• Friday, July 19, 2024
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‘poor grassroots development killing Nigerian football’



The 2015 Glo-CAF Awards might have come and gone, but the event once again exposed the downward trend of Nigerian football, asno Nigerian player was able to make the African strongest XI.

The highlight of the night was the announcement of Pierre EmerickAubameyang who dethroned four-time winner, YayaToure to win the prestigious African Footballer of the Year award.

These make it the second consecutive year no Nigerian international made the shortlist for CAF best eleven.

Despite the brilliant form of FC Watford’sstriker OdionIghalo at the Premier League, where he has been banging goals week in and out, but his fine form could not earn him a place on the list.

Also, Super Eagles captain Ahmed Musa and ex-captain of the national team Vincent Enyeamawas conspicuously missing on this year’s CAF first eleven.

The question is: Are Nigerian players not good enough to merit the list?

For the past five years edition, Cote d’ Ivorie and Ghanaian players have dominated the list.

The last time a Nigerian won the African Player award was way back in 1999 when KanuNwankwoclinched it under Arsenal colours.

In 2013, the likes of John Mikel Obi, Vincent Enyeama, Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike and Efe Ambrose were among the five Super Eagles players that were included in the CAF strongest squad, but since then, no Nigerian player have made the cut.

Former international, Joe Ericoblamed it on poor investment on youth developments programme.

“Well, as far am concerned, it’s a signal that our players have to work harder, we need to step up both administratively and the footballers themselves,” Erico said.

“Our players are not coming as young they use to be in those days, the era when we had the late RashidiYekini, KanuNwankwo, AustineOkocha, these guys played here for some time before travelling out.

“Players that came top those days are the ones who started their soccer career from the home ground; we don’t know the profile of today’s players,” Erico lamented.

Erico, popularly called Jogo Bonito in his playing days advised that all hands must be on deck for Nigeria to reclaim its lost glory in African football.

“We are not digging deep enough to discover new and young talents as they use to do in the 90’s; Investment in grassroots football is pivotal – where players are groomed with proper orientation. We are not grooming the players well enough.”

“CAF is not biased, our players need to work harder, Ighalo just came up and needs some level of consistency to merit the CAF award. Let’s watch his performances for another one year and see how it goes.”

The veteran coach also called for Super Eagles players to dear to make big moves where they can showcase their talents more.

“Nigerian players can’t make the big move if they don’t have the weapon to make the big move. They must be fully loaded to make the move.

Speaking to BusinessDay in a telephone conversation, former Super Eagles striker, Jonathan Akpoborie also faulted the lack of grassroots football as a major factor killing Nigerian soccer.

“It is no surprise because, during my days before players are taking abroad, there were competitions that were played regularly, those competitions were developing young players, unlike the academy we have today, where players are trained rather for the discovery of players. These competitions are not there anymore,” the ex-VfB Stuttgart striker said.

“Football is now a big business and no club is ready to give you that longer time in Europe; that is the need for these players to develop properly before travelling abroad so as to adapt to European system.”

“OdionIghalo have played around Europe; Italy, Spain and England, that is why he is performing brilliantly at the Premiership.

“European clubs don’t have the time to start developing players; we have to have solid grassroots programmes where these players can develop before going to Europe.

“We have to start developing our players as young as they come, else other countries will continue winning the African Footballer of the Year,” Akpoborie who spent majority of his playing career in German added.


Anthony Nlebem