Die Mannschaft at the double

I have to start by first thanking those that continue to support Halftimeng in more ways than i can even mention. Over the last few weeks or so, I have been having doubts about writing because of some feed back that I got which kind of discouraged me, but I must thank the people that form the core of what I would call my ”appraisal committee”. It made me realize that the pursuit of perfection is a continuous journey that takes tonnes of effort, sacrifice and practice. I guess it is safe to compare my pursuit to what the Germans have achieved over the last three years, where they have conquered the world of football, holding the two primary world titles at senior level.

The Germans did not arrive at this position overnight, there was a clear concerted effort to dominate World Football at every level. This can be traced back to one of their biggest and worst defeats in their history as a strong footballing nation. The loss to a Croatian side at its peak in the quarter finals of France ’98 definitely had to be the turning point; I remember the outcry in the media, how could the then European Champions be so easily humiliated on the grand stage of the World Cup. This was a German team filled with stars in every department, it could compare favourably with many other German sides that had come before it,  but they were bereft of ideas and seemed to have been out of their depth once the knockout rounds started; a smooth group stage peppered the cracks. Things unraveled when Klinsmann and Bierhoff bailed the team out in the final fifteen minutes of the second round match against Mexico, it was one stage too far when Croatia came calling in Lyon.

The problem was believed to be managerial, Berti Vogts was relieved of his duties for Erich Ribbeck to be recalled from retirement to take over the National team,twenty years late. It culminated in Germany’s worst period in International football; a group stage exit at Euro 2000 was the last straw and eventually the Germans decided to rip it all up and start afresh with a new direction. A younger manager was appointed in Rudi Voller, a concerted effort at reducing the number of over 30s from the previous squad was achieved, along came a World Cup Final loss to a Ronaldo led Brazil to validate these changes. In came Jurgen Klinsmann, another from the 1990 World Cup winning team or better yet the Franz Beckenbauer school of graduates to guide the Germans through their hosting of the 2006 World Cup. It led to the introduction of many innovations, Sports science, changes in training methods, relaxation of Nationalization regulations. This 2006 team had 18 players under age 30, an improvement from the 2002 squad, this team lost in the Semi Finals on penalties to Italy.

Of note from the 2006 squad was the presence of Joachim Low as Assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann, Oliver Bierhoff and Andreas Kopke also part of the set up; these three have remained in the German set up eleven years after, ensuring continuity of ideals, ideas and vision. Lets fast forward to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa; Germany were fresh from defeating England the previous year 4-0 at the finals of the 2009 European U-21 Championships with a team that showcased the new Germany; twelve of their twenty-three man squad to that tournament had players with links to other countries as far reaching as Nigeria (Chinedu Ede played for Germany in that tournament). The Germans had opened their borders and relaxed the Nationalization policies to absolve and accommodate Nationals of other countries; German embraced the World. Like it or not; this is what England are doing currently and it has started yielding results; just take a look at their squads to the U-21 World Cup and European Championships, they is a lovely mix of nationalities.

For Germany, it just wasn’t about relaxing its immigration restrictions, but getting the best out of these policies. You have to give it to Joachim Low for being bold to include the likes of Ozil, Khedira, Boateng etc in his 2010 Squad. Interestingly, the squad in 2010 had 20 players under the age of Thirty; of the three players over 30, Miroslav Klose was the only one you could consider a regular in that Squad; Germany were preparing with precision and efficiency that only comes with been Germans. By the time 2014 came calling these ”young men” were four years older, more experienced and exposed; they were ready to take over the world and this they did in emphatic fashion (remember the 7-1 bashing of Brazil).

Here we are in 2017 and we can comment on another successful conquest by the Germans, not just on one front but in two within a space of 24 hours; that has to be a record of some sorts. In order not to be accused of been anti women; you can also see some of these strides in the women’s game, both at National and Club level. A decision to be open minded, embracing other cultures and nationalities, identifying the best out of them for use ”for the greater good” is now reaping huge dividends. A proper Youth development program dedicated to ensuring that the best young players get their chance at National (senior) level is what has positioned Germany for dominance over the next few years. For crying out loud; this German senior side at the Confederations Cup was characterized by yours truly as inexperienced, young and naive; but these crop of players have shown that what you need is just to seize the opportunity and have a football public and media that believe in the work of the management team. Yes, Low has earned the right to tinker with the side to almost reckless proportions, but that only became possible because there exist a plan, set up to enhance the talent pool, whilst giving the coach the time to achieve his objectives.

If i may bring the German success back home and chronicle it with our last success at Senior level which is easily the Nations Cup win in 2013, how many coaches has Nigeria had since that victory? Well correct me if I am wrong, we have had five coaches in that space of time; lets not bother to go as far back as 2006 when Low took full control of Die Mannschaft. A clear cut youth development policy geared at embracing world best practices, devoid of federation interference, selection of coaches and players on merit, instilling a football playing & administrative philosophy/policies at all levels (club and national team levels), eliminating without fear or favour instances or incidences of age cheating and corruption are a few ways Nigeria can emulate and replicate the success of the Germans.

Congratulations Germany; World and Confederations Cup Champions & European U-21 Champions.

 

*** Pictures courtesy Reuters, Daily Mail and Sky Sports

A Liverpool Fan’s Transfer Wishlist

With the release of the fixtures for the 2017/18 on June 14, 2017, the season has officially commenced. As a Kop, the permutation for next season regarding the expected points per month has commenced. However, the club has not been active on the transfer market where the required tools are expected to be procured for the new season. While other clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United, and even Arsenal have commenced signing of players for next season, Liverpool can only boast of Dominic Solanke, a free buy from Chelsea. From the reports in the newspaper, players have shown their preference in signing, but there is something still missing from the deals being concluded.

A review of the club performances last season revealed that there was a need for a Top 4 finish. A section of the fans are of the opinion that the club should have ended in a better position than the fourth position if Jurgen Klopp, the club manager had recruited from the January transfer window and there are clear facts to back this position. As at Dec 31, 2016, Liverpool was sitting in the second place with only 6 points away from leaders and eventually winner Chelsea. These set of fans including this writer believed that the coach should have beefed up the squad for the league challenge during the January window, but the manager thought otherwise. The consequence was the collapse of the title challenge as the club amassed only 6 points for the next six games between Dec 2016 and Feb 2017. By Feb 28, 2017, the club occupied the 5th position on the log with a massive 11 points from Chelsea, the table leader. The remaining weeks till May was used for the fourth-place struggle which was achieved by one point above Arsenal in fifth position.

