NIGERIA @ 50: I’M CONFUSED ABOUT NIGERIAN FOOTBALL â€“ ONIGBINDE
For Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, former Super Eagles' coach, it's like the god of soccer has looked away from Nigeria, leaving the game to crumble in the face of all of us, yet we are moping helplessly and having little or no idea about what to do to salvage the situation.
The Modakeke high chief expressed disgust that at 50, Nigerian football is not getting better administrative wise. He lamented that while other countries are forging ahead, Nigeria is crawling and making no meaningful progress, especially in football.
He, however, said there was still room for improvement if only we could learn from our mistakes. He advocated that only credible individuals should be voted into the board of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) if we hope to experience development in our football. According to him, it's only when we have the right people on the board that we would be sure of getting good coaches and producing world-class players.
'It is said that a fool at 40 is a fool forever. No true Nigerian citizen will tell you that he is happy with the current state of our football, especially those of us who witnessed the game in the 1960. We are pained as we continue to watch our football languish in the doldrums,' Chief Onigbinde stated.
'In the past 50 years, we have had some remarkable achievements in the game, but we have not been able to sustain the tempo because of bad administration. That our players are not doing well today is because of bad football administration in the country. It is not enough to blame the players and coaches alone for our football misfortunes, instead, the people who are managing the game in the country should take a greater chunk of the blame.
'Developmental football has become a thing of the past in Nigeria. The Glasshouse is no more interested in raising players for the future, which is why we only have tired legs in our national team today. What we have today are average players; none of them is exceptionally good like we had in the past.
'Our football administrators are only after what gets into their pockets,' he continued. 'I stand to be corrected, but I can't remember the last time the NFA sent our national team coaches on training. A country like Egypt has sent well over 560 of her coaches on training and Ghana has sent more than 200 in recent time, yet we expect Nigerian coaches to perform magic.
'Sincerely, I am not happy that our game is not developing despite the talents we have in abundance. Or tell me, why would I expect wonders when we cannot even boast of having an NFA board in place? Meanwhile, before the High Court in Lagos annulled the NFA election, I knew what the result would look like considering the experience I had before the election. I knew I had no hope. I was crucified because I supported President Goodluck Jonathan when he banned Nigerian football for two years.
'For me, I believe in what the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo once said. He said he would shut the Nigerian borders so that no visitor would enter to distort our orientation; a situation he said would help Nigeria to put her house in order. I still believe that if the President's order was allowed to stand, we may not have found ourselves in this mess we are today. More so, the order would have made they incoming administrators to remain on their toes.
'Sincerely, I'm confused. I don't know what is happening, especially when I remember that Nigeria produced heroes like Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Christian Chukwu and other great stars in the past, but today we cannot boast of getting a replacement for them. It's a shame. 'Sometimes when I look at the drama going on in our football house, I feel like God has left us to wallow in our misdeeds, while other countries that are serious are marching forward. The interest of many in Nigerian football is almost dead. It is now difficult to get players who want to play for the country if not for money.
'I could remember in 1961, while at Saint Luke's College, Ibadan, I was the captain of the school team. One day, we went to the school principal and requested for boots. He agreed to give us boots on loan. We gladly accepted his condition so long as we would have boots to play football. On many occasions, we contributed money to enhance our team's success not minding that we were representing the country.
'For us, it was a thing of interest and passion and not about money.
Ours was to excel in what we loved to do. But that kind of spirit is no more to be found among today's players. Instead, today, it is all about money. No player considers the honour in playing for the country anymore. Chief Onigbinde, however, concluded: 'All hope is not yet lost. There is room for improvement, but that will come only when the right people are placed at the helm of affairs in Nigerian football administration.'