Anxiety as qualifiers beckon on ‘coach-less’ Flamingoes, Falconets

Line up of Falconets at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in France
FILE PHOTO: Line up of Falconets at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in France

It was an American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin who once said, “You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.”.

The above aptly captures the dilemma of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, as the football ruling body is said to be dillydallying even as the qualifying tournaments for the two cadet female national teams, the Flamingoes and falconets beckon on them.

There is panic among stakeholders because most Nigerians are yet to forget the football disasters recorded in 2019 and attributed to ‘fire brigade’ approaches adopted by the NFF.

It will be recalled that in 2019 the Super Eagles raised hopes of millions of Nigerians but failed to lift the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt just as the Super Falcons and the national U-23 team failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Apart from the failures of the Falcons and Olympic Eagles’, the Golden Eaglets as the national male U-17 players are called also failed to soar high in Brazil where they exited the FIFA U-17 championship in the round of 16.

The harvest of failures in football prompted the present minister of sports, Sunday Dare to query the NFF as he probed to get to the root causes of the humiliating results.

The NFF, in turn, blamed the national team’s poor results on sundry issues including the prosecution of the federation’s leadership by anti-corruption agencies.

To try and arrest Nigeria’s declining fortunes in football, the federation then announced the dissolution of the technical crew of all the national teams, excluding the Super Eagles.

Furthermore, it announced the hiring of a consulting firm to handle the recruitment of coaches for the affected national teams.

As at the time of this report, the NFF was yet to announce new coaches for the national teams and most football stakeholders are beginning to lose sleep over what would befall the two female teams in the upcoming qualifiers.

While the Flamingoes begin their hunt for a place in the U17 Women’s World Cup billed for India this month, their U-20 counterparts, the Falconets would aspire to pick one of Africa’s tickets to Costa Rica & Panama when qualifiers commence in March.

Some of the football stakeholders who spoke to Trust Sports expressed worry that the two national teams might end up with embarrassing results if the NFF continues to dillydally.

Meanwhile, some believed that the NFF shouldn’t be stampeded into recruiting coaches for the national teams because of the qualifiers and other international engagements.

A former international Barnabas Imenger in his opinion said the NFF is not ready to learn from its past mistakes.

“We made the same mistake with the male national U-17 team at the world cup in Brazil and we failed woefully and now we are treading the same path.

“Long time planning and preparation are always the keys to success in football. I’ll continue talking until they start doing the right things,” he said.

The chairman of Kwara United and famous youth football administrator, Titiloye Kumbi said “I believe the Federation wants to get the right people in place so that we can have formidable teams to prosecute the tournaments.

“However urgent steps should be taken by the technical department by creating a database of players that have represented the country from U-13 and 15 so as to reduce the task ahead of the soon to be employed coaches.”

On his part, another former international Garba Lawal said the NFF should be commended for taking the necessary steps to recruit credible coaches for the different national teams.

He also said there is no cause for alarm even as the qualifiers are about to commence for the Flamingoes and the Falconets.

“The NFF is trying their best compiling the list of coaches who have applied for the existing vacancies. I give NFF credit for that.

“Without the appointment of coaches, we cannot get it right. When we have the coaches, they will come with their program and they know the players to call to camp.

“Overall, I will say no course for alarm. It is better late than never,” he said.

Also contributing to the topic, a football enthusiast, Dr John Ogbadu said the NFF is a reflection of Nigeria as a country.

He said Nigerians like fire-brigade approach and short-cut to success.

“I am not surprised by what is happening because NFF is just like Nigeria. Most Nigerians believe in fire-brigade.

“When the time comes, NFF will assemble over-aged players to go and face little children from other countries.

“If we are lucky to win, we would roll out the drums. Nigerians seem to be lacking the inability to plan for success,” he noted.

A retired football referee and football administrator, Harry Yachi also said NFF will continue to delay preparations for the national teams but in the event of failure, they would exonerate themselves.

“It’s a pity at the end of the day the coaches will be used as scapegoats. Why can’t we for once get it right?. Can we say that we don’t know that we have qualifies in February and March?, no, FIFA calendar is there. We see it every day but refuse to plan,” he said.

A youth football coach and proprietor of Youth Arise Football Academy, YAFA, Abuja, Olagbemiro Olayinka said the way forward is for the NFF to ensure the right players are screed for the cadet national teams.

He also said those in charge should learn from the dismal outing of the Golden Eaglets in the 2019 FIFA U-17 championship.

“My advice is that only young players should be invited to camp. Players should be invited on merit. There are young players in our academies.

“We shouldn’t forget what happened to us in Brazil. It was sad, that the U-17 screening was turned into a market and we saw the result in Brazil,” said Olayinka.

While reacting to the concerns of Nigerians, NFF’s Technical Director, Bitrus Bewarang told Trust Sports that there is no cause for alarm as ad hoc coaches are on ground to take charge of the teams pending when the substantive coaches would be announced.

At press time, the former Green Eagles said the appointments of new coaches would be announced either on Friday (yesterday) or Saturday (today).

“All efforts are being made to see that we get these coaches especially for the Flamingoes whose competition is less than a month to go. In fact, the camp will open this Sunday, we have made an ad hoc arrangement so that the camp can start.

“The Flamingoes will have a fresh squad and we want the coaches to start from scratch. By tomorrow (Friday) or Saturday (today), we would reveal the names of those coaches. The NFF is not resting on its oars,” he said.

Bitrus also allayed fears by Nigerians that time will be too short for the yet to be appointed coaches to raise formidable teams for the qualifiers.

“We have got in touch with the coaches of the women league who are preparing for a new season and they have sent players in their teams that are within the age group. That won’t be a problem as the players will be in shape since they are coming from the league.

“So I want to commend the coaches of the women league who have graciously helped us with the compilation of these players,” said Bewarang.

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