Because of the above issues, the fans believe the club should have learned its lessons and as such have concrete plans for the summer transfer market. The fans are optimistic of a busy transfer more so after Jurgen Klopp’s comment after Middlesbrough’s game that the club has completed the preliminary discussions with the identified targets. Based on the current happenings as of today, this assertion by Klopp appears untrue, or maybe there are circumstances beyond the manager’s control. One of such circumstances is the ridiculous issue surrounding the Virgil van Dijk (VVD) approach and the subsequent apology from the club to Southampton. This incident not only embarrassed the club and its fans but has extinguished the faint hope of this writer in any major transfer coup considering Klopp’s known approach in the transfer market. From previously bookmarking sites for the latest information regarding the club activities in the market to adopting a siddon-look approach after the VVD transfer issues.

As the official transfer market opens on the first day of July, the fans including this writer hope and pray that the club pursues the transfer targets mentioned below. The club needs urgent reinforcement in some key areas, and there is a need for the right players to be signed at the right time as preseason is expected to commence early July. The names linked with the club were reviewed based on the current situation of things in the club.  As shown from last season performance, the club needs depth in the squad, and this should include quality signings, not average players that have donned the color of the club in recent years. Below is this fan’s wishlist from the transfer market:

GOALKEEPING: Last season, the club struggled in this department until February when there was some improvement from Mignolet and Karius. Also, Danny Ward, a loanee to Huddersfield Town continued to demonstrate his potential over the years, helping the club to the Premier League. However, his future is yet to be decided as at the time of this article.

Joe Hart and Jordan Pickford were named earlier as been linked to the club, but with the current situation regarding Pickford (agreed terms with Everton) only Hart remains in the hat. Taking into consideration his performance at Hampden Park last weekend, one would prefer status quo than the addition of ‘calamity Joe.’

DEFENSE:  There is no club with the ambition of winning titles that can do so with the current defensive set up in Liverpool. The club conceded 42 goals last season, and as such, there is a need for reinforcement. The requirement includes a left full back and two central defenders if Mamadou Sakho is sold as its being speculated. The club realized this fact, and this can be one of the reason for their desperation for VVD signature. With VVD out of the equation as stated in the apology tendered by the club (though there are rumour that the player is still insisting on leaving Southampton for Liverpool), other names mentioned include Stefan De Vrij of Lazio, Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli), Andy Robertson (Hull City), Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough), Michael Keane (Burnley), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) and Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham). As a Kop, one would expect the club to review the VVD issue and pursue it if there is any meaningful lead. Starting with the left full-back, Ryan Sessegnon is a good prospect for the position. He has the age on his side, and there is no need for him to adapt to the language and culture of the country as he currently plies his trade with Fulham in the lower division. Though the club appears to have cooled off their interest due to Spurs pursuit of the same player but happenings in recent days indicates that there is a need for a renewed approach for the player. The second option for the left fullback position should be the Algerian Faouzi Ghoulam. As for the central defenders, VVD remain the number one option while Kalidou Koulibaly and Stefan De Vrij appear decent alternatives. For a club of Liverpool’s ambition for next season and with due respect to these players, Micheal Keane, Andy Robertson, Ryan Bertrand and Steve Gibson are average players that cannot fit into the requirements at this level.

MIDFIELD:  Currently, the club has enough players in this department but would require depth as the club campaign in all fronts next season including the Champions League. Also, the event of Jan/Feb 2017 has shown that most of the players in this department are prone to injuries. According to transfer rumors, the club is still dilly dallying with AS Roma for the purchase of Mohammed Salah. For me, Salah would fit perfectly into Klopp plans and we, the fans are looking forward to the prospect of having Salah and Mane operating in wide areas; William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon), Sergej Milinkovic (SS Lazio), Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Demarai Garay (Leicester City) and Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon) can be considered as alternative additions for central midfield and the wings as well. From these lots, the club needs two players, and this includes a defensive midfielder (if the contract issue with Emre Can remains unsolved).

For the defensive midfield role, the club should pursue Willam Carvalho if and only if we lose both Emre Can and Lucas Leiva. If the club loses Lucas Leiva as its being speculated, a younger player from the youth team can be promoted, e.g., Kevin Stewart or Pedro Chirivella The second option in this regard should be Sergej Milinkovic. As for the other midfielder/winger, Salah appears 80% done, but if we are unable to get him (with Liverpool in the transfer market anything can happen)

ATTACK: Dominic Solanke is confirmed as a Liverpool player for next season, and with his exploits at the FIFA U20 World Cup, expectations are high from the fans. However, if the club is serious about its ambition next season, then Solanke cannot deliver the goals. For me, Solanke is a younger version of Divork Origi. As a fan, the club should resolve the Daniel Sturridge situation in time, however, with or without Sturridge, the club needs two quality strikers with proven records. Lacazette and Keita fit this description perfectly. To be frank, this is the department that the club needs to break the bank to match their ambition

As a fan, Alexander Lacazette perfectly fits this role. Though I would have preferred Pierre Aubameyang but with PSG in the picture for his signature, realistically it would be a mountain too much to climb with these American owners. The same applies to the rumor linking us with Kylian Mbappe. As a fan, this would be a perfect signing for us but with Real Madrid and Manchester City as part of his suitors, the same verdict as that of Aubameyang as far as this writer is concerned. If these transfers happen as I pray so, it would be a major coup. Maybe, we can erase some of the embarrassment caused by the VVD saga.

Of all the names linked with the club which include Dusan Tadic (Southampton, our ‘feeder team’), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid) and Keita Balde (SS Lazio), I would prefer Alexander Lacazette and Keita Balde. These players are within our reach, and as a serious club that we should be, we have to go for them with all seriousness. For me, Tadic is too average while Asensio won’t leave Real Madrid as he already stated in one of his recent interviews leaving only Lacazette and Keita. Lacazette first choice is Atletico Madrid but the FIFA transfer ban makes that unlikely; we should then compete with Arsenal for the player. Arsenal playing in the Europa League should be an advantage for us if we can put our act together. As for Keita, Sadio Mane influence can be exploited, marched with proper negotiations by the Liverpool team.

Finally, it is important to note that next season should be tagged the season of reckoning for Jurgen Klopp and as such he needs to get his acts together. As stated during his presentation ceremony after signing for the club in October 2016, Jurgen Klopp promised to deliver the long awaited EPL title within three years and next season would be a season close to the promised date. As a fan, I am of the opinion that the club especially the newly appointed CEO Peter Moore should use the remainder of this transfer window to atone for the VVD sin. The club needs to make a major statement in the transfer market only then can we hope for a title push next season.

