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Nigerian football players are below average – Mayuku

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Founder and president of Evergreen Project Initiative, Barrister Daniel Mayuku  spoke to Sunday Vanguard Sports at the 2nd edition of the  Evergreen  Pro-Am Golf tournament in honour of Vanguard’s late golf Writer, Richard Animam. He talked on several sports  issues including the problem with Nigeria’s sports and how it can be solved. Excerpts:

Sports development in Nigeria

As far as I’m concerned, sports development  in Nigeria is very poor. I’m saying it because I am a sportsman. I was an athlete,  a hurdler. I also  played football, so I know much about sports. I can tell you that the  encouragement we had in the past is better than what we have now. The problem with our sports today, is that we lack talents.

We  are not making efforts to discover talents any more. In those days, as a Secondary School student, you are qualified to be in the national camp to represent Nigeria. Today,  they wait for people to go to America before they can  represent Nigeria. How were the  likes of Mary Onyali, Faliat Ogunkoya discovered? Is it  not through school sports and at a very tender age?

Today, those representing our country in competitions are old men and women who falsify their ages, all in the name of representing the country in any competition, which is sad. Really, we are  not doing well for  sports in Nigeria.

Chances in the 2012 Olympics

I don’t think we will  have problem with other sports but the truth is that we don’t have average players in football today. Nigeria doesn’t have average players that can measure up with other players in the World. All the players that we have are struggling players, today they could play well, tomorrow they can’t perform well. We are really falling in the area of soccer and I don’t know what the football house and administrators are doing  about it.

Keshi’s idea on home-based players

It is a good idea. I have always believed in Keshi. I think he developed his football ability from Clemens Westerof, who he has been the best coach Nigeria ever had. Keshi is adopting the pattern  Westerof used while he was the coach of the  national team, when he produced budding talents in  our  national team  and I think he should be encouraged.

Do you think Keshi is on the right track with the crop of players  from the Nigerian League?

The only problem that Keshi  is going to have is that we don’t have players in the local league. I think what Keshi should  do is to form a group of local league players and also a group of younger players in the schools, because almost all the players in the local league are old men who falsified their ages in order  to player for their fatherland.

I think Keshi should go below the local league and get players for the national team. What he need to do is to go to  Secondary Schools,  not even University, to discover players.  Most of these players he has now are old players. In those day, we used to have younger players, this days the reverse is the case.

What do you think of the  foreign players and local players?

I have not seen any of our foreign players who play better than our local players, the only thing they have is the fact that they are  exposed and have confidence.

Way forward

The only way out is for us to go back to grass-roots sports. We also  need to go back to what we used to do in the past, where Secondary Schools students are the ones who represented the country in major events.

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