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International Football

NFF should learn a lesson or two from Senegal

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.”Vince Lombardi

Senegal Jollof rice is certainly better than Nigeria’s. Well, that could be because Jollof originated from Senegal. Even then, can’t Nigeria perfect it, just as Brazil did in football, despite England’s claim as originator of football?

It is certainly indisputable that Senegal are currently the best in African football. Their dominance looms large enough that even their worst antagonists will notice it.

In a space of 17 months, the Senegalese have swept all African national teams’ titles. None of the title was won on home soil. None of their teams was led by a foreign coach.

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For the sake of emphasis, they won the African premier football competition – Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, the African Beach Soccer tournament in Mozambique, the African Nations Championships in Algeria, the Under 20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt and now the Under 17 Africa Cup of Nations in Algeria.

It is left for imagination if they will not add the Africa Under 23 title to it next month to have a clean sweep of Africa’s six national teams’ trophies.

Yet some years back, Senegal were just medium size African football powers while Nigeria were contenders for continental domination.

What has really propelled Senegalese football lately while Nigeria football is steadily creeping into anonymity?

Nigerian referees are hardly considered for international appointments. Our lead football brand, the Super Eagles has been consistently inconsistent.

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No Nigerian male footballer has won the African Footballer of the Year since the crowning of Nwankwo Kanu in 2000.

We no longer have the absolute dominance we had in women’s football in Africa.

The control Nigeria had in youth football, even at global level, has waned considerably as school football competitions which were the hunting ground for rising talents have long lost relevance. We have had in the past where some school boys moved directly to the national teams.

That is now history. We revel in having a glut of football academies that their owners just established for pecuniary purposes to traffic young boys abroad.

Our Under 17 players are supposed to be school boys and girls who should be writing their West African Examination Council examinations in May and June, yet we don’t seem to ask CAF to shift the competition calendar.

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The African Schools Football Championship ended without Nigeria’s participation ostensibly as we have no credible national football championships.

Our clubsides have literally turned to the football the other African clubs kick about in both CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup.

There is hardly a coach from Nigeria that commands continental respect.  Yet, all the five titles Senegal have won in the past 17 months are with their nationals as coaches.

Nigeria will rather go for foreign coaches that are without track record of success.

With vast shorelines and beaches, we could not raise formidable beach soccer teams and had to convert field players to beach soccer players.

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The results had been so disheartening that Nigeria had to stop participating in the African Beach Soccer as if beheading is the cure for headache. No concious effort to encourage the formation of beach soccer clubs and domestic competitions across the vast beaches that spread from Lagos State through Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River State.

The concerns of the NFF seem limited to national teams. Football development has taken a back seat. Yet, in other climes, football is a big industry that even attract foreign investments.

It might be argued that Nigeria too has had its moment of dominance, but certainly not at the level that Senegal have done – a clean sweep of all titles.

Nigeria, by now should learn to make winning a habit. You don’t just win once in a while. Like a legendary American football coach, Vince Lombardi once said: “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.” Which one do we subscribe to?

Let’s get across to Senegal and Morocco and find out what have been responsible for their rising standard.

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Let the NFF take a cue from the Book of Proverbs 6:6 – “Go to the ant, you sluggard;   consider its ways and be wise!

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

International Football

Two Moroccan football players lost at sea, says club official

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Abdellatif Akhrif, IRT player reported missing off the coast of M'diq this Saturday, July 6, 2024. © COPYRIGHT: IRT

Two Moroccan players from top-flight soccer side Ittihad Tanger have been missing at sea since Saturday after strong currents drifted their small yacht, a club official said on Sunday.

They were in a group of five players from the club who went cruising off the northern city of Tangier when strong currents and heavy winds drifted their yacht away as they were swimming in deep waters, club deputy president Anass Mrabet told Reuters.

“Three players have already been rescued on Saturday, while research is still ongoing for the missing Salman Harraq and Abdellatif Akhrif,” he said.

The players did not have buoys on them when they jumped from the small yacht to swim, he said citing recounts by rescued players.

While Akhrif, 24, is already a full member of the squad, Harraq, 18, was about to move up to the senior team this year, Mrabet added.

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Ittihad Tanger have been in the Moroccan top flight since 2015 and won the league title for the first and only time in their history in the 2017-18 season. However, they have struggled in the lower half of the standings in recent years.

-Reuters

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International Football

FIFA launches ‘Football Manager’ World Cup with $100,000 in prize money

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FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development and former soccer manager Arsene Wenger speaks during the 74th FIFA Congress at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

FIFA will host its first ever FIFAe World Cup of Football Manager this year to crown the best virtual manager on the highly-popular video game, world soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

FIFA is partnering with Sports Interactive, the developers of the game that has sold millions of copies and has also been used by several football clubs to scout players and opponents thanks to its extensive database.

Players will compete for $100,000 in prize money in the final event from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.

“This competition requires participants to demonstrate a profound understanding of football strategy and tactics,” said former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is the ambassador for the esports event.

“Success demands not only mastery of game mechanics but also in-depth football knowledge, making this format a fascinating blend.”

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FIFA said in the inaugural year of the event, selected member associations will be invited to be represented at the final event.

Member associations from all six confederations are expected to be invited while players can sign up on FIFA’s website.

-Reuters

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International Football

Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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