By Ade Ojeikere
What do you say about a week where buses of participating clubs get burnt on their trips to away venues? A jinxed week or a cursed week? Why not a week of fire on buses, a subtle way of exposing some pertinent issues of the league which have not been addressed, perhaps until players die in the next unfortunate incident. We only know how to react to disturbing trends after a calamity by setting up probe panels. First, it was Wikki Tourists’ bus which went up in flames. Then the story broke of Kano Pillars’ bus burning and even recently Kwara United’s bus too. None of these buses had fire extinguishers to put off the fire when it first started. Possibly, the buses were not road-worthy. No one dared to stop them with the state government plate numbers in regions the buses where they were driven from.
Whilst we were ruminating over the spate of burnt buses within days, then came the fearful occurrence of the few buses that were not caught in flames being ambushed in what looked like an armed robbery setting, but which eventually became an encounter with kidnappers. The style was the same – hold the driver hostage and then demand a ransom. The passengers in the buses were robbed of their belongings and left to their faith on the highway. In the case of Adamawa United, the driver was taken into the bush while the bus was driven to Lagos by the accompanying mechanic. What this unpalatable revelation portrayed to discerning minds was that the Adamawa FC’s contingent embarked on that long haul trip in a problematic bus that needed a mechanic in case of the obvious facts known to them. See how our sports administrators put our sportsmen and women’s lives in jeopardy.
No prize for guessing right that the cub’s chieftains weren’t inside the bus. How Adamawa players were able to play their game against MFM inside the Agege Stadium, Lagos with the driver inside the forest in hostage still baffles this writer. It wasn’t only the male contingent’s buses that encountered the robbers. A female side going to honour a league game in Warri was attacked. The driver was taken away. The girls were robbed. Thank God they were not randy marauders otherwise they would have taken their turns with the girls. God forbid. Whereas the female incident was last week, the male’s ought to come with reactions from the organisers by way of a policy statement on such a matter.
It is true that the rule stipulates that any travelling contingent which in the course going to honour matches finds itself late in any city at 7 pm, such a team(s) should find a way of spending the night in such a town than hit the road under the guise of saving cash. If Adamawa for instance observed that rule, they may have escaped that incident. This is not to say that robberies and kidnapping don’t happen in broad daylight.
Indeed, when our leaders want to embark on a wild goose chase in a bid to ‘change’ what they perceive needs to be improved in our polity, they introduce models from other climes thinking it would fit. Our leaders are merchants of quick fixes forgetting that what operates seamlessly in other countries arose from adequate considerations being given to their peculiarities before adopting them. For instance, sports in other climes operate from the business prism by competent managers, not opportunists.
There is zero tolerance for government ownership. The government’s contributions towards sports rest with providing the enabling environment for the industry to thrive – which includes providing infrastructure, policies, and takeoff grants, if need be. It is run through communities and individuals with sufficient funding from the corporate world over time. What our leaders also don’t take into consideration before adopting models which work elsewhere is such models are time tested and necessary changes informed from what they gathered after the introduction of such an exercise make such models attractive and worthy of emulation.
In trying to remodel the local league, our organisers embarked on several trips to different European nations carrying with them their lickspittles instead of key stakeholders who would be using the models directly. The so-called knowledge acquired by those lickspittles who have no direct bearing on the operations of the league is lost, making those dropped from such trips less knowledgeable and a potential threat to the league’s operations.
To justify such jamboree trips, the organisers ensured that those foreigners came into the country to see what we how we make a mockery of league organisation here. These foreigners come here to meet a new set of people who are directly involved in the daily activities of the league but who never made the trips to their countries. They immediately know our problems but would rather allow us to take them through what they would be exposed to. It doesn’t take a second thought for them to write us off as unserious when they return to their countries. It is the reason all the trips to Europe by our organisers and their lackeys have not rubbed off on the game’s administration. Let alone its development. What we have is an arrested development setting where the undertakers have refused to vacate their positions for more knowledgeable people to take charge.
Our league organisers were in European countries (names withheld), how has that affected the Nigerian league? How much of what obtains in the European leagues do we have here? Our organisers belong to several committees in WAFU, CAF, and FIFA, what can they point at as things they have brought back home? We still have players wearing nameless shirts during matches. We still have match officials using slates with instructions written with chalks to make substitutions in the course of matches. Referees’ safety is in the hands of the clubs, yet we want the league to be attractive. How would we have a good league when most of the pitches are easily soaked in rain with other despicable, good enough for cattle grazing?
A top football man in Nigeria confronted this writer with the theory of what the league runs with, insisting that the organisers chose the English or was it the Spanish model? He wasn’t sure. It explained clearly the tardy handling of the domestic game’s administration here. This writer confronted another soccer chief to explain how the game is run here without representation on the board as we have in other climes. Our football board isn’t represented by a club owner whereas the game itself is about association football nurtured by the clubs in the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the country.
A situation where the hierarchy of the game in Nigeria meets and the clubs have no genuine representation is unacceptable. Those who threw into this mess should correct the flaw. When the contraption they forced on us started, its chairman wasn’t allowed to participate in the NFF meetings. In this dispensation, the so-called head now runs things in the federation.
One rule different interpretations. Rules are drawn at the whims and caprices of a privileged few. Little wonder the league began without the body’s congress and it doesn’t matter. What is sacrosanct is the game is being played irrespective of oddities.
On Wednesday, the Morocco FA bought buses for the women league as part of the
body’s quest to give the women’s game the fillip to reach for greater heights. Women’s soccer is like a novelty there. This gesture would open a new vista for the game since the corporate world would willingly support these clubs.
The FA’s message read: “The Royal Morocco Football Federation (FRMF) has given mini-buses to all the 16 clubs campaigning in the Morrocan Women’s National League.
“The Morocco football governing body made this known via their verified Twitter where it
wrote: “The @FRMFOFFICIEL offered each club in LNFF a new minibus to ensure the transport of the women’s teams in good safety conditions.”
“The Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) announced the launch of women’s first and second division professional league in October 2020 and the maiden league will kick-off this season after signing a new convention with the National Women’s League to take women’s football to a new level.”
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s elite league that has produced world stars still has its clubs driven in buses that go up in flames due to mechanical issues arising from poor maintenance. But FA has seen the need for the women to be driven in brand new buses not the risky ones or should I say death-traps our players ride on the highways.
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