Mixed Reactions Over Grassroots Football


As Nigeria marks 50 years of nationhood tomorrow, there are mixed reactions over the  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 their  various professional clubs both home and abroad started their football career at the  grassroots level.

It also true that in the early 80s, players were selected from school sports and other  football competitions organised by the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON).

These tourneys exposed the players to coaches of the junior national teams and  professional clubs in the country, but this has been a thing of the past today.

Rather than starting from the grassroots level now, players  are being called to the  national teams through their exploits in foreign clubs.

While some stakeholders expressed satisfaction with the development of football at the  grassroots level, others are of the opinion that there is nothing to celebrate  as  Nigeria clocks  50 tomorrow

Lucky Babes’s Chief  Coach, Femi Fadesere, in a chat with GSG, said that grassroots  football is growing, but noted that the major challenge facing the sport at the local  level is lack of sponsorship.

“I have been coaching Lucky Babes for 17 years and I am satisfied with the success the  club recorded since its inception. We have won many trophies and some of our players are  now playing abroad. So far so good, grassroots football has been developing in the last  50 years,” he said.

Coach Kamilu Banjo, who handles Banjo Academy, however, has a contrary opinion. He said  there is nothing to celebrate because there are many problems at the grassroots football  that must be addressed by the chairmen of the states’ Football Association (FA).

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According to him, the best thing to do is to restructure the game at the local level,  adding that state FAs should assign  ex-internationals to monitor players and recommend   them to the coaches of the Golden Eaglets and the Flying Eagles.

“Our grassroots football is not well structured. Many coaches have not acquired the basic  knowledge of the game, which is not good for us. I think, the officials of the state FAs  need to address the issue before it gets out of hand,” he said.

Team Manager of New Generation, Olowookere Bankole, said that with the emergence of Lagos  Junior League, grassroots football has come of age. He, therefore, urged corporate bodies  in the country  to contribute their own quota to the sport development.

Kemac Emina, Secretary of Gbagada Grassroots Sports Association, is happy that more  clubs are established everyday. He urged local players to start their professional career  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 not  give his best when he plays in the professional league.

“Grassroots football is the foundation to success for any grassroots player who wants to  take football as a career. I think  grassroots football is now better than before,” he  said.

Seba Soko, a sport journalist who has 30 years of experience in the profession, has  different opinion. He told  GSG that there is no more glamour in the game at the   grassroots level.

He blamed Nigerians for concentrating more on European football which is affecting the  round leather game in Nigeria.

Coach  of Rising Stars, Lateef  Ishola, said this is the time Nigeria Football  Federation, NFF, needs to focus more on grassroots football in order to build formidable  junior teams that will compete favourably with their counterparts all over the world.

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