Under no kind of illusion can we believe the Nigeria Professional Football League is a prosperous enterprise. As much as 99% (if not 100%) of the players playing therein want to get out and play in “better” leagues, which means that the NPFL is primarily a nursery for more prosperous leagues.
That did not start today and neither would it end tomorrow. The League Management Company [LMC] can do itself and the clubs and players in the league a favour by putting cogent systems in place that prepares these players for these more prosperous leagues.
This would ensure that the nursery clubs get paid a requisite amount for nurturing the talents under their wing.
News broke on Tuesday last week that Ezekiel Bassey, an Enyimba player – one fully capped by the Super Eagles — had been signed by Barcelona’s second team.
Some were elated at the news, but I would like to re-jig our memory to the time when this same league sold the likes of Finidi George and Taye Taiwo to European clubs and they started playing just weeks after joining – this same league.
So why the hurray that a player who had spent at least three years playing in our top league suddenly got a lucrative move to the second team of Barcelona – we can guess how that would pan out…
Now to the real issue – the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the League Management Company (LMC) need to put proper structures in place so that players nurtured in our system do not need another nurturing when they are ultimately sold.
Get or train better coaches
The basis for football growth as shown by top countries in the world is grassroots coaching. If the foundation is not well conceived and implemented the building would always be affected by every kind of test.
There are some things you see around the country during training sessions that make you wonder. When a coach tells his players that they are not scoring enough, what does it mean? Football is like choreography – the more you practise, the better the synergy.
Scoring from free-kicks, corner kicks or forward runs in do not come just like that – it is by coaching. So if the Nigeria Football Federation and the LMC wants better players in the leagues, then they must ensure that the foundation is right.
Implement a uniform average standard of coaching
I have heard of coaches in our league, whose only qualification to coach is their experience as players in times past. Because someone played the game does not necessarily mean that the person will be a good coach and otherwise.
The LMC must ensure that our coaches especially those in the league and those that work with the various national team have a minimum standard of qualification. Why else do you think that our coaches cannot get jobs outside of our shores? They are simply not qualified!
Weed the league of ‘business’ referees
A league where the referees are businessmen – where the highest bidder can buy games is one that would not grow. We have had instances of leagues where referees in cahoots with gaming officials determine the results of matches. While it has not been inferred in the NPFL (because there is no stringent monitoring) does not mean it does not already exist.
The match officials cannot be seen from the onset as match sellers. Let the LMC get an elite set of officials, who will be well paid and will bring sanity and sanctity to match results.
Implement integrity at all levels
The league would never develop when we have administrators and club owners who doctor the books. They collect N10 and pay the players N1, information that filters to the players. Firstly, how then can you expect the players to give their 100%? A league where you cannot ascertain how much transfer fees were paid, one in which the administrators grow pot bellies while the players labour on with spindly legs is not an environment conducive for growth.
Ensure there is a minimum emolument for the players
A league that has a player collecting N2 million per month and another collecting N20,000 is not one to engender true competition. There is no way this unleveled playing field would help the teams or the players grow.
All in all, the LMC must have a better understanding that the NPFL must become a better nursery and to do that they must follow what has made the likes of the Dutch, Belgian and French leagues become the feeder leagues for the best leagues of England, Spain and Germany.
Then we will have a better spectacle that would create better players that would feed these European feeder leagues. And then, the NPFL will become a good success story that would attract more sponsors.
Because at the end of the day, money is still the name of the game and the better players will always get a bigger slice of the pie!