 

DREAM TEAM FOR NEXT SEASON:

Goalkeeper:                  Mignolet / Karius

Right Full Back:          Clyne / Trent / (Joe Gomez)

Left Full Back:             Sessagnon** / Moreno (Milner)/ Joe Gomez

Central Defence:        Matip / VVD** Sakho (Koulibaly**)/Lovren

Defensive Midfield:   Emre Can / William Carvalho** / Lucas Leiva / Pedro Chrivaella

Central Midfield:       Henderson / Wijnaldum / Milner) / Stewart / Milinkovic**

Attacking Midfield/Wingers: Mane /Coutinho/Firmino/Sallah**

Strikers/Centre Forward:   Lacazette**/ Keita**/ Strurridge / Solanke / Origi / Ings

** players on the wishlist

 

 

TRANSFER SEASON: A MANCHESTER UNITED FAN WISHLIST

Although not officially open, the transfer window is in full swing with teams across Europe already splashing the cash in preparation for the upcoming season. The Premier League resumes in two months, but teams like Manchester City have already spent big on players like Bernardo Silva from Monaco and Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson in a World record fee with Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker still on their wish-list. For the Champions Chelsea, it is expected that they will bring in a new striker after Diego Costa revealed he had been informed by the manager Antonio Conte that he was no longer in his plans for the coming season. Arsenal have secured the signing of Schalke’s promising defender Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer whilst keeping hold of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil remains Wenger’s major task going into the new season. A lot of activities will still take place till the very last day when we experience the usual deadline day rush but from a Manchester United fan’s perspective, which players will you like to see unveiled as the team makes a four pronged title approach next season.

MANCHESTER UNITED: United have already secured a deal to sign Swedish International and former Benfica Player Victor Lindelof subject to medicals and work permit, this looks like a good deal as United struggled to cope with injuries and loss of form in the defense with only new signing Eric Bailey covering himself in some form of glory, but outside Lindelof, the team needs more and with names like Gareth Bale, Donnarumma, James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata and many more linked to United, who else should be on Jose’s four man wish list given to Ed Woodward and which positions should the team be looking to strengthen?

Gareth Bale/ Douglas Costa: Jose Mourinho usually fancies a lone striker and with the likes of Martial, Rashford and Lingard failing to contribute as much goals to support Ibrahimovic’s numbers, the team fell short when Zlatan wasn’t scoring. That is one area that needs to change and Gareth Bale would be an obvious fit at United. Despite injuries limiting his performances at Madrid in the just ended season, Bale running at any defender with his shooting prowess and aerial strength will be a valuable asset to any top team. Aside also being a statement of real intent, he has always been linked with a return to England with United top of the list. Out of favor at Bayern Munich, Douglas Costa is my second option if we don’t get Bale as United will present him a chance to revive his career and with his pace and skills, the Premier League may just suit his style well.

Alvaro Morata: If the rumor mill is to be believed, Morata to United will be a done deal in the coming days, it’s no secret that following the release of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United needs at least one top striker to lead the lines next season and initially the talk was on Antoinne Griezmann joining the team but following Atletico’s transfer ban, he has decided to stay with the team for at least one more season, so attention has now been shifted to Spain forward Alvaro Morata who despite scoring a total of 22 goals for Madrid in a double winning season, he is still second place to Benzema and has been quoted as seeking more regular playing time even if he has to leave Madrid again after only one season. At 24, he is quite experienced and is even yet to fully hit his prime which he may achieve at United.

Fabinho/ Any good DM: Last season, Jose allowed Bastian and Schneiderlin leave, which he later admitted regretting, the team ended up with Tuanzebe drafted into the midfield role towards the end of the season, Michael Carrick who recently had his testimonial and got rewarded with a new contract will be 36 next season, United fans have never fancied Fellaini leaving Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba as the only dependable midfielders going into the new season, United needs a holding midfielder who can give Pogba the freedom to bloom like Carrick did, Fabinho did this pretty well combining with Bakayoko at Monaco and will be interesting to see if he can replicate a similar partnership with Herrera.

A left Back: Left back is also one area where United struggled all through the last season with Matteo Darmian who is a right back playing in that position at crucial stages of the season, Luke Shaw has well-documented injury concerns and may not just be able to hit the levels he once did at Southampton, Daley Blind is quite useful to the team for his versatility but his lack of pace has seen him struggle at the left back role, clearly Marcos Rojo is a better option at Center back and despite improvising decently when called upon, Darmian is not a left back, it is quite a difficult role to fill but it is one that Jose needs to pay attention to. Someone in the likes of Danny Rose maybe.

 

IN THE ABUNDANCE OF CASH, THE GAME PERISHES

The major leagues are over, and the clubs are taking stock of their performances in the just concluded season. For me as a fan, it has been a tumultuous season for me. Liverpool’s qualification for the UEFA Champions League playoffs is like scoring 50% on the final day of the test. It’s nothing exceptional while it’s slightly lower or equal to average. To discuss the review of the past season, I picked the phone and dialed my friend, Reed in Birmingham. A South African based in the UK, Reed works as a scout for some club sides in Europe. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, we discussed all topics around football with specific reference to last season. Some of the issues addressed include the falling standard of refereeing in Europe especially in the Champions League, impact of Brexit on transfer dealings of British club sides as the realities of Brexit become clearer, the unusual scenario in the blue side of Manchester where a particular magician ended the season without winning a trophy, the impact of video technology in the current FIFA U-20 World Cup, the lackadaisical attitude of the Italian authorities to the issue of racism with specific mention of the Sulley Muntari incident, the reemergence of AS Monaco as a powerhouse in the French Championnat and the sustainability of the new approach to the cup; the monopoly of Juventus in Serie A, the surprise package of Antoine Conte etc. The list was extensive as this was the first time we would be discussing in detail after our last meeting in Dallas in the summer of 2016. At the tail end of the 32 minutes conversation, we started talking about the issue of massive cash injected into the game on a continual basis. This was brought about while discussing the new ownership in AC Milan and the early transfer deals by Manchester City. As we rounded up the discussion, it became clearer to me that the huge cash injected into the game would continue to create some monsters within the game. It became more apparent that the football family needs to tackle the negative impact of huge finances pumped into the game especially as it relates to its adverse effect on the game.

At this juncture, it is important to state that this writer has nothing against the funds being injected into the game. However, the excesses that come with these investments and the negative impact on the game are the issues of concern to me. Money in football is a good thing, however, the regulatory aspect of the game needs to be strengthened and monitored to curb the negative impact of huge finances in the game. In all sincerity, the game is thriving regarding finance, and the Europeans are expectedly leading the chase. It’s  a no brainier that the game in Europe represents the image of global football without discrediting the contribution from the other regions of the world. A recent UEFA report confirmed this assertion with European clubs making an aggregate profit of €1.5billion.

