Football has potential to lead Nigeria’s economic revival, says Oghomienor
Given the conducive environment to thrive, football has the potential to lead Nigeria’s economic revival, chairman of the Blaugrana Group, Leslie Oghomienor has said.
In recent times, Nigeria’s football has witnessed a steep slide such that countries hitherto seen as minnows now harass the nation’s teams in international competitions.
Speaking on the backdrop of the elimination of two of the country’s four teams in continental competitions and the failure of the national U-20 team to qualify for next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, Oghomienor blamed the delay in the kick-off of the national league for the country’s woes.
He added that the recent performance of the Super Eagles and the elimination of Plateau United and Kano Pillars from continental competitions show the poor level of the nation’s football development, adding that Nigeria has no virile grassroots programme that would ensure the availability of quality talents to replace retiring ones.
He said football should be treated like a big business that has the ability to provide jobs for different sets of people and take the youths out of the streets.
He added: “Globally, today, football has become a multibillion-dollar economy. This can be seen in the English Premier League, where it plays a vital role in the economy of Britain.
“In Nigeria, because of the Premier League many people have established viewing centers, which aside creating fun for fans, create employment, and give many genuine livelihood.
“We can also tap into it to develop our local league as it was in the good old days when people paid and trooped to the stadiums to watch games.”
He said there is a correlation between the level of development of the nation’s local leagues and other tournaments like the FA Cup, “which has suffered severe neglect and lack of necessary attention from club owners and government’s regulatory authorities, leading to leadership conflicts.”
Oghomienor argues that the local league is the foundation for the development of national teams and the clubs, adding, “globally, aside from being the first choice of entertainment, football has the power to foster sustained peace and unity among diverse groups, empower youths and help curb unacceptable social tendencies.
“The government and the departments concerned with football development should do more to avail Nigeria of the immense economic benefits generated from the football sector.”
Although he recognised the efforts of the Ministry of Sports and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to grow the sport, Oghomienor said, it is worrisome and regrettable that since 1995 when Nigeria was rated fifth in the world after a credible performance at its appearance in the World Cup finals at USA ‘94, it has not done anything to reach that height again. “We need to work harder and smarter to come up from this current 29th position. All hands must be on deck if we must be great again as a football nation,” he advised.