Recently, erstwhile Super Eagles captain and Arsenal legend, Nwankwo Kanu raised an alarm, lamenting what he described as ‘suffocating Nigerian domestic league ,especially the intimidating cash flow at the disposal of government owned teams’. Like many so many other issues in Nigeria,, Kanu’s disturbing observation on the reckless monetization of our local league virtually went unnoticed, even ignored. But assumed that yours sincerely will not fail to bring this to the attention of Nigerians, the ignoble state of Nigeria’s local league, masterminded by the almighty Referees Appointment Committee and their cohorts in the NFF.
To start with, the greatest challenge confronting, and indeed, militating against the domestic league is poor officiating. The fact must be made clear that the Nigerian referees can compete favourably with his counterparts in any part of the world if the environment is conducive for them to operate. Sadly, due to pressure mounted by government owned teams and consciously orchestrated by the NFF’s Referees Appointment Committee, the Nigerian referee is always under pressure , somehow at crossroads each time he is officiating a game either as the centre referee or as assistants . The script is acted and delivered on the premise that some state governors who are either eyeing second tenure, senatorial slots or are nursing presidential ambition normally throw money disdainfully through the committee that appoints referee for the simple reason of ensuring their state teams win at all costs. This is done to boost their records of ‘achievement’ and by so doing endear them to the football loving Nigerians at the expense of Nigeria’s football growth and development. This is really a backdoor method of achieving greatness.
It is only in Nigeria that governments still own and run football clubs . In other climes, it’s private sector-driven. But the few private individuals who dared venture into the lucrative business of owning football clubs, are being frustrated by the made in Nigeria environmental factors. This is Kanu Nwankwo,s burden.
This situation is now so worrisome that some particular referees are eternally slated to officiate in matches involving certain teams, home or away. Some fans are even aware that whenever a particular referee or officials are to handle their games, it becomes a fiat accompli that they must carry the day regardless of whether or not their teams play well. This is quite unfortunate. The last two weeks of the just ended Premier League season recorded about 12 questionable last minute penualties Your source will inform you with a chuckle that betrays reality; to watch out for “A late minute penalty”. So many times, stories are told of gallant goalkeepers that save such penalties only for the referees to order for a re-take. In some most embarrassing instances, the referrers resort to using their cards to frighten and intimidate the opposing teams just for their favoured clubs LMC always absolves itself of complicity in this act of absurdity with the excuse that it does not appoint referees.
Though Kanu,s Papilo Football Club operates at a lower cadre , the cries of Premier League Clubs of irregularities were loud and clear. It is a Nigerian thing , irrespective of the division.This is why all eyes were on the NFF as it reconstituted it’s Committees. Nigerian football stakeholders expected a holistic overhaul of the Referees Appointment Committee .
By retaining key members of the former committee who were alleged to be the brain behind the bazaar , the NFF has shown that it’s either insensitive to the plight of the privately owned clubs or has decided to sacrifice the local league on the altar of of next elections as being speculated.
It’s even being further alleged that the make-up of the new committee is a clear indication of where the likely winners of the coming season will emerge from.
Are we not concerned that a Ferdinand Udoh of Nigeria wounds handled a World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Cape Verde creditably only to come back home and become a bad referee?. It’s a Nigerian thing. Our football Administrators must swallow their pride and accept that something needs to be fixed if we have to rescue our local league.
It must be recorded that this indecent and criminal acts do not go without its attendant drawback. First, are you not worried that Enyimba are the only Nigerian club ever to have won the CAF Champions League.? These was when Nigerian Premier League was allowed to produce true and worthy champions and the respective teams proved that their successes the previous seasons were on merits. . But in recent times, since the Premier League title is now for the biggest bidders, our teams that win the league titles hardly reach the second round of the CAF Champions League and this is absolutely regrettable.
In the Kanu interview presented above, the two time former African Footballer of the Year expressed his frustration on the forgoing inanities visited on our local football by some state governments , members of the Referees Appointment Committee of the NFF and some referees. He regretted that having played the game at the highest level, he had wanted to assist Nigerian budding talents to get to the top like him or even surpass his record but, the reckless manner in which money exchanges hands has made it practically impossible for him to realize his lofty ideas for Nigerian players. Of course, Kanu should knoe better. He owns a team, Papilo Football Club that won the Imo State Federation Cup last year by dethroning Heartland, the champions of 21 years. Kanu is only calling on the authorities at the NFF to sanitize the entire process of appointing referees for league games.The expectation was that the Nigeria’s football governing body ought to have sent packing all the principal actors that participated in last season’s shameful regimewhere notorious referees made our Premier League a mockery in the eyes of developed football playing nations of the world . We thought that there would have been a clean sweep so as to clean the Augean, s table. It is an open secret that after last season’s league completion, most clubs especially from the South flooded the football authority’s head office with allegations of terrible officiating and it is quite laughable that all these allegations have been allowed to be swept under the carpet, without proper investigations. Our local league and football cannot grow, not to talk of developing like this. We understand that the NFF election is fast approaching .
Please let’s have a level playing field for the government owned clubs as well as those owned by private individuals.
•Till next week, keep attacking