Ordinarily, the above-captioned editorial of Daily Trust newspaper of Wednesday, 19 April 2023, would have been waved away (and gone un-replied as most editorials), but for some wild assumptions and suppositions that must be pointed out in the interest of the Nigerian game.
While most of the data escalated in the editorial could not be faulted, it was clear to any non-partisan that the editorial opted to view the state of Nigerian football from only one lens – that of dwindling/declining results. It is therefore important to point out a few details simply as a result of the respect and regard that the NFF hierarchy has for Daily Trust newspapers.
The editorial mentioned the Super Eagles’ loss to Guinea Bissau National Team here in Abuja in a 2023 AFCON qualifying match (24 March 2023) while it was conveniently silent on the Super Eagles’ defeat of the same team in Bissau three days later.
It also failed to point out that despite the home loss (which clearly shocked the NFF leadership), the Eagles are still top of their group and in pole position to qualify for the AFCON.
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It also failed to mention (perhaps as it would be incongruous to its claim that the new NFF board has been sleeping) that hours after the defeat by Guinea Bissau at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, the NFF president, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau, visited the team and minced no words in advising players who felt too big, or unwilling to toil hard while wearing the nation’s colours, never to again show up in the camp of the Nigerian team.
Gusau made it clear that going forward, any player found to be lackadaisical or patently lacking in zeal on the terrain would not be considered for further invitations to the Nigerian camp. And this message was for all categories of the National Team.
Dwelling more on the negatives, the editorial highlighted the elimination of the Olympic Eagles by Guinea in the U23 AFCON qualifiers, but did not point out the qualification of the U20 Boys for the FIFA U20 World Cup finals in Argentina, and the participation of the U17 Boys in the U17 AFCON, with the team is presently on the verge of qualification for the FIFA U17 World Cup.
It is true that stakeholders and sponsors have been eager for a turn-around of the domestic game, particularly the elite division of the league. The editorial was silent on the inauguration of the Interim Management Committee for the league by the Ibrahim Gusau-led NFF, and with terms of reference meant to rejuvenate and reposition the league.
Most sponsors, stakeholders and pundits have continued to praise the works and efforts of the IMC since it came on board in October 2022.
The editorial was also shockingly silent on the podium appearance of the U17 Women National Team (Flamingos) at the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup in India late last year, where the team, for the first time, won the bronze medal to make Nigeria the third-best in the entire universe in that category.
Some of the little gains and advances at the age-grade level (from where the players would promote to senior levels) could be attributed to the hard work and dynamism of the Committee on Youth Competitions, which the Ibrahim Gusau-led administration empanelled a few weeks after taking office.
The Referees Committee put in place by the administration has been commended for changing the narrative for Nigerian referees on the home front, as sanctions are meted out speedily to erring officials without fear, favour or malice.
In summary, while the NFF is not averse to constructive criticisms and would be the first to admit that Nigeria Football should be doing much better on the home front and internationally, it will always frown at one-sided narratives that simply serve the purpose of painting a picture of doom and gloom.
Pointing out what is wrong and how issues could be better handled, no doubt, helps to make organisations stronger. However, focusing exclusively on negatives without highlighting the positives would only make organisations see the critic as merely adversarial, with the result that the regard and respect accorded the critic begin to wane over time.
Ademola Olajire, Director Media, Nigeria Football Federation