Football development has witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly scenes in the past decades, following the inception of organised football in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria.
The history of the round leather game in Nigeria dates back to the early part of the 20th Century, when Baron Mulford, a Briton, introduced the game in the country and in order to facilitate its development, he organised weekly matches between European and Nigerian youths in Lagos.
HT can, authoritatively, say that from there, the popularity of football soared in Nigeria, spreading to other major cities like Ibadan, Calabar and Port Harcourt.
Having gained acceptance, the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) was established in 1945, to help in the organisation of the game and this followed, immediately, with the introduction of the Governor’s Cup, (which later became known as the FA Cup), as the major national competition.
In 1959, the NFA became affiliated to the continental body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the world football ruling body, the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA).
After independence, the administration of Nigerian football fell on the shoulders of Mr. Godfrey Amachree, who became the first Nigerian Chairman of the football ruling body in Nigeria.
Since then, our beautiful game has passed through various administrators, who, in simple terms, do not have the interest of developing the game that unites many Nigerians.
For example, in the area of administration, Nigerian football is worst hit, as many occupants of the Glass House never showed interest in taking the game to the next top level. Except for some staggered unplanned victories we recorded, no solid structures were put in place to lift the game.
This fact necessitated this piece, which many football pundits, across the country, have alluded to, following the failure of the Super Eagles to defend the 2013 AFCON title, which they won in South Africa, at the just concluded Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea this year.
Aside the aforementioned, the criticisms that ensued against the Amaju Pinnick-led Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) over the failure of the football ruling body to tidy up Stephen Keshi’s contract, confirms that something, definitely, should be done to save the image of our football and make it attractive to sponsors.
Stakeholders of Nigerian football are witnesses to the arguments for and against re-hiring Keshi, following the expiration of his contract late last year; but the truth must be told in this regard.
When the issue of hiring a foreigner in the past to coach the Super Eagles came up, President Goodluck Jonathan, in his wisdom, turned his back against the daredevil move.
He, simply, advised that it would be tantamount to a waste of task payers’ money and foreign exchange, if we give out such job to a foreigner, while we have many Nigerians who can, comfortably, do same, at, even, a lesser cost.
Expectedly, President Jonathan’s advice came to fruition as Keshi led the Super Eagles to the 2013 AFCON victory, after 19 years of waiting. This singular feat was enough to shame Keshi’s critics!
However, it is worthy to note that several factors led to the Eagles’ failure to defend the trophy this year in Equatorial Guinea. Although, this may be a subject for another time, but the internal leadership wrangling in NFF was enough distraction to the team.
Today, there is a huge gap between how football is being administered in Nigeria, especially, when compared to other developed football-playing nations.
HT, strongly, believes that things can still turn around for good, if free hand was given to the coaches; if the support and confidence are there for the coaches and players to tap, from the NFF.
It is, morally, wrong to give a fellow Nigerian a ‘slave contract’ to append his signature, because it is not the way to get out the best from a man who has given his best in the past, as an active footballer.
From the foregoing, it is clear that there is still a way out of the woods, if the Pinnick and his NFF members are willing to humble themselves and learn. Nigerian football deserves total overhaul, beginning with the administrators.
Next week, we shall delve into the corruption that is fast eroding the confidence which Corporate Nigeria once had in our beautiful game.