Hundreds of Nigerian youth who were stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, have been flown back home in recent months. Many more are still being evacuated.
These unfortunate Nigerians went abroad in search of greener pastures but failed to make any headway, and so, had to return home to restart life in the dysfunctional economy from which they fled. Talk about coming back to square one! However, there’s cheering news from an unlikely sector: Sport; and unexpected territories, Albania and Portugal.
The breaking news from Albania, a country in South-East Europe, was that a former goal keeper of the national soccer team, the Super Eagles, Ndubuisi Egbo won that country’s top league as the coach of a first division side, KF Tirana and thus qualified the team for the prestigious UEFA Champions’ League. Mr. Egbo was a former goal keeper of KF Tirana. He is the first black coach and the first African to achieve this feat.
This milestone is worth celebrating. Our youth need epoch-making events like these to lift their spirits in a country where there are few things to celebrate. In a country where soccer enjoys cult following, our incompetent sport administrators and corrupt government officials, have failed to take advantage of this rare opportunity to create an efficient sport infrastructure that could produce a vibrant sport sector.
Millions of Nigerian soccer fans are now being forced to look up to European leagues for entertainment, and inspiration, while our footballers go abroad to look for opportunities to hone their skills as professional footballers and administrators. If not for the European leagues, Nigeria would not have produced world class players like Kanu Nkwankwo, Jay Jay Okocha, who captained the English club, Bolton; Finidi George, Taribo West, Victor Osimhen, Victor Moses, etc.
We had to depend on the developed European leagues to nurture and produce stars for Nigeria to be able to contend for trophies in Africa and the world. And that’s because our local league is underfunded and badly by run incompetent officials, with little or no requisite training or professional experience. With no quality infrastructure, capital and personnel, the local league lacks the capacity or panache, to produce quality players who can win trophies for Nigeria, despite the abundance of talents.
The Nigerian league is no longer capable of producing quality players like Segun Odegbami, Emmanuel Okala, Muda Lawal, Christian Chukwu, like in the days of old. The Eagles class of 1980 which won the first African Nation’s cup for Nigeria, were local players who were raised from the local league. Today, we rely on Nigerian players aboard to win the least important matches. We no longer have quality local players that could move fans en-masse to stadia around the country.
Perhaps, this is what inspired a Nigerian business woman, Madam Nneka Ede to make the pioneering move of buying a football club in Portugal. The woman, a little known soccer enthusiast, recently purchased a third division Portuguese club, Lusifano Ginasio Clube Futebol.
The club has a 108 year history. She’s reported be the majority shareholder in the club. Her bold, audacious project gives us a gender balance, when juxtaposed with coach Egbo’s feat in Albania. Men and women are doing us proud in the soccer arena in far way Europe! I am inspired; you should be inspired, too.
Madam Ede and Coach Egbo give us hope that the Nigerian Diaspora story is not all about fraud, sex trade, crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and other despicable acts. This is what I want young people to see. You can make it abroad without having to do something illegal. If Nigerians are buying up choice businesses and investing in major businesses around the world, our compatriots won’t have to be fasting and praying to get foreign visas. Other countries would be begging to have us invest in their economies.
Wealthy Arabs, Americans, Asians, and other foreigners, are buying up European football clubs and other big businesses, as a result, citizens from those nations enjoy preferential treatments when they go to Europeans embassies to get visas. That’s because they are seen as value givers, not economic refugees. Their prospective host nations are always eager to welcome people who could enhance their economics and grow their GDP.
My message to young Nigerians is that, follow the examples of madam Ede, coach Egbo and hundreds of great Nigerians who are adding value to their host nations abroad. Like these people have shown, you can make it here at home, or anywhere, if you are serious, disciplined, focused and committed to your vision.
If you develop yourself and create what gives value to the community, people will look for you. No creative, aggressive and hardworking person is ever unemployed, if they know what they’re doing. Circumstances will always be there to frustrate you, but you just fight on until you win.
To achieve anything in life, you must have the winning edge. We’re not celebrating coach Egbo because he’s a coach of a European club. Sunday Oliseh and other Nigerian ex-internationals have coached clubs from better European leagues before. But Mr. Egbo beats all the others because he won the Albanian league and qualified his club, KF Tirana for the lucrative UEFA Champions’ league. That’s the only difference; that’s the winning edge. Take that home.
Weekend Spice: When a person has no money, he has few options – John Maxwell.
Ok folks, let’s do it again next week. Stay motivated and remember to keep safe. Covid – 19 is real!
•Ayodeji is an author, rights activist, pastor and life coach. He can be reached on [email protected] and 09059243004 (SMS & WhatsApp only)