With this significant income comes the issue of poor administration characterized mainly by corruption and other associated vices. This affects the ethics and standard of the game. Amid plenty monies, the administrators put up careless attitude towards ethics of the game and rather single out the successes leading us to the words of the famous philanthropist, Bills Gates who says “Success is a lousy teacher, it seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose”. The administrators are turning a blind eye to the problems, and rather than taking a decision to rectify the issues; they are busy dancing to the success tunes. For example, the recent decision of FIFA to increase the world cup slots to 48, as per this writer’s opinion, is purely based on the commercialization of the game. The game is swimming in cash, but there are a lot of sharks in the “cash water” as well.

Whenever adverse impacts of money in the game is being brought up before the handlers of the game, they handle them with kid gloves. Little wonder that the world was treated to a lot of revelations and drama during the FIFA-Gate saga that started on May 27, 2015, at the Baur Au Lac Hotel, Zurich. The movers and shakers of football then were consumed by the tsunami that swept across football’s capital cities. Names such as Nicolas Leoz, Julio Grondona, Jack Warner, Sepp Blatter, Mohammed Bin Hammam, Amos Adamu, Richard Lai, Chuck Blazer, Michel Platini and much more were suspended, banned or prosecuted for their corrupt activities within FIFA and their confederations. The aftermath of the FIFA-Gate clearly shows to all of us that the reasons for the kid gloves from the administrators of the games towards the issue of huge finances in the game and its negative impact on the game.

In the past, the essence of the game includes entertainment and recreation, and this takes precedence above any commercial reasons. The likes of former CAF boss, Ethiopian Ydnetchekhew Tessema fought the battle all their life, saving the essence of the game from the commercial benefits. They reserved the essence of the game and never allowed commercial reasons to prevail above the game’s interest. Then, players are committed to national team cause, and there is pride in wearing their national team jerseys. Today, the reverse is the game. Moneybags now dictate the game. From the Sheikhs of Manchester City and PSG; the Russian oligarchs of Chelsea, AS Monaco, FC Neuchatel Xamax, and Reading, the Yankee Capitalist in Manchester United, Liverpool and AS Roma, etc., the game is now in the hands of the financial capitalist that runs the economies of the world. The entertainment value of the game has been slaughtered at the slab of cash. Teams were bought and resold for commercial reasons, and the essence of entertainment and recreation has been destroyed. Several reports of the top leagues in about 17 leagues in Europe in 2015/16 season showed the declining nature of fan attendance at the stadium across Europe. Many club sides, especially in East Europe, are struggling to bring the fans to the stadium as TV rights and the associated revenues have taken the shine off fan attendances at these stadia. For example, league games in Armenia were being shifted to accommodate TV schedules to raise income, and this has led to the reduced attendance in some of the league venues in the country.

The reality in the game today is that there is a huge gap between the have and have-nots in the game and UEFA acknowledged this much. In their annual club football report for the 2015/16 season, UEFA mentioned the huge financial gap between a “widening financial gap between the global superpowers and other large clubs” and some countries are increasingly being left behind as interest in the club game dwindles.
Look at the world, and you will undoubtedly agree with me that the dominant teams in each league are the ones with the bucks. In England, the home of the “Good is Greed League” (apology to Brian Glanville), there was a traditional four with huge cash to spend, but now, the moneybags from the Persian Gulf now rule with their blue half of Manchester. Then there are Spurs from North London that are also splashing the cash. If you doubt why Manchester United won three trophies last season, check how much they spent on their major signings during last summer including their wages. In Spain, it’s a two-horse way fight between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Last season, it was a 12-point difference between them and the third-placed team, Atletico Madrid and I can tell you that this can be translated to over 210million pounds, the difference in their bank accounts. In Scotland, it has always been Celtic and the rest. The massive budget figures between Celtic and the other teams can only confirm the reason for one league winner since 2011. In Portugal, it’s a fight between Benfica and Porto. Sporting Lisbon can’t put up any fight for the title recently because their bank account can’t buy the players required though their academy is giving them some glimpse of hope. In Germany, it’s Bayern Munich and the rest. Though Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg won the league recently while RB Leipzig put up a good fight this season, their finances can’t be compared to Bayern Munich. Check the Bundesliga table and see this difference. In France, it used to be Olympique Lyon for the better part of the last decade. The reason is that of the cash from Jean Aulas. As soon as he closed his purse, the title stopped. Today, PSG usually claimed all four trophies on offer in the country until AS Monaco with their youngsters blew some life to the competition this season by winning the league. Their ability to sustain the challenge next season is yet to be seen.

There seems no problem for these clubs to be sold to the moneybags. On the surface, there is no issue, after all, it would empower the clubs to challenge for honors and titles in areas that their fans would have never imagine. An example is Manchester City that won two league titles in the last six seasons. These are dreams that Man City fans were not envisaging some seven years ago. However, the coming of the investors brought about significant issues that are affecting the game’s interest. As in many cases, most of these investors did not have any connection with the club history and at the time, nothing with the game at all. Then, one needs to ask the question, what is their primary objective of buying these clubs? Is it for commercial purposes or what? This is a million-dollar question that requires instant answers. Another problem is the sincerity of their investment and their ability to sustain the euphoria that their purchase usually brought to the club history. To buttress this point, let’s recalled the issue with Real Betis, Rangers FC, Neuchatel Xamax and even Manchester City under the former Prime Minister; Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand. These investors came to these clubs without a clear plan, and after some time they left these clubs in a worse state than they met. Except for Manchester City that was rescued by the Oil Sheikhs, others are currently facing serious financial issues that can lead to these clubs going to extinction.

Another problem that comes with these investments from “strangers” in these clubs is that dearth of young talents from these clubs. Coming with these investments is the quest for quick success. The search creates pressure on the coaches and leads them to purchase “ready-made” players. Though, some of these investors come with the usual solemn of “developing homegrown talents,” the realities differ. Young talents are not given enough chance, and rather they are sent on loan to clubs where they must adapt to a different style. In most cases, they come out worse, and the rest would be history. For example, Scott Sinclair was one of the bright lights in Swansea some few years back but had forgotten his experiences as one of the many loanees in Chelsea; he decided to join Manchester City. After struggling for game time and was sent on loans, as usual, he was rescued by Celtic recently. Other youngsters with such experiences with Manchester City include John Guidetti (currently with Celta Vigo); Jack Rodwell (relegated with Sunderland), Adam Johnson (currently in jail after joining Sunderland from City). These numbers are expected to increase this season with the rumors of the club trying to sell Kelechi Ihenacho and Engel Ural, two of the brightest youngsters on the fringes of the first team. Today, Chelsea FC currently has over 30 youngsters on loans, and these include Bernard Traore (AFC Ajax), Christen Andreasen (Borussia Monchengladbach), etc. The future for these youngsters in the main squad appears slim as the manager needs to deliver the success unless their sugar daddies would fire them.

