Consolidating talent for clubs
Consolidating talent for clubs
By Steve Alabi
One of the greatest problems plaguing clubs playing league football in Nigeria is the perennial, unstructured and unregulated movement of players every season. The transfer protocol in place is so nomadic that a player can traverse as many as three clubs in a single season. The disruption to stability can best be imagined. Coaches are at the receiving end of this ruinous approach to talent movement within the league. They are forced to constantly adjust their training schedules, tactics and strategies. The players themselves suffer stunted growth arising from exposure to different, and sometimes, conflicting training and playing regiments.
The national game is the ultimate loser. The league is naturally the bedrock of the national game. It is the river from which talents flow into the national pool. When the river is polluted, the talents will not bloom as they should. What ought to have been learnt as elementary knowledge at the foundational level is invariably lost due to unstructured development. National coaches are thus forced to spend quality time teaching basics instead of honing skills and strategies. The result is what we see when our teams play: school boy errors, tactical indiscipline and under-delivery.
Associated with the problem of chaotic transfer regime is the abdication of the clubs’ responsibility to invest in talent hunting. Every club is in the habit of buying talent, instead of growing talent. Despite regulations to the effect that they should have feeder teams, clubs invest more in poaching. Even among those which obey this rule, only very few actually graduate players from their feeder teams to the main squads. The clubs’ scouting philosophy is more of direct recruitment to the main squad than to the nursery.
Talent hunting is left in the hands of untrained or half baked volunteers whose efforts are limited largely to rudimentary exertions. Since one cannot give what he does not have, they are only able to produce what their limited knowledge is capable of. Armed with the most basic of equipment, usually a whistle and one or two balls, they engage in ludicrous drills that leave their wards more confounded than tutored. This faulty foundation becomes evident later in the players’ career, and if not cured in time, may stay as a limiting feature of such players’ delivery.
I sincerely believe that the time has come for the authorities to go beyond encouraging our clubs to invest in talent hunting and legislate compulsion for them to do this. I am convinced that there is a compelling need to introduce a protocol to consolidate the clubs’ use of discovered talents over a reasonable period of time. In other words, there is the need to ensure stability in playing personnel over a reasonable period of time.
It is generally agreed that it takes time to get a team to blend. We must however balance between the needs of the clubs and the career progression of the players. In this respect, it is advisable to put a minimum sealing of three years for any amateur player joining the professional ranks to stay with a club unless he is discharged by the club. Thereafter, the existing transfer regime can apply. But under no circumstance should a player feature for more than two clubs in his first five years as a professional or more than three clubs in a straight seven-year period. This will greatly reduce incidents of poaching and nomadic transfers.
However, there can be opportunities for young talents to go out on loan to get experience and playing time. While this is in place, the ownership of such players resides entirely with the parent club. This will encourage clubs to invest more in academies. Where clubs run academies only for other clubs to reap the fruits is counterproductive.
All these need appropriate statutes to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders. Our football governors must find the courage and selflessness to do a holistic overhaul of our soccer laws to bring these suggestions to life. I am convinced that the entire structure of football in the country will be the better for it. When we consolidate talents for our clubs, we liberate them from the debilitating ailment of unprofitable investment in talent hunting. We must do everything possible to make sure that the clubs are able to reap from their sowing. It is a sure recipe for a perpetual streaming of talents for the national pool.