By Ikeddy Isiguzo
One reason the challenges Nigerian football is facing will not go away quickly is that people are more interested in justifying illegality, sharing blames, shifting blames and pretending nobody is wrong. The denials are worsening – there is no crisis in Nigerian football, is a regular refrain.
The easiest part of what is happening is to find who to blame. There are many who stand condemned for where they have dumped football, which for a long time they appropriated for their selfish ends.
Football was in hiatus in Nigeria before its international inglorious state. There appears to be a bit of shock that the best practice FIFA paraded was a charade as the events of the past few months have confirmed the suspicions of the years.
Mr. FIFA, the once revered Monsieur Joseph Sepp Blatter is beginning his fifth tenure as FIFA president under the cloudiest and most fouled setting in FIFA’s history.
Longevity has never been a problem in FIFA, not after the Belgian Brazilian Jean Marie João Faustino Godefroid Havelange spent 24 years and reluctantly ceded powers to Blatter who made the specious switch from FIFA secretary-general to president in a scandal-riddled election that set new standards for judging probity in FIFA.
Back home we adopted FIFA’s practices, excelling in them. It was no surprise that we got this far in disintegrating our football. I am happy that today some of those who claim blindness are seeing the light. There is a realisation, even if not admitted that something is wrong with our football. It does not really matter if this critical admission leads nowhere.
With the lull in football, we can look elsewhere for comfort.
I am delighted with the news that sports is returning to the universities – sports, not just football. The plans for a university sports league will keep the schools busy, engage the youth, make the universities more productive, and hopefully reduce the incidents of cultism. The other side is the possibility that we would again start seeing real university athletes competing in NUGA.
Beneficiaries of this project, if it runs well will include the various national teams.
Seriousness of the venture can be seen in the choice of renowned lawyer Aare Afe Babalola, who has been investing his resources lately in university education, as the Chairman of the proposed University Sports League.
A couple of things are critical to a successful university sports league. Among them are security in the campuses, credibility of the list of participants and a sustainable sponsorship to ensure that the league is around long enough to generate the interest and participation that would ensure its success.
Many would have forgotten that NUGA once gave Nigerians some of her best competitors in all sports. It must be stated too that the successes of NUGA then benefited from a vibrant school sports regime in primary and secondary schools.
While the university sports league is important, one of the reasons it may not record the type of success that it should is the weak structure of sports in primary and secondary schools, which are the supply bases for the higher institutions. Sports cannot flourish in the universities if there are no products from the primary and secondary schools.
Things work in unintended ways sometimes. If the universities are in dire need of athletes, if the rewards for victory in the university sports leagues are motivating enough, we could have situations where universities directors of sports would again start earning their wages. They would be the ones to initiate programmes to attract talent from the schools to the universities.
All these excite me for the possibilities they hold for the future and for occupation of our younger people who are gradually giving up on Nigeria, even as the preachments grow louder in their emptiness.
Illegality Breeds Illegality
PEOPLE who are encouraging the Nigeria Football Federation to continue staking its legality are parties to the confusion in Nigerian football. Many regimes of Nigerian football have been illegal. The best argument that the NFF must be putting forward is why people are pointing out the illegality now it is its turn to benefit from football.
We must be careful. Illegality cannot be justified, no matter who stands on its side. Members of the NFF have always known they were beneficiaries of illegality, from the illegal change of name of the Nigeria Football Association to the election that got the present board into office.
The only way to deal with an illegality is to end it legally. All the rigmaroles will just extend the doom for the game. I keep wondering why those who claim they love football so much are determined to express this love by destroying the game.
Each time I think I have seen the full extent of the selfishness in our sports, new versions, worse than the ones I know prop up to claim their places.
NWANKWO Kanu left the stage with a befitting testimonial game last Saturday. This may mark the end of a brilliant career, but he had commenced his humanitarian acts through the heart foundation more than a decade again.
Congratulations to a man who matched his intentions with actions.