Super Eagles Are Not The Problem

Adeola Aderounmu

Many Nigerians like to reap from where they have not sown. Most often we forget the genesis of our national dilemma. The performance of the Super Eagles in South Africa is neither a shock nor a disappointment to a few of us.

The road to South Africa was rough and untidy. Many of us thought that Tunisia will qualify but on the last day of the qualifiers, Nigeria pulled the last string against Kenya while Mozambique defeated Tunisia.

The manner of our qualification reminded us of the mismanagement and lack of expertise in the Nigerian Football Federation. The last time we developed soccer from the grassroots’ level was probably when Westerhof was in charge.

We blame the Super Eagles because, quite correctly, they are professionals and they are paid to do the job of playing good football. Moreso, they are expected to play with their hearts like the North Koreans for example.

We must ask ourselves many questions.

What are the roles of the Ministry of Youth and Sports when it comes to development of Nigerian football?

What are the roles of the Nigerian Football Federation in discovering talented and gifted footballers especially after we have produced the likes of Okocha, Keshi, Oliseh, Finidi, Amokachi, Giant Uche, Siasia, Amuneka and Yekini among many other global names?

In general what are the national policy regarding the development of sports in Nigeria?

These are some of the questions; there are hundreds of other questions begging for answers.

We live at a time when we expect miraculous rewards from something we didn’t plan for. In football this will never happen because many nations take sports and football especially too seriously that those who failed to plan invariably planned to fail.

The year 1996 was an exceptional year for Nigerian football. We won the Olympics gold medal despite the fact that the preparation was, as usual, messy. We cannot always depend on luck or fire-brigade approach to accomplish success.

We should never crucify the super eagles. As a nation we have refused to gather all our positive energy towards effecting appropriate changes in the management of our national affairs.

The composition of the Super Eagles today, as I see it, is definitely not the best selection of Nigerian footballers. But if I am wrong, then Nigerian football is almost dead. It means either we have no new talents or we have failed to discover them.

In Nigeria today, the focus of several football fans is either on the English Premiership or La Liga. Some others fancy Serie A while others are focused on Euro Sports-2 for the Bundesliga. What is the Nigerian Football Federation doing regarding the promotion of the game in Nigeria?

Every weekend, you see representatives of NFF putting on jerseys to show their love and support for Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea. Even state governors and commissioners are not left out. We celebrate English Soccer and Nigerians have become die-hard followers of the game as played in Europe.

As this national madness progresses, Nigerian football continue to suffer both in the divisive boardrooms and on the patchy pitches. Yet we expect a miracle from South Africa in 2010. We forgot that Nigerian football reached its peak in 1994 and that we have gone to sleep ever since.

What we should have been doing since 1994 was to create a breeding ground for the replacements of all the Superstars mentioned above. We didn’t. We allowed our politicians to run our football. We don’t demonstrate against bad decisions. We don’t react to negative policies. We don’t identify with global growth of sports. We leave many things undone because in Nigeria we allow many abnormalities and yet expect positive outcomes.

It is the same mentality in other facets of our lives. We call it the Nigerian factor. We just allow things to pass without making positive amendments or appropriate corrections. We leave the holistic approach and chase subsets that cannot stand independently. Our sports or football in this case is the reflection of our collective failures as a nation. What is the difference between the performance of the Super Eagles and the fact that the standard of education of Nigeria has dropped consistently over the decades?

To get things right in our football, we have to get it right in the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development. To get it right in the Super Eagles, we really have to get it right in the NFF. To get it right in the NFF, we really have to ensure that those who are on board are seasoned sports professionals and sports administrators. Until then, the decline in the standard of our football will continue to take a nose dive.

Regarding the Super Eagles, there are a lot of issues at stake. What are the criteria used for getting players into the national team? I have spoken to at least 2 ex-internationals and their responses are very heartbreaking. In some circumstances Nigerian politicians, dictators and family members have influenced the selection of players into the national team. There are stories (from the past) of bribing of coaches to get players selected into the team.

What about the question of age? We blame the Eagles for being slow, tired and uninspired. But how did they make the team in the first place? Did they invite themselves to the team? We must begin to look closely at the ages of our players and stop inviting them to the senior national team when we realise that they cannot run or keep up with the pace at that level. While their active sojourn in national team last, we should respect them while expecting the best from them.

The coach, Nigerian or foreign, must be able to ascertain the level of the fitness of his team all the time. An unfit or uncommitted player has no business in the team because that is minus one already. It is also pertinent that the NFF does not interfere with the coach’s process of invitation and selection of players for the national team.

Obviously I cannot explain all that I have on my mind. For example what plans do we have for the Super Eagles player when they play hard and injure themselves while playing for Nigeria? What does the insurance policy say? Nigerian sports journalists owe us this obligation of explaining more and becoming more objective in their analyses of sports. If we want progress in our sports/ football, the brown-envelope syndrome must be abolished in the reporting of sports. That syndrome has destroyed enough of the Nigerian life.

Some Nigerians are expecting a miracle on Tuesday the 22nd of June while others have given up. Football is not a one day affair; our focus should be on the long-term implications of our outings in the Nations Cup played in Angola and the current World Cup in South Africa. If we have good memories we shouldn’t have forgotten Ghana 2008 so easily. We could have planned for today. But we didn’t.

With careful analyses of how we got to this point of disgrace in our football, we might be able to retrace our steps probably to Tunisia ’94 and make amends so that we can prepare better for the future.

