Nigerians are fond of complaining about problems are hardly ever coming up with solutions. My solution to fixing Nigeria's footballing woes is
ACADEMIES, ACADEMIES, ACADEMIES.
For those who don’t know, football academies are not places where people are taught football but where young talent is polished. They get the best players at a young age (it varies by country) and teach them skill and technique. It is not a substitute for learning football on the streets or anywhere you grew up playing, its just a place where the skills you learn growing up are enhanced and were you get to learn how to play the game in a more structured manner.
In the 70’s when the dutch realized how far behind they were in football. The Dutch football federation ordered all professional football clubs to establish their own football academies, the most famous of this is the prestigious Ajax football academy that has churned out the likes of Johan Cruyff, Bergkamp, Wesley Sneijder and several others. The Ajax academy has been copied by several teams and one of the most successful is Barcelona’s remarkable “la masia” academy that produced majority of the world cup winners in the spain squad.
In the 80’s, when the French went through the same thing, they responded the same way but in addition to that they also created a National football academy which is now known as the legendary Clairefontaine academy. Here they assemble the best of the best from around the country and subject them to the best training with the best coaches in the game. T
There are two ways of developing talent, you can do it the Brazilian/south American way where the best kids are brought in from the streets or the playgrounds of the ghettos at age 13 and trained or you can do it the European way where they start from age 7 and taught mostly academics while playing football part time. The Ajax model believes that it is not the amount of time you train but the quality of instruction during the training that is why they get the best trainers and coaches to teach these kids. Allowing the kid to participate in games on very few occasions prevents them from being more susceptible to injuries. During the whole process, some students are weeded out while some are brought in, then at age 16 when you are eligible to sign a professional contract, the best of the best are signed by the club, while the rest are let go.
The advantage of the brazillian/south american model is that they produce the most skillful players; players who are very creative and who can improvise because they grew up learning football on the street. The disadvantage of the European model (the same model that they use in England and America) is that some of this academies tend to overcoach players at a young age restricting them from expressing themselves on the pitch and they end up being robots with no skill like Wayne rooney, Michael Ballack or Steven Gerrard as compared to the likes of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Maradona, or Messi: this are the players who learned the game on the street first and went to academies that taught them to express themselves and be creative instead of beating tactics into there head at age 13.
I think Nigeria should emulate this if we want to become better. Pepsi football academy is a third world academy that is not going to produce the likes of Messi and co. Watching Kanu retire and realizing that our next best thing is Lukman Haruna is very very disconcerting.
For those interested in learning more about the Ajax academy they might want to go to this site.