For every club, the fan is an integral part of their existence. But with the coming of these new owners, nothing of such has been accorded these fans. The owners treat them like any other tool that can be used in making money. With the coming to these owners, comes an astronomical increase in ticket price. Fans pay dearly to watch their team to allow the investors to recoup their investment in record time. To believe this, you need to ask a loyal Manchester United fan the difference between their season ticket price in 2001 pre-Glazier era and now. On a final note, the introduction of the financial fair play brought some sanity into the finances of these clubs. The idea was brilliant at the initial stage, and the implementation of the rule brought some respite to the game until these clubs “understood” the interpretation of the rules. The implication of this is that these clubs created mechanisms to circumvent the law with a different model such as the parent company having different clubs across the globe or some “sponsorship” deals that undermined the objectives of the law.

The governing bodies of the game need to review these issues and regulate the impact of these huge funds introduced to football. Cash is good no doubt, but too much cash can be dangerous to the game. New legislation and regulations should be adopted to address the dynamic nature of the game and help bring back some sanity to the game. We, the fans are tired of hearing the names Bayern, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus, etc. dominating the transfer markets with the huge sum paid for players worthless while the smaller clubs struggle for the crumbs. There is a need for competition in the game, and until the financial ground is made level or being seen to be level, we might not witness such any time soon. This is important at all levels of the game so that the founding fathers of the game such as Ydnetchekhew Tessema can look back and smile in their grave.

Henry Onyekuru to Arsenal: The Pros and Cons

The rumors have been flying for quite some days now but it eventually took flesh when according to Sky Sources, Arsenal have agreed a 6.8 million Pounds deal with Belgian club KAS Eupen for kid sensation Henry Onyekuru with personal terms yet to be reached. The 19 year old who is a product of the Aspire foundation recently made his ‘debut’ for the Super Eagles in a ‘practice’ game against Corsica and is in the squad to play Togo. Onyekuru’s invite to the Super Eagles is very refreshing especially as the duo of Iheanacho and Iwobi who led the forward lines in our last qualifiers have since suffered familiar fates and lost their places in their teams, hence the need for someone who is actually getting game time and scoring goals which the 19 year old fully fits the bill, Onyekuru is fast, has good movements and finishes quite well with 20 goals in the Jupiler league.

At first look, the deal to Arsenal sounds juicy especially as it sees a Nigerian player yet again featuring for a top side in Europe and will provide more opportunities to be seen and monitored by his Nigerian fans who are largely followers of the English league, but critically, is this the deal that the lad needs at this point especially with interest from the likes of Celtic, Club Brugges and Anderlecht? Arsenal recently gave their manager Arsene Wenger a new two year deal after a turbulent season and many are of the opinion that this may well be his final two years in charge of the gunners. The team despite winning 3 FA cup finals in the last four years are without a Premier League trophy in 13 years and miss out on the Champions league for the first time under the French man, the Wenger Out campaign hit its highest levels this season and it is rumored that the board have mandated the Manager to be more ruthless in his transfer dealings and in a season where Manchester City have already signed Bernado Silva, agreed a fee for Benfica goalkeeper Ederson and are strongly linked to the likes of Kyle Walker, in a window where United are being linked with names like Griezmann, Aubameyang, Perisic, is Henry Onyekuru the type of signing that will bring excitement to the Arsenal Fans? Will Arsene be patient enough with the young talent who clearly still has a lot to learn amidst pressure?

The demands of expectation at the Emirates will be at its peak this season, will Henry be able to thrive under that atmosphere where he will be expected to deliver week in, week out. Is he exactly a step up when compared to Giroud or Danny Welbeck, this is a major leap for the young lad and whilst many may be quick to point to how Arsene Wenger helped Kanu Nwankwo blossom, albeit under different circumstances, the times have changed, the Gunners have succinctly gone beyond their ‘building the young’ policy and have splashed the cash in recent years, instant success is required and how much of a chance will Henry be given to find his feet when the next year could actually be key to his development and staking his place in the Eagles as major competitions draw near. Much is left to be seen of this deal, will Henry Onyekuru end up as another Ahmed Musa or a Brown Ideye, only time will tell.

ON AFRICA’S ‘9.5’ SLOTS AT THE 2026 WORLD CUP

So what has been making the rounds since the start of the year following FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s proposal to extend the most glamorous football tourney became reality this week. The FIFA council during a meeting in Bahrain this week ratified the decision expanding the allocation for teams from 32 to 48, with this decision, here is what each continent has now being allocated,

Allocation:

Asia: 8 direct slots- increased from 4.5 (currently 46 members)

Africa: 9 direct slots – increased from 5 (currently 54 members)

North and central America: 6 direct slots – increased from 3.5 (currently 34 members)

South America: 6 direct slots – increased from 4.5 (currently 10 members)

Oceania: 1 direct slot – increased from 0.5 (currently 11 members)

Europe: 16 direct slots – increased from 13 (currently 55 members)

Final two places in 2026 to be taken by the host nation and decided by six-team play-offs, in which an African team will stand a chance of an extra slot, this is something that the Confederation of African Football has lobbied towards achieving for a while now though it was rumored that the former head Issa Hayatou was not predisposed to this, but changes at both FIFA and CAF has ensured that the changes have taken place.

When the issue of an expansion was first raised, a lot of top football voices aired their opinions with support for the cause coming largely from Asia and Africa, the President of the German Football Association Reinhard Grindel, was quoted as saying, “I am not happy with the decision and would have wished that all the important questions about the organisation and the format had been completely resolved,” But since the decision was taken unanimously by the FIFA council, it is important to respect it and look forward. My main worry is that the attractiveness of the matches will suffer.”

Javier Tebas, president of the Spanish league also was in disagreement saying “FIFA is doing politics. Gianni Infantino is doing politics”. FIFA however had the likes of Manchester United gaffer Jose Mourinho on its side, the Portuguese tactician welcomed the idea, “More nations taking part means more passion, more happiness, more enthusiasm. More countries mean more Africans, Asians, Americans together.

What the expansion translates to is that from 2026, 48 teams will take part in 16 groups of 3 teams (which doesn’t even make sense in itself) unlike the 8 groups of 4 that we have been accustomed to, with top two progressing to the knock-out stages, the total number of games will increase from 64 to 80, many have questioned if these changes is actually for the good of the game or more from political and financial grounds.

From an African perspective, I do not see this as something to get excited about, as the World Cup which many have even claimed to be less glamorous in comparison with the UEFA Champions League may actually now be likened to the Europa League in terms of competitiveness, attraction and quality of teams on display.

