SOCCER BAN HARSH, BUT NIGERIA NEEDS IT â€“ NGEREM
Super Eagles' woeful performance at the ongoing World Cup in South Africa has started taking its toll on Nigerian football. The Presidency, in a surprise move, decided that the country will not participate in international football for two years even as it ordered the probing of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
Although many soccer pundits have hailed the action, there are fears that the decision could turn out to be counter-productive as Nigerian football, which is already in bad shape, could return from the self-imposed exile in tatters.
World soccer governing body, FIFA, which frowns at government interference in the round leather game could equally extend Nigeria's stay in the 'incubator' with a ban. What that means is that the Super Eagles would have bided bye to the next two editions of the African Nations
Cup, the Brazil 2014 World Cup as well as the soccer event of the London 2012 Olympics.
Little wonder some experts have called on the government to have a rethink in the interest of the Nigerian youth. Those pressing for a change of mind believe that the government action amounts to throwing away the child with the bath water.
But seasoned sports businessman and former chairman of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Mr Dan Ngerem, insists that though the decision of government may appear harsh, the country needs it.
Hear him: 'The decision of government to pull the country out of international football for two years appears harsh, but we need it because there is need for us to start rebuilding our football, which has all along stood on a faulty foundation.
Nigerian sports, especially football, has been mediocrity personified. We have over the years not looked at our football in terms of accountability and proper planning. We have for too long allowed a cabal of jobless people to run the game in the country. We have been cheating at the age group level, winning youth competitions with old men that we parade as U-17 and U-20. All that has to stop.
'For once, we should stop the charade and return to the drawing board. Maybe what has happened would be the redefining moment for our football. Honestly, I don't mind this house that has been built on a false foundation collapsing and for us to rebuild it. We just cannot allow the fraud and mediocrity in our football to continue. 'In fact, what government has done to football should be extended to other sports. We need to clean up the sector.'
Ngerem however said it will be a shame if the whole show turns out to be one of those half measures of government that will take us nowhere and end up not solving the real problems of our football.
'I hope this will not end up being another fraud in itself. As I said earlier, we have literally come to the end of the road in football. What we need is a new beginning. We need to restructure and move forward. And my position is that in doing so, members of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) should step aside. We should come up with a new blueprint for our football and follow it.
'In fact, there is already a working document drafted by the Gen Ishola Williams-led Presidential Advisory Committee on Sports, which I was privileged to be a member. We submitted a document nobody can doctor. It is in a non-re-writeable CD. The document is there and it could serve as the way forward.
'We just have to go back to the basics and start football development from the grassroots. We can get real U-17 kids to play football for us in age group competitions if we go back to the schools. We have seen it in the Abedi Pele sons that are lacing boots for Ghana in South Africa.'
On the dreaded FIFA hammer, Ngerem said nobody should use that to blackmail government, insisting that the world soccer governing body will at the end of the day sit down to negotiate with Nigeria on the way forward.
'FIFA themselves are not stupid. They know what is happening in our football and the fact that the Nigerian soccer federation stinks.
They equally know that if Nigerian football dies, then African football is dead. Apart from South Africa and the Maghreb states, 75 percent of African soccer business revolves around Nigeria. I am into football business. I am a core investor in African soccer business and know what I am talking about. In summary, I support the action of government since it will at the end of the day herald a new dawn for Nigerian football.'