Opinion: Has Nigeria still got football talents?

Magical Jay Jay Okocha on the ball
Over the years, the number of Nigerian footballers in Europe’s top flight has drastically reduced. Especially with the curtain drawn on the careers of all the golden generation of the 90s, those who managed to come through the ranks and appear to be on their way to become their successors have found their shoes difficult to fill.

They have continually struggle to maintain their place in their various club sides. Many now use ‘customized seat belt’ on the reserved benches of even their middle of the pack teams to borrow OAP Shawn Amadi’s famous phrase, while many more have been reduced to mere squad players good only as training materials.

Alternatively, many have either resort to plying their trades in some of Europe’s football backwaters (not entirely a bad idea, though, if only for developmental and transitional purposes) or in the less competitive but lucrative leagues in Asia.

Okocha juggles the ball
It is worthy of note that three marquee players presently in the senior national team, the super eagles now play there. Nigeria’s highest goal scorer during the qualifying round of matches for next year nations cup Odion Ighalo and the substantive captain of the team Mikel Obi currently plays in China, derogatorily described by a former French coach of Nigeria national team, Philippe ‘the white witch doctor’ Troussier as a league of effeminate.

The team’s stand in captain and Nigeria’s shining light at the last world cup in Russia Ahmed Musa equally plays in Saudi Arabia. This, football enthusiasts, have struggled to make sense of. Considering his age, 26, many argue it is a disservice to the game to move to a league so lowly something others would only consider when it is obvious they are aging and declining and having given their best in Europe where it matters. 

It is only reasonable to some because he has actually struggled to pin down a starting shirt at both Leicester City and Locomotive Moscow respectively which calls to question the trueness of his quality and age in particular. 

Perhaps he has sinned in football sense like so many others who lied about their age and he is only being true to himself that he cannot cope with the demanding rigor of competitive Europe’s elite leagues. And so he doesn’t give a jerk about what anybody thinks.

Gangling Kanu Nwankwo
It has become so bad that legions now turn their attention to leagues in other African nations too for succor. Now the sense you get is it has become a hustle and urgent which also to borrow the words of Godwin Enakhena who argue time and again that you are only a ‘power and principality’ to scorn or deny these guys the right to migrate elsewhere to better their lot for whatever reasons. 

After all, what is obtained domestically is no better. Besides, the economy for a long time now is in a crunch state and both facilities and pay in the league are intolerably poor and inconsistent and so validates the wisdom of responding in drove to the lure of greener pasture anywhere crispy wards of dollars are dangled at them.  

Aside players like Mikel Obi and Taiye Taiwo, who were on the podium alongside Lionel Messi as the second and third best players at 2005 under 21 World Cup and who to some extent, ably represented, one may argue considering that they both at the peak of their game played for top teams and won laurels, others have come short of the glory expected from their careers.

There are many others especially at the valid global age-grades and other transitional levels which conceptually are the nurseries for nurturing future talents that will eventually succeed their mercurial seniors but after showing bright prospects have failed to live up to expectations.

Kanu at Arsenal
Narrative or theory of the ‘talents gap’ if you like have continued to gain ground since the mercurial Austin Jay Jay Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo among others called it a day with their respectful careers some decade or so ago. 

No doubt, these are players who could make you leave whatever it is you are doing to come to watch them play. Same is difficult to say of the present crop of players.

This has prompted a school of thought to theorize that there is a dearth of talents in the country. They premise their argument on the fact that the word talents characterize ‘a set of individuals with exceptional innate abilities’. As such they don’t appear on the stage all the time. 

Some of the players I mentioned above belonged in this category and only need a few touches by managers to thrive. They concluded by saying that talents cannot be hidden for long and that even with slightest of opportunity will glitter. And since they have not been found means they don’t exist.

On the other hand, there are those that believe there is an abundance of talents in the country waiting to be discovered. They cited the inadequacies in the present system as the stumbling block to discovering them. 

The process of developmental football in the country they say has been comprised of unprofessional practices like cronyism, godfatherism’, undue political interference, age falsification, the pursuit of money against the necessity to grow through the rank and above all the perceptible unwillingness of the Nigerian players to put in what they described as ‘ridiculous work ethics’ that could turn an average player into a world beater. 

The average Nigerian player they accused of routinely becoming swollen headed after signing a contract worth some million bucks. We can say a sizable number are culpable of being indiscipline. Discipline is an important prerequisite for talented footballers or professional people if they want to go far in their chosen careers and this some Nigerian footballers lacked.

As for me, I believe Nigeria still got talented footballers. What we have achieved so far, great as it were, is tantamount to scratching the surface of the treasure mine. However, there is a lot of work for both the players and the administrators if we are to discover more in the class of the golden generation of the 90s.   
What do you think?      

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