Neglect of grassroots cause of our woes in football, says Ezeogu

The Flying Eagles

The Flying Eagles

Following the downward trend in the rating of Super Eagles, as it even missed out being seeded in the World Cup draw that pitched them against tough oppositions in the qualifiers for the Mundial towards Russia 2018, former international, Emeka Ezeogu, says the rejection of grassroots football has really taken its toll on the nation’s football.

Eagles currently sit on 70th in the world by FIFA ranking and in addition will not be in next year’s AFCON in Gabon. Likewise, the U-17 and the U-20 teams will be missing out CAF’s organised championships also next year. The absence of Nigeria from these competitions, where it used to feature regularly and effortlessly has happened, as the various national football teams now struggle for qualification.

Speaking with The Guardian recently, Ezeogu said he would blame the “fast food” approach of the administrators in charge of football for the dip.“I do not think there is any Nigerian who does not want Nigeria to qualify for next World Cup. We should tell ourselves the honest truth because if one fails to plan then it means one plans to fail. I do not think that any of our national teams have had appropriate preparation in the last 20 years.

“The bronze medal won by the U-23 Eagles at the Rio Olympics in the football event was due to lack of proper preparation. The team was lucky to have won a bronze. Those in the custodian of football are those who have no business being there in the first place,” he said.

Ezeogu, a member the Super Eagles that won the 1994 Nations Cup and featured at the World Cup in USA ’94, complained of the attitude of players of this generation.“There is no way you can compare the players of this generation to mine. In my early days as a footballer, and other players such as Uche Ukechukwu, Michael Emenalo, Chidi Nwanu and host of others, our priority was to play for Enyimba of Aba, a local team in the third division of the national league. We all moved from the ranks playing in the grassroots till we ended up playing for the national teams.

“But these days, you hear players of 10, 12 years old saying they want to play for clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona and host of others. The place of grassroots football where you expect quality players to come out of has been misplaced. What we see now is a “fast food” approach, where result, rather than developmental methodology is key to churning out talents. And the reason why this is happening is because wrong people have been running our football in the last 20 years,” he said.

The former coach of Heartland FC of Owerri, Imo State, however added that, “This is the more reason why our football will keep dwindling and the depth of quality players is affected if media do not play their part in football development. The sports journalists have joined them too in damaging the country’s football by not informing higher authorities on the reason for the downward trend. They will rather join to bring our football backward. Football means a great deal to all Nigerians,” he concluded.

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AFCONEmeka Ezeogu
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