking what is wrong with Nigeria.

Many committees and individuals have come up with brilliant reports. The problem has always been implementation.

The Nigerian factors work against any proposed implementation. These factors, summarily, are self centeredness, corruption and lack of professionalism.

This leads to wrong appointments and promotes incompetence in technical and administrative management of our teams.

Just like many,  I have been writing on the way forward for our sports and football in particular for years. And before the break last week, I was highlighting reasons for our failure in South Africa and suggesting the way forward.

I listed appointment of Lars Lagerback to handle our World Cup team in three weeks as one of the immediate causes of our failure. I blamed the football federation for failing to take action when necessary and equally blamed the Presidential Task Force for insisting on change when it was late.

In the words of Sepp Blatter, the FIFA President, Nigeria planned to fail. But I warned and actually campaigned against the engagement of a strange hand at the time the PTF was muscling everybody on the grounds that it was the Presidency that wanted a foreign coach. Who advised the Presidency?

Who also advised the Presidency that we should quit football for two years for us to put our house in order? Our football and sports in general have suffered from wrong advises and decisions especially from those running them from ministerial level down to the administrators. It is the same with the states. They are worse.

Before I lose track, let me return to the issue of coaching where, in my last piece, I promised to continue. Before then I wrote on our league and maintained that our football would remain in comatose if nothing was done to make our league professional.

Coaching has not been addressed properly by the technical department of the FA. And this is largely due to their limitations if not incompetence. I will also blame the structure that makes the technical committee almost a one man body.

The technical department whose work is coordinated by the technical committee should be the engine room of the FA. Staffing of the department should be purely on merit and of those who are sound on technical matters.

The Technical Committee can co-opt sound technical hands just the way international bodies do to ensure professionalism. They handle coaching matters, technical programmes for the teams including youth programmes. The technical department should have a scouting unit. I’m writing about modern football.

The scouting unit goes round the country in search of players for all the national teams. They watch all matches, monitor even academies and recommend players to the FA. It does not mean that the coaches will not go round to search for their players.

It simply means that at any time, especially when a coach is newly appointed, he has a pool that he can draw from. Gradually, he begins to introduce players of his choice. But he will always find the selected players very useful. The scouting policy was developed in football countries because they recognised the fact that some people have the talent to spot great potentials. Not all coaches have that talent.

There are coaches who are good in developing talents and turning them into stars but who lack the style to manage big players. They fail when you assign them to train a team of stars .The technical department should be knowledgeable enough to know where to place coaches and structure how the scouts will work with the coaches.

I have written on this before and even recalled that when I met late Bobby Robson at the 1998 Nations Cup in Burkina Faso, he was there as the Chief Scouting Officer of Barcelona, the same job our own Mike Emenalo does for Chelsea today. If Emenalo were in Nigeria they would not have discovered this great talent in him.

If you discuss football with him you would know why Chelsea has kept him on this job for over four years now. He has worked with Avram Grant, Philippe Scolari and now Carlos Ancelotti.  The Nigeria Football Federation must develop a good scouting policy. The technical department/committee should ensure this.

It is the technical department that does a study of the state of the country’s football and advises on the type of coach to engage. For example, right now that our football is down and there’s a seeming dearth of quality players, there are no stars to manage. Nigeria needs a developer, a coach who has the ability to spot talents and work on them.

The coach must not necessarily be a big name. If we had a functional technical department and committee Nigeria would not have degenerated to the level where a Presidential Task Force had to decide on technical matters for us. As far as technical matters are concerned, their insistence on a foreign coach to handle our team three weeks before the World Cup, was simply what Blatter called it, “planning to fail.”

We should have strengthened our technical crew with the likes of Siasia and Keshi since we failed to make the change early enough, before the qualification for the World Cup.

The FA should be able to hire two or three brilliant scouts.


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