16th February, 2023
I have witnessed the astronomical growth in the number of Football Academies in Nigeria in recent times. I believe you noticed the trend also.
What must have been responsible for this growth? Could it be the genuine interest to discover and develop talents that abound at the grassroots level or a desire to explore and exploit the economic opportunities in the game or other reasons? Whatever may be the motive of the owners of these Football Academies, it is a cheering news that this very important arm of Football has indeed been invigorated by some individuals with VISION. The MISSION is on course and this growth without doubt is the pathway to Football Development in Nigeria.
Let me pause for a while to give commendation to some individuals and organizations. You will agree with me that the name Football Academy was not as admired or desired like Football Club. In some years past, I have heard of Pepsi Academy, Kwara Football Academy, Ilorin and others. Before then, the Principal's Cup and Shell Cup, Coca-Cola Cup played their huge roles. Recently, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare added some vigour to the Principal's Cup. Let me not forget that legendary Henry Nwosu was a product of the Secondary Schools Sports. Michel Obi was a product of Pepsi Academy. I will not forget the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON) which produced the core of the players that won the first FIFA Under 17 World Cup for Nigeria in China in 1985. Nduka Ugbade, current Chief Coach of the Golden Eaglets was Captain of the 1985 World conquering team. We made progress but it was not quite sustainable because the structures were really not well-defined and solid enough. If the structures were solid enough, there would have been a transition from the lower level to the highest level as such that the Super Eagles will be top contenders for the FIFA World Cup. Here we are, we couldn't qualify for Qatar 2022. This is simply the product of poor planning and execution. Okay, let us not dwell on our failures, rather, we should look forward to our future goals and objectives.
I saw a new dimension in the laying of a reliable and sustainable structure with the coming of FOSLA Academy which combines education with football. The results are there for all to see. FOSLA won the revived Principal's Cup. They are currently defending champions. They got to the finals of the Shell Cup. They were Coca-Cola Cup champions. The players have been selected for international engagements. The graduates of FOSLA form the core of Nasarawa State University (NSUK) in their Nigeria Universities Games Association (NUGA). They have had players like Kumate, and goalkeeper Aluko in the Golden Eaglets line up and recently, the School Boy, Onuche Ogbelu (who just graduated) played for the Flying Eagles in the AFCON zonal competition which Nigeria won. The performance of Onuche Ogbelu attracted Coach Ladan Isah Bosso's comment that Onuche was "the game changer".
Let me add that Carl Academy started another vibrant structure that is already contributing to the growth of the game.
We have more academies run by individuals, that need encouragement like Galaxy Sports Academy. It was formed and in the 2020/2021 season, it had the only two Nigerian players registered in the entire Ghanaian Premier League (Godfrey Aondoaseer Uitm and George Tachia Gber.) The academy also transferred players to China in 2020 (Joseph Atule from Rhapsody FC and Chris Shimbayev from JM Liberty Academy.) We have Real Sapphire Lagos, HB in Abuja and several others in the far East, South and North of Nigeria doing very well. The NFF should not try to overlook them but begin to get them organized. These academies might work with the NFF to make the huge work easier.
We see the number of Flying Eagles players that hail from these academies and grassroots clubs.
The sad news is that the NPFL clubs see the academies as Competitors instead of Co-partners in the football industry. They want academies in Nigeria killed, and they never reward them for their hard work when any transactions even occur.
Now that the number of Academies is rapidly increasing, I also noticed that there is an Association for Football Academies in Nigeria. How effective are they? I don't know. What can they do? They should strengthen the structure for sustainability. Period!
I will call on the current Board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) led by Ibrahim Musa Gusau to give them the necessary support and give them the status of member of Congress of the NFF.
For us to realize the growth or development we desire in Football in Nigeria, we must give the required support and also encourage the formation of Academies that must meet up with a minimum standard.