Editorial

Restart delay dangerous for domestic football

About a week ago, the fixtures for the 2020/2021 English Premier League (EPL) were released by the organisers of the domestic league in England.

 

This came only two weeks after the matches of the last season were concluded. This, we believe, is a big statement on how the game should be administered. EPL returned after the COVID-19 lockdown to conclude the last 10 Match Day fixtures.

 

On September 12, Liverpool, after winning the league first time in 30 years, will begin their defence with a home game against newly-promoted Leeds United.

 

Top teams like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal are already in transfer market, trying to boost their teams in preparation for the new season. The closed door games will still continue, but on October 1, fans will be readmitted into the stadia in the EPL.

 

These are amazing steps to go on with activities, even with the current scourge.

 

We commend the EPL organisers for gradually setting a template to bring fans back with proper protocols of the current health challenges to be observed. We were told that the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is modelled after the EPL, but there are no signs to reflect such in the administration of the league and football generally.

 

We recall that after the decision to tentatively restart in September/ October, stakeholders advised that there should be a restart process with the testing of players and all those involved in the league. So far, a template on how all the players and officials will observe the COVID-19 protocols is yet to be announced.

 

This is a big issue and, normally, those in the medical committee are supposed to advice on the gradual restart, but this is not happening. The South African league bounced back three weeks ago, even though the scourge is more prevalent in that country. Also last week, the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) and FIFA released calendar for football restart for national teams.

 

The CAF Emergency Committee approved dates for the resumption of qualifiers of the Africa Cup of Nations – Cameroon 2021 – and the group stages of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Qatar 2022. And so, between October 3rd and 13th, FIFA windows for friendly games will take centre stage, while between November 9 and 17, the match days 3 and 4 of the Cameroon 2021 AFCON will take place with Nigeria taking on Sierra Leone in two back-to-back fixtures. We frown at the sluggish attitude of NFF.

 

We consider the body to be too slow in response to situations and this could affect players in the domestic league. It will be a miracle if football starts in October in Nigeria since nothing is being done to suggest this yet.

 

The chieftains of the Federation are expected to be more vibrant in their operations to enable the game get better in the country. We make bold to state that the administration of football in Nigeria is horrible. We are aware that NFF has fumbled in terms of administration in the past.

 

Players fight over bonuses, while friendly games were played on newspaper pages, but this regime stopped all that. However, the current NFF leadership also embraced some of the bad trends of the previous regimes.

 

One of such is the ripples over the Federation’s sub-committees that have been left redundant in the past two years. The members named in various committees are expected to support in the administration of the game in the country. Sadly, however, these people were only named, but not doing anything, rather a few people have been running the affairs of the apex football body. It is now clear why NFF is easily overwhelmed when there are loaded events – the body is not delegating functions as expected.

 

This also informed why responses of the Federation to crucial issues are usually slow and decisions are not taken as prompt as expected. We categorically state that it is a shame that members of the Federation’s technical committee could confess that the body did not hold any meeting from January 2018 till date.

 

Chairman of the committee, Ahmed Yusuf, in an interview, painted a picture of the body meeting to determine the national coaches for U-13, U-17, U-20, U-23 male and female teams. Ordinarily, the committee should screen the applicants, but it is clear that a few people will simply decide who gets the job.

 

This is very bad because it means there is no system in place to run the game in Nigeria. It is no surprise that the decision on the league dragged for so long and when NFF finally came out, the Point Per Game issue sparked another controversy,

 

which is still lingering as Rivers United are not happy Enyimba got the nod for Champions League place while they will play Confederation Cup after both sides are tied on the table released.

 

These continental teams will be battling for fitness when they begin campaign in CAF competitions. The development of football in any country is always measured through the quality of the domestic league and so, in the days ahead, we expect NFF to work with the Ministry of Sports and other relevant bodies to create a restart template for football. We believe the Federation is not eager because there is no title sponsor for the league.

 

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