Former Nigeria junior international, Dimeji Lawal, has charged the relevant agencies involved in football development in the country to step up plans to revamp the game at all levels.
Lawal, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday in the wake of failure by the Golden Eaglets and Enyimba of Aba in continental assignments, stated that football might not be recognised as the number one in the nearest future, if measures are not put in place by the country to catch up with others.
In particular, Lawal wants Nigeria to work hard by restructuring soccer at the grassroots level.
While the Golden Eaglets suffered 0-1 defeat to the Baby Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in their opening game of the on-going WAFU B championship in Togo, Enyimba fall out of the lucrative CAF Champions League on 4-2 aggregate loss to El Merreihk of Sudan.
Lawal lamented that during the long break in football activities caused by COVID-19, the NFF failed to map out strategic measures like other countries to ensure football activities don’t face hitches. He said that such bad planning was a major factor now affecting Nigerian teams in international engagements.
He stated that preparing a team a few days before an important championship was not enough to get the best from the players.
“The failure of Enyimba FC and the Golden Eaglets is a clear pointer that there was no proper preparations before for the teams. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries, both in Africa and overseas, were testing players and putting safety measures in place to ensure their league is still on. The countries that allowed football activities to go on despite the pandemic understand that break in football could affect the performance and psychology of players for a long time. You don’t expect a coach to assemble a football team with players that have not been regular in the game and expect a good result. It can’t happen. This is what Nigeria teams are facing now,” he said.
Lawal also added that the wrong process of selecting players to cadet teams would soon affect the reputation of Nigeria in under age football tournaments if things are not done right.
“In my days, talented young players were selected from secondary school games, grassroots championship and national junior football championships. We were trained for almost two years before embarking on a major championship, and we excelled in Africa and outside the continent. Talents are not produced overnight. These days, such structures are no longer in place. Other countries are seriously working hard to improve their football and catch up with top footballing countries of the world, but Nigeria is still foot dragging. Every space meant for football activities have been occupied by churches and schools. Soccer might leave Nigeria as a top soon.”