USA Based FIFA Agent- Kester Ezuma Bashed Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)
Football talent is no doubt in abundance in Nigeria and Africa in general. However, just as the slave trade of previous centuries saw African's pedalled for profit, so gruel football so-called agents are developing soccer academies across the country seeking to exploit talents for their own gain. Some are asking whether the European football “money splash”, is fuelling a form of neo-colonialism.
As football in Europe has become increasingly big business, with players earning huge salaries and living the so-called “flamboyant life”, so it has become increasingly desirable for Nigerian soccer players to seek lucrative football contracts in Europe. Ever since football emerged as the sport of choice in Nigeria, adopting the game from the European imperialists who utilised the sport as part of their “civilising mission¨, the star players in Nigeria have always been considered local heroes. The adoring fans would give their heroes nicknames to magnify their exploits and accomplishments on the field of play. This reflected the Nigeria battlefields, where praise-singers would extol the virtues of warriors in song and their name would go down in posterity. As the popularity of the game increased, football became an avenue for young Nigerian's to earn respect, fame and, in some cases, cash… particularly as the rich European leagues recognised the African fields as an untapped, and relatively cheap, opportunity to recruit players.
In recent times, the magnitude of hero-status accorded to Nigerian players has increased drastically. Fuelled by the media, Nigerian hero's playing abroad receive the plaudits of all across the continent, while encouraging the next generation to seek escape from their circumstance through the holy grail of a contract with a European club.
The truth of the matter, Nigeria as a case study, the negative result that I've observed is that many families release children with potential in football to chase their dream at the expense of education. As the number who “make-it¨ abroad are few and far between, the resultant concern is that thousands of disillusioned young people have seen their dreams vanish and consequently feel they've let their family down.
As they are not prepared for life outside of football, many of these young men become just a part of the statistics that continue to reveal Nigeria as the country with the daily struggle for survival in the face of abject poverty. This scenario has been greatly compounded over the past twenty five years through the dramatic growth of Soccer Academies across Nigeria of various guises. There are some that can be classed as the “genuine article¨… applying professionalism together with humanitarian values to facilitate the progress of young talents towards professional football.
However, there are multitudes of charlatans who are seeking to profit from the human capital in the hope of discovering the next Jay-Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Emmanuel Amunike or Daniel Amokachi. Plus minus, given the fact there are over two (2)million Nigeria soccer players plying their trade outside the continent of Africa, scattered all over the world, the percentage of academy players in Nigeria who do go on to make a career is diminutive. But the academies continue to expand and develop through offering false hopes to manipulate children's, and their parents, dreams. The question here? Why would Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) allow such occupation to be amplified in the modern era!!! English Premiership, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and Spanish La Liga forms the best football leagues in the world accolade to excellent Federation control and professional management. Football Academies all over the world has sponsors except in Nigeria!!
On the contrary, in Nigeria reverse is the “NORM” many of these academies are informal, in some cases being run by a market trader or a former “player¨ who offers the allure of fame, fortune through a lucrative contract. At best, some of these coaches are being opportunistic – offering a chance to a multitude of players and hoping the cream will rise to the top and that they will ultimately uncover a star. Their own hopes and aspirations therefore become intrinsically intertwined with the players they are developing. When they do uncover what they believe to be a “gem¨, they will go to great lengths to try and help the player gain their necessary exposure. One might argue that, for some, their hearts are in the right place – even if they are misguided and ill - informed. And, while waiting for their broad speculation to discover gold, to help make ends meet, they charge “AMOUNTS” to the players they train on and offer some level of basic agreement should the player “make it¨ to the big time. Ignorance and negligence becomes the master of the day for hopeful talents who sign every paper of agreement by commission or omission!!!
On the more sinister level, spurious agents sign up players with a speck of talent offering them a direct passage to Europe. What occurs is nothing more than human trafficking as parents pay these criminals sums of money on a whim and a prayer. Sometimes the children make it to Europe but the end of the road was never going to be a contract with a professional football contract and there are many cases of these youngsters finding themselves in desperate situations as illegal immigrants in a strange land.
So what is the answer? Nigeria is a football crazy country and the abject poverty of many makes the allure of fame and fortune through football an enticing prospect. And, given the profile of European football on Nigeria television, the bait is constantly on the line waiting for the next captive to be allured by the mirage. Having said these, NFF was never pro-active to stern measures in developing Nigeria football in all level...Failure is the answer!!
