NIGERIA STILL PLAYS ANCIENT FOOTBALL â€“ RUFAI
Former Super Eagles' goalkeeper, Peter Rufai, has warned that Nigerian football would continue to be on the decline except the latest scientific methods of the game are introduced at various levels of the nation's football.
The celebrated shot stopper, fondly called Dodo Mayana by his numerous fans and admirers, regretted that Nigerian teams still approach the game with the same pattern and attitude over the years whereas, according to him, football has undergone a lot of scientific and technological transformation all over the world.
Rufai who successfully coordinated the Milo Talent Hunt, a football clinic sponsored by Nestle Foods Plc, stressed on the need for up and coming footballers to be educated to enable them achieve their ultimate dreams in the round leather game.
'Nigerian football has been on the decline because we have continued to play football in the same manner for a very long time. We have not begun to apply the mental aspect of the game deeply,' Rufai began in an exclusive chat with Saturday Sunsports.
'Being educated helps a footballer to become a better player. In the past, most of our players never went to school. But today, things have changed. Football has developed so much that if you are not educated, it would not work like it used to work in the past. But that's part of our problem in this country today,' he explained.
The former Deportivo la Corona of Spain goalkeeper, who expressed appreciation to Nestle for sponsoring the Milo Talent Hunt, said he owed a lot to the nation for the fame and fortune he achieved through football, hence his desire to give back to the society through the project.
'The Milo Talent Hunt was really challenging, but it was a dream come true for me. I don't care what anyone thinks about this country. Nigeria is a great nation. We are blessed with intellectually endowed men and women. The challenges may be there, but Nigeria remains a great country. Without Nigeria I would not be who I am today. Nigerians supported me in my football career. You need to see the way Nigerians appreciate me whenever they see me anywhere. For that reason, I have always thought about what to do to give back to the society.
'I could be a coach, but I thought that the best way to make an impact is to work with the youths. The Milo Talent Hunt turned out to be huge success because Nigerian youths turned out in their numbers for the clinic. Coaches benefited from the seminars on the latest scientific methods in coaching. The truth is that if we don't train our youth properly, their dreams would not come true.'
Rufai spoke on a number of issues bordering on Nigerian football, particularly on the various crises currently rocking the nation's football administration and the way forward.
Dream to give back to the society
I'm so glad that while I was looking for people to assist me pursue this dream of giving back to the society that made me who I am today, I was able to stumble into some expatriates who had a new scientific method from a 15-year of research. I worked closely with them and I was able to acquire enough knowledge from them. Thereafter, I pleaded with them to assist me to transfer the knowledge to my country, Nigeria. It took them sometime before they accepted to help. And finally, I got the tapes and all the data. I'm so glad that I have been able to train some young players in the proper sequence and a lot of coaches participated from various local government areas with the support of the chairmen of their local governments. Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State and the nation at large supported the project.
The corporate sector was slow to understand my presentation because the project sounded a bit too academic than merely kicking the ball. They were too slow to see the importance of the project, but I was sure of its importance because I went to school. And not just that I went to school, I saw the difference education could make as a player. So, Nestle has really taken up a great job through the Milo Talent Hunt to sow in the lives of our children to achieve their dreams. I'm happy that Nestle is committed to the development of our youths in all sports.
The concept I have cannot produce the desired result if it does not go along with academics. For instance, it's no longer kicking the ball from one person to another. As a player, you should be able to time the speed of the ball. By the time the ball gets to a particular spot, you are expected to be at a particular measurement in a space. You must calculate the speed you need to get to that space. You must always anticipate where a pass can come from, when you meet the ball, what you make of the pass and so on matter a lot. It sounds technical. As a coach, you must bring emotion into the training by creating fun.
Crises in Nigerian football
The various crises bedevilling Nigerian football are a matter for concern for all of us who are stakeholders in the game. The question is where are we heading? But on the other hand, I think time has come for us to begin to give certain positions to those who truly merit them. For instance, I cannot as a football player go and take up a job as a doctor if I did not go to school to train as a medical doctor.
I'm in support of the concern of the Federal Government about the administration of Nigerian football because if the leadership is not properly structured, the future of our youth would be in jeopardy. If the right people are not in charge of our football administration, then the dreams of our youths would be of no use.
How to regain Nigeria's pride in football
First and foremost, we have to let the ex-players who understand the game and have the academic knowledge of the game to take over the administration and coaching aspects of our football. It is only when this is done that we can regain our lost pride in the game. We need to be patient. We need to pay a prize by building a new team and in doing that, we need to be patient. We must take our time and prepare a solid team. When this is done, no country can rub shoulders with Nigeria anymore in football.
Nigerian football has been on the decline because the right people are not in charge of the game. The right people should take over the job. Up till now, the right people are not there. People like us should take up the job. I have other colleagues, who are qualified to coach the national teams. We should be given the chance to do the job. Let us think about the glory because when the glory comes, all of us will share from it.
We don't have to beg for the job. Nigerians know the people who can do the job. Putting Samson Siasia and Austin Eguavoen there is not enough. When you put Siasia and Eguavoen there, you have to ensure that the administrators are of the same calibre with Siasia and Eguavoen. You don't have to put people who do not have sound qualities in charge of the technical department of Nigeria Football Association and you expect a good result. You need both the playing and academic experiences to produce the right chemistry in football administration and coaching.