30th September, 2010
As Nigeria marks 50 years of nationhood tomorrow, there are mixed reactions over theÂ progress of grassroots football since the country got her independence in 1960.
It is true that most of the Nigerian players who are performing better today in theirÂ various professional clubs both home and abroad started their football career at theÂ grassroots level.
It also true that in the early 80s, players were selected from school sports and otherÂ football competitions organised by the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON).
These tourneys exposed the players to coaches of the junior national teams andÂ professional clubs in the country, but this has been a thing of the past today.
Rather than starting from the grassroots level now, playersÂ are being called to theÂ national teams through their exploits in foreign clubs.
While some stakeholders expressed satisfaction with the development of football at theÂ grassroots level, others are of the opinion that there is nothing to celebrateÂ asÂ Nigeria clocksÂ 50 tomorrow
Lucky Babesâ€™s ChiefÂ Coach, Femi Fadesere, in a chat with GSG, said that grassrootsÂ football is growing, but noted that the major challenge facing the sport at the localÂ level is lack of sponsorship.
â€œI have been coaching Lucky Babes for 17 years and I am satisfied with the success theÂ club recorded since its inception. We have won many trophies and some of our players areÂ now playing abroad. So far so good, grassroots football has been developing in the lastÂ 50 years,â€ he said.
Coach Kamilu Banjo, who handles Banjo Academy, however, has a contrary opinion. He saidÂ there is nothing to celebrate because there are many problems at the grassroots footballÂ that must be addressed by the chairmen of the statesâ€™ Football Association (FA).
According to him, the best thing to do is to restructure the game at the local level,Â adding that state FAs should assignÂ ex-internationals to monitor players and recommendÂ Â them to the coaches of the Golden Eaglets and the Flying Eagles.
â€œOur grassroots football is not well structured. Many coaches have not acquired the basicÂ knowledge of the game, which is not good for us. I think, the officials of the state FAsÂ need to address the issue before it gets out of hand,â€ he said.
Team Manager of New Generation, Olowookere Bankole, said that with the emergence of LagosÂ Junior League, grassroots football has come of age. He, therefore, urged corporate bodiesÂ in the countryÂ to contribute their own quota to the sport development.
Kemac Emina, Secretary of Gbagada Grassroots Sports Association, is happy that moreÂ clubs are established everyday. He urged local players to start their professional careerÂ at the grassroots level before playing in the professional cadre.
He said that a player who fails to play at the grassroots football competitions will notÂ give his best when he plays in the professional league.
â€œGrassroots football is the foundation to success for any grassroots player who wants toÂ take football as a career. I thinkÂ grassroots football is now better than before,â€ heÂ said.
Seba Soko, a sport journalist who has 30 years of experience in the profession, hasÂ different opinion. He toldÂ GSG that there is no more glamour in the game at theÂ Â grassroots level.
He blamed Nigerians for concentrating more on European football which is affecting theÂ round leather game in Nigeria.
CoachÂ of Rising Stars, LateefÂ Ishola, said this is the time Nigeria FootballÂ Federation, NFF, needs to focus more on grassroots football in order to build formidableÂ junior teams that will compete favourably with their counterparts all over the world.