Keshi versus his players, the NFF is broke and five things disturbing football growth in Nigeria

After the triumph of the Super Eagles in February in South Africa, the domestic game has been stumbling from one crisis to another without hope of resolution
By Babajide Alaka | Deputy Editor

February 10, 2013 now seems so far away. When the Super Eagles beat Burkina Faso to win their third Nations Cup title, we would not have believed anyone if it had ben said that 90 days down the line, the ruckus in the football scene would be so much that the joy of that night would have completely evaporated. examines the things that have gone awry in football in Nigeria.


That the Nigeria Football Federation is broke can stand alone and wreck every good work that was constructed by the surprise win of the Super Eagles in February but it can also become a good thing in the end if well handled. The question most people will be asking is why the Nigeria Football Federation is unable to raise the monies that it has budgeted to be spent in the 2013 fiscal year? That answer can only be given by the president, Aminu Maigari but the surety is that the football governing body in Nigeria does not make enough to run itself. That admission in itself is a sign that the present board has failed in its purpose because one of the things promised at their inauguration was that they would be self-operating but unfortunately that has not been the case.

The other point that has to be stressed is the fact that the NFF being broke has led to a slash in bonus by as much as 50% for the Super Eagles and of the coaching crew’s emoluments. We also hear that Sylvanus Okpala, assistant coach, has been relieved of his job. While that has to be explained in context because the dismissal smacks of a job cut -  we need to ask if that position Okpala was occupying was even needed in the first place or just a matter of paying back a former player that served his country with distinction?

Maybe the only good thing that will come out of this episode is that players will now be paid $5000 (N775,000) instead of $10000 (N1.5 million) as bonus, then it will be worthwhile. For a country where the average salary is about $250 (N38,750), to pay players that are in the employ of clubs that pay them salary is seriously obscene. The NFF has never been that viable to afford that amount and the sooner a more realistic figure is agreed upon, the better for the organisation.


First it was Peter Odemwingie, then Emmanuel Emenike and then the captain of the Super Eagles, Joseph Yobo, who came out to publicly harangue Stephen Keshi over a lack of appropriate communication. While I will not judge the matter though I believe that respect is the major question here and it should be reciprocal. The rise and fall of any enterprise rests squarely on the head of the overall boss – in this case that person being Mr. Keshi.

When a team wins, the coach takes the accolades but the players can decide not to give a 100% for a coach which would lead to bad results and ultimately – all things being equal, lead to the manager being sacked. I am not saying that we have reached that point but the coach must manage his primary resource – his players.

And all these shenanigans and prevarications from all sides are threatening to derail our even qualifying for the next World Cup, which incidentally is just 15 months away. We should be talking about how to get beyond the second round at our fifth appearance in the football tournament but all we have done since February 10 is stumble from one crisis to another.

When the League Management Company (LMC) went to register the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) with the Corporate Affairs Commission, it must have believed it was doing it for the good of the game in the country and the clubs. But the clubs have come out to say that they were not part of that decision so one
wonders how the Nduka Irabor-led committee came to that strange decision all alone. We have heard that the Nigeria Professional League has been dubbed ‘illegal’ by a court of law but can you shave a man’s head in his absence?

The crux of the matter is that if the clubs decide to boycott the league then Irabor and his team will have nothing to do. Now that the club owners have decided to flex their muscles – the LMC is in dire straits and the league that just started is in danger of going kaput. For a committee that was set up to clear the ego clashes, financial situation and player welfare – the committee has brought more problems to the league than what it was supposed to help solve.

And then there is the case of unremitted funds to Total Promotions, who have given the League Management Company, organizers of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), until April 11 to make the N100m compensation which was agreed. This case could still end in court, tying more knots on the league that is already bogged down with a plethora of issues.


On one weekend, almost all the clubs representing the country in continental competitions were all knocked out in three different ways that can be attributed to three very different causes.

The first case of Lobi Stars being beaten black and blue – 7-1. The first time I heard the score, I thought it was a late April fools joke but as reality set in, the ‘joke’ began to hurt. How could Lobi, described by league watchers to be a good team with their exciting brand of football have been so humiliated in Mozambique? What happened? Well, the Stars have come out to say that the referee was a kill-joy – as he dished out seven yellow cards and a red to the goalkeeper. Yes the referee could have played a part – but come on, losing 7-1 smirks of inexperience, naivety and ill-preparation. We all know what to expect in African football and even in the local league, most players give up away matches before they even step on the pitch but this loss needs to be critically assessed and dissected. It must not happen again.

Heartland were marooned at the Lagos Airport and eventually travelled with just 13 players. Wow, and in looking at the Owerri club’s case – we begin to understand that government has no business running football. Heartland is Rochas Okorocha’s business and he decided to bankrupt it. So who can ask or blame him for doing what he liked with his property?

Kano Pillars were strongly tipped to get to at least the semi-final stage but they lost on the away goals rule. Surely they tried but their preparation must have been hampered by the league not starting early enough and playing too many games within a two-week period. A situation where clubs play at home and travel by road to their next fixture two days later will not augur well for the players and the league.


The NF has not deemed it fit to respond to allegations made against Taribo West by a former manager and in this instance silence cannot be deemed to be golden. The tar is on the Federation because West started out in the U-21 national team before graduating to the U-23s and then to the Super Eagles.

A statement should at least have sufficed – addressed to the appropriate quarters saying the right things and asking for a public apology and in the event that the accuser dallies, he should have been taken to court and damages sought.

That is the way to show that the federation is standing on the truth and feels slighted by the smear (whether justly or unjustly as the case may be). This silence will just embolden other people like Zarko Zecevic to make crass remarks concerning Nigerian football but that should not and cannot be allowed to continue.

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