Over the years, Nigerian football has continually suffered from various issues such as financing, age falsification, poor grassroots sports program, unethical practices, and unprofessional acts among others.
Nigerian football has been stuck in a time warp, also due to a moribund leadership that increasingly appears to be out of touch with reality.
Football is regarded as a major unifying factor in every society but some shortcomings witnessed in the Nigerian football space has continued to be a great hindrance to the growth and progress of the round leather game in the country.
The lack of opportunities are the economic level, financial support, sponsorships, maladministration, corruption and nepotism are equally some of the factors responsible for the lost identity.
Nigeria has a rich tradition of seemingly promising youngsters who mysteriously fail to fulfill their God’s given potential.
Phillip Osondu was the best player at the 1987 Under-17 World Cup, after which he was snapped up by Anderlecht of Belgium , only to drift out of the game and into janitorial work after questions were raised about his real age.
Femi Opabunmi, the star of Nigeria’s Golden Eaglet team that had a remarkable run (runners up) to the finals at the 2001 FIFA Under-17 world cup competition in Trinada and Tobago went on to become officially the third-youngest player to appear in the senior World Cup when he started the 0-0 draw with England in 2002. But that was as good as it got for Opabunmi, who by 2005 was playing part-time football in the French lower leagues.
Decades ago, thousands of football fans across Nigeria flocked to stadiums to watch their local league club side in action. But now the reverse is the case.
According to former coach of Mountain of Fire Ministries Football Club (MFM FC) of Lagos, Marcellinus Anyanwu, “the management and administration of football activities in the country has not been professionally governed.’’
Anyanwu who is presently the Head scout and consultant of Gulf United football club Dubai, A grassroot development leading football club in Middle & United Arab Emirates Division 3 side, decried the poor state of football development in Nigeria.
Speaking about untrained and unqualified coaches, he said, most coaches in Nigeria lack knowledge of what to do and their abilities to impact knowledge to players are not sufficient.
“Most of our players falsified their age at the age cadre competitions, most of them are beyond the age they professed and this made it impossible to withstand the pace of their opponents from Europe during the transition process especially at the FIFA senior world cup level. There is always a conflict between the players, coaches and administrators over unpaid salary, allowance, and health insurance both in our local leagues and National team
Proffering solution to Nigerian football, the former Arsenal FC of London soccer school coach (Dubai training center) said landmark achievements can be recorded if the Nigerian Football Federation can start putting the right people at the right place in a modern structure terrain.
He charged the Football Federation to develop and adopt a workable roadmap that will be centered on grassroots football competitions.
“Unlike most countries in Europe and rest of the world Nigeria does not have any development plan on ground for effective development of underage football- NFF should establish Department of grass roof football development program (GFDP) in 774 local governments in Nigeria with the objective of 3Ts, of TEACH, TRAIN, TELL the philosophy of modern football. .
Local coaches of the clubs need adequate, updated and continuous training as well as capacity building.’’
He explained further that government and private sectors organization need to do a lot to encourage development.
Government should make practice of football compulsory in primary, secondary and tertiary, institutions as well as villages, mosques, churches and parks so that raw talents can be picked and groomed from the scratch.
“NFF should appoint coaches that have a rich background of coaching, coaches needs to be educated in other to understand the science of how to go about the application of management technique and strategies. This include exercise physiology, statistics data analysis psychology and Anatomy of the players.
“Until thing are done properly and professionally, and we start putting round pegs into the round holes, Nigerian football may continue to struggle. All the 36 state football Association in Nigeria should partner with cooperate bodies and individuals for the implementation of ‘football laboratory for young players with real age.
By Anyanwu Marcello
Head scout and consultant of Gulf United