The most teams that Africa has previously had at the World Cup was six in 2010 when South Africa hosted, they were joined by Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast and the farthest any African team has gone in the competition is the Quarter final stages with Cameroon in 1990; Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. It is worthy to note that since the inception of the world cup in 1930, the tournament which will have its 21st edition hold next year in Russia has only had eight winners, five from Europe and three from South America, the African teams did not do too well in the last edition at Brazil and have not exactly set the world ablaze in performances over the course of the last four years, we no longer even have an African Player coming close to the top 10 list of best footballers, the best of talents are in Europe’s major leagues, the majority of funds for football development is concentrated in Europe and lately China, the standards of CAF organized competitions have dropped and the leading Nations in African football like Egypt and Nigeria even struggle to qualify for local tournaments, it is thus very unclear how an increase in the numbers of teams that will be representing Africa will change the fundamental influence on the game on these teams and even in the World Cup.

The African Nations cup which was last hosted by Gabon earlier in the year and saw Cameroon winning their fifth title only features 16 teams and of the 16, it is really hard to point beyond eight teams as quality teams in the competition, so with the likelihood of 9 or 10 out of this pool featuring on the major stage, many fear that whilst it may be a jamboree of new faces, it could also be match practice and one sided games when matched against top oppositions. Egypt were the first African side to play at the World Cup in 1934 and it wasn’t until 1982 when the slot was doubled. Following impressive showings by the likes of Cameroon, Africa earned an extra slot in 1994 and in 1998 was increased to its current five. The slots seemingly have grown organically over the editions following the performances displayed by the African teams, one now begin to wonder, which African team of late has impressed on the International scene leading to an increase from five to nine automatic slots. Football in Africa have not reached the potential that many believe is present within its shores, African clubs have not caused major upsets in the World Club competitions and African players are no longer lighting up leagues across the world.

The argument has been made that worse teams don’t exactly lead to worse games and if these teams don’t get a chance to showcase what they have on the big stage, then one can never know the extent of their abilities. Big name teams matching up also don’t translate to competitive and better games (Germany VS Brazil comes to mind), but would you rather watch Germany route Brazil or stay up to see Italy play Djibouti? The World Cup is an elite tournament commanding the highest number of viewers and sponsorship and it is important that the competitive nature of the tournament must not be allowed to drop, blow-out results are not exactly low quality games but the type of football on display, the technicality, tactics, coaching and pattern on display at every single World Cup game is what  has made it the global event it is today, and if the World Cup in 2026 features nations who can’t display these attributes, then it has begun to reward mediocrity.

2026 is still a long time and many things will change; increased revenue over quality, inclusiveness over elitism, but an expansion for expansion sake may just be an idea too grand for what is football’s most historic competition.

 

A CASE OF DECIDED SEMI-FINALS and THE STEPHEN ODEY SAGA

The week featured semi-finals of Europe’s elite competitions with the Champions league and the Europa League in its last four stage, after the pairings were made, a lot of pundits and football lovers expected tight encounters with most of the games deemed to go down the wire and some even predicting that fixtures may not be decided after the second legs and may require extra time or even penalty shoot-outs to declare the winner.

Real Madrid VS Athletico Madrid was the highlight fixture of the Champions league semi-final round following the rivalry between both sides not just in the La Liga but in recent finals of the Champions league. In 2014, Madrid required a late equalizer from Sergio Ramos to force the game into extra time before going on to win by 4 goals to 1, then in 2016, both teams featured yet again in a game played at the San Siro and after 90 minutes yet again, there was still no separating both sides as it ended one goal apiece with Real Madrid winning after penalty shootouts. This time around though, a second derby hat-trick in one season from Cristiano Ronaldo who has scored 103 Champions league goals gave Madrid a commanding 3-0 win in the first leg tie and following how difficult to beat Zidane has built his team over the course of the season, rotating and adjusting well to games, there is no coming back from this for Diego Simeone’s side who themselves are naturally better at defending leads than over-turning them.

The second semi-final saw Italian Champions Juventus away at Monaco, the game billed as the battle of the immovable defense against the unstoppable attack with the ageing Juventus back-line of Gigi Buffon, Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini predicted to face their strongest test of the season against Colombian forward Radamel Falcao who has re-discovered top form and the sensational Kylian Mbappe, Allegri’s side however proved that they could find a balance between defending and attacking, two sublime strikes from Gonzalo Higuain,  both created by Dani Alves ensured the Bianconeris are well on their way to a second Champions league final in 3 years. Juventus shut out Monaco from scoring at home for the first time since November 2015 and whilst the young stars of Monaco will be giving it another go in 6 days time, the experienced players of the Old Lady have seen enough of games like this and barring a major loss of concentration, there is no way they will let this slip.

In the Europa league, Lyon were handed a thrashing by the very young Ajax side as their visit to the Amsterdam Arena ended up in a 4-1 defeat, on loan Chelsea forward Bertrand Traore struck twice with Mathieu Valbuena giving the French side an away goal that retains their slim chance of turning the deficit in the return leg. Ajax extended their winning streak at home to 12 games and are well on course for a final berth in Europe once again. In the second semi-final tie, Celta Vigo lost at home to English giants Manchester United despite having rested players over the course of the month in preparation for the tie, a well taken free-kick by kid sensation Marcus Rashford ensured that Jose Mourinho’s side not only got an away goal but left Spain in prime position for a final place, of all the semi-final fixtures, this looks like the one that remains very open seeing that a solitary goal from Celta Vigo at Old Trafford balances the tie and puts United on the edge but Manchester United have not lost a single game at home in the Europa League, they have actually won 5 out of 6 home games in regulation time thus far in the competition and with Jose Mourinho finally accepting that the competition is the only way to the Champions league next season and anything short of that will almost mean a failure in his first season, and also with the poor way Celta Vigo played in the first leg despite having given up their La Liga aspirations for this, it is safe to assume that this tie like the three others is also done and dusted.

