By TAOFEEK LAWAL (0805 307 4114 text only)
By virtue of her position in African football and landmark achievements in the round leather game, Nigeria should be a dominant factor in Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) organised football competitions but reverse is the case.
Unarguably, Nigerian clubs have completely lost out in continental competitions because of their haphazard preparations and fire-brigade approach to competitions not helped by club administrators who are more interested in lining their pockets with players’ money and the unstable football calendar by those running the league in particular, and our football in general.
Nigerian clubs will continue to struggle on the continent until the right things are done and things are done right. How do we expect a league where champions emerged through crook ways to represent Nigeria very well at CAF football competitions?
In the last four or five years, the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) has become the laughing stock of the global community. We have not had true champions as the league either stops abruptly due to the indecision on the part of the league organizers, the League Management Company (LMC) or the league did not resume after a normal break.
The most annoying was when the league went on break in 2018 because of the World Cup that was not staged in Nigeria. This sad story happened when all top leagues in the world and even some African countries concluded their own seasons. So, how do we expect Nigerian representatives in CAF-organised competitions to make any impact when they emerge through the back door?
The preparations by Nigerian representatives on the continent cannot be compared with that of North African football power houses like Zamalek of Egypt, Esperance of Tunisia and El Mereikh of Sudan. Also, club sides like TP Mazembe of DR Congo, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and ASEC Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire have better preparations and more financial muscle than any Nigerian top football clubs.
Is it not a pity that Kano Pillars players only got their outstanding allowances and bonuses cleared by the Kano State government just few days to their first game against ASC Jaaraf of Senegal in the CAF Confederations Cup. Can all these aforementioned football clubs go through the same situation like Pillars? The answer is NO.
It will be easier for Kano Pillars, Rivers United, Plateau United and Lobi Stars to pass through the needle eye than for them to survive the onslaught of serious, focused and more determined football clubs in the Confederations Cup and the Champions League.
The first round of matches over the weekend has clearly shown that our representatives in this year’s CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup will not go far in the competition. Is anyone doubting that we have lost our magic wand in African football? Take it or leave it, we are decades behind in African football!