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Hail Nigeria!! The Football-loving Nation that Never Acts the Part

Football in Nigeria

It’s one thing to look the part, it’s another to play it, then play it well. It’s one thing to love your child and talk about how much you love your child, or talk about how much you love your partner, it’s another to be a good parent, or be a worthy other half. And it’s almost always easier to look the part than be the part.

Hence, Nigeria and football. But first of; a Social Media convention panel which discussed sport’s failings in this country. And, boy, were there eloquent and insightful points made over how sport in this country – and continent – keeps crapping the bed. Talk of the fact that CAF, the continent’s footballing body, or the continent’s poster boy for incompetent circus clown-itude, giving its football viewing rights to an organisation living off exploitation and fellow incompetence was apt. So was talk of Nigeria’s first division body scheduling games like they made a bet against someone to get things massively wrong, and how football – and sport – is far from being a part of us,. We love it, but we can’t live it.

It’s enough to make one think, about how our enormous population of people that brags about its love for football can’t seem to make it a part of itself, or even a viable means of living. How we hardly care if the league doesn’t happen for six months, how the league itself has made us not to care. And of course, the next point of order, as is customary in this country, is who to blame.

Maybe the media. After all, many broadcast and print platforms hardly speak of the league, or its domestic cup, either the foreign leagues, which in truth is more appealing than whatever nonsense lies back home, or worse, focus on the federation’s elections. But is it the media who makes the appalling football on the pitch? Or are the media responsible for genius ideas like making sure no league games are available during the holiday periods, decisions such as moving a game from Easter Monday to the morning of the first working day after.

Okay, maybe not the media? What about the fans. Well, some of them do perform violent acts on opposition – particularly away opposition – players and referees, acts that make watching the game at the stadium a health risk, or rather a health code violation. But then again, the fans don’t play the on-pitch eyesores. Neither do the supporters re-schedule games; woe betide anyone in this age of economic regression who opts to watch a game in the morning of the first working day of the week.

So, it’s probably not the fans, neither does it seem like it’s the media. How about the players? They are the ones who play terrible football on the pitch after all, and look inept at times. But how do you play decent when there are hardly training facilities, or how do you play football when there’s no system to develop and grow here. Which is why Kwara United looked nigh-on invincible when they had something of a tactical plan back in 2017, and yet why they couldn’t continue because structures and facilities don’t back sustenance. Which is why footballers use the league as a stepping stone to greater things; Greece, Malta and Switzerland among others won’t really put you in the spotlight, but at least there you have structures to make you develop, grow in your abilities, and also, you get paid.

So, the media’s fault? No. The fans are culpable? Not really. The players are to blame? No way. Because we all know whose fault this is. Those in charge. Those who don’t put structures in place for the availability of watchable content. Those who’d have unpaid players beg for what should be their rights, and still deny it to them. Those who’d merge two teams into one without considering either club’s history, players, or fan base. Because sport is hardly a means of livelihood, not to talk of a way of life.

Nigerian Football
Not quite, as football and sporting neglect lives on in this country

And this doesn’t just start at the top government level. No,this isn’t a journey where midway through, you find the road to be as rough as it gets. Rather this starts much early on, the discouragement and demotivation comes from an early stage, either informally or institutionally. Attend a higher institution and have an interest in sport, then see it get bashed in the head as a needless hobby, a pointless task that supposedly side-tracks you from the main priority. Attend a secondary school tagged a ‘football college’ and you spend more than half the time to hear words like ‘football is not everything, while the actions show you that, to those in charge, ‘football is barely anything’. Talk about your dream of making it through sport and hear words like ‘really, are you kidding yourself?’

Hence, sport becomes a thankless task, like being a lone striker in a highly defensive team, which is ironically a football reference that holds little ground in this part of the world. Hence, you’re on your own when you intend to build your way to fulfilment and success through sport.

But know this, when you do strive to get far ahead through sport, when you succeed and actualise yourself in spite of those in charge who scorned you with distaste for having the audacity to have that dream, when you hit prominence, they’ll remember you and call you one of their own. Because, sadly, that’s how it is. Because your raw material doesn’t matter, but they board your success bandwagon and try to fuel their agendas from it as much as they can. They look the part without playing their part; hence stay as the embodiment of a sport-loving country that has no sporting life. Take a bow. We hail thee.

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