Recent failures of the home-based Super Eagles brought about by some truly shocking results (4:1 loss to Togo; quarter final loss to Cape Verde in wafu) puts the state of domestic football in Nigeria to sharp focus.
Afrofooty maps these issues with an analytical acronym called STEP below:
S – Social : Going to watch football matches is a social experience which is grossly under-tapped in Nigeria.With many local fans opting to follow foreign clubs (EPL, Spanish La Liga etc), indigenous football will continue to decline.
T – Technological : How many of our stadiums have state of the art facilities? What are the technologically creative means of bringing these matches to audiences at home or on the street? Are the grasses in our stadiums lush green? Even among fellow African countries, we lag behind in this area.
E – Economical: Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. How many people have the economic means to go to stadiums to watch matches? People are struggling. Even if they want to go, where are the affordable trains, trams, planes, buses or personal vehicles to take them there? How are the clubs funded? Do they sell shirts or merchandise? Do they offer guided paid tours to their stadiums? How is the league marketed? How do they attract investors? How economically attractive is the league as a ‘product?
P – Political: We have seen how certain state governments have bankrolled clubs but this model is not sustainable.
Nigeria is not a failed state (far from it); it is politically stable. However, I don’t think that the political structure has provided enough favourable climate for the domestic league to thrive.
A top UK politician once called Nigeria a ‘fanatically corrupt state’. From that premise comes a culture of greed, selfishness and zero planning across sectors.
If the fabric of any state is corroded by corruption on an industrial scale, aspects of the society – including domestic football – will continue to suffer.
The issues facing domestic football in Nigeria have different facets. However, the political factor seems the most compelling.
Once the political will, attitude and orientation alter for good, then this will be felt in all aspects of society, not least in domestic football.