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Nigerian Clubs And The Burden To Excel At Continental Championships

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Nigerian club sides have repeatedly failed to live up to the billing or hold their own at continental level time and again in the last couple of years, this has become a burden and a major concern for followers of the domestic game.

So much so considering that growing up, local football was at its best, churning out top talents that play in the national team, and were also doing great in the continent with the likes of Rangers, IICC  Shooting Stars to mention a few. But things have however suddenly changed from worse to worst. What exactly went wrong? How did we get here? What can be done to remedy the situation? These are questions and more questions seeking an answer.

With the plethora of talents found everywhere in the country, one finds it very difficult to reconcile or understand why it is so. It won’t be a surprise that Nigeria clubs dominated the continental scene but rather it’s a rude shock to witness how Nigeria clubs fail to make any meaningful impact year in year out, most often than not get eliminated in the preliminary stage of the competition.

This is completely unacceptable and all hands must be on deck to change this ugly narrative or situation. Nigeria certainly deserves more and a healthy and vibrant league will translate to a stronger Super Eagles if more local talents are invited and given a chance with the national team.

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The successes achieved by Clemence Westerhof as Super Eagles manager wouldn’t have been possible without the home based players, and these periods were our golden era 1988-1996.

Late Stephen Keshi adopted the same approach when he tutored the national team and his achievements are there for all to see. This was between 2012 – 2015.

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For Nigeria domestic clubs to return to their pride of place in the continent, a whole lot needs to change and very quickly too, otherwise the decline will continue. The Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye league board has tried to align the country’s football calendar with that of the rest of Africa and the world by extension. This is key and important  because before now Nigeria was lagging behind, and the implication was that why other leagues were on and their teams active, Nigeria league will not be on and our teams inactive which makes it very difficult for them to match their counterparts from other countries that play week in week out, as against them that are inactive when they face off at continental level.

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Again, poor scouting from domestic clubs who keep recycling same old players contribute immensely to the dip in domestic football. Continuity both of management, coaches, players that get cut and chop regularly is also another  inhibiting factor.

There’s also the issue of funding. Football is a capital intensive business which playing in the continent requires not just adequate funding but also funding at the right time. When Enyimba won the CAF champions league back to back they had a very strong financial backing from their governor, Orji Uzor Kalu.

Lastly, domestic teams must learn to collaborate and rally round any club representing the country in the continent with players, moral, technical and other forms of support as the success of the club rubs off on other clubs in the league via the coefficient syndrome. This is very germane and fundamental to ensure that the number of clubs representing the country in the respective competition doesn’t drop.

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