How to revive Nigerian clubs in continental football
Sir, The Nigerian soccer community was recently shocked when Plateau United and Kano Pillars Football Clubs lost out in their respective preliminary matches in the 2020/2021 African Continental football championships. Plateau United carried the Nigerian banner in the CAF Champions league, while Kano Pillars represented the country in the CAF Cup yearly competition.
It is difficult to attribute the early ousters of the two teams to the COVID-19 pandemic alone as all countries, clubs and players were or have been under COVID-19 imposed restrictions. Rather, this is a begging opportunity for inward-looking at the state of the organisation of Nigerian Football under the tutelage of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the League Management Company (LMC) in particular.
In the distant past, IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan and Enugu Rangers International Football Club both made great inroads into African football for which those achievements have sustained their images to remain and sustain the spirit of the game of football in Nigeria and the African continent at large. Additionally, Enyimba International Football Club of Aba recorded some achievements between the years 2003 and 2004 and is a living testimony that enormous human and material resources are needed to attain or achieve the desired goals in continental and global championships of those magnitudes.
Now, there seems to be an unending battle over the soul or leadership of NFF. It can be recalled that before Amaju Pinnick finally took over the leadership of NFF, as the chairman, he faced stiff oppositions from numerous interested groups or individuals. There was an effort to give the NFF top chairmanship seat ethnic colouration, which many soccer followers believed was dangerous for a meaningful organisation of the game in Nigeria.
The NFF of today is purely in the hands and trust of Pinnick, its chairman, that is serving his second term. Nigerians look forward that Amaju should live up to the enormous expectations in the areas of management of material and human resources as they concern NFF and Nigerian Football. He can seek sponsorships within the country or from friends of Nigeria elsewhere. He needs to create and develop such avenues for a viable and result-oriented NFF.
Another concern bedeviling the NFF and Nigerian football is indecision in the planning and execution of NFF programmes in any season. For a new football season to take off in Nigeria in recent times, it’s often preceded by several postponements, even as enthusiastic soccer on-lookers keep tabs on soccer activities in nearby African countries of Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Gambia.
It’s time the League Management Company (LMC) lived up to expectations. Since football is a ‘‘universal language,’’ various state governments should hands-off ownership and management of football clubs. Individuals or corporate bodies wishing to own any of the existing state governments’ owned clubs in Nigeria should be availed of such opportunities. All stakeholders should invest purposefully in the stadium. When our stadia are properly built, adequately equipped, and maintained, a conducive environment will encourage both local and foreign players to ply their trades in Nigeria. Government’s efforts to reactivate the Lagos National Stadium and Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja, are welcome.
Clubs should regularly embark on a talent hunt of young players that abound in Nigeria. Competent coaches with proven experiences should always be hired for both clubs’ and the national teams.
Nick O. Nweke wrote from Abakpa Nike, Enugu State.
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