Why Nigeria’s football is dying, by stakeholders
• Blame poor coaches’ training, faulty recruitment for woes
SATURDAY’s sack of the Super Eagles’ Chief Coach, Stephen Keshi has drawn attention to the lingering dwindling fortunes of Nigerian football and raised concerns among stakeholders as to what the problems could be and the solutions too.
They say the seeming lack of formal training for the country’s national team handlers and recruitment methods which is often based on parochialism, sentiments and sometimes financial inducements may be some of the reasons for the sorry state of t5he nation’s football.
Up till the late early 2000s, Nigeria was one of the most respected football-playing countries, with the Super Eagles once ranking the fifth team in the world. Aside winning the African Nations Cup at home in 1980 and away in 1994, Nigeria also became the first African country to win the football, gold medal in 1996.
That was when a team inspired by the brilliance of Nwankwo Kanu beat Brazil and Argentina to the ultimate gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. Sad enough, since then the country’s football has been on a downward slide.
The Super Eagles’ victory at the 2013 African Nations Cup only served to mask the failings of the country’s game, which was later highlighted by Nigeria’s inability to qualify for the 2015 edition of the continental championship. Speaking to The Guardian, former National Team coach, Mr. Adegboye Onigbinde, Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Mallam Al-Hassan Yakmut, former Captain of the Green Eagles (now Super Eagles) in the 1980s, Segun Odegbami, among others, said the country would continue to falter until it gets the technical side of the game right.
Pundits accuse the coaches of paying scant attention to their midfields in the false belief that they had the firepower to beat their opponents. “The results, according to former Super Eagles’ midfielder, Emeka Ezeugo, was a situation where their “opponents found it so easy to break through their defences and get the goals they needed for victory.
“Germany just strolled around the pitch after getting their goal against the Flying Eagles because Nigeria could not find a system to check their dominance of the midfield. “ Also, in most of the matches the Falcons played in Canada, they went with four attackers, forgetting that every department has a role to play in a game. You can only neglect the midfield to your peril.”
Yakmut, the DG of NSC, agrees that Nigeria’s recent poor performance in international championships is due to the poor quality of coaches. He further blames the Nigeria Institute of Sports (NIS) and the short term NFF coaching programmes, which is a criterion for the appointment of national team coaches, for the trainers’ failure.
The NFF criteria for the selection of coaches for the national teams, The Guardian’s investigation revealed, are the coaches’ previous records and political influences.
Yakmut regrets the absence of an organised and standardised coaching development programme, which, he said, posed a major challenge to the training of qualified coaches to handle the various national teams.
“These same set of coaches took the Super Eagles to win the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa, African Youth Championship (AYC), the African Women Championship (AWC), the African and FIFA U17 Championships and other competitions. People should try to find out what went wrong in 2015? For technocrats like us, what went wrong in 2015 is just more than mere coaching.
“This is not only peculiar to football. It cuts across the gamut of Nigerian sports. We do not have a standardised coaching development and certificate programme; that is why we have coaches, who do not have coaching certificates that would permit to handle certain levels of teams, being saddled with such responsibilities, quite unlike the way it is in other parts of the world.”
The former captain of the national volleyball team regretted that most of the Nigerian football coaches have only certificates they got from short term programmes at the National Institute for Sports or Confederation of African Football (CAF), which does not make them sound enough to handle national teams.
“It is long over due for Nigerian coaches to be graded according to their qualifications before they are given teams to manage. It is mandatory that any coach that should be selected to handle any of the national teams must be competent. We at the NSC have decided that in view of all these bad results that the NFF have posted in recent times, we would organise a forum with them to address the issue of coaches.”
Records at the NFF technical department show that except Emmanuel Amuneke, who has a one-year UEFA pro license, other coaches, including Keshi, have six months UEFA grade B coaching licence and an additional NFF/CAF one-week grade B licence they obtained in Nigeria. Also, Onigbinde said the country’s football is built on faulty foundation.
According to him, Nigeria stutters because the NFF does not adopt the right approach to coaches’ development. “The disappointment is on the realisation that Nigeria can achieve far more than it has with our talents and natural endowments,” he says.
“I still strongly believe that Nigeria can win the senior World Cup if we got our acts together. Some people think I am not serious, but I mean every word of it. “The problem is not with the availability of talents. The problem is with identifying them and polishing before harnessing them. We are not doing this because people have failed to realise that football is a technical matter.”
He absolves the coaches for the failures of the Flying Eagles and the Super Falcons, saying: “We are unfair to these people because they are victims of a societal problem and failure at developing football in the right way.’’ Odegbami is emphatic in his belief that Nigerian coaches are the least trained in the world.
He said: “The only domestic recognised institution for the training of the coaches is the NIS, which does not have the qualified staff, the facilities and the tools to train any coach meaningfully.
The fields are bad, there are no proper teaching aids and appliances, the science labs are non-functional, the curriculum is outdated and too lopsided in favour of academics rather than the practice of coaching on the field.” Odegami, who describes the NIS as the greatest hindrance to the development of Nigerian coaches, adds, however, “that there can be no lost cause.
The NIS must go back to its original concept. It must be revisited and built into a professional organisation and not an academic institution.” The Guardian’s investigation reveals that the NIS, which was patterned after the Australian Institute of Sports, was supposed to be developed in four phases, but only the first phase has been completed.
According to a source, who pleaded anonymity, “the government has abandoned the original concept. Subsequent administrations have not seen the NIS as an important element in the quest for a holistic development of Nigerian sports. “The Institute lacks the basic facilities needed for training of modern coaches and you cannot expect it to produce world-class coaches.”
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