Our CHAN Eagles, A Reflection Of Nigerian League
The Tournament Itself
The Championship for African Nations (CHAN) is a tournament for footballers plying their trade in their local premier league clubs.
The national team coach picks his best players from the pool of nationals in the country’s domestic football league to compete at the championship.
The idea is to develop and promote football talent Made-In-Africa.
The 2018 edition kicked off on January 12, a time the Nigeria Professional Football League was on break.
Coach Salisu Yusuf made his selection, assembled his team and skipped the Christmas break before heading to Morocco where the championship was hosted.
Historically, before the 2018 edition, the Super Eagles have not played in the final of a CHAN tournament, with their best performance being a 3rd place finish.
From Nigeria’s first game that ended goalless against Rwanda, to the semifinal against Sudan, where Gabriel scored in the 16th minute, and the Nigerian side managed to survive the fire power of the North African to qualify for the final for the first time, the Super Eagles were only displaying what they are made of.
But it showed the structural defects in the development of our players and coaches.
The Holes In The Plan
I salute the courage of the Salisu Yusuf-led team and I must write – they rode on the back of mother-luck from start to finish, unfortunately, they needed more than luck to beat Morocco.
Aside luck, the team was also able to fight together. They never gave up hope, hence their ability to come from behind to win in two different matches - that was not luck it was the team's fighting spirit, positive attitude and resilience.
But I must point out that the team still has a long way to go if they want to win CHAN in the future.
Throwing away many scoring opportunities like they did in CHAN 2018 does not depict they play with purpose.
The passion and dedication are clearly there but it seems they lack guidiance or a total grasp of what modern day football is all about.
Okpotu was in most cases not in the game, and sometimes, I wonder if he was thinking about his personal troubles on the pitch. I also wonder how he was able to emerge last season’s NPFL top scorer.
I deliberately watched one of the matches in a viewing center in Lagos, and I cannot print the bad names Okpotu was called by fans.
In fact, some people have even turned his name into an abuse, like – ‘commot here, you dis okpotu’.
Meaning get out of here, you weak player. It literally means an unserious player.
In addition, we cannot give what we don’t have. It is the product of the Nigerian league that was showcased in Morocco.
In the final match, the Moroccans completely outclassed the Nigerians, from start to finish, they showed professionalism in the defense, midfield and attack.
Individual skill and team play came to bare, and they took their chances.
Some people who were clamouring for home-based players to make the final list to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, can now sheath their swords, eat their words and remain silent.
Road To Russia
Gernot Rohr can now safely make his World Cup selection and overlook NPFL players without feeling guilty, except goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
If you watch the final of the 2017 Federation Cup between winners Akwa United and Niger Tornadoes, you will agree that the league still has a lot more homework.
The structure of the NPFL needs to be of international standard and money must be pumped into it and into the right hands to meet its main purpose and not diverted.
Football in Nigeria should, as a matter of urgency, be run like business, and not like the government civil service.
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