Why do Brazilian players command hefty transfer fees and their Nigerian counterparts go for peanuts? The answer — proper management and education — is one that continues to elude the football scene in Nigeria.
When the blind leads the blind, the destination is more likely to be a ditch, and they are an accident waiting to happen.
Oghenekaro Etebo was one of the three best Super Eagles players at the 2018 World Cup that just concluded in Russia. The former Las Palmas loanee was bright, brave and goal-oriented, and racked up incredible numbers.
Though he did not score goals, he had 224 touches from which he executed 142 successful passes and also made 10 tackles. Etebo was a standout player. He also showed glimpses of his talent in the second half of La Liga last season and who can forget his four-goal salvo against Japan at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil?
But he moved to Stoke City just before the World Cup for about $8.23 million. Was that his best move? The player managed by Jose Morais’ DW Sports Management believed it was and made the deal though on the benefit of hindsight, should they have waited until the end of the World Cup?
Just before the Eagles left for Russia in June, a Super Eagles team devoid of the regulars played a friendly match against Atletico Madrid and one player that shone so bright was Kelechi Nwakali.
His performance on the day was excellent, capped with a wondrous goal, and people lobbied for his inclusion in the team going to Russia. Stellar Football Limited, who have the likes of Gareth Bale, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jordan Pickford, etc. on their roster, are the managers of the former U-17 World Cup winning captain.
On Wednesday, July 18, news broke that Nwakali had completed a loan move to Porto from Arsenal, but not to the senior team, but Porto B – Why? This is a player seen as the future of the Super Eagles midfield moving to the second team of Porto, aged 20.
Porto can be said to be a big club, but that is in Portugal, which is not amongst the top five European leagues.
What is the value of football in Nigeria?
Adeyemi Adesanya, who talks sports on Radio, believes not knowing the value of the local game continues to ensure that ‘peanuts’ will be the likely earnings.
“Well it’s simple; let’s start from the top; what is the value of the NPFL? No one can tell you; what’s the value of the average NPFL club? The answer is also not difficult; until there are values attached to this; our players will move for peanuts because they are valueless.
“Also there’s the corrupt practices angle, where sharp practices are rife with the collusion of the FA staffers. It is a long exhaustive conversation,” Mr Adesanya added.
For Yomi Kuku of Coerver Coaching, Nigerian players will continue to make ‘senseless’ moves because the game is not run as a business in the country.
The need for private ownership
Mr Kuku said, “I think people need to work outside the structure that exists in Nigeria football and what I mean by that is private investors in Nigeria should sit down, form association, not necessarily to break way but to be able to help each other to put money to football for the purpose of seeing it as a business because as long as you have club owners as an association and all the company owners are political appointees, it is not going to work.
“If the private owners come together and have people that work with them to develop the technicality of their players, some players are technically good and they play very well, if they won’t allow them to play in NPFL, then go elsewhere, market your players and then sell them to the highest bidders, at the end of it, the players can come back and play for Nigeria, because the truth is that the NPFL does not reflect premier league football and its so boring,” he added.
A player agent, Shina Phillips attributes the challenge to the capacity of the players and their agents and the desperation for a quick economic upgrade.
“Your agent determines your goal,” Phillips started. “If the agent is desperate to want to get the commission, he can sell for anything – peanuts. The mindset of some Nigerian agents is getting him started, get your first commission, I mean you are looking at conversion of Euros to Naira…”
Education is the way forward
But he has a solution, one that has to be driven by the Nigeria Football Federation.
“First thing first is there should be proper training from the Federation to those who desire to be agents and those who are agents on how this business is done worldwide. It is an international business so people should be vast in the law of the business they need to know this business so that when they are dealing with clubs out there are not about selling a cheap commodity.
“They must know their leagues, the kind of players they want, what they can accept and when they are negotiating, they are negotiating from an advantageous point.
This business is about the depth of knowledge and the contacts you have. Those who are fortunate to have these contacts with these clubs should be vast – they should understand the intricacies, they should understand legal angles and then they should have the power to negotiate, most of them don’t know how to negotiate.”
For Kuku, Nigerian players are not well coached from the grassroots and that will continue to affect their value. “If you watch the local league like I have done for the last three years – you will see there is no value in it.
“The quality of football is abysmal. A 90-minute match is about 60 minutes in the NPFL with all the falling down, wasting time, and ballooning of the ball.
“It means there is no coaching, there is not too much of a problem in the league but there is no coaching, the players in the league are not well educated, they don’t know anything.”
At the moment, the NFF is facing a leadership tussle, for which the resumption of the NPFL has now been postponed indefinitely. It truly seems that we don’t know anything about developing the game – whether it is the administrators or even the coaches.
For now, we are in a football conundrum!