With September around the corner the thoughts of Nigerian football followers are racing to different permutations of who becomes the next Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Football Federation.
In this interview with Newspathfinder, the Country Director, FC Bayern Youth Cup Nigeria, Mr Victor Edeh called for a change of focus.
The founder of the VOE Foundation wants the football family to beam their searchlight to get an executive committee that can really give Nigerian football the desired lift.
He talks about other issues in Nigerian football and how they can be fixed.
Interview by Chigozie Chukwuleta
Q. What’s your advice as Nigeria goes in search of next president of NFF?
A. Everyone is focused on who will emerge as President of the federation but I believe the President is as good as the board he has to work with. My advise is that we not only scrutinize the presidential candidates but use the same criteria to select members of the board.
I would like to see a leadership who mean business and have a clear strategy to develop our football and make the ecosystem self reliant.
Q. What do you think about the agitation of Nigerian ex-players to take over the leadership of football administration in Nigeria?
A.Ex-footballers played football because of their exceptional football abilities. Whoever leads football administration for the next four years has to possess exceptional administrative abilities because we deserve the best to advance our football. For ex-footballers to become coaches, they acquire coach education and get the requisite licences before venturing into coaching and the same has to be applied for transitioning into administration. If there are ex-footballers who possess the necessary administrative qualifications and experience to lead us, why not?
Q.How would you describe the past eight years of football administration in Nigeria and it’s impact on Nigerian football?
A.I believe this question needs a separate interview because Nigerian football has been under the same leadership in that period and a few paragraphs would not be enough to properly reflect on their leadership and impact.
I have to commend them for maintaining stability among the leadership of the federation and the super eagles enjoying the same with Gernot spending adequate time at the helm. Record sponsorship deals were announced in the same period and we survived a global pandemic.
Unfortunately the same issues we are very familiar with still besiege our football and the leadership have to put their hands up and take responsibility.
If we benchmarked ourselves with other countries who have similar circumstances, we will realise that we have a lot of work to do in catching up.
Q. What areas of Nigerian football needs urgent attention and how do you think quick success will be achieved?
A.Hmmm, quick success. In Japan, 20 years is considered short term while other countries might consider that to be 3-5 years.
I believe quick is relative and that Short/Long term Goals and achievable timelines have to be set because there are no shortcuts to sustained success.
The areas that need immediate attention in my opinion are coach education, female football and infrastructure. The Nigerian coaches who have been licensed in the past 4 years by continental federations have had to travel to foreign countries to acquire their coach education and this is not a route that should be encouraged.
Football is played on the pitch and the dire need of good playing pitches in Nigeria cannot be over emphasised.
Our female national teams are the most successful teams we have and it is disheartening that the ladies don’t get the level of support they need to maintain the competitive advantage they were accustomed to enjoying. A lot of the African female teams are catching up with us and recent outings show that some have clearly surpassed us.
I believe that sorting out these areas will greatly elevate the quality of Nigerian football.
Q. Do you think that the proliferation of football academies in Nigeria meets the need of talented young players in the country?
A.The rising number of football academies in Nigeria can be seen as a positive because it is better than what was attainable before but they don’t currently meet the need of our talented young footballers at the moment.
Top Nigerian talents need access to elite level coaching, adequate training infrastructure, proper medical coverage, appropriate competition and traditional education to compete with their peers around the world who enjoy the benefits of proper structure necessary for development of elite youth players.
Q. In what areas are academy owners getting it wrong and what do you think should be done to get things right?
I believe it is down to the motivation behind operating these academies.
There is a clear lack of structure and exit plan for players in academies with a lot of focus placed on identifying players who can be sold to European teams and attending scouting programs instead of focusing on development of talented young players.
Every academy is looking forward to receiving a training compensation when they eventually sell a player but they have not really provided an environment that entitles them to such compensation.
Academy owners should focus on education, welfare and development of the players and coaches under their care, that way they can produce high calibre of players, some of who will end up as players for our national teams, international and local professional clubs as well as becoming sports practitioners like referees, media personnel and journalists who all contribute to the betterment of our game.
Q. What do you think should be done to get Nigerian league a quality sponsor?
A.Sponsorships are about exchange of value between right holders and sponsoring organisations. Once the league operators create the value corporate organisations are looking for through increased fan engagement, improved quality of media coverage, better player welfare and officiating, the big organisations who have the marketing budget will not hesitate to carry out their marketing activities through sports and activate sponsorships needed to elevate the status of the league.