Given the lack of resources at the disposal of Nigeria Football Federation, regulation and monitoring may be complex, if not nigh on impossible. But surely some progress towards improving standards of football academies should be made to protect the vulnerable victims? And FIFA, the organisation that most benefits from the profit of football, needs to take action steps to prevent exploitation. The challenge can be addressed in two primary ways; creating greater awareness of these issues and through providing opportunities for networking, up-skilling and evaluating those academies that do genuinely have the best interest of the players at heart. If the better academies can improve their overall standards, and if there is more general awareness of these issues, then, the exploitative and dangerous kinds of academies should find themselves somewhat ostracised and, hopefully, out of business.
Nigerian football system is in shamble, wherefore the professional premier league are NOT regulated by NFF in a refined and more professional system. We have taken time over time analysing the predicaments of charlatans and academies that groom players without good code of conduct and vision therefore the long run result affects the National team and individuals. Pitiful! Most football clubs in Nigeria are run by selfish businessmen with abject no knowledge and set policy based on the name of the game (association football). Invariably, NFF has been under some kind of illusion and delusion specific to football business and orientation. Why is it that Nigerian Professional league clubs does NOT attract REAL Investors and sponsors? Why NFF cannot attract sponsors for the League? Though much has been said, the officers at the NFF are politically selected and they lack the priority qualities to bring innovation into Nigeria football development. Unpatriotic as it may sound to many but truth is better said than lies. WE CAN NOT BE CHAMPIONS AGAIN UNLESS WE SET UP RADICAL FOOTBALL CULTURE SYNONYMOUS WITH THE NEW ERA!!!
SUGGESTION TO BETTER NATIONAL FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT
Some specific recommendations of KESTER EZUMA(SPORTS PSYCOLOGIST, Chairman, Infinite United Football Club and a Sports Consultant based with branches in Nigeria, Switzerland and USA, are as follows:
-First and foremost, to keep the record straight, NFF most recognise: The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), formerly known as the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) is 80 years today. The anniversary has always passed unnoticed, owing to improper record-keeping which has also made most people to erroneously take the body's foundation to be an undisclosed day in 1945.
“Founded 1945” still adorns the badge of the NFF. But no fact exists to back up the 1945 dateless claim, except the general belief that the Governor's Cup which changed to Challenge Cup, later the Coca-Cola FA Cup and now the Federation Cup was instituted that year by the then NFA.
That itself is another distortion of historical facts on Nigerian football. The fact remains that the maiden edition of the Governor's Cup in 1945 was not organised by the then NFA, but the then Lagos and Districts Amateur Football Association (LDAFA) which is today's Lagos FA. An archival material has revealed that the NFF was founded at 7pm on Monday, August 23, 1933, at house number 42, Broad Street, Lagos. The building still exists.
-NFF MUST set greater awareness through the football structures in each state of Nigeria as to the dangers of human trafficking and how football is being utilised to this end.
-Every Premiership club MUST have a registered football academy with minimum number of players.
-Premiership clubs MUST maintain contractual regular salary and allowance of all players.
-All state football Associations should be working towards developing a registration system for football academies.
-Every Premiership and Pro division clubs MUST creates 24 hours maintained homepage. (Website)
-All State Football Associations MUST creates updated and 24 hours maintained homepage.
-Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) MUST incorporate and establish a 24 hours National Football TV Channel.
-Nigeria Football Federation MUST establishes a central NETWORK where all registered clubs players ID can be found.
-A code of best practise to be produced for academies yearly by every State Football Association.
-NFF should implement on Premiership clubs to pay salaries and bonuses with foreign currency (US dollar) to attract and enable International players to embrace Nigeria Premier league.
-All academies should encourage their children to continue in education because the opportunities to make a career in football are limited.
-All academies should adopt a player-protection policy and implement these procedures through training all their staff, coaches and managers.
-Football coaches should be provided opportunities to increase their skills through attending accredited courses in all States (affordable cost organised by State Associations)
-By NFF: Sample contracts should be made available that protect the player's interests against unscrupulous agents.
-All Premier clubs MUST register fan club units with membership forum.
-Premiership clubs MUST be a corporate company with share holders and partnerships to enable cash flow and legitimate tax return.
-Private owned Premiership clubs and all registered local football clubs MUST have code of conducts drafted and certified by NFF.
-The Premier league MUST be drawn to be played in full season (English Premiership time table alike) This will keep the player´s job lucrative round the year! (e.g April of a year to June of the following year)
It is very unprofessional and pure laxity for Nigeria Football Federation to allow any club that fail to pay the registration fee to participate in the league. More so the said clubs owing players and officials as well.
