by Chris Onokpegu
I know many people will be wondering why I am asking this kind of question. I sat down one day and was wondering why Nigerian ex-footballers are not taking the bull by the horn. Wondering why they like taking the back seat when they are actually supposed to be the driver(s). Wondering why they are not showing interest in running the affairs in the football house.
Looking at the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, right from inception till date, no ex-footballer has ever been saddled with the responsibility of heading the football house.
Let’s go memory lane, before Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima and Aminu Maigari, no ex-footballer has been in charge before. Even as election is approaching, it is very obvious that none will take over from the current president of the federation, Amaju Pinnick. Both the people that have run football in Nigeria and the ones still there, none of them is known to have kicked orange let alone play football at any level except maybe behind their backyards.
That cannot be said of Basketball, Tijani Umar who is presently the permanent secretary at the Presidential Villa, and Ibrahim Kida who took over from him, are both basketballers, they played the game during their days.
In wrestling, Daniel Igali, of course many know him as a wrestler, won gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Igali is not just the president but also trains wrestlers how to fight. In Volleyball, Engineer Musa Nimrod is also a volleyballer likewise Francis Orbih who was a badminton player. We can go on and on without end.
Research has shown that football is the only sport run by politicians and anybody from all walks of life in Nigeria especially by those who don’t have the game at heart but only interested in the honey flowing from it. They run it the way they like and do not care about the stakeholders especially the major players – footballers, coaches, etc.
They are always interested in qualifying for tournaments so that they can travel with their friends and lovers to enjoy the estacodes attached to such trips. That is one of the reasons why they abandon their primary assignment of taking care of the actors (players) until they cry for their allowances before they are attended to.
However, what is responsible for all this could be attributed to the lack of interest by the main actors who have worn the shoes before and know where it pitches. The politicians have not hence they don’t even care whether the players exist or not. If only the ex-footballers have taken the driver’s seat, there won’t be any need for the outcries experienced in the past.
Presently, Samuel Eto’O Fils is the president of the Cameroon Football Federation, FECAFOOT, before then, George Opong Weah emerged as his country’s president, automatically has a say when it comes to football in that country. Abedi Pele was once fully involved in Ghanaian football, just to mention a few.
We have seen and heard cases where ex-footballers are coaches and federation presidents in their country especially in Europe. Nigerian ex-footballers prefer to take the back seat or sit on the fence and watch while some preferred to settle for the crumbs that fall from the politicians’ table while some are just contented with committee assignments. We have also heard of some of them going hand-in-hand to beg for positions, something they are supposed to be in charge.
This piece is not meant to insult them but to challenge them to take their birthright from those that stole it from them. They cannot continue to play second fiddle to politicians. The annoying aspect of it is that some of them are campaign managers to these politicians. It is not as if they don’t have the money to contest for these elections but just that they refuse to take responsibility.
The kind of money these ex-footballers had during their playing days can buy these politicians and their household but today, some of them cannot boast of taking care of themselves let alone other people.
Another factor that is affecting the players is that they were stingy in their playing days. They don’t care about the community around them, they only care about themselves alone and once they are broke, they start accusing government of not taking care of them or begging for jobs from these politicians.
The new generation of players should learn a lesson from the ex-footballers and start planning to take charge. They can also learn from players like Sadio Mane of Liverpool who built schools, hospitals, and other things for his people back home in Senegal, likewise Egyptian Mohammed Salah, who is being worshipped in his country. These are just few of those that are giving back to their people unlike Nigerian players who are always self-centered. They are always interested in buying expensive wristwatches, cars, houses without investment, and after their career, they go broke.
There is no doubt that once Mane and Salah quit football, they will never go hungry but rather they will be saddled with the responsibility of taking charge of running their football or even country.
Somebody also alleged that most of the ex-footballers lack confidence because they don’t have the qualifications or requirements needed to head the Glass House but research has also shown that many of them are actually over-qualified but just refused to show interest but prefer to be complaining when things are not.
Our new generation of footballers should correct these anomalies and start thinking of how to take charge. The likes of Joseph Yobo, Mikel Obi, Vincent Enyeama are very sound and well-educated and should emulate Samuel Eto’O Fils to savage the Glass House from politicians, that is the only our football can move forward.