Football Reform – Why FIFA Should Support Nigeria

World football history can never be complete without Nigeria, because of her great exploits in the soccer world. The African giant has achieved what so many countries (developed and underdeveloped) have not been able to achieve. FIFA therefore needs to support her on the steps she has taken to reform the game of soccer and make her national teams a force to reckon with again.

The recent performances of Nigerian teams in both continental and world football have been appalling, considering the nation’s rating and previous achievements in both male and female football. For instance, the Nigerian Golden Eaglets was the very first team in the world to win the U-16 world cup (China ’85); they have now won a total of three editions, and also played in three other finals.

The U-20 national team has also played in the final in 2 editions (Saudi ’89 and Netherlands 2005), and staged the greatest comeback in the U-20 history, where they came back from a 4-0 deficit to beat the USSR on penalty kicks. The U-23 team became the first African side to win an Olympics gold medal (Atlanta ’96), after beating Brazil and Argentina in the semi final and final respectively.

The Super Eagles participated in the FIFA world cup for the first time in USA ’94, and got voted as the most entertaining team, after treating the world to great soccer artistry. They were even rated 5th best team in the world (FIFA ranking). So far, the Super Eagles have won 2 African Nations’ cup titles (1980 and 1994), 4 silver medals (1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000), and 7 bronze medals.

The Female national team (The Falcons) has won 5 consecutive African Women Championship titles (1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006); participated in all Women world cups till date, and also participated in all female Olympics football competitions. They even got to the quarter finals of the USA ’99 female world cup, where they were eventually edged out by the Samba girls of Brazil. The female U-20 has also been to all the female U-20 world cups.

The country has also hosted 2 nations’ cup tournaments (1980 and 2000); hosted the world U-20 championship (1999), and the world U-17 (2009), and did remarkably well as host.

However, the fortunes of the Nigerian national teams dwindled recently; in 2008, the Super Eagles got their worst Nations’ cup outing in Ghana, where they failed to win silverware for the first time since 1984. The U-20 team failed to get beyond the second round in Egypt (2009); while the U-17 failed to qualify for the African championship, having been knocked out by little known Benin Republic in the qualifiers (They only participated in the world cup as host in 2009).

Our female team (The Falcons) lost the last edition of the African women championship to Equatorial Guinea; and they even failed to reach the final.

In South Africa 2010, the Super Eagles failed to advance beyond the group stage, losing to Greece and Argentina, thereby making Greece win a world cup match for the first time. The performance of the team was less than impressive and has actually drawn condemnation from soccer fans worldwide.

The world soccer governing body therefore needs to support the effort being made by the Nigerian government to reform her football, instead of declaring a war against the nation. We understand tournaments would not be exciting without Africa’s best team; we should at the same time remember it would be ridiculous if we participate and lose scandalously. It makes sense therefore for the country to go back to the draw board for sometime to try to fashion a way to improve the fortunes of her teams.

When they have fully reorganized themselves, they would come out more entertaining, more result-oriented and better focused. They would add colours to FIFA organized tournaments and help attract more fans, which would translate to better earnings for FIFA. Africa would be happy to see Nigeria bounce back and win more trophies for her.