The account of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) would be enriched with N88.580 million, when the 15 Premier League clubs and seven Nigeria National League (NNL) clubs offset the two-year arrears of debts owed the Nigerian football governing body.
In a document released to the media in Abuja recently by the secretary of the Association of Professional Footballers of Nigeria (APFON), Premier League clubs like Akwa-United FC of Uyo, Wikki Tourists FC of Bauchi, Dolphins FC of Port Harcourt, Warri Wolves FC and Rangers International FC of Enugu were the fifth most indebted clubs to both the federation, the players and officials.
The document further stipulated that the decided and undecided cumulative debts profile by both Premier League and National League clubs had hit N885.803 million, with 10 per cent of the total amount accruing to the federation, hitting N88.580 million.
According to the document, while Akwa-United with a total sum of N41.467 million decided debts, and N75.467 million undecided debt tops the club debtors' list, Wikki Tourists trailed with a total sum of N46.870 million from N31.040 million decided and N15.830 million undecided debts.
The trio of Dolphin FC, owing N21.315 million and N21 million decided and undecided debt case respectively, Warri Wolves, owing the players, officials and the federation a cumulative debt of N22.625 million in the ratio of N16.625 million and N6 million respectively and Rangers International completing the firth most indebted clubs with a profile debt burden totaling N41.050 million in the ratio of N15.050 million and N26 million resolved and unresolved debt cases respectively.
The document further revealed that clubs like Kwara United FC owed total debt of N38.280 million decided and undecided debts, Heartland FC with debt profile of N29.725 million in the ratio of N10.725 million and N19 million decided and undecided cases.
Clubs like El-Kanemi Warriors owing N29.324 million, Enyimba FC with debt report of N48.390 million, Bayelsa United owing N72.010 million, Sharks FC with a total debt of N16.900 million, Gombe United with total sum of N8.893 million, Shooting Stars FC with debt report of N16.793 and Pillars with the least debt burden of N920,000.
The document also revealed that seven national league clubs owed a decided total sum of N70.395 million to players and officials, just as it owed the federation, cumulative debt of N7.039 million, adding that while Edo Insurance FC leads the debt profile with N29.270 million, Niger Tornadoes trailed behind with N24.014 million.
Others include defunct Ocean Boys with total debt of N12.061 million, Prime FC with N3.318 million, Unicem FC N932,500 and JUTH FC with the least debt of N800,000.
Peradventure, the NFF on the other hand owes the National coaching crew over eight (8) months' salary??? They are in better position to answer this question!!! Football is big business all over the world but not in Nigeria. We need to change these failures now and adopt the professional pattern to help the new generation with their career which will lift our nation back to sports glory.
What is also essential is a stronger commitment to the development of Nigeria football at every level. National football Associations' commitment to grassroots football development is a bone of contention in Nigeria. Coupled to this, the professional leagues in
Nigeria requires strengthening not only in their administration, but also in their ability to provide a good career to Nigerian footballers so that they don't necessarily have to seek opportunities abroad. NFF must make the Nigerian football fans and supporters to watch Nigeria league instead of English Premiership or Spanish Premiere. Club managements should develop the marketing structure to produce club merchandises (Players names on T-shirts, Caps etc!)
Strong professional leagues in Nigeria would provide what can INFINITE INTERNATIONAL SPORTS ACADEMY LIMITED offer?
In each of the areas above, IISAL are developing codes of practise and policies of operation that can help promote academies that follow sound principles that will protect the children.
-Through our Academy IISAL have developed a model of operations that we believe can be emulated by other academies.
-These academies must put the interests of the players first by recognising that most will not make a career in football; therefore the focus is to help them succeed both on and off the field.
-The Infinite Sports Academy Curriculum is built upon the pillars of Football, Faith and Future in order to holistically develop young people. (This curriculum will be made available to other associate academies).
-The Infinite Sports Academy code of best practise demonstrates a high ethical code which can be adopted by academies.
-The Infinite Athlete protection policy ensures that athletes participating in Infinite Sports Academy are safe and secure.
-The Infinite coaches training programme Tactical, Responsible, Endurance and Competition (TREC) is raising the standard of coaching and helping coaches become more aware of the issues relating to Athletes protection and running academies on sound principles.
-The Infinite Sports Academy partner scheme recognises that football academies and clubs need to be intrinsically linked with other community organisations such as schools, NGO'S and businesses.