As young chaps, we all dreaded our exams (well to a certain extent). I did for one reason: the fear of failure. I never for once finished outside of the top 2 right from my nursery up until my final year in primary school. That was the year my fears swallowed me. It was the first term to be precise. My mom was no place near me to monitor me. I flopped big time, finishing 10th. That report sheet sent cold shivers through my spine. My uncle didn’t help issues either. My Christmas was another case entirely. My annual Christmas cloth? It never arrived; I didn’t wear any new outfit to church or to our Christmas carol. That rage spurred me. I’d finish first the following term for one reason, and the wheels had gone off before I desired a change.
An issue similar to mine seems set to plague the current Nigerian Football Federation cabinet. A good start but then with reservations. While we celebrate the successes in Nigerian football this year, we seemingly aren’t supposed to rest on our laurels just yet, and like the proverbial report card in the hands of child, here is mine, as a teacher’s assessment, of the Glass house over the past year (Each section is scored over 100):
ON THE PITCH: Was it Victor Osimehn’s ten goals at the U17 World Cup in Chile or Oghenekaro Etebo’s solo run in the final of the U23 Nations Cup in Dakar, that pleased you the most? It’s a sound indication of how good our teams put up a show on the pitch. The year hadn’t looked bright with many still reeling in our failure to qualify for the AFCON as well as Emmanuel Amuneke’s U17 team’s implosion at the U17 Nations Cup. It changed with Manu Garba’s charges winning the U20 Nations Cup before crumbling like a pack of cards in New Zealand, and the Super Falcons ‘putting up a show’ in Canada. Fast-forward to the end of the year and we were in dreamland with the Flamingoes and Falconets completing routine jobs of qualifying for their respective World Cups sandwiched in between, the Falcons’ failure to qualify for the Olympics and the aforementioned success of the Dream team in dire circumstances as well as that of the Eaglets against all odds. Who would forget Enyimba’s title win? Or Akwa United’s epic Federations Cup final success. Which moment did you cherish the most?
THE NIGERIAN PREMIER FOOTBALL LEAGUE: ‘They said this day would never come’. There I sat, proud of a first game played at night in Nigerian football. It was just cool, and the atmosphere was good (where I watched it). It was dreams come true. A game under floodlights… but wait. “Why can’t we have more of this?,” I asked myself. Then I remembered: it’s the Nigerian Professional Football League, where late games are a taboo. Despite the on-field successes, the question still begs to be answered of why we can’t do better. A calendar which is just as symbolic as that of a certain Nigerian university isn’t something to be proud of. The 2014-15 season kicked off in 2015, the 15-16 season will begin in 2016 just about the same time as the commencement of the preliminary round of the 2016 CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup which all but leads us to that missing part of the league. While organisation was at its best this past season, the LMC need not rejoice yet, there is still work to be done. The calendar needs to be set right, the idea of two conferences won’t be bad with the teams split into two conferences of ten teams and a playoff tournament just like the MLS to ensure a quick end to the season and ensure a realignment with the European season which is being followed. And it’s not just that. One would only look further up north and see how players of a certain club had to sleep outside the government house in harsh harmattan conditions because they weren’t getting paid. It leaves a scar on the game and the LMC might be needing to enforce rules, rules like ABSA enforced in South Africa to ensure the Premier Soccer League has become a league worthy of watching. Clubs need to understand that the welfare of their players are paramount in whatever they do, however what do you expect, when a club cannot possibly produce TV friendly jerseys. It is true, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but there were huge strides and big calls made to ensure Rome is what it is today. The LMC chairman, Alh. Shehu Dikko complained about how the fans are not in the stadiums, but in sincerity, they refuse to look at how they have failed to draw the fans to the stadium. The league needs branding, and until that step is taken, the fans won’t come. Its quite amazing that despite Nike being our national team kit sponsors, we can’t get them to supply us Match balls, referee kits et al. The pitch may be TV friendly, what about the stands? The terraces? Must all games on Saturday and Sunday necessarily kick off at 4pm? Is there not supposed to be a schedule? A Friday night kick-off at 6pm won’t hurt, neither will 3pm,5:30 & 7:45pm kick-offs on Saturday or 12noon kick-offs on Sundays. We need to have match times, well-structured, and floodlights in all stadiums so as to have more mid-week games that people can catch up too, a 4pm mid-week match is a joke with a lot of people still in traffic on their way back from work. There is still a lot to be done and the administrative trips to the UK had better be implemented in the coming season. Save that, 2015 was fair….
THE NFF: Amaju Pinnick was the new beginning I’d rooted for during the NFF elections; his charm and demeanour, add to that his youthful look, made him the perfect candidate on my path, and a major upgrade on the outgone Aminu Maigari board. Things have changed on the pitch quite alright. However, it is off it that the challenges lay. A certain Chris Giwa lurks in the shadows while there are huge question marks over how the deal with Nike went down giving Adidas opted against renewing the kit contract. The jerseys are yet to be available a year after its unveiling and so do the questions arise. The decision to owe Samson Siasia his wages but pay Sunday Oliseh his in advance plus a car as well as the fact that the Dream Team allegedly took only ONE jersey to Senegal for the U23 tourney is worrying. His unveiling of the 2016 budget was crowned with his statement of majority of the funds coming from the Federal Government. But can part of the NFF’s budget not be sponsored by other companies other than the company called the Federal Government of Nigeria? The NFF is an institution that shouldn’t just rely on government funds. It is issues as such that make player strikes and protests inevitable as well failure to pay a coach. Achange of approach in 2016 maybe?
Nigerian football may have changed levels in 2015, but its happened in time past, that in taking a step forward, we often take the proverbial two steps backwards, one mustn’t always hit the trough before surging towards another crest, we aren’t sound waves…