Invariably, as Nigeria approaches 50th year as a nation, there are several things we need to put right. The status quo is a disaster for Africa and an embarrassment to the black race. We need a change we can believe in.

aderounmu@gmail.com

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8 thoughts on “Super Eagles Are Not The Problem

  1. look i laugh at the position of some nigerians when it comes to national isue. whether super eagles or presidencythe isue is that we are faced with an epidemic of bad leadership from presidency down to our bedroom theonly way out is look consult the God Almigthy through our endowed prophets but even Churches have also begin to arrange for the 2011 election many selecting menbers to foot into positions, this delima ought to be looked into by nigerians. super eagle have played their best but the result is to come back home and apply srious re-orientation both in the NFF etc and other sector etc

  2. Aderinola, a fine post (was last night’s soup sweet? Only joking, this was very well written, thank you).

    You have hit upon a number relevant issues that many have sought to overlook.

    To be successful at anything you have to plan and lay the foundations and subsequently build and maintain the structure once created. In the case of Nigeria, in any endeavour this is wholly lacking.

    As you mentioned, there is no coherent policy for sports (including football).

    Nigerians are busy following and investing (in what others have created), thereby relegating themselves to be the eternal passive recipient, and maintaining our junior status in life.

    The domestic league should be strengthened in all facets, stemming from the selection of youth, to the training of referees, taking care of injured players, to the keeping players at home, or enticing them back home. If you look at Argentina, or Brasil, many of their top stars when they finish their overseas careers head back home and end their days playing in the domestic league, and training local teams. This not only strengthens and encourages the local scene, but also reflects commitment on their part. I can mention Juan Sebastian Veron of Argentina, he quit Italy to return to Argentina, and has been selected for this world cup.

    With Nigerian football players desperate to run hither and thither to play football, be it Benin , Sudan, England, Russia, South Africa, you name it we have someone there, whilst this does have it’s immediate benefits for them. This non-cohesive approach has not yielded long-term results. In other words this model has not then moved to the next stage, where more future players who are selected for the national team spend more time at home having benefited from the wisdom and experience of those who have traveled abroad. An emphasis has to be made to remove the perception that playing football in Nigeria is tantamount to being a failure. Conditions have to be improved to encourage promising players to stay or return home as quickly as possible. Look at North Korea, how many of their players, play outside of the country? The percentage is a lot lower than that of Nigeria, yet they have shown that they are capable of matching the best, that can not be denied (respect to North Korea football).

    You mentioned the destructive capacity of Nigerians at self sabotage. This is true, family members, politicians, anyone of influence unassociated with football have no business in interfering with it. I’ve mentioned repeatedly, that the NFF and any other associated body should be scrapped and re-constituted. It should be made up of professionals, be it accountants, marketing people, sports physicians and ex-players, managers etc who have excelled. They alone would be responsible for electing who could join their board. It should independent of government, and should move towards developing a self-sufficient financial base as soon as possible, to maintain it’s integrity.

    The behaviour of the politicians like President Jonathan offering to splash $1.7 million on players who are already over-paid, points irresponsibility and a lack of discipline prevalent at all levels in Nigerian society. You have sports men and women, who are short of funds and have repeatedly requested the sports ministry for help only to be turned down. There are those that have served Nigeria previously on the sports field and have received nothing. What does this say about the way society treats those who have chosen to serve the country? Until you demonstrate that Nigeria rewards and respects those that have served it, you should not express alarm when Nigerians go elsewhere for a more promising future.

    Until we wake up and look at towards ourselves for answers, we will be forever be subject to whim of outsiders (who perceive us as fools). We will continue to make a mockery of ourselves, and disgrace Africa.

    As for this world cup.
    I had commented on this board long before the world cup. That my expectations are not high. As you so rightly mentioned, it was due to misfortune on Tunisia’s part that Nigeria had scraped through. That accompanied by poor management, appointing a new coach at the last minute did not bode well for the team

    A link to my comment is here

    https://aderinola.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/lars-lagerback-appointed-as-nigeria-coach/#comments

    Even though Nigeria lost to Argentina, the performance was something to be proud of. But the loss to Greece, considering we were one up with 8 minutes left of the first half, to end up losing 2-1, was to put it very mildly disappointing. Uruguay with 10 men could hold France to a draw. Nigeria with 10 men could not hold their lead, not to mention maintain a draw against Greece. When New Zealand (undeservedly regarded as minnows), obtained an equaliser against Slovenia in the last 90 seconds, that showed that you don’t give up). It is symptomatic of our unparalleled ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As you mentioned this is not entirely the fault of the team, so one should not go overboard in expressing one’s disappointment.

    I have spoken to Africans from different parts of the continent. Nigeria is not greatly respected, but when you hear them talk of football they proudly recount the exploits of the likes of Okocha, Keshi, Oliseh, Yekini, Amokachi, etc. Why, because it showed that as Africans we are capable of showing the world we can compete on an international basis.

    One would have thought since the announcement that the world cup was to be held in South Africa. African nations would have started preparations long beforehand. On the contrary, they seem to be the least prepared, and indisciplined teams and the results that have emerged have highlighted that, Nigeria is no exception.

    It is my sincere hope that a change in orientation, is brought into affect that is long lasting. So as to restore Nigeria to the position it deserves. This focus should not be limited to just sports, but in all aspects of human development.

  3. Sorry, I’d like to make a correction, New Zealand scored the equaliser against the much fancied Slovakia (not Slovenia) as I said previously, it came in the last 90 seconds of the game. The point remains the same.

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