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It’s time to make changes in our football – Fuludu

By Gowon Akpodonor
16 April 2022   |   4:11 am
Former Super Eagles winger, Edema Fuludu, has called on the government, players, administrators, fans and sports journalists to have a change of attitude for the nation’s football to grow.
Nigeria Super Eagles

[FILES] Super Eagles players (Photo by Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP)

‘Government, Ex-players, Coaches, Fans, Media Are Culpable’
Former Super Eagles winger, Edema Fuludu, has called on the government, players, administrators, fans and sports journalists to have a change of attitude for the nation’s football to grow.

“Our football has nosedived because government, who gives subvention is turning a blind eye to the numerous anomalies associated with the running of our dear game. We cannot exhaust government culpability here,” Fuludu said in a message to The Guardian yesterday.

Fuludu, a member of both the Tunisia ’94 Super Eagles winning squad and USA ’94 World Cup team, stated that Nigeria football has gradually declined steeply in an arithmetic gradient and non discerning eyes never noticed until even the uninitiated saw it and cried out.

“The non-qualification of the Super Eagles to Qatar 2022 World Cup was the icing on the cake,” he said. “In the last eight years, a large number of fans, who abandoned whatever they are doing for our national team have become apathetic and indifferent to national team matches.

Who is culpable in the very situation Nigeria football is now? He asked.

“Let me start with fans: I can reasonably estimate that we have over a hundred million Nigerians, who like football and fifty percent of this population love the National team. Twenty percent of the fifty percent can die for the Super Eagles.

“In January 1993, I was in Enugu stadium under about 36 to 39 degrees centigrade scorching sun with the national team colours sweating profusely and terribly dehydrated as, with my teammates, against the national team of Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a World Cup qualifier to USA ‘94. The team was purely home-based players. I scored the first goal and Finidi George scored the winner. The fans were shouting “All we are saying, No more home-base.” This is a game we won 2-0, but the fans were not satisfied. They seem not to have seen enough dexterity in display of talent. Come rain or sun, Nigerian fans are insatiable. Their cry song of no more home-base actually led to the gradual erosion of home-base players from being part and parcel of the Super Eagles today.

Fuludu continues: “The late Coach Stephen Keshi tried to reverse the trend and got success out of it in winning the Nations Cup in 2013. A bad seed had been sown and those who pride themselves in scouting for foreign-base players capitalised on it.

“Today we have a plethora of diaspora players, who know nothing about Sabon Gari in Kano, Ajegunle in Lagos, Akpakpava in Benin, Diop in Port Harcourt, Essi layout Warri, High level in Makurdi, Aba motor park field etc, and lack the spirit of never say die; who would want play a match to please their family, communities and friends some of whom may journey far to wherever the match is played in Nigeria. As a player, you know you have to host ‘Area’ after the game. The fans are culpable,” he stated.

Fuludu, who is the Secretary, Project 2022 Task Force, also blamed the government saying: “We see the hand of government in our sports, especially football as a mere plaything. We have very serious sports development policies, committee reports and recommendations lying wastefully in the various sports ministry and parastatals at Federal and State levels across the length and breath of the country.

“Government still does not understand or pretend not to understand the social-economic and political strength of sports, especially football the king of sports.

Government at every level will employ or appoint people, who never ever participated actively or passively in sports in their entire life, never got formal training in sports education and has never attended a two-day seminar on importance of sports as a tool for any kind of development to head sports departments.

“Government continues to invest in sports that are professional instead of targeting grassroots and amateur, while creating enabling environment for professional sports to thrive. Of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), five are practically sports infused.

“So many football club chairmen are appointed just because they are the governor’s Cousin or brother, governor’s wife’s brother, governor’s loyal boy, who actually is a tailor turned fashion designer, fake buying and selling contractor, recharge card seller without a kiosk. They are the CEO of our football clubs with government approved budget.

“The ex-footballers, a group that has a galaxy of stars that dwindles with time, yet cannot make hay while the sun shines. This group has inadvertently submitted to the whims and capricies of their traducers for a cup of porridge. The ex-footballers, who made it to the apex of the game or did not, run on the same carbonated mentality. They want to consume without a thought to production. They were paid for playing football, given money to feed as they travel for games, accommodated and given kits free too. At the end of their career, they suddenly get so impoverished, first from that carbonated mentality and so, would not want to contribute a dime to anything that is supposed to bring joy to them. A look at the All Stars across the length and breadth of this county, very few ex-players pay dues promptly and very few are willing to serve in capacity of leadership. It’s easy for them to complain, but cannot take steps to change and unfavorable situation even when given the platform. They prefer to be stooges or appendages of their traducers who give them peanuts to act rascally against their own. Many are just plain ignorant and this is a terrible disease. Ex-footballers are culpable,” Fuludu stated.

He also blamed the Players Union saying: “This group is a fallout of the ex-footballers, but ideally, should be a pool of current players managed by the ex- players. They are same and one. The players union in Nigeria has been on ground for over three decades, and working tirelessly to drive the vision of players freedom in terms of contractual obligations to club and player. How successful has this been? Maybe a meager five percent. This is because of internal greed and ego associated with selfishness. Instead of standing up against a common enemy of the game, they rather take crumbs and fight themselves.

