Teranga Lions, New Challenge For Super Eagles!  –Odegbami

Last week, the Teranga Lions of Senegal made history in Lisbon, Portugal by defeating the Samba Boys of Brazil with a convincing 4-2 score. This surprising victory has left the world in awe and disbelief, as Senegal became only the second African team to achieve such a feat. While many sports analysts have failed to discuss this friendly match, the silence surrounding the win speaks volumes.

In Nigeria, the news of this victory has been scarcely mentioned, with many avoiding the subject altogether. This is likely due to the country’s own struggling national team, the Super Eagles. In the 1990s, Nigeria was a dominant force in African football, with impressive victories across age-grades and genders. However, since the early 2000s, the country’s football has been floundering, with the national team currently ranked at a disappointing 40 in both men’s and women’s categories in the FIFA rankings.

To turn the fortunes of Nigerian football around, there needs to be a deliberate departure from old failed ways. This includes creating an environment for new and different results, halting the recycling of ‘old’ hands, and allowing an influx of new people, new systems, and new structures. This also requires a new way of thinking, expanded vision, and completely new strategies that will produce a completely different result.

The introduction of new constituencies, as promised by the new Board at inception, is the least that should be embarked upon now to quench acrimony brewing beneath the surface of things. Concentrating and depending on the leagues alone will also not do, because even those need fertilizing and nurturing at the grassroots.

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The rate of emigration of young Nigerian footballers to every corner of the planet has become alarming, with more academies in Nigeria than the number of churches and mosques put together. To combat this, the current Football Federation should supervise the establishment of a well-grounded and well-rounded football development structure and programs through the school system, working in conjunction with its members.

The Interim Management Committee, IMC, already in place and doing well, should be given the autonomy and responsibility to change the face and fate of the professional league. That would require more than just throwing money at the league. The IMC should consolidate its good start this last season, by making the leagues better all round – in organizing, funding, TV and radio coverage, transparency and fair play, use of good grounds, independent supervision of referees, stringent security arrangements, and so on and so forth.

There is no substitute for green lush, level, and well-cultivated and nursed natural grass fields beneath the feet of footballers. The country must aim high, be determined to be the best again in the continent, act dispassionately on issues, go for and secure predictable, measurable and visible results.

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