Once more in its enfolding history, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has been forced back to the drawing board in its effort to make the most of the abundant bank of talents the country is blessed with in the round-leather game of football, aka soccer. Easily the most supported sport in the nation, achievement in it has often served to elevate the spirits of our country men and women, even when the straits are dire like presently.
Truth spoken, as the Super Eagles took to the field for the double header with the Pharaohs of Egypt for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers penultimate week, more than the team, it was the NFF that was yet on another trial. Prior to the encounters that saw the country knocked out of contention in the competition for places in the tournament, the body had been forced to cope with the unscheduled online resignation of Sunday Oliseh the handler of the team which they had only just appointed after a rigmarole of interviews.
His sudden resignation apart, the former captain of the national team, to the best of our reckoning from here, is not new to controversy. For instance, when he was the skipper of the national team, he was often at loggerheads with the NFF of the time. The one that invariably terminated his tenure as captain, forcing him to retire from international football prematurely ended up having him quarrelling with his erstwhile colleagues, whom he felt stabbed him in the back by kowtowing to the whims of the federation.
On another occasion afterwards, the federation wanted him to be an assistant to a substantive coach, a sure stepping stone to his elevation to the top job. To the disgust of even his admirers, he was reputedly quoted as saying that he could not be anybody’s assistant. Yet the same NFF progressed to later make him the national team coach with assistants to boot.
It is, however, not out of place to see the NFF in disorder ahead of the preparation to a major competition. Ever since their 1945 purported founding date, and before they joined the continental and world bodies in affiliations that date back to 1959 and 1960, respectively, controversy has remained their pseudonym. Even prior to becoming the NFF in 2008, it had been called the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) the acronym was repharsed to ‘No Future Ambition’ by the nations’ teeming lovers of the game that has been called beautiful.
Better known for last minute rushes to meet with deadlines set by self as well as affiliates, it has almost always bungled its major responsibilities. In fact, presently, it is still engaged in a leadership tussle that had needed the intervention of the sports minister much against FIFA statutes to stem.
Also following Oliseh’s resignation, it has emerged that their old habit of owing their coaches was still perturbing them. Though the new culprit was being blamed by their victim, we stand to be challenged that all national team coaches in this country have been owed part of their wages, always going as far back in time to the eras of Clemens Westerhoff, Bonfrere Joe, Shuaibu Amodu, Christian Chukwu, Augustine Eguavoen, Stephen Keshi, and even Sampson Siasia, whom they had re-appointed after Oliseh’s faux pas. Salaries, when they were paid, were often in arrears.
Ditto, the anomaly was that players were often forced on coaches ahead of games. Most of the time, the NFA/NFF has even been accused by coaches of forcing entire lists on them only to end up blaming them when they fail. Funds are also hardly made available when needed. A recent example being Oliseh’s other allegation to the effect that needed material to prosecute matches were not often made available as and when due – like tapes of opponents’ matches and the like, as well as travel tickets to watch them play.
The situation has also not been helped by our oyibo mentality. For instance, ahead of that crucial double header with Egypt, while our opponents called just five foreign-based professionals to beef up its mostly home-based team, we selected only six players from our local league to make up the number for the away-based pros. In a nutshell, this tells the whole story – while others play from home, we play from away. Meanwhile, all the world cups we have won in the age-category genres have all been achieved by the toil of our home-grown talent.
Like the NFF President opined at his post-match press conference, though Nigeria crashed out of CHAN with ignominy, and failed to qualify for AFCON for a second time in a row, they should serve as a pedestal for preparation for the World Cup play-offs. We hereby call on the NFF to let bygones lie and face this onerous task with the renewed vigour of a wounded eagle.
Thus said, we shall reserve our final judgement till this too comes to pass.