FEATURE: Now that CHAN Eagles have been humbled

Super Eagles Team B
Super Eagles Team B

I must confess I did not give the CHAN Eagles any chance of getting to the final and even those that promised them $20,000 if they won must now have a rethink.

The local Super Eagles have been a revelation in Morocco, which is a good thing and also a bad thing – I will explain.

“Nigeria is over 160 million people and they can produce 20 good goalkeepers. When he (Ajiboye) was introduced, I could read experience over him and his height was a good advantage,” Sudan manager, Zdravko Logravocic revealed at the post-match press conference after his team lost 1-0 to Nigeria in the semi-final.

What must be inferred from that statement is the numbers from which Coach Salisu Yusuf could pick a 23-man squad that would do the country and the league proud. Whether he did his best in the team selection is a discussion for another day.

The Good

Shines good light on the NPFL

Fact No.1 is there are good players in the league but there are more bad administrators than good. From the club organisations to coaching, to refereeing, the league is not helping these good players.

Look at Ikouwem Utin, the supposed backup to Danladi James, who shone brighter than the substantive choice. Gabriel Okechukwu was another who caught the eye but it remains to be seen if they are getting the best coaching to make them better?

Some of the players will get European contracts

The above-mentioned players and more like Sunday Faleye will be lost to some mediocre European leagues though they will definitely be better remunerated and better coached. That is where the numbers come into play. Who knew Junior Lokosa last season? He has already scored seven goals for Kano pillars in the seven weeks-old league. Do not be surprised if he does not finish the season in Kano – look at Stephen Odey.

The Bad

Papering over the NPFL cracks

It covers up the cracks in the organisation and administration of the Nigeria Professional Football League. We can expect to hear about the great strides the league is making on account of the CHAN Eagles getting to the final.

Covers the NFF’s nonchalance to local football development

It has been shouted from the rooftops – the current Nigeria Football Federation believes football starts and ends with the Super Eagles. The league is still largely just a collection of players that run about for 90 minutes for 38 weeks and then repeat. A well-organised league would unearth more talents, feed the various national teams and earn good foreign exchange for the clubs. At the moment, over 70 per cent of NPFL teams are political toys.

Our coaches need more education

“This was Tony Okpotu’s worst game for us. So apart from the numerical disadvantage, it was right we took him off,” said Salisu Yusuf after the 1-0 win over Sudan. From the start of the tournament till the end, Okpotu did not show any characteristic that he was last season’s leading goal scorer in the NPFL. The continuous usage of Rabiu Ali showed the crew does not understand sports medicine; because how would a 37-year-old have been able to recover in two days?

It is not enough to jumble together 23 players and saddle them with 90 minutes of action. The league needs a concise philosophy, integrity from the officiating personnel and a commitment to development from the federation. Right now, like Solace Chukwu, all we have at the moment is ‘wuru-wuru’ to the answer. What we need is a step-by-step process that leads to answers.

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