Osimhen, Oshoala’s CAF Exploits
THE victories of Victor Osimhen and Asisat Oshoala, at the 2023 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards have brought profound joy to Nigerian football enthusiasts, marking the end of a 24-year drought since Kanu Nwakwo’s win in 1999. It thus serve as a parting gift of the year 2023 for Nigerian soccer lovers. Oshoala’s sixth consecutive win in the female category set an unprecedented record among male and female African footballers. The phenomenal Nigerian female goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie, was also crowned the CAF Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year. The Nigerian female soccer team, the Super Falcons, won the Female Team of the Year. These accolades for Nigerian talents paint a hopeful picture for the nation’s football future.
SURPRISINGLY, FIFA has listed 30 Nigerian referees for international duties in 2024. The listed officials comprise 11 referees, 11 assistant referees, four beach soccer referees and four futsal referees. This significant development raises expectations for a resurgence of Nigerian football on the global stage, considering the challenges that have plagued the nation’s referees in recent years. Nigerian referees have long faced exclusion from international duties, primarily due to unethical conduct, corruption among football officials, and the absence of a well-organised football league. The inclusion of 30 officials offers an opportunity to reverse this trend. We urge these officials to leverage this chance and restore Nigeria’s standing as a football powerhouse.
HOWEVER, it is crucial to highlight that Osimhen and Oshoala’s accolades were achieved predominantly through their performances outside the national team. This underscores the need to address persistent issues within Nigerian sports. The era of mismanagement, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, substandard kits, unpaid allowances, nepotism, and athlete harassment must be consigned to the past.
WHILE celebrating these recent successes, it is imperative for football administrators and coaches to focus on producing more stars capable of competing for international honours. Nigeria’s rich football history, boasting legends like Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Amunike, Victor Ikpeba, Kanu Nwankwo and Austin Jay Jay Okocha, should inspire nurturing new talents.
DESPITE having the most expensive national team in Africa and being ranked 13th globally, there is no room for complacency. Coaches across national team levels must tap into the vast pool of talent within the country and strive for excellence on the international stage. To start with, winning the 2023 African Cup of Nations that begins on Sunday January 13 in Ivory Coast will be an excellent way to send a strong message to the world that Nigeria is beyond individual accolades.
THE Nigerian Football League administrators must address the persistent challenges facing the League. It is disheartening that the ‘Giant of Africa’ struggles to organise a league comparable to those in South Africa and Europe. The local league, which has produced numerous global stars, requires a significant overhaul to attract investors. The financial disparity within the Nigerian Premier Football League is glaring. Clubs spend millions per season, players earn meagre salaries, and the winner takes home a fraction of the investment. State governments, historically the major financiers, should relinquish this role to attract private investors.
THE UK’s €9 billion football revenue is a testament to a well-organised league’s economic potential. Unfortunately, our clubs drain billions of naira from states’ coffers. The Guardian’s investigation reveals that each of the 20 Nigerian Premier Football League clubs spend between N230 million and N250 million per season. Players earn an average of N350,000-N500,000, and each club spends about N240 million on the eight-nine month duration of the league, but the winner only takes home N100 million. Unfortunately, reports by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR) and Budget show that more than 30 state governments rely more on federal allocation for survival than their internally generated revenue.
WE need proper officiating, effective management, media coverage, online presence, standard stadiums, infrastructure, safety of players and fans, and increased viewership to attract investors to the Nigerian local league.
OSIMHEN and Oshoala’s achievements are not just individual victories but opportunities for reflection. Nigeria must seize this moment to address systemic issues, reposition sports, and pave the way for sustained success on the international stage. It’s time to elevate Nigerian football to new heights by confronting challenges head-on and building a future where triumphs are not exceptions but expectations.