If there was really any Nigerian who thought the results of games in the CAF Champions’ League and Confederation Cup would have been any different from last weekend, then that must have been a really optimistic person.
As we already know in the Champions League, Kano Pillars managed a 3-2 win at home against Asante Kotoko while Enyimba lost on the road to Rahimo FC, the champions of Burkina Faso.
The most disappointing result for those who were optimistic had to be that of Niger Tornadoes who fell at home in Kaduna to Santoba FC.
What is wrong with Nigerian clubs?
The answer to this is as easy as knowing that I am using my fingers to type this piece and not the fingers of anyone else.
There are hardly any football clubs in Nigeria, most of them just groups of human beings, some footballers, some coaches, other officials who live their lives to fight for three points every Sunday.
The structure is poor, the coaching is horrible, the vision is non-existent and most of all, there are hardly any clear cut policies and philosophies. Then there is the little matter of Nigeria’s yearly pre-season ritual where whole teams are changed for completely new ones which has proved over the years to be our Achilles heel.
What do we do now?
Clubs have to re-think their collective existence. What is the point of these football clubs? Why do they sign players? What do they hope to achieve? Is it to donate three points to their state governors every week so he can be happy or is it to build lasting legacies for themselves, the fans and all? Is it to build structures, both physical edifices and a team that can stand with the rest of Africa, or is it just to continue the norm? Gather players and fight for three points every Sunday?
Our clubs need to retool. Can Club A, for example, begin to own its players rather than depend on academies for their existence? Can they decide on the kind of the club they want to be? Can they build training pitches and begin to create the kind of players they want after deciding what kind of club they want to be? Can Club A, for example, go for the kind of coach that fits their philosophy and support him achieve their lofty or modest target? Why does every Nigerian club, even one that just came in from the lower division set a target to win the league and play on the continent? Isn’t that why we end up with the likes of Niger Tornadoes and Wikki Tourists on the continent?
The last time I saw a Nigerian club that had a distinct playing style was Rangers International with Imama Amapakabo 2016), MFM FC with Fidelis Illechukwu (pre- 2018), Lobi Stars with Solomon Ogbeide (2017-18), Akwa United with Abdu Maikaba 2017 and 2018) and Plateau United with Kennedy Boboye (2017) and this is because playing style has never been important as long as we can get three points every weekend through any means possible.
Why do Nigerian clubs have budgets for “tactical” and please do not ask me what that means when players have not been paid?
Nigerian clubs need to reboot. They must start afresh and be honest to themselves, like a kid in Nursery school and tell themselves whatever they are doing so far is not working.
Let Nigerian clubs start from telling themselves, “A is for Apple, B is for Ball, C is for Cat…”
They need to go back to the very basics of running the football.
The most frustrating times of my life in the last ten years has been when I have to go to the Stadium to watch a Nigerian League game at the same time a European League game is airing… The football is ugly, boring, uninspiring and most of all not worthy of a 6th tier game. I’m at the stadium fighting sleep and tears, knowing that if not that I had to do a job I would be at my comfortable home or bar enjoying a game in Europe.
The Nigerian champion should not lose to the champion of Burkina Faso, no matter what. The Nigerian Cup finalist should not lose at home to a team 9th in the Gambian League. This is how bad Nigerian football has fallen. Not that it did not happen in the glorious 70s and 80s, once in a long while it did. But these days it has almost become the norm.
Nigerian club owners and managers need to ask themselves tough questions. Why are we in this thing? When I leave, how many people will remember me ten years later? How many people know the names of the last ten chairmen of the club? So why would they remember you? What am I doing wrong? What can I do better? Tough questions that will give tough answers.
There is something fundamentally wrong with Nigerian football. The structure is poor the coaching is mostly non-existent and there is too much government interference. Most of us know what it is wrong but either do not want to start that change, lack the will power to do it or are simply there trying to convince ourselves that all is well.
Maybe, at the end of the 2nd leg games, Enyimba will be the only one left out of three clubs in the next stage where they will be joined by Rangers. This is not where Nigerian football should be.
Nigerian clubs showed their true colours over the weekend. The excuse that the league had not kicked off before the CAF competitions is no longer tenable. When you have a structure, then these things may not really matter. Just like Al Ahly winning the CAF Champions League when the Egyptian League was on hold for more than one year or even Asante Kotoko coming to get two goals in Kano without League football for over one year.
Remember that Kano Pillars and Niger Tornadoes just played a Cup final a fortnight before their games.
Nigerian football at club side level is almost non-existent. Let the change start now. But are we confident it will?