The administration of football in Nigeria cannot be evaluated with the performances of Nigerian players abroad or the exploits of the senior national team in which most of the players are groomed abroad. We can look at developmental process and the transition of age grade players to rate the standard and progress of the game but definitely, the results posted by the Super Eagles are not the yardsticks
Raising a formidable U-17 and U-20 from the schools and football academies could be counted as success while providing template for transition could be another big plus for the administrators of the game.
We believe one of the major ways of determining the growth of the game in the country is the league and the League Management Company (LMC) has not been consistent to deliver the league we could be proud of, at least so far. The LMC in some cases show ‘flashes’ of brilliance but overall, the body has not performed up to expectations.
For example, it was a rude shock that the domestic league was delayed for over 10 weeks and the body did not come out to explain the reason to the public. Followers of the game have been told that the English Premier League (EPL) is the model for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) but in concrete terms, the two leagues are not the same.
Obviously, no one is expecting the standard and operations to be 100 per cent same, but there should be signs to show that the NPFL is following the EPL model. The EPL starts every second weekend in August over the years and it was so for the ongoing 2019/2020 season, but the NPFL did not start on November 3, all thanks to the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, who spoke with all those in charge and ordered them to commence the season. The fixtures of the EPL came out few weeks after the last season but the full fixtures of the NPFL was not out even on the first match day of the season. Too bad! It is more painful to recall that there was an abridged league to align the country’s league with that of Europe yet, the NPFL was already derailing this season back to its usual state of ‘anytime will do’ for the kick-off.
We observed that there are casualties of these anomalies already as two of the country’s representatives – Kano Pillars and Niger Tornadoes – crashed out of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup respectively in early stage due to the poor fitness level of the players. Enyimba also crashed out of the CAF Champions League but they were good enough to drop to the Confederation Cup, where they have booked a place in the group stage.
Another casualty was the home-based Eagles that crashed out to Togo in the preliminaries of CHAN tournament, the continental fiesta for home-based players on the continent.
We commend Rangers of Enugu and Enyimba of Aba for making it to the group stage of the Confederation Cup. The two teams should double efforts to progress to the final of this competition, which is the second tier club football tourney in Africa. Al Masry, Paradou, Horoya, Nouadhibou, Zanaco, Al Nasr, Motema Pembe, Djoliba, San-Pedro, Bidvest Wits, HUSA, RSB Berkane, Pyramids and ESAE are other qualifiers. We charge the NFF to support the two teams to bring club honours to Nigeria.
It is sad that no Nigerian team made the 16-team draw for the elite club competition, CAF Champions League. Enyimba were the last team to bring club honours to the country and that was when the club enjoyed the backing of the then Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, who motivated the Peoples Elephant to win back-to-back in 2003 and 2004. The 16 teams for the CAF Champions League are De Agosto, TP Mazembe, Zamalek, ZESCO United, Etoile due Sahel, Al Hilal, FC Platinum, Al Ahly, USM Algier, Mamelodi Sundowns, Petro de Luanda, Wydad Casablanca, Raja Casablanca, JS Kabylie, AS Vita Club and Esperance de Tunis. Zambia, Congo, DR Congo, Angola and Zimbabwe have representation in this money-spinning CAF Champions League and Nigeria did not make the cut. How can we rate the NPFL above the leagues in these countries playing in the CAF Champions Leagues group stage? This is a sad reality witnessed every year.
The sponsorship of the league is yet to be sorted out while the TV rights issue said to be on the cards is not official yet. Nigerian league must be better than what we have in terms of operations, facilities and players’ welfare. After match days, most of the stadia will be in bad condition due to poor maintenance and this is bad.
We charge the NFF to also be involved in the league together with the LMC to guarantee better tidings for the players and all participants. There should be appropriate monitoring of the referees and tough measures for those who perpetrate any act of hooliganism.
We make bold to say the NPFL deserves to be more than where it is now. The league should be strong enough to produce four players in the Super Eagles like we had in the past. All these require a good template the administrators will work with every year.