It was going to take something groundbreaking, nay earth-shattering, no continental plate shifting to get me back to writing on this blog. Being the a lazy writer does not come without its own perks. And so it came to be that Nigeria’s greatest sporting triumph since 1996 was what was required.

As surprising as the thrilling victory was, perhaps now with the benefit of hindsight it was foretold and should have been expected. Afterall, the great Nigerian team of ’94 was meant to just waltz all the way to the cup in South Africa in ’96 if not for the satanic intervention of Abacha and his advisers. Afterall, the same Stephen Keshi was captain of the greatest Nigerian team ever, widely expected to successfully defend their crown and not for the then unknown team of the hosts to sneak in and grab the trophy.

And so began the slide for Nigerian football; or i think it began then. But there have been many false starts since then; the Olympic victory in Atlanta, the appearance and subsequent loss to Cameroun in the AFCON at home in 2000, the final loss in the Netherlands in 2005 and in Beijing in 2008 to a Messi-inspired Argentina.

So it is perhaps instructive that the seeming revival be led by the very man who lifted the last Nations Cup trophy for the country, even if he resigned a day after winning the tournament and changed his mind a day after that.

It was also nice and maybe nostalgic to see the government, corporate bodies and billionaires fall over themselves in trying to reward the Super Eagles with all manner of prizes and cash gifts. Kinda surprised no one offered his daughter(s) to any of the players seeing as they have been become the flavour of the month for the ladies.

While it was nice seeing, it wasn’t what is required to build on this unforeseen triumph. What is needed is for the government to do the exact opposite and remove itself from the administration of football in the country, in all shapes and forms.

The superlative performances of locally based unknowns like Sunday Mba and Obaobona (don’t know his first name and I’m too lazy to check but he was a beast through out the tournament, nonetheless) shows that talent still resides in our local leagues.

But as long as the government retains a stranglehold on the league and clubs are run as a parastatal and not business concerns, the way ahead still seems dark for football in Nigeria. Until that happens, it would always be difficult for true talent to shine forth.

How does government owning virtually all the clubs in the land affect the development of football talents, you say?

The thing is as long as football clubs continue to be run as personal fiefdoms of whichever Sports Commissioner is in power with the concomitant bureaucracy and red-tapism, the emergence of new talent will always happen in spite and not because of the clubs.

You see the way football clubs are run in Nigeria, because they are just appendages of government, there is no incentive to run the club at a profit, no incentive to even run the club properly, no incentive to play good football that would attract fans to the desolate stands, no incentive to try to win matches home and away for the revenue that should entail, no incentive to groom players and develop them with the hope to sell them to bigger clubs in foreign lands.

No incentive when you know that no matter what happens what you get at the beginning of the season is a budget allocation. Nothing more. And sometimes a lot less.

And a lot less we would be getting for our vociferous support of the Super Eagles if things continue the way they have been. They could even get worse, remember the days we were ranked in 100s in FIFA rankings?

Wish I didn’t.

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