Nigeria Football Federation president, Ibrahim Gusau

I haven’t spoken with the new president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Ibrahim Gusau since he was elected into office, though I have tried to reach him via telephone at least twice.

The World Cup started not too long after he was sworn in, so he had a leeway. Nigeria was not involved in the World Cup, so either Nigerians were too busy watching football, or they did not really care about Nigerian football at the time.

But the World Cup ended two weeks ago and the problems are still there. If Ibrahim Gusau, for any reason thought that running Nigerian football was a cup of tea, it is time for him to settle down and be afraid, because “Winter is coming!”

What is going on with the Super Eagles?

Nigerians still do not understand what is going on with the Super Eagles. Why is the team so poor? Why is the coaching so poor? Who are these players that keep getting called up?

In the past eight years, the Super Eagles turned into an all-comers affair. A lot of wannabe footballers who should never have been international players got called up and enjoyed the status, something that should not have been. Is there a standard for the Super Eagles? Or does any player who manages to start for a European club immediately qualify to play for Nigeria’s National Team?

Is there a coaching blueprint for the Super Eagles? Is there a developmental blueprint for the team? Are there targets on what to achieve within the next eight years? Do Nigerians deserve to know his plan for our flagship national team?

Will there be an FA Cup this year?

I do not remember the last time Nigeria had a real FA Cup, or whatever name it goes by these days.

What the Nigeria Football Federation have failed to realise over the years is that the FA Cup is their own. The NFF cannot be taken seriously without a Cup Competition. In England, the English Premier League has all the money, but the FA Cup is not toyed around with.

The biggest, unforgivable shame was what happened last season when the NFF asked the clubs to play in the FA Cup when they had already picked a winner and had registered them to play in Africa. What deceit! So, I ask again, “Will there be an FA Cup this year?”

Super Eagles cannot be the only National Team

For the past decade, the NFF have acted as though we had just one football national team, the Super Eagles.

All other National Teams have suffered neglect just for the Super Eagles to succeed. Have the Super Eagles succeeded?

Nigeria has a Beach football team, the Golden Eaglets, the Flying Eagles, the U23 Team and the Home Based Super Eagles. The country also has Flamingoes, Falconets and Super Falcons. I agree that they cannot be treated with equal measure, but all others should not be neglected for one, should they?

What is the Federation’s plan to actually develop Nigerian football?

Ibrahim Gusau has been in Nigerian and African football for so long to know that the objective of a football Federation is not necessarily to win football tournaments but to develop football in the country.

The truth is that countries can have accidental wins of the AFCON like Nigeria in 1980 and 2013. Still, when you take time to develop your football like the Egyptians, and South Africans did, then you are guaranteed lots of rewards, which may or may not include winning the AFCON.

Can we have a blueprint for the development of our football for the next, say, ten years? And I am not talking about a document that will be stored in a dusty drawer, but a working plan.

Can the Eagles fail to qualify for the next AFCON and we do not sack the coach, because we have a project? Do we once again just want to promise Nigerians that we will win the AFCON and qualify for the semi-finals of the World Cup, without a structure in place? We all know we need to return to the basics before one NFF official will tell us tomorrow, “If Morocco could do it, why not Nigeria?” with not a single structure in place.

What is the point of the various state FA?

Ibrahim Gusau was himself a state Football Association chairman. He was not just chairman, but the chairman of chairmen, so he knows there are lots of dinosaurs operating across the country. For me, it is not even about how long they have been chairmen of State Football Associations, because it is common knowledge, the longevity in sports association leadership.

Between 1974 and 2022, there have been just three FIFA presidents. Check out how long Issa Hayatou stayed as CAF president, then check out how long Grondona stayed as Argentine FA president, so it has never been about how long they have stayed, but what they are staying up doing.

Without the state FA working there will be no football development at the grass root level. As long as these FA chairmen see themselves as useful only when it is time for Federation elections, or when it is time to lobby to be on the plane for a trip abroad,

Nigerian football will not rise from its ashes.

When will the Federation start building pitches across the country?

In August 2018, the people of Washington DC celebrated the opening of a new mini-pitch at the Pentworth recreational centre. ‘

Now, because the USA Soccer Foundation saw a lack of Soccer pitches, they set themselves a target.

The foundation’s goal became to engage 1 million children annually in Soccer for Success by 2026 and build 1,000 new safe places to play at a cost of $65,000 per pitch. To build, say, 1000 pitches across Nigeria means about 27 per state and at least one per Local Government Area. This may be a good start.

Now, this is the development of football at the grassroots. Apart from promising us to win the AFCON every two years, can we have a football pitch in, say, Choba where I live or Ogbakiri where I come from? How do we raise the profile of our football and train the next generation if the kids do not have a place to play football?

Is it a priority to train coaches?

It has been a long time since I joined the argument on how good the Nigerian League footballer is, and whether they are good enough to play for the Super Eagles because it is a waste of time.

But, while we are at it, the question to ask would be, how good are the coaches in the Nigerian League? Who ensures the coaches are trained? How well are they trained? Are they good enough to move on to the next level?

Will the league continue to stay abandoned?

For the past decade or even more, the Nigerian League was abandoned, painfully. We thought we could cover the eyes of Nigerians to the injustice done to the league, by the success of the Super Eagles. The Super Eagles still gave no success.

For the Nigerian League player, the ultimate is not always to play for the Super Eagles. He has three things on his mind. Playing for the Super Eagles is one. Then there is taking his football abroad. And finally, while waiting for the first two to materialize, he has to be alive.

The Nigerian league is so dead that the only people making real money are the State Sports Commissioners and the Club chairmen. It is little wonder why in the last twenty years, a lot of club chairmen and sports commissioners have grown from penury to riches, a lot of them are owners of hotels too. A league that could not pay referees, match assessors, delegates and even its own commentary crew was a crying shame.

Dear Ibrahim Gusau, without a country’s football league, football in the country is dead on arrival. And this really has nothing to do with the number of players from the league who feature regularly for the National Team. That is a different conversation entirely.

The work is enormous because we have not even talked about the lack of financial sponsorship in Nigerian football, how to curb the violence in our stadia, the governance structure of the league, and loads of other pressing issues.

My 7 minutes are up. The party should be over. Now we want some action.

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