Nigerian football’s free-fall embarrassing, says Esu
Coach Godfrey Esu has managed many Nigerian football clubs as far as the local league is concerned. From Julius Berger FC in Lagos, Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) in Ibadan, Gateway FC, Abeokuta, Enyimba of Aba, Crown FC of Ogomoso, Delta Force of Asaba to Bendel Insurance of Benin City, among others, Esu’s technical expertise has paved the way for many young Nigerian footballers in reaching the pinnacle of their soccer career.
But the rapid decline in Nigeria’s football, especially at the national level, has left coach Esu wondering if corruption and nepotism, which has eaten so deep into the fabric of the nation’s football administration, has affected performance on the field of play.
For the first time in Nigeria’s football history, all the male national teams, Super Eagles, Flying Eagles and Golden Eaglets failed to qualify for African championship in one single year.
The Super Eagles, under coach Samson Siasia, lost to Pharaohs of Egypt in the race for Gabon 2017 African Nations Cup, and Nigerians, who felt that the change in technical crew from coach Sunday Oliseh to Siasia might have been responsible for the failure, pardoned the NFF board. Under this same NFF board, the Super Eagles had failed to qualify for the last edition of the African Nations Cup held in Equatorial Guinea, thereby failing to defend the title Nigeria won at South Africa 2013 AFCON.
With the dust raised over the Super Eagles defeat by Egypt yet to settle, the Flying Eagles, led by coach Emmanuel Amuneke added salt to injuries, as they were sent packing by Sudan in Lagos in race to Zambia 2017 African Youth Championship. Those who raised their voices, calling on NFF officials to wake up from their slumber were tagged ‘enemies of progress.’
And as if Nigerian football lovers had not suffered enough agonies, the Golden Eaglets, who had ruled Africa and the global state over the years, crumbled like a pack of cards last weekend in the hands of Junior Minas of Niger Republic, losing 1-3 to crash out of the 2017 CAF U-17 championship.
The shock defeat by the coach Manu Garba-led Golden Eaglets to Niger Republic means that Nigeria will not play at all men’s football competitions both in Africa and on the global next year. To many true football-loving Nigerians, including coach Esu, the free fall currently being witnessed under the present NFF board, is a big embarrassment to the nation.
“I am really bothered because the free fall of our football is becoming a big embarrassment to the nation,” Esu told The Guardian during the week. “It shows that something is wrong within the system. I have been involved in Nigerian soccer for years, and I can’t recall when all our male national football teams experienced this kind of free fall in one particular year. Something urgent has to be done to salvage the situation,” Esu said.
According to him, those administering the nation’s football at the moment lack vision. “The foundation on which our national teams are built these days is not solid enough. The head is rotten and so, no meaningful thing can come from the body.
“We don’t have a good formation and the result is what we are harvesting now. A majority of our players are on trial and error formation, and no one is ready to look into it properly because what the administrators are after is immediate results. I have sounded it loud and clear to them (NFF) over time that as long as our league matches are run based on home and away advantages, nothing good will come out of the system.
“A situation whereby referees give free penalties for some teams to win matches at all cost is killing the game, and the NFF is not doing anything about it. It sends a bad signal to the younger players even when they are on national duties that apteral, somebody will bribe the referee for us to win. I think we have to look into the area of officiating in our league. I am saying this because a majority of the players featuring for the Golden Eaglets and the Flying Eagles are from the local league.
“The failure of the Super Eagles, Flying Eagles and the Golden Eaglets to qualify for 2017 CAF championships has clearly shown to everyone that we have to look inward and address the issue properly, instead of mere scratching the surface. I know that some boot leakers will say this man does not like some people in the NFF, but sincerely speaking, the failure serves us better,” Esu stated.
While Esu is blaming officials of the NFF over the free fall of the nation’s football, former Green Eagles goalkeeper, Emmanuel Okala says there is no reason to hold the administrators responsible for the failure.
“I am not really surprised by the failure of our teams to qualify for the various CAF competitions in 2017,” Okala told The Guardian in a telephone chat. “We have been crying out on the need for government to prepare our teams very well for competitions, but they always says that there is no money to do so. And in the game of football, if you fail to prepare your team well, you must be ready to take any result that comes your way. What I mean by preparation is giving the teams quality friendly matches before any competitive game. That is missing and it will be wrong for Nigerians to hold the NFF board responsible for the failure,” Okala added.
For some other Nigerians however, the NFF board-led by Amaju Pinnick has no reason to stay in office any longer, having failed in their responsibilities. “In a country where people are held accountable for failures, these NFF board members should have been flushed out of the glass house in Abuja by now because the failure of the Super Eagles, Flying Eagles and Golden Eagles to qualify for African competitions in a single year is a big shame to this government,” a sports analyst, Kehinde Adewale, said on radio sports programme during the week in Lagos.