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Nigerian Football

Just how good is the 33-year old Nigerian professional league?

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA

The rating of the Nigerian League with the rest of the world, especially on the African continent, will always be a contentious issue.

It is an argument that can never be effectively settled. But one fact is certain: a league’s product defines its quality.

In that wise, the Nigerian league can be evaluated by the results obtained by the league’s champions in Africa’s inter clubs’ competitions as well as the quota it contributes to the national team and continental competitions.

Also, the grip it has on the populace is another factor to evaluate the efficacy of the league in Nigeria.

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In terms of popularity, the league, undoubtedly, has waned in importance.

Paradoxically, before the advent of professional football in 1990, the stadiums were often overfilled, especially in crackers involving clubs like the IICC Shooting Stars, Enugu Rangers, Super Stores, Bendel Insurance among others.

Now, the league venues are becoming emptier with every passing season,  while the English Premiership and other leagues of Europe continue their stranglehold on the Nigerian populace.

That way, the English Premiership for instance continues to wax stronger with ever increasing television viewing figures around the globe and also massive and foreign investors are falling over themselves to get a piece of the action.

    In Europe, the leagues, clubs and players can be choosy in sponsorship and endorsements. Not so with the Nigerian league and the clubs as well as the players whose lifelines depend almost solely on government subventions.

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 For the three decades of the introduction of professional league to Nigeria, the bulk of national team players were drawn from leagues in Europe.

The trend appears will persist for years to come. Even when an African nations’ football championship was introduced by the Confederation of African Football, (CAF), for players domiciled in the respective African countries, Nigeria’s home-based players could not qualify for the first two editions held in Cote d’Ivoire in 2009 and Sudan in 2011.

The Nigerian side was knocked out in 2009 by Ghana and for the 2011 edition by even a lesser football power,  Niger Republic, in the first round of the  qualifying series.

This year marks 20 years since a Nigerian club first won the CAF Champions League when Enyimba triumphed in 2003 and again in the following year.

Ever since, Nigerian clubs tumbled. Even the second tier CAF Confederation Cup has been elusive to Nigerian clubs since the competition began in 2004.

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In the first 20 years of professional league in Nigeria, the country’s clubsides only won the continent’s premier inter clubs competition, the CAF Champions League twice.

In comparison within the same period, Egyptian clubs won the Champions League eight times.

Overall, in 46 editions of the African premier clubs competition from 1965 to 2010, Egyptian clubs won 12 times, followed by clubs from Cameroon, Congo DR and Morocco with five victories each. Algeria have won four times and are followed by Ghana, Guinea and Tunisia. The Nigerian league produced African champions only twice in 46 years.

   In the next level of African clubs competition, the African Winners Cup which ran from 1975 to 2003, Nigeria won three times in 29 editions of the competition.

Products of the Egyptian league on the other hand have won eight times. Tunisian clubs had four victories.

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In 12 editions of 12 CAF Cup competition, Tunisian clubs led the pack, winning four times and followed by Algeria with three victories. Nigerian clubs won twice.

The International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) is an organisation recognised by FIFA.

It chronicles the history and records of football. Over the years,  its ranking of African leagues persistently put the Egyptian league top in Africa.

The Tunisian league often followed, while Nigeria ranked third. The statistics also reflected the results obtained in the CAF Champions League which the North Africans dominate.

  In terms of contribution to national team, the Egyptian league again soars above that of Nigeria. For instance, while Egypt’s 23-man squad to the 2010 African Nations Cup had 19 home boys, Nigeria’s entire squad was drawn from abroad.

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There were six other players from the Egyptian league in other squads, making a total 25 players from that league.

In contrast, Nigeria’s league only contributed two out of the 368 players of the  the 2010 Africa Cup of  Cup.

They were Chitou Rachad, a goalkeeper of Wikki Tourists and Akinsola Boussari of Enugu Rangers who was to play for Togo before the country’s eventual withdrawal.

The leagues of other African countries also contributed significantly to the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations .

The Tunisian league had 16 products at the tournament; Angolan league had 10 players while Algeria had nine.

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It is even worse since the 2013 edition that the late Stephen Keshi had a handful of home-based players in the winning side of the AFCON.

In 2019 and 2021, Nigeria did not have any of its home based players in the squad.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian Football

Osimhen’s outburst was a moment of madness, says Amaju

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Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President and a  FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has expressed shock at last month’s outburst by Super Eagles’ striker, Victor Osimhen against Finidi George.

“It is very unfortunate”, Amaju Pinnick remarked on an Arise Television programme. The former NFF president said he had put a call to Osimhen who was very remorseful while the telephone conversation lasted.

  “I told him he has to apologise, and I am sure he will if he has not yet done so.” Amaju remarked that he could not comprehend what went wrong as Osimhen was the most cool-headed player in the national team.

He went on to remark that Finidi George was not a personality to be disregarded like that. He has won virtually every honour available during his playing days and was a member of the Super Eagles at their peak when Nigeria ranked fifth in the world.

“I believe players should learn to respect their coaches”, said the former NFF boss.

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Nigerian Football

I prefer a foreign coach for the Super Eagles, says Amaju

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Nigeria’s FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has told the world that he has always been an advocate of foreign coaches for the Super Eagles. He spoke on Arise Television while fielding questions with Reuben Abati, Rufai Oseni and Ayo Mairo-Ese. 

His reason for being averse to indigenous  coaches stemmed from lack of respect for them by the players.

“Yes, the Nigerian coaches have the requisite knowledge and the technical ability, but modern football is beyond that in managing players.

“Will the national team players respect the coach? The sad thing is that they don’t”, said Amaju Pinnick.

 He however revealed that he supported the appointment of Finidi George owing to the circumstances that the NFF found itself after the exit of Jose Peseiro.

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 The NFF, he revealed, had no money to hire a foreign coach. The body therefore went for the most available option, Finidi to ensure a smooth transition.

 “Finidi was part of the coaching crew of Peseiro and it was therefore logical to ask him to continue.

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Nigerian Football

NFF to train referees on VAR

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Application of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR)  may soon be introduced into Nigeria’s domestic football competitions.

This is deduced from the statement of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Ibrahim Gusau while addressing the annual general meeting of the Nigeria Premier League.

He also disclosed plans by the federation to train Nigerian referees on the application Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Gusau revealed that  NFF had already secured the communication gadget that the referees will use during matches.

“We have to train the personnel that will manage the VAR now. We have selected some of the referees that we are to start training.

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It is not a training of one day, one month or two months; it is a training that will take a little bit of time. After the training they have to go on practical training on the VAR system by going out while some matches are ongoing to see how they can manage it. But when we are sure we have the personnel that can manage it in the next one or two years, we will start to see how we can use VAR in our system,” Gusau said.

He also said that the federation intends to make the league attractive by discouraging Nigerian players from joining other lesser glamourous African clubs without established football pedigree.

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