The Stephen Odey Transfer Madness: Now just when a lot of attention is being given to the NPFL with so much hype on talents like Stephen Odey and Sikiru Olatunbosun, a reminder of the shabby and unprofessional way of the affairs of the clubs in the league reared its head again. News broke during the week that the NPFL top goal scorer with 14 goals Stephen Odey had traveled out of the country, at first his whereabouts seemed to be unknown but after a tweet from Denmark side FC Copenhagen during a game with FC Midtylland, things become clearer on one hand but also got more confusing on another hand following counter statements from his supposedly parent club MFM FC. The Manager of the side Fidelis Ilechukwu when first contacted claimed that he was not aware of Odey’s trip to Denmark and the payer had left without authorization, the club Director of Sports Emmanuel Adeyemi in a separate interview claimed Odey was on a facility tour to familiarize himself with conditions in Denmark (I find this as ridiculous as a statement can be), whilst the players agent is supposedly angry that his player is actually playing trial games instead of a medical as supposedly agreed by both sides. Amidst this insanity, the Media officer of the side Olawale Quadry in trying to justify how the club wasn’t initially aware of the where-about of their star forward stated that the Danish side called the club’s office landline at an odd hour when nobody was in the office to receive the call, hence they could not inform them abinitio, I find this statement not only embarrassing but also laughable. There is also the unclear issue of the ownership of the player, it has been days since this saga became public and there is still no coordinated response or official statement from the club, all we have gotten have been individual statements contradicting each other and making a mess of an already badly managed situation. This is no way to run a professional team and whilst many arguments may be  made as to the player trying to secure his future now that he is getting all the buzz, things when not done properly always backfire. The player has just gotten a call up to the National Team, he may well be the next big thing in the league but like we have witnessed time and over again, if the little details as regards his management and direction are not sorted, he may well end up forgotten without actualizing his full potentials.

THE NPFL MUST REMAIN ON TV & THIS IS WHY

A couple of days ago, news broke on various online media and twitter handles that South African Television giants Super-sports who were the official broadcast partners of the National Professional Football League were on the verge of pulling out from their coverage of the Nation’s top flight league. What began as a rumor shrouded in uncertainties took a clearer dimension hours  later with news emanating over dispute in contract agreement or the TV giants seeking a renegotiation in terms of the legal tender to be adopted going forward, though there is no official statement from the LMC or Super-sports on the issue as at the time of writing. Super-sports currently have an exclusive contract to broadcast live matches of the National league alongside highlights in a 4 year deal worth $34MM (about N5.4 Billion) signed in 2015.

So much have been said and reported over the past couple of days but irrespective of what the issues are, planning to run a ‘professional league’ without Television even if it is just going to last for the remainder of the season is nearly unimaginable and the League Management Company (LMC) led by Shehu Dikko have got to do all within its powers to find a resolution with the TV giants and ensure that come the second stanza of the League which resumes in two weeks time, fans, followers and critics of the League have to continue seeing live matches on our screens, even if we stay restricted to one game every week and here are five reasons why;

It has helped put the NPFL on the map: Few seasons ago, we all know a lot of people had lost interest in the Nigerian league, we had all become fans of one foreign club or another and sacrificed our weekends at viewing centers to support our teams, but since the games began to be televised, more people have begun to take interest in the league, more people find themselves tuning to watch live matches and this often leads to a trending topic online as witnessed during the Kano Pillars VS Enyimba game in Kano. TV has helped as a showcasing platform for our players, recently MFM’s Sikiru Olatunbosun’s goal against Rangers got voted on TV giants CNN World goal of the week and the likes of his teammate Stephen Odey has enjoyed calls from fans to be included in the plans of the National team. Sikiru Olatunbosun’s goal is definitely not the best goal that has ever been scored in the league, neither is Stephen Odey the best talent that has ever stepped on the local scene but with Television, comes propaganda, with Television comes a larger viewership, with television comes word of mouth promotion, and this has helped give our players and teams more prominence across various platforms.

Television improves the standards of the game: We will be living in self denial if we claim that the NPFL as it is today can rival other top African leagues like what we witness in Egypt or South Africa, but it will also be unfair if we refuse to acknowledge the growth in quality and improvement that the league has witnessed in various areas especially with the efforts of the LMC. Few years ago, getting away victories especially in the second half of the season was almost an uphill task but thus far this season, we have witnessed the likes of Plateau United and MFM pick up points from away grounds, the first half of the season successfully came to a conclusion during the course of the week and with the second stanza due to commence in a fortnight, a lot is at stake, CAF Competition places as well as survival in the league will be determined, it is important for the league that there are no dark areas and matches are beamed across various stadiums so we can create a worthy Champion of the league who can be true representatives in the continent come next season. Also, Television allows for proper actions to be taken on grounds where crowd violence of poor match officiating is witnessed as you can only mete out punishment on actions that have been seen and properly reviewed.

Television boosts Revenue and attracts Sponsors: The lucrative deal with Super-sports has made more money available for the teams in the league, the deal has been a form of monetary brick building the gaps between the spending powers of the teams in the league as well as ensuring that the eventual winners of the league have an healthy sum in terms of revenue. Television has also encouraged fans turn-out at stadiums as fans troop to stadia across the country that have been penciled for live broadcast on match-day because there is a belief that with the cameras around, security will be better and the joy of being caught on cameras and beamed on giant screens have improved match experience which has in-turn led to an increase in ticket sales. It has also encouraged companies to get involved with NPFL clubs as we now see more shirt sponsors of teams and more organizations bidding to be league and brand sponsors.

Television has fueled increase in popularity and profitability, it has also inspired various innovations from the broadcasters, the home teams, the fans and has changed the optics of the league especially in the last two years, the league is now being viewed, understood, followed, marketed, packaged, played, officiated, talked about and governed differently.

Arguments have been made in several quarters for local stations to capitalize on the current imbroglio and steal a spot as broadcast partners in the league, many have called for the LMC to partner with the Nation’s largest television NTA, who have outfits in every state of the federation and could transmit via their ”partner” satellite station Star-times to a much larger audience, on paper this sounds like a good idea but I doubt that presently it will yield much, if we remember the league once has a terrestrial deal with African Independent Television (AIT) but this never materialized much, Super-sports have done a decent job thus far and if there is a chance of renegotiating the terms and maintaining the relationship, I will subscribe to that as we cannot afford to allow the league take major steps backward from the goodwill it had gained in recent times, we cannot return to those days when we rely on the pages of sports papers for all the information concerning the league and the longer this blackout persist, the easier it is for fans apathy towards the league to return, for the sake of the professionalism of the league, it must be on TV as soon as the league returns.

Halftimeng Alternate PFA 2016/17 Best Eleven

As always, when the end of the season nears; award and selection fever grips the entire Football fan base; of course we are never able to agree on a selection or awardee that makes everyone happy; it is the nature of us as humans to agree to disagree. Yesterday, The Professional Footballers Association in England released its selection of the stand out players for the ongoing season as voted by the players themselves. As always annually; some players were interestingly left out. One that compounds all human reasoning is Sergio Aguero; how in all the time he has been in the Premier League,he keeps been over looked is quite remarkable. Another has to be Toby Alderweireld; the Spurs defender as been solid and resolute all season; yes Chelsea have had a really good season especially David Luiz, who seems to have finally tracked down the kid with the Play-station pad and has turned out to be a defender reborn (ignore the performance at Old Trafford though).

