NFF should learn a lesson or two from Senegal

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.”Vince Lombardi

Senegal Jollof rice is certainly better than Nigeria’s. Well, that could be because Jollof originated from Senegal. Even then, can’t Nigeria perfect it, just as Brazil did in football, despite England’s claim as originator of football?

It is certainly indisputable that Senegal are currently the best in African football. Their dominance looms large enough that even their worst antagonists will notice it.

In a space of 17 months, the Senegalese have swept all African national teams’ titles. None of the title was won on home soil. None of their teams was led by a foreign coach.

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For the sake of emphasis, they won the African premier football competition – Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, the African Beach Soccer tournament in Mozambique, the African Nations Championships in Algeria, the Under 20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt and now the Under 17 Africa Cup of Nations in Algeria.

It is left for imagination if they will not add the Africa Under 23 title to it next month to have a clean sweep of Africa’s six national teams’ trophies.

Yet some years back, Senegal were just medium size African football powers while Nigeria were contenders for continental domination.

What has really propelled Senegalese football lately while Nigeria football is steadily creeping into anonymity?

Nigerian referees are hardly considered for international appointments. Our lead football brand, the Super Eagles has been consistently inconsistent.

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No Nigerian male footballer has won the African Footballer of the Year since the crowning of Nwankwo Kanu in 2000.

We no longer have the absolute dominance we had in women’s football in Africa.

The control Nigeria had in youth football, even at global level, has waned considerably as school football competitions which were the hunting ground for rising talents have long lost relevance. We have had in the past where some school boys moved directly to the national teams.

That is now history. We revel in having a glut of football academies that their owners just established for pecuniary purposes to traffic young boys abroad.

Our Under 17 players are supposed to be school boys and girls who should be writing their West African Examination Council examinations in May and June, yet we don’t seem to ask CAF to shift the competition calendar.

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The African Schools Football Championship ended without Nigeria’s participation ostensibly as we have no credible national football championships.

Our clubsides have literally turned to the football the other African clubs kick about in both CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup.

There is hardly a coach from Nigeria that commands continental respect.  Yet, all the five titles Senegal have won in the past 17 months are with their nationals as coaches.

Nigeria will rather go for foreign coaches that are without track record of success.

With vast shorelines and beaches, we could not raise formidable beach soccer teams and had to convert field players to beach soccer players.

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The results had been so disheartening that Nigeria had to stop participating in the African Beach Soccer as if beheading is the cure for headache. No concious effort to encourage the formation of beach soccer clubs and domestic competitions across the vast beaches that spread from Lagos State through Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River State.

The concerns of the NFF seem limited to national teams. Football development has taken a back seat. Yet, in other climes, football is a big industry that even attract foreign investments.

It might be argued that Nigeria too has had its moment of dominance, but certainly not at the level that Senegal have done – a clean sweep of all titles.

Nigeria, by now should learn to make winning a habit. You don’t just win once in a while. Like a legendary American football coach, Vince Lombardi once said: “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.” Which one do we subscribe to?

Let’s get across to Senegal and Morocco and find out what have been responsible for their rising standard.

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Let the NFF take a cue from the Book of Proverbs 6:6 – “Go to the ant, you sluggard;   consider its ways and be wise!

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