By Onochie Anibeze
THE authentic President of the Nigeria Football Federation (they should revert to Nigeria Football Association) would have merged yesterday in the election held. It has been put off.
As I write today(Tuesday, September 2, 2014) Amaju Pinnick, was strongly on the card to succeed Aminu Maigari.
I know that I may be repeating myself on the issues I want to raise now having written on them before. However, I know how forgetful Nigerians are. That’s why people who raped our economy and contributed in making Nigeria not to reach its potential in development are still being recycled in government. Even the media besiege them to air their views on the state of the nation. Pity!
It’s the same in sports. Only last year, the Eagles caught global attention when they refused to fly the plane Fifa had dispatched to fly them to Brazil for the Confederation Cup over match bonus. It was an international disgrace. President Goodluck Jonathan sent money to them. That did not inspire any success. They failed in the competition.
At the World Cup proper, the team went on strike over World Cup grant that Fifa was yet to pay Nigeria. It was another international shame on Nigeria. President Jonathan sent a Presidential jet to Brazil with $2.8m. A friend joked that the effect of the Dollar overdose made them crash to a very beatable French team. We never learn from the past.
Have I not warned that money can only inspire victory if used well to develop and prepare athletes for competitions and that huge sums of money on match days will not transform to victories? And I warned from the perspective of a one time athlete and not as a journalist.
How many times have I cited past experiences to support my argument? What happened in the 2010 World Cup when we increased the match bonus from $5,000 to $10,000? Did we not lose in the first round? Was it not our worst World Cup finals outing in spite of the increased match bonus and a crazy $350,000 pay to Lars Largaback? Can you give $1m each to Enugu Rangers players and that fires them to beat Chelsea or Barcelona? Can you put down $10m for Ogo Egwero or Obinna Metu and ask any of them to beat Usain Bolt?
I’m recalling all these to guide the new NFA board. They have no choice other than to plan for development and not go to match venue and promise the players heaven on earth. But I’m not saying that they must not motivate players. No. They must do so but they must be guided by reality and must in turn guide the Presidency or government against the money game that has always failed us. I advise the new board on the following:
The federation should engage competent coaches for all the national teams. The coaches must have reasonable contracts, which must be respected by all parties. The coaches must, on their own, make
the national teams competitive for every player to earn and deserve his place. Players must merit their places in the national team. Coaches must not engage in the management of individual players as this breeds corruption. Coaches must focus on the national leagues and must have the quality to train and develop players professionally.
The federation must embark on serious revenue
drive with their marketers to ensure their purses are big enough for their programmes especially youth development.
It must work in serious liaison with the League Management Company (LMC) to improve our league. The league should be the bedrock of our football and all coaches must be made to pay attention on the league.
Standards must be set and only clubs that meet the standard for the premier league should be registered.
Training of referees and coaches should be part of the federation’s priorities.
Youth Development, The League, Marketing and Competition should be the major departments and be prioritized in the order that I have just written. The federation should not lose sight of the damage referees are causing our league. It should address the problem by ensuring security to protect the referees and suspending or disengaging the corrupt ones. Clubs that offer bribes to referees must be sanctioned too.
The federation must begin to grade all coaches in the country for the purposes of classification.
It should have a small scouting unit that will monitor all leagues, select and recommend players to coaches of all categories even as those coaches must also move around for scouting.
It must implement the Code of Conduct for all the national teams and ensure players do not have issues with bonuses midway into tournaments.
The Code of Conduct states partly that the federation must inform the teams on their entitlements before camping for every competition and that players must accept the terms or decline invitation so that nobody begins unnecessary agitation when concentration should be on how to succeed.
The federation should approve allowance for coaches to travel to league venues to monitor our league matches and select players. Right now, you rarely see national coaches in league venues.
The federation must ensure that national coaches do not manage individual players to check biases. We have seen some players who do not merit to be in the national team being invited while some good ones are left out. Coaches must rise above sentiments and personal interests in the management of national teams. The federation can ensure that.
On youth development, the federation must insist Premier league clubs own youth teams, which should play a league in a format that will not be weighty on the purses of the clubs. The format can be discussed and agreed upon.
The federation must pay the wages of coaches as at when due and must, therefore, offer what they are capable of paying.
The federation must check age cheats in our youth teams so that we have real development and not where we shine at youth level but consistently fail to make impact at the senior level.
The federation should consider coaches who are good in youth development for the age grade teams. Talents of coaches differ and the federation must have a competent Technical Department and Technical Committee capable of noting this and assigning coaches accordingly. They must also ensure sound decisions on technical matters that will develop the game and also help the coaches to produce good teams.
The federation should ensure that they have good rapport with the National Sports Commission and they should earn the respect of government and people of Nigeria by really developing the game and not just participating in competitions. The federation needs vision, large heart, passion and transparency to take Nigeria’s football to the level all will appreciate. I wish them good luck.