By Ori Martins
A former Board member of the Nigeria Football Association, Chief Fan Ndubuoke, has advised against rushing into election of new executives for the nation’s soccer ruling body without first identifying the problems bedeviling the round leather game in the country. He opined that unless a holistic audit is carried out in the administration of football in Nigeria, the next administration will be worse than the current one.
The former national president of the Sportswriters Association of Nigeria(SWAN), identified major areas of concern to include but not limited to; lack of sponsorship, transparency, development, rebranding and repackaging of the local leagues as well as welfare of the players.
“My candid advice is before the election, the NFF General Assembly should set up a committee of informed persons who can identify the numerous problems crippling the beautiful sports in our dear country.
“This committee made up of knowledgeable and independent minded persons who have seen it all, will come up with their findings based on their experiences in their previous capacities and portfolios in the service of father land in football administration. They will equally proffer lasting solutions in a blueprint to the Congress .
“This will form a working tool to keep the incoming board or leadership of the NFF on its toes and focused on doing the needful. Needless saying this will help the new leadership to hit the ground running in the right direction”.
Ndubuoke added what should be the main objective of the NFF election. He said, “As a matter of fact, the main objective of this particular election should be to reform the way football is administered in Nigeria. And there is no way football reform will be carried out effectively without comprehensively having a house cleaning of football administration. This election is certainly not tailored to just produce or usher in a new executives. It is supposed to herald a new order”.
The former publisher pointed out the importance of upgrading Nigeria’s local league. “To throw some light on these problems, I wish to state unambiguously that no country excels in football without a good and well managed domestic league.
“Suffice this to say that a bad local league is tantamount to a bad football playing country. Like the Japanese adage endorsed by Toyota automobile company GOOD THINKING, GOOD PRODUCT!!!
“The local league must be attractive. It must be sellable. It must be marketable. It must be appealing to investors. It must be able on its own to stop the players from rushing abroad to play in obscured countries and leagues for peanuts”, he enthused.
Taking a cursory account of what he labelled the retrogression of the country’s female football, he recalled thus; “Again, we must critically look into our female football. Nigeria was among the first countries that participated in the first Female World Cup Finals in China , 1991.
“Besides being African champions which we have even relinquished, Nigeria is yet to get it right at global football competitions. Looking at it from the last African Women Championship, the football authorities in Nigeria should be honest enough to admit that we in regrettable retrogression. Urgent efforts should be made to rebuild the future of Falcons around Rasheedat Ajibade and do away with most of the ‘over -aged’ players in the team. There is absolute necessity to overhaul and rebuild the Super Falcons in order for us to compete with the best in the world.
Our local league is worse off.
“For instance rather than critically look into where, why and how we got it wrong in the just concluded season with a view to fixing them next season, we will traditionally roll out the fixtures for the new season and target ending the season in a record time without identifying mistakes made last season”.
The renowned sports administrator revealed certain poor administrative policies that have served as clogs to the general development of Nigeria’s football. According to him, “We won’t ask ourselves how many stadia have good turfs to enhance good football. We won’t care about teams playing home games on Sunday and leaving on Monday to honour away ties on Wednesday only to rush back on Thursday in preparation for another weekend fixture. This is a country with zero transportation system forcing the teams to adopt night travels to meet up with hectic schedules.
“This scenario cannot fetch the best from our players rather it will destroy their potentials, talents and qualities. How can a team in Port Harcourt for instance, play a game at home on Sunday and travel on Monday to Katsina for a match on Wednesday yet return on Thursday or Friday for another weekend fixture?
What quality of football do we expect from such arrangement? No wonder most teams resort to compromising match officials and violence.
“How many clubs made arrangements or have the capacity to fly their teams or players to match venues from the South to the North or North to South? We are all conversant with the high risks taken by clubs in this era of insecurity.
Ndubuoke lamented that the foregoing has made many clubs to suffer various attacks on the road. “Cubs have been attacked and players brutally injured while criss – crossing the country to honour league games. Sadly , these are players without any Insurance cover.
“Away from our domestic league which is yet to secure a sponsorship deal in almost five seasons, let’s look at our national teams. How can the national teams excel when the clubs are struggling to pay players salaries, allowances and bonuses? How can you get the best from a player to project him or her for selection into the national teams?
The welfare of players should be paramount if not fundamental in the organization and operations of any football club(s)”.
Commending on the Cameroon example, the erstwhile chairman Imo State Sports Commission, argued that experience had come into play in Francophone country. “Are we surprised at the reforms injected into Cameroun football by its president Samuel Eto’O? He made it clear from the first day he assumed duties that without the players there is no FA. Therefore, the welfare of the players is the reason behind the existence of the FA or football officials across board”, he reveled.
On the continued failure of Nigeria’s teams in the CAF organized competitions, Ndubuoke said, “Why are our clubs crashing out of continental competitions in the preliminary stages? When last did a Nigerian club win a continental competition?
“What is happening to our age grade teams especially the Flying Eagles and U-23 Eagles? Why do they struggle to qualify for international competitions”?
Concluding, he said, “These and many more are some of the issues to be looked into and solutions proffered before we go into any election otherwise the incoming board will inherit these problems and the vicious cycle continues.
Regrettably, the process of electing people into the board of the football federation is still shrouded in secrecy, with mostly ex- footballers aspiring to get on board.
Apparently, the only credentials most of them have is the fact they played the round leather game. But is that enough in today’s world that is digitally driven? Let us make a positive change” he concluded”.