Let’s peep out of the AFCON window


It’s a good thing the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON 2013 comes up on Sunday and after that everyone can go back to solving their own problems.

The AFCON has been a way out, like a drug for those of us who are junkies to blank out of our problems. With Nigeria putting up it best performance since 2000 many have lived like all has been well with their lives.

Apart from the fans, especially those of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid who used Nigeria’s performances at the AFCON to wash away the sorrows of their clubs’ inconsistencies, there was the Nigerian middle class man who for two weeks forgot that he had bills to pay.

Then of course we had those wannabe pundits who for once thought they had found a new career on radio and television as well as social media. They would soon be brought back down to earth when the AFCON ends.

There is also the fabled Jessica Elvis, spokes person of the Association of Nigerian Prostitutes who promised the Eagles free sex if they win the AFCON.

Hopefully they will and then whoever flew that kite will realize that he must guarantee free sex to the Eagles and must look for willing prostitutes.

But one important group of people who really have to look outside the AFCON window are those who run the Nigeria Premier League, or at least those saddled with the task of running the League.

After the palace coup planned by the “Club Owners” and the Victor Baribote led Nigeria Premier League, NPL board was removed, there has hardly been any forward movement in the League.

First, the League, which is rightly and still called 2012/13 season has not started yet and it’s already February 2013.

It was initially supposed to start on November 3, 2012 but was then moved to December 1, 2012.

When that seemed not so realistic it was moved to December 22 and then January 5 and January 12, 2013 were touted as possible dates before the Interim Management Committee, IMC of the League settled for February 16, 2013.

The problems the Nigerian League faced last season were humongous yet the IMC acts like our league is on the same level as, say, the Barclays Premier League or the Premier Soccer League of South Africa.

Nigerian clubs have played the League since its inception without prize monies for the winners even though the league has had sponsors since Pepsi in the late 90s and early 2000s.

The clubs have not received appearance fees for playing in the League since 2008/09 season, even though Telecommunications Giants, Globacom were title sponsors until 2009.

Finally, the clubs have never received a penny of the broadcast rights money even though it goes to $1m (about N165m) yearly for about six years running and this is paid promptly by Supersport.

But are these the only problems of the league?

There is the widespread issue of corruption in the Nigerian League where club officials are said to influence referees financially to work games in their favour yet throughout last season, the NPL “begged” all home clubs to take care of all payments concerning referees for their games.

There is the issue of violence in Nigerian League stadia that happened at least on six occasions last season and even though the rule books say club whose fans indulge in violence against the visiting team or match referees should be docked points it was never done even though clubs like Heartland, Sharks and Kano Pillars were guilty last season.

There is still the issue of title sponsors for the league. Has a deal been signed? Not that we know of. Will the league run for a 4th season without a sponsor? What has the IMC done about this since their swearing in?

Nigerian league players are not poorly paid per se, but they are always owed backlog of salaries, signing on fees and match bonuses. Do the IMC have an antidote for this embarrassing trend?

Attendance at Nigerian league venues is at an all time low. Save for Kano, Jos, Aba, Owerri and a few other northern cities, people just do not care about the league anymore.

Do the IMC have a lasting solution to this?

While we enjoy the success of the Super Eagles at the AFCON and hope they eventually win the Cup we must stop a moment to think sincerely to ourselves.

Two of the biggest revelations of the AFCON so far, not just for Nigeria are Godfrey Oboabona and Sunday Mba and they both play in the Nigerian League for Sunshine Stars and Warri Wolves respectively.

The Nigerian team also have Chogozie Agbim (Warri Wolves), Azubuike Egwueke (Warri Wolves), Gabriel Rueben (Kano Pillars) and Ejike Uzoenyi (Rangers International) and this should tell us about the quality of playing personnel in the league. Can the IMC and sponsors cash in on this?

The task at hand is great, but we have covered it up as nonexistent because of the ecstasy of playing well and getting to the final of the AFCON.

Perhaps we are acting like the proverbial ostrich that hides its head in the sand only to bring it out and see its problems still waiting.

Are we really ready for the Nigeria Premier League? Do we realize we are destroying the conveyor belt that gave us the likes of Vincent Enyeama, Efe Ambrose, Ahmed Musa and the rest?

Let us take a breather and peep outside the AFCON window. There’s a lot waiting to be done. Can we start already?

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