2017 was a year that came with so much expectation for football administrators, journalists and fans. Now, the year has finally come and gone, so I ask:
Did our football achieve much in 2017?
I decided to take a stock of all that happened in our country football-wise in 2017.
- Nigerian Women Football League (NWFL): 2017 was a year during which the present board of the Women’s league led by Aisha Falode should be commended for being able to steady the ship without so much controversy.
Though we craved for a marathon league, but the abridged league went on without any walk-over , and another commendable thing that happened was for the first time in a long while, teams’ accommodation were taken care of during the end-of-season Super Four to determine the overall winner of the league and teams had something to play for.
I easily recollect the last Super four held in Umuahia before this present board took over where the winners of the competition went home without medals, but this year’s competition was different. The winners went home with medals and 3 million Naira, while the runners up were given 2 million Naira. Aside that, all the four participating teams were given 500,000 Naira in cash by the host State (Edo).
Also, we saw a board able to instill discipline on teams that wanted to bring the game to disrepute through the act of hooliganism, a good example was the incident that occurred in Nembe during the match between Bayelsa Queens and Sunshine Queens where the goalkeeper of Sunshine Queens was manhandled by fans of the home team to the point of bleeding. The board took immediate action by sanctioning the home team with a hefty fine and that sent signals to other teams in order to comport themselves.
Finally, as we look forward to a new season, we urge the board not to relent but strive hard to get sponsors for the women league.
- NPFL : The leadership of League Management Company under Shehu Dikko must be commended for the tremendous work they have done in the league and would still do. It’s been a year of good and bad in the league but the good thing is that the good surpassed the bad. This goes to show that our league is growing and not dormant.
One ugly incident that keeps occurring in our league is the issue of hooliganism which can be likened to a terminal disease in our league. Many are of the opinion that points deduction is the solution to hooliganism but the implementation of this points deduction seems impossible.
In this concluded season, we saw players suspended for weeks for the act of indiscipline on the pitch which has become a recurring decimal in the league. I think the league body should be bold enough to come out with stiffer punishments to end this act of indiscipline among players.
Also, clubs should organise seminars for their players before the league resumes and probably during mid season break to enlighten them that football is played with the spirit of fair play and not do or die.
Finally, as the new season is about to kickoff, we hope to see good officiating from Nigerian referees. Truth be told, we had series of horrible officiating that made some people tag some referees as “killjoy” and as much as the Nigeria Referees Association and Referees Appointment Committee wouldn’t want to tag their people with bad names, they should be bold enough to flush out incompetent referees from their Association.
- AITEO CUP: The oldest cup competition in Nigeria now renamed AITEO Cup is one of the best thing that happened to our football this year, everyone that followed the competition this year would testify to the high level of competition due to the huge prize money involved and the glamour during the finals.
Before the finals, we had controversies at various centres ( both men and women) that made the football house to ban Kogi United banned from the tournament for two years. Also another shameful act occurred during this year’s competition in Nembe in the 1st leg semi final match between Bayelsa Queens and Rivers Angels where the goalkeeper of the home team (Jonathan Alaba) attacked the centre referee after she awarded a deserved penalty to the away team, she also tore the referee’s note.
I remember vividly well that I wrote about this particular incident the very day it occurred because I was at the stadium but it’s sad that there was no official report of sanctions on Bayelsa Queens players that attacked the referees. I think this incident shouldn’t be swept under the carpet if we don’t want to encourage players to take laws into their hands against match officials.
Finally, I have it on good authority that match officials who officiated the semi final matches of both men and women AITEO Cup have not been paid till date, probably the money has been released by the sponsors but it’s been held by some “powers that be”. I want to plead with the “powers that be” to pay their referees their deserved money.
Nigeria Football Federation under the leadership of Amaju Pinnick did tremendously well in 2017 by securing sponsors for the national teams, also been able to play the politics to elevate some Nigerians to leadership positions in CAF and FIFA.
One of the greatest achievements of Nigeria Football Federation under the leadership of Amaju Pinnick in 2017 was the qualification of the Super Eagles for 2018 FIFA World Cup with a game to spare. This qualification seems to have been the main vision of NFF, no wonder Nigeria qualified with relative ease.
Asides the Super Eagles, Super Falcons were neglected in the year 2017 with no Coach, no friendly matches and this neglect tend to disturb a whole lot of women football followers because they have not forgotten how Amaju Pinnick went on air after he was elected as the President of NFF to declare his love for women football and his plans for women football in Nigeria but in the year 2017, these promises can be likened to a situation where water is poured on rocks.
Countries like Ghana and South Africa played high profile friendly matches in the year 2017 but here in Nigeria, our senior national team (Super Falcons) were dormant for one good year.
Falconets’ opponents in the last round of qualifiers for U-20 world cup South Africa few days ago played a friendly match against Ghana in readiness for the match that comes up later this month (January) but our girls are in Abuja playing friendlies with U-15 boys and U-13 boys.
I have it on good authority how the money for the coaches were slashed after they returned from Morocco, the coaches were supposed to be paid $1,500 but their money was slashed to $225, yet we have sponsors that are supposed to take care of coaches bill.
At a point, we were promised a coach after ten days, the days expired without any coach named and recently we have been told to expect a world-class coach in the next 14 days for Super Falcons.
By my own calculation, the 14 days expires on the 10th of January and I sincerely hope that stories will not be told on that day.
Also in 2017, bonuses for junior national teams were scrapped, the federation may be right in scrapping bonuses for age grade teams but what measures have they put in place to take care of the young players under their custody? Other countries that we intend to emulate by scrapping bonuses take care of the age-grade teams. Some of the players are on scholarships in various schools.
As we enter a New Year, I want to remind our dear NFF President, Amaju Pinnick that the Super Eagles is not the only project of the NFF in this year 2018. Super Falcons needs all the necessary support to qualify for 2018 AWCON and this can only happen if they are given the best preparation.
Also, the era of appointing coaches for women national team few weeks to crucial qualifiers should please stop, a good example is the appointment of Bala Nikyu as Flamingos coach barely few weeks to a crucial match. I’m optimistic that Falconets and Flamingos would qualify for both U-20 and U-17 World Cup but I want to appeal to the leadership of NFF to please give the girls all the necessary support. Let’s not focus only on the men’s world cup.
Finally I pray God to give all our administrators the wisdom to take our football to greater heights in this year 2018. Long live NWFL