The impressive performance of Nigerian home based players for the Super Eagles during the recently concluded 2013 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa, has given hope to Nigerian fans, analysts and football administrators who hitherto do not see anything good in the local leagues to start having a rethink. With the outcome of the Super Eagles in South Africa, calls have continued to pour in for the support and development of the various leagues in the country in order to help produce more stars for the national team.
President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Aminu Maigari, speaking in Abuja on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the Congress of the Nigeria Nationwide League (NNWL), particularly charged the Ahmad Muazu Kawu- led board of the Nationwide League to produce more of Sunday Mba, Godffrey Oboabona, Gabriel Reuben, Kenneth Omeruo and others. "The Leagues have the responsibility to work even harder now to produce heroes for Nigerian football, following the excellent performance of some of the home boys at the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa," he said.
Maigari whose board of NFF was repeatedly accused of trampling on the growth of grassroots football in the country during the 2011/2012 season after starving the NNWL board of funds meant for the running of their league, said more work on the part of the Nationwide League management would guarantee sustainable football development in the country and ensure that Nigeria preserve its present status of African champion.
"In football, you are as good as your last result. Today, we are the champions of Africa. To maintain that status, we need to work even harder than we have ever done previously. Staying at the top is a lot more difficult than getting there. But be assured that the NFF will always give the necessary support," said Maigari.
Chairman House of Representative Committee on Sports, Honourable Geoffrey Aliyu Gaiya speaking at the same event said for government to successfully tackle the issue of security challenges facing the country there is need to adequately fund the Nationwide League noting that it is the only organ of football that is closest to the youths at the grassroots.
He said National Nationwide League (NNWL) formerly called Nigerian Amateur League with over 125 clubs across the country is the highest employer of labour in the country. "We must start to support grassroots football which is the Nationwide League and provide them adequate money if we must overcome the current security challenges in the country.
"Nationwide League is the biggest league in the country. With over 125 clubs that cut across all the local governments, it is the biggest employer of labour. As government, corporate organisations and Individuals, let us support this league and encourage its management to continue in their good work."
He commended the Ahmad Kawu led board of the NNWL for their efforts in repositioning the league. "The change of the name for the league from amateur league to Nationwide League itself was a big achievement. I commend the board for this bold step taken in repositioning the league and make it acceptable to Nigeria. I for once have never felt comfortable with the name amateur.
I am happy with the positive change going on the league and at House Committee on sports level we will do all we can to support you and ensure more money come to the league," he said.
Nigeria Nationwide League (NNWL) formerly known as amateur league is the third level of club football in the country. It is divided into four groups by geography with either nine, ten or eleven teams.
Promotion and relegation are not guaranteed. Most of the teams are sponsored by private citizens or local governments and funding at this level is minimal. Any team eligible to move to the National Division 1 must qualify for a Professional League license and commit to the increased spending.
Starting in 2012, the league changed its name from the Amateur League and will promote three teams per division instead of two.
According to the chairman of the NNWL board, Ahmed Kawu, all the cries of using football as a tool of fighting the current challenges facing the country will not be realistic until government changes its negligent attitude towards football at the grassroots level.