The Way Forward For Nigerian Football – Part 1

Recently Nigeria participated in the African Soccer Nations’ Cup Tournament in Angola and ended up maintaining it regular Bronze medal (third place) which she just won for the 7th time making her the highest winner of bronze medal in the history of the tournament. We actually got to the semi finals by miracle. I am sure anybody who knew Nigerian football far back in 1994 would agree with me on this, especially those who actually watched the matches in the just concluded tournament.

In 1994 we were 5th on the FIFA ranking and best in Africa, but when Berti Vogts came he took us to 47th position and for the first time we failed to win at least a medal at the biennial event since 1988. Coach Shuaibu Amodu inherited a disjointed, emotionally traumatized and sick team. He managed the team, playing about 23 matches and losing only 3. He did not achieve that feat; his effort has brought Nigeria back to 15th position in the world and 2nd in Africa. That of course is no mean achievement. But Amodu has remained under intense criticism from Nigerians who knew what their football used to be. The coached may have gotten a seemingly great result be not convincingly though.

The only area I am not too comfortable with Coach Shuiba Amodu is in the area of invitation of players for competitions or tournament as the case may be. While on earth would he invite half fit players to camp when there are so many of them to choose from? Did people Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Joseph Yobo, Taye Taiwo and few others deserve to be in that team? Aside those who now have a guaranteed regular jersey are there no more players Nigeria could make do with? You saw what happened to Ghana national team: they went with half of the U-20 team that won the world cup in Egypt and defeated us with that team. That to me was a total humiliation to our Super Eagles. Where are the boys who won the U-16 world cup for us in Korea in 1997? Has none of them matured? The same thing that has happened to their predecessors has also happened to them. The cabals have held tenaciously to the team’s jerseys with no place left for the up coming players.

Egypt won the tournament 3 consecutive times with over 80% of the players based in their local league. Two Nigerian teams (Kano Pillars and Heartland FC) played in the semi finals of the CAF champions’ league in 2009, with Heartland losing narrowly to TP Mazembe of DRC in the finals, but funny enough no home based player was qualified enough to be in our team.