From today and for weeks to run, our attention on the page will be on specific items of development we ought to pursue, if our country is to move forward. The issues are many and the style would be to take them one after the other. National football development ought to have been discussed in this space long ago but the African Nations Cup, which was held in Cote D›Ivoire in January and the speculated exit of the Super Eagles chief coach necessitated a wait. The long search for a replacement extended the wait.

Both the Super Eagles outing in AFCON 23/24 and the long wait to find another coach to replace Paseiro tell the story of sports in our country, particularly football development. The composition of the team to AFCON in Cote D’Ivoire was about 90 percent of players based abroad. Only the third reserve goalkeeper was home-based. This speaks volumes about football development at home, tactics and the spirit of excellence. We got to the final not because of the football prowess our team displayed but essentially because of mother luck and grit from the experienced players on parade.

Cote D›Ivoire in the final opened up our underbelly and showed us that we had nothing exceptional there. Psychologically and tactically, they proved to us we weren›t there at all. The Paseiro-led team holed up in their quarter of their half all through the most important match in the tournament. The team lacked a discernible approach to the game, the energy level was suspect all through and we hardly saw passion, the do-or-die spirit, the we-can-overcome mentality on this display during matches.

Our Eagles lack pace. The trend has become systemic. It is something that has become ingrained in our football culture. When this same Finidi George, few days ago appointed the new Chief Coach of Eagles to take charge as interim coach to manage off calendar international friendly matches between Ghana and then Mali, the team struggled to beat a Ghana national that had been in disarray and fell to Mali 2-0. This wasn’t a surprise because even though Mali didn’t get to the final of AFCON, the team that exited in the semi-final had quality in play. They took that to the match with the Super Eagles and it paid off.

Our team under Finidi George played the same old way. They wasted the whole time, aimlessly tossing the ball in the quarter of their own area. We had no traditional midfielders and it was carried over to the matches, especially the against Mali. We didn’t have build ups that everyone could tell would result in a goal. Not one accurate link up in the opponent’s vital area. We ran on the idea that big strikers must score.

The challenge of tactics and absence of clear playing culture is traceable to a very poor administrative pattern. Cote D›Ivoire had coaching trouble while the AFCON tournament went on, they didn›t waste time to correct it. Cameroon and some North African countries that sacked their coaches didn›t wait for months to roll by before finding replacement. In our case it has taken nearly six months with negative innuendoes and publicity that followed the search.

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One thing must be clear, the appointment of national coaches isn’t done by advertisements. Football administrators ought to know where we are and what ought to be and the capacity of the coaching crew that can deliver and go for it. The other should be the state of the national league and football culture. Ghana, Senegal, Côte D’Ivoire, South Africa and Northern African teams have their patterns. When they play and you watch, anyone familiar with football would predict with accuracy which teams are on display. Nigeria used to have a style that brought us laurels.

Victories are good but it shouldn›t be at all cost, which seems to be the case currently. Bringing in stars developed by other countries is not against the law but the truth is it doesn›t in the end produce sustainable development. If it did, China, Japan, Canada and South Korea would have taken the path. About two or three decades ago, some of these countries weren›t reckoned with in world football but currently they are countries feared once they qualify for any tournament. Japan and China are very strong in women›s football. They are as well no pushovers in male football too.

They opted to first make the game a part of the national culture. How? To accept it and build a process around its development. Government helped to build up academies and to make it very attractive. The procedures for enlistment and recruitments are well known. Graduands move from one stage into the other seamlessly. Clubs establish theirs and in a gradual fashion take in the products. From there they move the exceptional ones into various cadres of the national team. Under this kind of atmosphere it is very easy who the new stars could be in years ahead.

Clubs work hard to excel too. The other day we overheard our football analysts virtually give victory to a North African club about to square against a Nigerian club. They practically told us we don›t have a chance against North African teams but beyond the fear they had no technical department to their position. Yet South African club sides have since found answers to the alluded “invisibility” of North African teams. Coach of Mamolodi Sundowns Football Club of South Africa put it down to study and plan.

«This process is near absent in our clime. We hardly sit to envisage the kind of football clubs and national teams we should have per era. All we do every time is pick names and put them together for a few days. Top football nations began playing Grade A games a few weeks after the last World Cup. Youth football where we used to make an impact is currently running on a very low ebb.

True, we want a local coach or coaches to take charge of our teams. It is good for learning and development of the game. It will cut costs and cause our funds to circulate within. This thinking and action, good as they are, would be very meaningless without vision and capacity. What is the vision for our football development? League and club development? Where do national coaches come? Can we have our coaches work together?

For Finidi George the task is very clear. Super Eagles despite coming second in the last AFCON isn’t yet the dream team. They are very far from it. It is a huge irony that a country with a population of about two million people can’t find a world beater goalkeeper. Nwabali, if truth must be told he is not. Some of us don’t see traditional defenders who can be both solid and very flexible to move forward very quickly.

Super Eagles transition plays are very slow. In AFCON, the Super Eagles were mainly defensive; defensive teams seldomly make champion teams. Eagles hardly make good use of spot kinds, more surprising is the fact that keen football watchers can easily predict how they take their corner kicks. That tells about a lack of creativity. These are tasks Finidi George must excel in to justify his elevation. He won’t have an excuse if we don’t qualify for the next World Cup and Nations Cup. By now the task should be to be among world great teams not about dominance in African football.