Mon, 09 Oct 2023 Feature Article

Strengthening Of Local Players

Strengthening Of Local Players

Over the years, Nigerian football has experienced a decline compared to what it was three decades ago, with the authorities showing more interest in hiring foreign coaches for the national team. These coaches are often dismissed after any mishap in a match. Similarly, foreign-based Nigerian footballers are preferred for international matches, disregarding the development of local players. This report by ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE explores the potential for improvement if genuine actors are supported and sustained in their efforts for transformation

The commitment of the Nigerian government to discovering and nurturing talented athletes from within the country, with the aim of developing them into world-class athletes, was recently emphasized by Senator John Owan-Enoh, the Nigerian Sports Minister.

He expressed, "We are aware that the well-being of all sports federations is negatively affected by certain issues, so we will explore solutions to address that problem.

“One of the government's most important policies is to develop local talent so that they can effectively compete with their counterparts from other countries."

This situation has raised concerns among experts, who believe that developing homegrown players is the current trend instead of relying on and recalling foreign-based Nigerian players whenever there is an international match. They added that local coaches are even not taken seriously.

Despite the fact that most of the players on the football team are based abroad rather than being developed domestically, there is a recurring pattern of either replacing the foreign coach who is consistently in charge whenever the Nigerian national team, known as the Super Eagles, experiences a loss in international competitions or openly criticizing the entire team for not demonstrating a more remarkable performance.

The players not training together as a team for a significant period of time prior to the football match often leads to a lack of teamwork. Julius Aghahowa, a former Super Eagles striker, stressed the significance of having local talent on the national team, highlighting their hunger and determination as important elements for building a strong team foundation.

Sports authorities received criticism for Nigeria's 27-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in 2022, as it only consisted of two players from the domestic league, namely Sani Faisal and Adewale Adeyinka.

Segun Odegbami, a former professional footballer from Nigeria who played as a forward, expressed his disappointment regarding the catastrophic situation that has plagued Nigerian football for the past three decades.

"This decline has been happening quietly and steadily, due to inexperienced leadership. As a result, both the Super Eagles and clubs in the domestic league now lack a recognizable style and organization.

“It has even reached a point where a player like Bruno Fernandes dares to describe Nigerian football as weak and of low standard," he felt disappointed.

Odegbami led the Nigeria national team to victory in the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations, which was their first title in the tournament.

Investigations have uncovered the need for Nigeria to wake up, as nearly 30 years ago, the British government invested £200 million in the Premier League to improve infrastructure. By May 2021, the EPL was valued at over £18 billion, a fact overshadowed by allegations of corruption in Nigeria's sports management. Furthermore, investigations have revealed that the average value of a Premier League team was $1.29 billion, according to Sportico estimates. The combined value of the 20 clubs in English soccer's top flight is estimated to exceed $25 billion.

Nigerians are concerned about this because football brings them comfort, entertainment, job opportunities, chances for career growth, youth development, and serves as a unifying force. The emphasis on foreign coaches and Nigerian players who represent foreign teams in Nigeria's international matches has also increased the desire among Nigerian youths to watch international football, as they believe the quality of play is superior to matches played within the country.

Some argue that foreign matches offer exciting commentary, enchanting players, impressive goal-scoring displays, and soul-lifting fans. This is as Data reveals that approximately 90 million young fans, both active and inactive, watch foreign football, and about 15,000 companies compete for their attention.

The president of the Abuja FA, Adam Mouktar Mohammed, who ran for the presidency of the Nigeria Football Federation in 2022, acknowledged that corruption is undoubtedly the main factor militating against homegrown players. This was even as he pointed out that other countries have effectively dealt with it using systematic approaches.

However, Mohammed stated that Nigeria is dedicated to addressing this issue by putting effort, vigilance, and dedication into it. He emphasized that corruption is present in all aspects of football and therefore passionate, ethical, and knowledgeable individuals are needed to take on the responsibility. Gianni Infantino, the President of FIFA, is encouraging Nigerians and Africans in general to remain hopeful about their football.

He believes that football is not just a sport, but also a business, and emphasizes that with efficient management, the country can generate a significant amount of money through the game. Additionally, he describes football as a remarkable display of beauty, spirit, and pride, especially in Africa's most densely populated country, where the passion for the sport is evident.

Mohammed suggests that grassroots football requires essential resources such as access to coaching education, the promotion of community youth leagues, the availability of facilities and affordable equipment, and the establishment of regional development centers for players, coaches, administrators, and referees.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024