The Nigerian football league is bad. It’s as simple as that. For a country like Nigeria where football is a way of life, a logical thought pattern dictates that the football league here would be world class or near that. Unfortunately, this is so far from the case. There are so many things wrong with the league ranging from poor league administration to abysmal facilities. It is a sad state of affairs when Nigerians are forced to watch foreign football leagues in order to satisfy their insatiable appetite for football. How can one watch a league where home teams are almost always sure bets to win due to predictable ‘refereeing errors’? It’s no surprise that rich Nigerians shy away from investing in any of our clubs here as it would be nigh on insane to invest in a team playing in a league which is so appallingly managed that one could never be sure when the league season actually begins.
Our league is in dire need of help. However, for any change to be made one must first address the most pertinent issues; those areas that have completely crippled a potential economic cash cow, those fields which so desperately need revolution, those problems so obvious, it has become a travesty they have not yet been addressed. Here are the five most glaring issues with our football league that have forced even the most patriotic of citizens to turn away from their national sport; (Oh Yes! Football is Nigeria’s official national sport)
ABYSMAL LEAGUE ADMINISTRATION
Who actually manages this league? At present, the league management committee is at war with club owners/managers. The league has no logo since the name is being changed from Nigeria Premier League (NPL) to Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). There are no set down rules on transfer of players from a club to another. There is no properly drawn up calendar for the league. The amount of times the league start is shifted before the league actually kicks off is enough to make even the calmest of souls scream ‘F*ck this, I’d rather watch Golf”. The league could practically start at anytime and end at anytime. Funny enough, league management is probably the least economically tasking and the most apparent problem the league faces. It is the paper elephant in the room that for whatever reason, everyone is turning a blind eye to. For our league to move forward we need to resolve this immediately.
HORRIFIC STANDARD OF REFEREEING
This is probably the worst problem plaguing our league. It’s an unwritten rule that referees must favor the home teams. It happens so often that one has got to assume that referees are actually told to do this in whatever training program they partake in before approval. Take a look at any set of weekly results from our league matches and you are almost certain to see all the home teams recording a win and in very rare cases, getting a draw. CAF has obviously taken note as it has begun to reflect on the number of Nigerian referees called up for continental assignments. At the 2013 AFCON, only one Nigerian official was on duty, an assistant referee. This is from the most populous nation in the continent. The terrible state of security afforded to referees is probably a reason why they so frequently make errors which favor the home team. No one wants to get physically abused or even lose his/her life just because some crazy home fans felt he/she “blew against them”. It’s a shambles.
The majority of our clubs rely mostly on their respective state governments for funds. These state governments are the owners of most of these clubs except for very few privately owned clubs. Due to the shocking state of corruption in the public sector, it is standard that players and team staff will be owed. Sometimes, players are owed for so long that they decide to boycott matches. Imagine a football league without players . . . yea, me neither. The state of the league stadiums and training facilities including pitches and balls truly depict the extent of this problem. Nothing can move without funding, and we all know our football league is not nothing.
MIND-NUMBING GAME PLAY
This can be attributed to the fact that most managers lack the tactical and technical knowledge necessary to really coach their teams. This is due to the fact that the vast majority do not attend any form of formal coaching training. As such, there is no proper approval system and our league is left inundated with tactless but well connected men passing off as football coaches. In addition, there are non-existent training facilities, astonishingly bad football pitches and severely lacking fitness and medical staff. This recipe can only produce one type of meal. Tiresome, infuriating, technically lacking football teams tirelessly booting the ball from one end of the pitch to the other hoping to eventually get it into the opposition’s net while avoiding serious injury.
DREADFUL CLUB MANAGEMENT
The term ‘professional football club’ is seemingly alien in Nigeria. To illustrate this, let’s take a little peek at the saga involving the transfer of 2013 AFCON hero, Sunday Mba, from Warri Wolves to Enugu Rangers. How can the management of Warri Wovles declare, with a straight face, that they allowed Sunday Mba to play for Rangers in their 2013 CAF champions league return leg match against Recreativo de Libolo for the interest of the country?!!!! And that Enugu Rangers haven’t actually completed the signing of the player?!!! That’s frankly ridiculous!!! Our clubs don’t even document details of agreements on signing players, no proper welfare packages are organized for these players, erratic delivery of their wages, absolute reliance on state governments for finance which they mostly divert ludicrously and a generally stinky attitude towards carrying out their responsibilities. They don’t contract companies to supply jerseys for them, hence, it should come as no surprise to you if you tune in one day, and see a defender putting on an Adidas made jersey while trying to head a cross away as his goal keeper confidently comes for and claims the cross proudly spotting his Nike made one. It is disheartening, to say the least.
Nigerian football needs urgent help! ASAP!!!!
By Chinedum ‘T-Ray’ Izuwah . . . a true patriot
Follow him on Twitter @rayizuwah