Who is to blame for Nigerian clubs’ continental failure? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Who is to blame for Nigerian clubs’ continental failure?

Posted: Apr 13, 2015 at 3:16 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Prof Patrick Omo-Osagie     


When I wrote about the failures of the English Premier League teams in Europe, I was not thinking of writing or investigating why Nigerian clubs are failing on the African continent. But with the ouster of our two teams in the CAF Champions League penultimate weekend, I am obliged to look into this consistent failure of our clubs on the continent.

Enyimba FC players celebrating a goal. The only club to have won the CAF Champions League for Nigeria

Enyimba FC players celebrating a goal. The only club to have won the CAF Champions League for Nigeria

A little background will help us understand our football plight in Africa; for a competition that started in 1964, Nigerian teams have been to the finals seven times. Two wins by Enyimba Football Club (2003 and 2004), runners up by Shooting Stars (1984 & 1996), Heartland (1988 & 2009) and Rangers (1975), the last final appearance was by Heartland in 2009. Since 2009, we have under achieved, six years of failure in African football.

But this is not our only failure on the African continent, we failed to win the Africa Cup of Nations for 19 years, prior to winning in 2013, we failed to qualify in 2012 and now in 2015. We have missed two of the last three editions. We did not qualify for the CHAN (cup of nations for domestic players) in the first two editions, qualified for the third edition and lost in the semi-final. So African football is not good for us, for we have fared better getting to the World Cup; making appearances in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 only missing out in Germany 2006

So why are we not competitive in local African football? Many questions are being asked in the wake of our two teams crashing out of the Champions League. Who is to blame? Is it the league (LMC), is it the federation (NFF), is it the clubs, is it the players, is it the coaching or is it the football culture?

I am going to try my very best to apportion blame in answering all the questions.

The LMC – Is the league structured and scheduled in a way to benefit the clubs that participate on the continent? In the last few years, our league has started at a time that it does not give our clubs enough time to get into match playing rhythm. Presumably, in other countries their clubs are already in mid-season form; maybe the LMC should try to align our league schedule with the African football season.

The NFF – Is the NFF in a position to financially support our clubs on the continent? There is ample evidence to show that our failures are mainly due to the fact that many clubs are not in good financial positions to pursue successfully international games. If part of the football federation mission is the development of football, one might be inclined to say that the NFF should help the clubs, but is the NFF itself in a sound financial position? This option is not viable.

The Clubs – The clubs have full responsibility for their success or failure. When pursuing the local league, the goal is to play internationally; so clubs are fully aware that playing well in the league will place them in a position to play in the Champions League. They are also very aware that this will cost a lot of money, they also know that we have a league that is not aligned to the African calendar, so why do they continue to have administrative and financial problems? Everything is known well in advance, club management must plan ahead for international participation; I remember our early losses in these tournaments, we planned badly; teams got to the countries late, did not know that North African countries liked to play on Friday, did not have the proper shoes for carpet field and did not consider the cold weather. The problems we have had on the continent are not of today, we have just changed to a different kind of problem.

The Players – Good football is made up of good players. How you treat your players or how you groom your players will definitely affect output. From what we read, many clubs are in financial trouble with their players. It is tough to get out and play when you have money issues lingering. But Kano Pillars, the most successful club and the most financially stable has been the biggest let down on the continent; so money for players might not be the only issues. Are these players exposed enough to carry out football tactics to win these games outside the country?

The Coaches – Above, I asked the question, are our players equipped to carry out tactical instructions under very tense atmosphere? I will re-phrase the question; are the coaches capable of designing tactics that can keep a game alive in a foreign land? This might be the biggest reason for our failures on the continent; the kind of football we play at home is undisciplined for success outside our shores. We commit to many fouls, we take too many long shots that have no chance at a goal, and we cannot hold the ball for minutes at a time. When you play football with these many flaws, you cannot succeed internationally and that is where the bulk of the blame should go.

Football Culture – Nigerians expect to win every game we play. Is this unnecessary pressure on our players? We live today in a football culture that says we are better than everyone else; while our results don’t show it we still demand victory. It is not a bad thing to want favourable results but there must be a plan to win, and until all the bodies I put out above as having some blame for our failures come together to address the issues, we will continue to be passengers in African club competitions.