The rebirth of football in Nigeria

On the 30th day of November, 2023 at the Exclusive Serene Hotel, Wuye District, Abuja, I witnessed what I have decided to call the rebirth of Football in Nigeria.

I was privileged to be a participant in the FIFA/NFF Talent Development Scheme Stakeholders Workshop. It was put together by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and participants listened attentively to the two FIFA Resource persons and Coach Austin Eguavoen who I see as the anchor person of this project and its growth/implementation.

NFF President, Ibrahim Musa Gusau, in his opening speech made it abundantly clear that the Talent Development Scheme was part of his campaign promises which he holds in high esteem. He specifically mentioned that in the year 2024, the NFF will set standards for Football Academies because of their roles in real grassroots Football development.

He announced that Nigeria in line with FIFA objectives will bring up a National Football Academy which will play vital roles in the scouting of talents through grassroots competitions. Invariably, Nigeria will have a pool of carefully selected talents who will be nurtured for service to the Nation and personal empowerment.

Interestingly, this Talent Development Workshop was interactive. The participants were divided into groups so as to get feedback from them including ideas and innovations that could be useful to the project.

I was privileged to be in a group where we dealt copiously with the task ahead of us. I can still remember some names like Femi Ajilore, ex-international and Board Member, FCT Football Association. I remember Ambassador G.Y.Gotom, President of a Football Academy based in Jos, Plateau State. In the lighter mood, Ambassador Gotom will interject with the statement, “if the Court recovers my mandate, I shall soon become a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A Lecturer with the National Institute of Sports (NIS) was with us, Coach Max and Akpehe Junior of Galaxy Sports were present, Coach Ifeanyi Mba of FOSLA Academy and Mr Veron, Sporting Director of Sporting Supreme were in our group. Intelligently, we discussed and articulated our position.

Our attempt to present our group’s position was truncated for paucity of time as the Super Falcons of Nigeria were to to engage Cape Verde Islands in a World Cup qualification match same day.

In summary, we decided to use the SWOT Analysis so as to ensure effective and efficient implementation of the Talent Development Scheme. The NFF will need to look at the Strength (S), Weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O) and Threats (T) as it affects the implementation of the Scheme.

Note that details of the SWOT Analysis cannot be included here.

The group went ahead to discuss where, when, how to find the talents, train them to the level required. We identified that the talents can be discovered at the grassroots levels, at competitions at Local Government level.

They abound in Schools Sports competitions, inter Academies competitions, street soccer competitions, scouting programmes and others. You must embark on training the trainers, provision/upgrading of facilities and equipment are strategic to the success of the Scheme.

Discovered talents must be given adequate exposure for domestic and international scouting activities and competitions.

Part of the gains of the scheme will include peace advocacy and conflict resolution. Youths will be counselled against drug abuse, crimes and criminality.

The group observed that there are threats which include terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, armed conflict, political thuggery, cultism and others, which can really constitute problems to the realisation of the scheme. This can be surmounted through the peace and conflict mechanisms in addition to ensuring improved National Security architecture.

I guess that the Nigeria Football Federation will not pay lip service to this project. Commendably, key stakeholders were invited to the Workshop. The 36 States Football Associations Chairmen and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were invited and good attendance recorded. I hope the State Football Associations will be available to play their strategic roles towards the success of the scheme. The Nigeria Football Coaches Association (NFCA), who are key stakeholders in this project were present. Others are the Nigeria Schools Sports Federation (NSSF), Nigeria Football Referees Association (NRA), Football Academies, League bodies, among others.

What next?

I am very interested in the implementation of this rebirth of Football in Nigeria. Fantastic scheme. This is my area of interest because the growth of Football in Nigeria resides in the Talent Development Scheme (TDS). Technical Director, NFF, Coach Austin Eguavoen must see this project as his responsibility by stamping his feet on the sand of time while I expect the vision bearer, Ibrahim Musa Gusau to provide the enabling environment that will nurture his pet project to its implementation, growth and sustainability. Like the village town crier, I will continue to talk about the implementation of the Talent Development Scheme.

Welcome to the rebirth of Football in Nigeria. The date is 30th November, 2023.

Godwin Bamigboye can be reached via 08033141852.