Junior Lokosa is supposedly the next big thing from the Nigeria Professional Football League [NPFL] but the 19-goal striker, who almost made it to Russia 2018, is currently jet hopping in search for a foreign contract.
In a search that took him on trial to Denmark, the striker failed tellingly, to impress the manager of SK Brann enough to get a contract. The manager said he needs a striker that will make an immediate difference.
Juxtapose that scenario with the transfer of South African international, Percy Tau, who just joined Brighton and Hove Albion from Mamelodi Sundowns for about $4 million.
Both players are strikers but while Tau, who scored 18 league goals over the last two seasons was sold for $4 million to a club in the English Premier League; Danish club, SK Brann, rejected Lokosa, who they were going to buy for just $300,000!
Tau played two full seasons in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League [PSL] and is a confirmed Bafana Bafana player with 12 caps and five goals while Lokosa with 23 goals in 34 appearances for Kano Pillars and boasts just one cap for the Super Eagles.
To put it in greater perspective, Anthony Okpotu, the NPFL’s highest scorer for last season also embarked on a failed junket to Denmark in April to try his luck with Brondby but he was also not signed. Okpotu scored 19 goals for Lobi Stars last season.
In an already published Premium Times analysis, the challenges were enumerated.
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,” Adesanya added.
For Yomi Kuku of Coerver Coaching says 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
Kuku said, “I think people need to work outside the structure that exists in Nigeria football.
“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.”