How was Alexis Sanchez left out this year; despite his Nineteen Goals for Arsenal and been the Gunners best player all year. Please take a look at the PFA Selection (courtesy The Sun) below:

How Sadio Mane makes this list amazes me as well as the two Spurs full backs; don’t get me wrong they have had good seasons; but can you honestly say that Mane has had a better season than Alexis Sanchez or has Walker been better than Antonio Valencia?

How Gary Cahill makes this list has to be one of the wonders of the world; especially considering the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Virgil Van Dijk have had stellar seasons. Well just as the players are entitled to make their own selection; I have decided to come up with an alternative selection of my own.

In comparison to the PFA selection; only one man is constant and he has my vote anytime and any day to be the PFA Player of the year; he is none other than N’Golo Kante. Here’s my alternative PFA Best Eleven:

 

So what do you think? If you disagree with my selection; hit me up in the comments section with your alternate line up and lets have some fun with it.

Poor Records, Representation and Third Party Ownership: The bane of the NPFL

As you may be aware, I am a contributor to some Sports programs on Radio here in Lagos, Nigeria and whilst on air yesterday with Olawale Adigun doing Sportscafe on Top Radio 90.9FM; we discussed the alleged plan of Sikiru Olatunbosun and Steven Odey to go out on trials in Belgium whilst their team Mountain of Fire Ministries Football Club, otherwise known as MFM FC remained in pole position to potentially end the first half of the season as league leaders. Our discussion centered around the impact their departure would have in derailing the MFM FC train and scuttle all that has been achieved by this modest but ”well run” Football club. My take was that the fact that the commercial ownership of the rights to this players is supposedly in doubt constitutes a major problem for the team. Whether we like it or not MFM are not alone in this messy ownership structures which are purportedly arranged as loan transactions; visit any NPFL Club today and the story is the same, 3/4 of the players plying their trade for different clubs in our league are not owned by these clubs. Now do not get me wrong; the loan system is recognized and acceptable worldwide; especially among ”duly registered” clubs not mushroom academies and messy third party ownership arrangement.

You would ask; why am I so worried and concerned about this matter, well I could direct you to my Twitter Bio which shows that I am desirous of being an Intermediary; but that’s not the main reason, my main beef has to do with the amount of financial benefits our ”Professional” football teams are allowing to waste away by getting into these useless arrangements. Growing up in the 1990s; My father would buy the now defunct Sports Souvenir and I would go to the local league segment especially at the beginning of the season to read the transfer news. For those older than I am; they can correct me if they may; but I remember Ike Shorunmu signing for 3SC for One Million Naira at the time; that transfer was echoed all over the press; it was a major milestone for our league at the time. Today, what do we have? A shambles of a Local transfer system where player movements are mainly captured as loans or the player hops and leaves his previous team to join the next highest bidder with little or no transfer fees captured nor earned. What we do not realize is that the future of this players is been damaged with this practice and the financial responsibility side of the game is completely eroded.

You would ask what do I mean the players future is damaged; well in putting together an International transfer; there’s a document called the player’s passport; it is a document that shows all the teams the player has featured for from the age of twelve this helps eventually in computing whatever solidarity payments or training compensation is due the clubs that helped train the player; but no; because we do not keep this records appropriately nor document these transactions our local clubs lose future revenue that they can get from having a player feature for them at some point in time. The League Management Company still has a lot of work to do in terms of regulating clubs and transfer of players; it is not enough to supposedly implement the Transfer Matching System when documentation is poor, there are no intermediaries involved and the transfers are mainly or in most cases only loans. When was the last time; we heard Mr. X moved from Wikki Tourist to FC Ifeanyi Ubah for XX Million Naira? It doesn’t happen anymore. Just look at the transfer of Chisom Egbechulam to a Swedish club on loan and all the issues that happened with his proposed move to Club African in Tunisia; imagine the amount of money Rangers would have made from that player at the time; if you dig deeper you will find that he may not even be owed by Rangers.

Our Clubs and the LMC talk about getting listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange; we are at least ten years away from achieving this is if this is the way we run our clubs. Interestingly; I wrote something recently on the pros and cons of that initiative (Read Here). We find ways of scaling through CAF’s Club licensing hurdles; only to go on the continent to embarrass ourselves with poor travel arrangements and inability to feed players prior to a continental engagement; who are we fooling? We forget that developing a buoyant and robust transfer system ensures that our clubs are more financially responsible; creating a major income stream for them in Local and foreign currency. Just look at how Brazilian and Argentine players are exported to main stream Europe for huge transfer fees; with a little research you would see that Income from Football constituted 2% of the entire Brazilian GDP; whilst the Brazilian GDP as a whole grew by 4%; Football’s GDP grew by 5.6%; we are sitting on a gold mine that we are not aware of. Yes our players may not be as good as the Brazilians which is debatable but harnessing the income potentials in Football and Sports in general serves as an extra stream of Foreign exchange which is lacking as we speak as our players are transferred to Europe for peanuts because they do not have proper representation and the general greed of our Football administrators.

The time has got to come where the LMC in conjunction with NFF first sanitize the player transfer market locally; where we are able to capture how much exchange hands between our clubs; which gives us an idea of the economic value of transactions done locally (Transfers between English Premier League Clubs has crossed the One Billion Pounds mark). This can first be achieved by limiting the number of loan transfers first; giving a clear picture of who owns this and that player; shed a light on those that represent them; by ensuring that each player has a representative either a Lawyer or a duly certified or accredited football intermediary of course by the NFF and if the agent is foreign; he must have obtained a license from the NFF to transact business or signed a sub-agency contract with a locally certified Intermediary; that way the authorities can track the process of transactions and create a proper football economy.

So for example; Rangers puts in a bid of Ten Million Naira for MFM FC’s, Onuwa Chukwuka; MFM accepts the bid, with Onuwa duly represented by an intermediary; a contract is drawn up with the player earning N500,000 monthly after tax deductions; the intermediary/lawyer earns 3% of the player’s monthly salary which is N15,000 monthly. What has happened here is a creation of a football economy; where jobs or livelihoods are created. You must also understand that the player has the right not to have professional representation; hopefully he doesn’t live to regret that action.

Creating a football economy will make clubs more financially responsible; accountable to government, regulators, individuals, church or corporate owners; allowing them to have forecast and budgets which would include projections for revenue that would have potential player sales as an integral part; that way we can build a viable, robust and financially vibrant league. When clubs own the commercial rights of their players; it allows for them to plan, regenerate for the future; project potential earnings especially for those that have active academies; this way there will be no issues relating to who owns who whilst allowing them to estimate appropriate values to this players, this can only happen with strict adherence to accountability, records keeping and implementation of all rules and regulations guiding the clubs and the league in general.

 

***Pictures courtesy twitter.com, goal.com and premiumtimesng.com