Nigeria @60: Stakeholders Attribute Political Involvement, Exposure To Foreign Leagues To Sports Under-development In Nigeria - COMMENTARY - THE ENCOUNTER NEWS


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Nigeria @60: Stakeholders Attribute Political Involvement, Exposure To Foreign Leagues To Sports Under-development In Nigeria - COMMENTARY


Michael-Azeez Ogunsiji 

ABEOKUTA - After attaining her 60years independence, Nigeria's football development is still at snail speed. Despite trillions of naira expended towards football development and sports generally in the last 60years, Nigeria is yet to attain her position as a beautiful bride and command a leading role among comity of other sports nations. 

To this end, sports enthusiasts especially ex-football internationals and football managers converged at the MKO Abiola International Stadium, Kuto in Abeokuta, the Ogun state capital to chart a future for growth of football in Nigeria.

According to the ex-footballers, the dwindling fortunes of the round leather game in Nigeria since independence was due to appointment non-professionals to manage football administration in Nigeria. 

Speaking on the theme of a stakeholders forum organized by All Stars Football Club of Abeokuta, entitled "60years of Independence, How is Football Game Fairing In Nigeria: The Past, Present and the Future", the club President, Alhaji Waheed Adeoye Lawal maintained that, the current situation of sports and football development in the country negates what was obtainable during the pre-independence era. 

Lawal who recalled the how first Nigerian football club, Academica played at a training tour in UK with barefooted said that was when passion dominates the football national team. 

He said, "We brought this topic for us to chart a new cause for the future of football in Nigeria. If the trend we met before independence has not been maintained, what is our future? We have kept too quiet and that is why we are where we are today. 

"What we are witnessing today negates the position of what we expect. Our league should be at per with Italian, England, and German leagues."

In his own submission, a former Coach of Shooting Stars of Ibadan, Coach Kola Taiwo who played with Academica before independence explained how football was structured in Nigeria before independence.

The pioneer Technical Adviser for Gateway Utd Football Club of Ogun state noted that, what accounted for success during the pre-independence era was that, there were individuals who are ready to contribute whatever they have to make sure football succeeded at that period. 

"That was when Lekan Salami, and Teslimi Balogun first Nigerian to play in overseas with Queens Park Rangers will bring their money for the team for us to play well. We don't rely on government. Some of those running our football today are not interested. They don't have the interest of the game. You don't appoint a mechanical engineer to manage football. Let's find someone who has involved in the game to be sports administrators in Nigeria."

In the same vein, a former lawmaker and Chairman, House Committee on Sports at the Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Allen Taylor opined that until government stop appointing politicians to run the sports ministries, Nigeria football and sports generally would continue to be taken aback. 

Taylor, who owns a football academy in Abeokuta called on government at all levels to desist from appointing politicians without sports history to manage the sports sector.

He said, "Politics and sports cannot work. It will only take our game backward. If we don't remove politics from sports, we will continue to be retrogressed. Appointing politicians, should be someone who is capable. Who has been in the sporting line for some times, not because he plays football in secondary school, but someone who studies sports management or an ex-international who has contributed to the game or someone who has invested in sports promotion."

According to the President, Gateway United Supporters Football Club, Alhaja Kudirat Oyindamola Odebiyi formerly known as Madam Abiola Babes and Concord, exposure to foreign leagues through DSTV destroyed the passion and interest in Nigeria football. 

Alhaja Kudirat who was responding to the question raised by the SWAN Secretary in Ogun state, Michael-Azeez Ogunsiji on why fans have eluded the stadia to watch live matches, said the advent of digital broadcasting in Nigeria discouraged the local fans from going to the stadia to watch Nigeria league. 

She said many people thronged the stadia to watch live football matches because of a particular player and lack of cable television to watch any live matches on television at the home except going to the stadia. 

She added that, Nigerian fans also lost interest as a result of lack of developmental programme for the league players, as many of them sought for greener pastures after one season. 

She said, "No quality players to watch in our local league. Many players nowadays don't play for passion but for salary. We killed football the moment state governments create football club as empowerment for young boys and paying salaries alone. 

"DSTV is another reason why fans have stopped going to stadia to watch football. DSTV has destroyed our football. No player is ready to stay longer in Nigeria league. Many of our players seek greener pasture abroad hence, killed the interest of the fans coming to stadia.  This is because many people come to stadium because of a particular player."

To this end, a foremost indigenous Coach and CAF Champions League winning Coach, Kadiri Ikhana (MON) and other major stakeholders have asked governments at all levels in Nigeria to provide legal frame-work to move football forward in the country.

Coach Ikhana who was part of the heroic 1980 African Nations Cups Green Eagles squad and broke jinx with Enyimba International of Aba winning Confederation of Africa (CAF) Champions League in 2003, insisted football stakeholders in Abeokuta should be bold enough to take the initiative of taking over the running of Gateway United Football Club of Abeokuta from the Ogun State Government.

Football according to him, "can only thrive, if the Community  take up the responsibility of running football club and not waiting for government to run club putting people who don't have interest in football to run football administration in the state and Nigeria at large."  

A former General Manager of Gateway United Football Club, Chief Tony Rafua and other stakeholders called on the State Government to initiate legal frame-work to protect investment of individuals and corporate bodies in football and sports in the country.

They also called for involvement of those who understand football to run the game, not those who are only interested in financial gain .

The All Stars Football Club President, Alhaji Waheed Lawal also  emphasised the need for Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to provide N50million grant to each of the football clubs in Nigeria, and monitor the investment to ensure return on it.

His words"Football can be used as tools to revamp the economy, if the the game is seen as a serious business and not mere Public Relations tool for government".

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