Opinion: Nigerian Football Needs A Doctor, Urgently

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By Onyekachi Chimezie

Nigerian football has fallen on the international scene and the poor run of form in international friendlies over the last five years further prove the above statement to be true.

In front of our very eyes, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, who are regarded as a footballing superpower in West Africa, are becoming a laughing stock.

The friendly match against Portugal, the 2018 European Champions, exposed the loopholes that had been long concealed by the Super Eagles throughout the years.

The 4-0 humiliation was a difficult result for Nigerians to take in light of the fact that world cup-bound and West African neighbors Ghana had earlier defeated Switzerland 2-0.

Nigerian supporters had hoped that the Super Eagles could match that performance as atonement for the country’s failure to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The loss in Lisbon brought Nigeria’s losing streak in international friendlies to six straight defeats. The Eagles had only managed one win in their last 14 international friendly games, which came against Egypt at Asaba’s Stephen Keshi Stadium in March 2019.

A winless run which also stressed to November 2017, Nigeria’s last win in a high profile friendly saw the three time African champions fought back from two goals down to defeat Argentina 4-2 in Krasnodar, Russia.

Who should we blame?

Portugal to some extent took it easy on Nigeria on Thursday night because it was another Lithuania, Cyprus or even Luxembourg fixture for the Portuguese.

After the game, Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) who takes the blame for the team’s struggles in recent years, came out to pledge their full support for head coach Jose Peseiro who is having a poor start to life after losing five games and winning two from his seven games in charge since taking the Super Eagles job.

“He (Peseiro) has just started and we need to be patient with him,” A top NFF official however told ESPN.

“He has also won the two games that were important, that is the qualifiers for the Nations Cup. Friendlies are just friendlies, and we will judge him on the qualifiers.”

Going by the statement, Jose Peseiro is seen as the manager to unlock the team from the bondage it has been over the last decades.

Things the NFF should consider:

  • Proper scouting:

I vividly remember a friendly match Nigeria played with Italy at the Craven Cottage that ended 2-2 in 2013. That game was not like the one we saw against Portugal.

Nigeria had to rally from a goal down to earn a draw and we saw the kind of players late head coach Stephen Keshi (May his soul continue to rest on) assembled despite it being a friendly game.

The players never approached it like the underdogs,

Fans struggled to know Jose Peseiro’s game plan in a game which saw the eagles lose too many balls after winning possession, too many poor decisions from players and the boys were not willing to press which allowed the Portuguese to counter pressed the West African side in result, winning the ball back in Nigeria’s half.

The NFF should start questioning themselves about the methods on which they scout these players and even some sections of the coaching crew.

As football is to Brazil in South America and so it is to Nigeria in Africa. Football is our main sport, our heritage and it should be taken with some seriousness, NFF and other sport bodies in Nigeria need to get to work.

What should be done?

Get players who are willing and ready to represent their father land.
Players who see their national team invitation as a National honor.
Coaches and their crew should be given appointments on merit.
The NFF with the new government of Ibrahim Musa Gusau should map out a football plan for the future of Nigeria football, plans like the ones countries like Spain and recently Morocco have employed.

Conclusion

Nigerian football is declining and the Super Eagles who we were using to cover up our loopholes for years now are getting infected by the virus.

Six consecutive international friendly matches lost with one win in the last 22 international friendlies and the last win coming against countries outside Africa was four years ago, a 1-0 against Poland in 2018 shows how bad we have gone down the ladder.

The Nigerian Football Federation(NFF) needs to plan for the future, set a plan and invest in it.

The NPFL we were using to scout players back then have fallen and the foreign based players we have been using to cover the mess for decades now are beginning to careless.

The boards shouldn’t beg players to come represent their country, we all saw how the Brazil National team players reacted to their names being included in the world cup squad.

An invitation to come play for your country should be an honor and not a mare invite but a privilege.

Nigeria will be great again only if the NFF set a footballing plan and work towards it.

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