Nigeria: 'Poor Grassroots Culture Bane of Nigerian Football'

FIFA-licensed football agent, Shina Philips said yesterday that the country has not been able to produce players for big European clubs and other parts of the world in recent times because the nation has dumped its grassroots football culture.

Philips, who is the CEO of Matchmakers Consult International, organisers of the Nigeria Pitch Awards, noted that in the past sports administrators discovered talents from grassroots championships like the Principal Cup, inter-house sports and other youth tournaments, adding that the structure in place in the 70s and 80s gave youths the opportunity to display their talents in less tensed atmosphere.

He added that grassroots championships earned the players invitation to the junior national teams, which pave the way for them to get lucrative contracts abroad.

He said, however, that in recent times the neglect of grassroots football development has thrown up ill-equipped players, who see the game as a means of escaping poverty.

"I was Kanu Nwankwo's agent when he moved to Portsmouth FC of England. I was also the agent to John Utaka and some other Nigerian league players in the past.

"These days it is not possible to get talents from this country because the grassroots championships that brought out the talents have been neglected. There is no emphasis on the local tournaments.

"Most players that made Nigerians proud in the past were natural talents who dedicated their lives and energy in playing football.

"They where selected without sentiments to the national teams, which brought them out to the world to see and they got good contracts.

"Players like Kanu, Taribo West, Emmanuel Amuneke, late Stephen Keshi, Joseph Yobo and others are examples of the success story of the grassroots competitions," he said.

Another contributor to Nigerian football problem is the penchant to learn football from the European perspective.

"Nigerian clubs should fashion out their own pattern of play without copying from the European leagues.

"They should display their own football culture. Big players like Ronaldo and Messi were discovered in their various countries as raw talents.

"Despite being talented, their style of play is unique because of the special way they were groomed. This is what Nigeria should emulate to get good players."

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