DIRECT KICK: Nigerian League and continental competitions: Are we really ready?


Just as expected, it’s a season of excuses for both Plateau United and Kano Pillars, following their ouster from the continental competitions by Simba FC of Tanzania and ASC Jaraaf of Senegal respectively in the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup

Head Coach of Plateau United, Abdul Maikaba believes his team was cheated in Tanzania.

He accused Simba SC of poor sportsmanship, which he believes was responsible for his team’s early exit from the CAF Champions League.

Plateau United held the hosts to a goalless draw in Dar-Es-Salaam but losing 1-0 in the first leg in Jos showed them the way of the tournament in the preliminary round.

 “Actually our performance was far better than what we played at home because, with the experience of the game we played in Jos, we understood our opponent more and planned our strategy very well.

“If not for the pranks played by Simba, they played a lot of pranks outside the game to ensure they frustrate us.’’

Coach Maikaba said Simba’s antics can destroy the reputation of the competition.

“It got to an extent where they tried to stop some of our players’ entry into their country. They kept wasting our time at the airport and they pinpoint two players, Sunday Adetunji and Abubakar Ibrahim because they performed well in Jos, they didn’t want them to be part of the game, including our goalkeeper.

He also explained how the hosts played politics with Covid-19 tests and results before the game.

For Kano Pillars, the Coach, Lionel Soccoia blamed poor officiatin

g for his side’s exit from the 2020-21 edition of the CAF Confederation Cup.

The Nigerian side was held 0-0 at home by ASC Diaraf last weekend, a result which saw the Senegalese outfit secure a 3-1 aggregate triumph and progression from the preliminary round.

Soccoia, who has been in charge of Pillars since October, argues that his team performed strongly across the two legs but was hit hard by refereeing decisions.

 “The game was successful. In the first game, through poor officiating two offside goals were scored against us. We deserved two penalties in the second game and were denied,” the Frenchman was quoted to have said.

Either genuine or not, do the coaches have a choice at all?

We had really never decided to do the right thing. The running of the league system has been with many unanswered questions all along. The league, as a result, had lost sponsor or sponsors long ago. This is also a league that the national league handlers were scared to watch at all, talk less of picking players from it.

I had wanted to write something on this, but before then, I got a piece written by the Grand Master, Desmond Ekwueme, titled: MY RESPONSE TO THE MOCKERY OF NPFL, IT’S CLUBS & PLAYERS.

And I had to bring here, some of the very strong issues he had raised.

He stated in the wonderful and well thought off piece: Many commentators make mockery of the NPFL, the clubs but most especially the players who they say do not deserve to be called into the Super Eagles. They argue that the performance of both clubs justify Gernot Rohr’s insistence that NPFL players are not good enough for his team.

I will start this issue with a question, Are you satisfied with the calibre of coaches handling our clubs presently? Don’t get me wrong or hurriedly conclude that we lack indigenous coaches to handle Super Eagles. Far from that…

If yes that you are satisfied with the quality of coaches handling our local clubs, I dare ask, what are their antecedents? What are their pedigrees? What records do they hold? What had they achieved before now?

Can you compare them with their colleagues in the immediate past era? Kadiri Ikhana, Okey Emordi, Tony Ottah, David Adiele, Alfred Ekundina, Joe Erico, Godfrey Esu, Lawrence Akpokona, Sam Opone, Austin Ofokwu, Abdullahi Bebe, Jossy Lad, Monday Sinclair, Ganiyu Salami, Musa Abdullahi, Jossy Dombraye, Matthias Obianika, Emmanuel Ominu, Alphonsus Dike, Ufere Nwankwo, Paul Hamilton, Tunde Disu, Chris Udemezue, Alabi Aissien and Eto Amaechina among several others. Many of them are still around and ready to work but the clubs managers dread them because they “know a lot and won’t cut sides”. These are/were coaches who eat/ate football, sleep/slept football and live/lived for football.

Why is it that NPFL club administrators don’t want to employ the likes of Mutiu Adepoju, Ike Shorunmu, Peter Rufai, Austin Eguavoen, Emmanuel Amunike, Finidi George, Emmanuel Osigwe, Sunday Oliseh, Samson Siasia, Peter Ijeh, Joseph Yobo, Taribo West, Victor Ezeji, Ahmed Abdulrahman and Ndubuisi Opara among others? These are products of above mentioned top quality coaches who could equally effect notable and laudable changes…unlike the present crop of “contractor coaches.” But again the club managers don’t want to employ them because “they are bigger than the clubs” or “unaffordable”.

Club administrators and managers prefer to give jobs to those they can control who know little or nothing about the job. Coaches who want to use the club’s to boost their CVs hence, they can collect peanuts as remuneration.

What do you expect from a League without sponsor for close to four seasons? A league that scares away sponsors? A league that hardly pays players two hundred thousand naira (N200, 000) monthly?

What do you expect from a league that the national team coach hates so much that he hardly goes to a venue to see or watch a game? A national team coach that has literally turned his back at players from this same league irrespective of how good they are or could be? A national team coach that doesn’t encourage NPFL players?

And his submission was: So, it is not enough to mock the NPFL clubs for crashing out of CAF competition which has been the trend in the last five years or so….we should speak the truth and address most of these issues for a change of attitude across board….and for better outings and results in the future.

Both Enyimba FC and Rivers United were also stretched to the limit, before getting through.

But what do we make up of some of us who keep pestering us that our league is still one of the best in Africa?

Do we blame the sports writers who daily disturb us by employing adjective that you could hardly find in the Dictionary to describe the performances of players and coaches, only for them to fuck up at the end of the day?

Are we really ready?


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