“This pathetic and dysfunctional encumbrance has kept the union divided for over a decade with two factions. God intervened and reconciliation saw the light of the day. Inside this same union where realisation of the divide and rule system of the football authorities was detected and reconciliation made possible, black legs as usual with the carbonated mentality of ex-players reared its ugly head. Some were willing to take the bull by the horn legitimately while some developed cold feet and others decided to get a pot of porridge.

The President of the players union cannot afford to speak from both sides of his mouth. He should be ready to be a unionist and emancipator. He must look beyond empty promises and call a spade a spade that is where respect resides and he must earn it not by meaningless diplomacy.

“Now the project 2022 Task Force took the bull by the horn and some top executives of the players union are whispering caution and trying albeit incoherently to support the failed NFF base on the usual deceptive promises. Who does that?. It should not be about any individual. It should be about the right cause and the trajectory is undeniably visible. The Players union is culpable,” he added.

Speaking further, Fuludu said: “The coaches is another group that has deliberately or inadvertently denied themselves autonomy. The follow follow mentality. A group that does not attach importance to their worth as professionals. 90 percent or more of the trained coaches in Nigeria take appointment from amateur to national team level without a contract specifying tenure and terms of engagement. A phone call is all they need to start a job. Resume tomorrow morning we will discuss later and it is yes sir, period.

“It is this same coaches that will accept team list from their chairman, make changes in a match, on instruction from oga sitting in the tribune, warm players about intermediaries to show loyalty to the boss. These type of coaches get fired even after winning a major competition because he actually did nothing in the eyes of club owner.

“A good coach or manager’s influence should be visible in the way a team plays. Coaches Association cannot defend their own who has been given a below the belt blow, rather they scramble for the job of their colleagues without questions. A country where top coaches rely on the Federation bigwigs to give them jobs at club level. Nothing wrong to throw in a word for a coach, but not to depend on your ability is a slap on professionalism. The cycle is vicious.
The Coaches are culpable.”

He also indicted the current players saying: “These are supposed to be the fulcrum of the players union but are constrained in union participation, which ordinarily, should be a must for them. There is a glut of players meaning too many players chasing too few clubs and so, club chairmen/owners of clubs threaten them directly not to belong to the players union else they will be booted out. This is the general trend.

“The club owners are first given subtle threat by the Football Federation and league organisers, who directly transfer it the players. It is in this country players agree and swear to the players union that a club has met it’s financial obligations to them only to come running back after they are dismissed without payment.

“Current players have been tutored over and over to engage an intermediary but greed in releasing 10 percent or less of their contract fee for services that will protect them is a big deal. Often, the club chairman does not want a player with an intermediary as obtainable in sane climes. The union keeps educating the players, while the Federation and club owners keep putting stumbling blocks.
The current players are culpable.”

Fuludu stated that the sports media is guilty as charged. “The main stream sports media got compromised overtime. I am not talking of the social media copy and paste journalists without ethics, who will attack a person instead of the message. I mean the real SWAN. The very minute main stream sports journalist, who do investigative journalism and write the truth about our football are crowded out with yellow paper writers who receive allowances from the traducers. Constructive criticism has been eroded as those who stand up are enemies and must be shut out. The Guild of Editors came out with something on the current NFF.

“Our football decline is not just about the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF. The rot is beyond them even though it got accentuated in the last eight years. Time will tell. The Media is culpable,” he stated.

“The Referees is another important part of the game that has taken so much knocks and still refuse to be firm in their duty. They are statutorily one of the five members of the NFF, and still acting like the lackeys of the traducers who call the shots. Their members face security risk in body harm and near death situations on matches, yet they turn a blind eye. Grading and badging of referees takes regional, ethnic and religious colouration. How then can we be at the top in African competitions not to talk of global reckoning? The leadership needs to wake up and look beyond satisfying a section of people or country. The Referees are culpable.”

Fuludu also attacked the Football Federation saying: “Here, committees are inaugurated especially in this era of Amaju Pinnick-led board and 90 percent of them never function. I laugh when people celebrate their names as members of an NFF committee. For eight years of this current NFF, the Players Status Committee was never inaugurated not to talk of functioning to attend to issues arising from problems between players and clubs, between coaches and clubs, between players and intermediaries etcetera.

“The Players Status Committee is one of the most important committees in football that FIFA does not joke with, yet in Nigeria, it takes the utmost back seat. What a manner of administration we have. We have a football house that will ask ex-internationals, who walk into the secretariat what do you want instead of what can we do for you. A secretariat that does nothing to show for funds allocated to them for youth and female football development. A secretariat that rendered experience staff into sidon look officers. Go check out FIFA goal projects of Morocco and The Gambia if you will not weep for the most populated black nation under the sun called Nigeria.

“There are some gentlemen of quality and administrative acumen in the present board of the NFF interested in real football development, but could not speak up or stand for football for fear of rocking the boat. The Federation is culpable.

According to my friend Cornelius, we are where we are now, because the NFF, the government, the fans and even the judiciary have gotten the result we deserve. All of us are the problem with different level of culpability. It is a systemic thing.

“What to do? We must Conscientiously and deliberately change the system. Progress cannot be made without a struggle as kingdoms are not divided with handshakes,” Fuludu stated.