DEAR reader, please forgive me if I keep using the European leagues to kick the bums of our inept domestic league organisers. I don’t suffer from any form of colonial mentality. All the leagues in the world have begun their seasons, ours is snoring in the forest with the noise from our unperturbed organisers’ snorts blaring to attract the evil forest’s spirits. This has been the practice since the inception of this NFF with its executive members moping and unable to bell the cat by calling for the league board’s sack or its disbandment.
Must we continue to destroy the future of our kids in the 774 Local Government Areas in the country, simply because nobody is bold enough to stop the trend of watching Nigerian teams being eliminated by hitherto also-ran countries of yore in the competition? Who can stop these undertakers from killing our league which has produced several soccer greats? Need I mention names?
It should worry the current NFF executive committee members that no Nigerian club has won a continental trophy in their six years reign. Are the members waiting for the time when state governors would decline sponsoring their clubs because of their ill-preparedness? The way things are going, a year would come where there would be winners but no sponsors with our opponents coming to Nigeria to walk over our teams. It may seem unthinkable now, but it would happen if we continue to keep this set of inept organisers to run the game here.
How can organisers of the league continue to repeat fatal mistakes that have kept the league in the doldrums, yet the parent body sits aloof as if its primary duty isn’t to develop the Nigerian game in all of its ramifications. It hurts watching talented players look mediocre because of the ineptitude of the organisers who bask in the tardy options of either running abridge league competitions or using bizarre formulas to pick winners and losers of the competition without recourse to the rules of the competition globally. It doesn’t prick the conscience of the organisers when our representatives are getting kicked out of tournaments which Nigeria had dominated in the past. No wonder Gernot Rohr keeps insulting Nigeria by picking 28 foreign-based players for games against the Central Africa Republic (CAR, Sierra Leone, etc with due respect to such sovereign nations.
They enjoy telling Nigerians that they haven’t gotten sponsors for the league as if it is common knowledge that the corporate bodies don’t wake up at night to plan their yearly budgets. Indeed, no firm would wait for an inept body to pitch for sponsorship when there are other serious contenders seeking such opportunities at the snap of the finger. These firms operate within the country and on a daily basis read about the ills of the league, including threats to participants’ lives, especially referees. No credible firm would want to put its goods and services on the league on the altar of sponsorship of any kind.
It is important to remind the organisers that the players in the domestic game are workers who are entitled to their wages which most times come from gate-takings and other marketing windows available to their clubs to generate revenue. Therefore, how do these clubs generate revenue when the league is in abeyance? Which firms, banks, sponsors, or state governors would listen to requests for cash when there are no matches? Is this not a gradual way of destroying clubs, especially those who must have taken bank loans to perfect their operations, not forgetting how the Covid-19 pandemic destroyed the economy globally?
Would it be fair to ask these clubs to pay for match officials like they did last year given the long wait to get the organiser’s roadmap for the new season? Is this one of the reasons which give clubs the audacity to owe players, coaches, officials, and ancillary staff their wages running into several years? Which firm(s) would do business with the Nigeria league which doesn’t have a calendar that would state categorically when the competition would begin and end without man-made hitches? Without a calendar, you can’t plan any meaningful league. No wonder the Nigerian league is rudderless.
Our league organisers chose to go to Russia to watch the 2018 World Cup games than to remain at home to supervise the domestic league like the other leagues in the world. This mistake portrayed the organisers as unserious people considering the fact that only one player, a reserve goalkeeper made the Nigerian squad from the domestic league.
How would any business concern entertain any discussions with these organisers who would rather postpone the league games in Nigeria to watch the Mundial in Russia? Isn’t it a shame that under this management, nothing good has come out of the league worthy of commendation? Indeed, it took the instructions of the honourable sports minister Sunday Dare last season for the organisers to appreciate reasons the league should begin. We are at the same spot with the organisers confused, unwilling to tell the world when the Nigerian league would begin? What we hear from their lackeys are propositions not tied to a particular date. The reality is that they have no money in the body’s coffers.
The bigger picture is that even if any company decides to sponsor the league, such an initiative should start on a clean slate, given the huge debts from previous seasons. Already, the champions of the league Akwa United are out of the CAF Champions League through no fault of theirs. Had the league season begun, they would have given their best. Bayelsa United and Rivers United have dicey return leg games in the CAF Confederations Cup. Both sides first leg tie ended in a score draw for Rivers United and a slim 1-0 for Bayelsa United. Only Enyimba can dream of a qualification ticket, having won the first game away from Aba. But, these fixtures are best left to be played on the pitch other than resort to any form of permutations based on the results of the first matches for the three squads.
The organisers should be ashamed of themselves for organising a league without television coverage for live games. Asides, from the fact that live games bring the league to the people in their living rooms, it also helps in taking different talking points in matches and prevents urchins and beasts take the laws into their hands on the altar of being club fans or supporters. Participating teams make a lot of money from television rights. The organisers also use the platform to showcase their co-sponsors to ensure that all the facets of the competition are brought to the fore.
I wish our administrators had any iota of shame to recognise how badly they have run our soccer competitions into the doldrums, such that for the third consecutive season, the domestic league has been fraught with needless controversies due to the management’s failure. A league where the ambulance meant to handle emergencies is being pushed around the playing pitch while a player dies slowly should be disbanded. A league where the organisers enforce existing laws only after a player has died shouldn’t be allowed to kill more people.
Any stadium in Europe has medical equipment which could compete with what you have in first-class hospitals, with the staff of the same quality, not auxiliary medical attendants. The league organisers ought to have an official medical facility for those in the game, preferably one owned by the state or federal government.
Simply put, our stadia lack the capacity to handle emergencies. The number of exits at these stadia is not enough and so narrowly such that it takes close to 40 minutes to empty any stadium in the country. The way the exits are built gives room for stampede if an emergency occurs. The ease with which fans crowd the pitches after matches endanger the lives of players and referees.