September 18, 2021

Making the Rest of 2020 the Year of the Football Field!

The finest soccer stadium in Nigeria right this moment might be the brand new, state-of-the-art, magnificent edifice in Akwa Ibom State, the Uyo Township Stadium. It might also have the perfect soccer enjoying floor of lush, flat and green grass.

I’ve truly watched a few matches of the Super Eagles in the stadium and suppose that the field of grass is sort of good. At the same time, I additionally suppose it’s nonetheless not ok in comparison with enjoying surfaces in most clubs in Europe that we see week-in, week out on tv, and some that a few of us have had the great fortune of enjoying on even throughout our days in soccer, a long time in the past.

So, as I write as regards to football grounds, let me state clearly, first, that I do know what I’m ‘talking’ about from private experiences that can not be purchased available in the market place. Such experiences are required for a greater understanding and appreciation of the topic of a great soccer pitch.

Several years in the past, on the invitation of late Dr. Adeleke Olaiya, former President of the Nigeria School Sports Federation, NSSF, I attended the annual Umbro International Youth Football Tournament held in Manchester throughout the campus of the University of Manchester.

I counted 35 standard soccer fields on the grounds of the University. Each one of many grounds was well-grassed, flat, lush and green. The worst of the fields was pretty much as good as what we presently have in Uyo.

There was an entire division for the maintenance of the fields, with nicely over 100 maintenance crew of grounds males and different workers working from dawn to sundown tending to the fields. What I noticed and realized on that journey strengthened my training on the problem of grass fields, their impression on soccer and footballers, their centrality as a driver of the soccer enterprise, their critical upkeep routine, and so forth.

On one other event, through the Manchester Commonwealth Games, I additionally visited the grounds of Manchester City Football Club, when Kevin Keegan was supervisor of the group. I met with two British consultants working with the grounds upkeep division of the membership.

They took me to see their newest experiment within the membership, a hybrid of grass and rubber being examined on one of many many fields. There was common ongoing analysis into enhancing the standard of the coaching fields across the membership grounds, while the principle stadium pitch remained totally grass. Various experiments have been occurring, however the backside line was that the principle element of each area was grass.

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I finally invited and introduced each gents to Nigeria once I was Chairman of the National Institute for Sports’ Governing Council. I took them to go to and conduct soil assessments on the stadia in Enugu, Kaduna, Ibadan and Lagos. I nonetheless have the stories of their findings in my library. It was very attention-grabbing.

Of higher curiosity was that they noticed the magnitude of the enterprise of fixing all of the grounds and by no means confirmed any curiosity to return and assist us repair them.

They couldn’t perceive the perspective of Nigerian soccer officers that we met all around the nation to the dilapidated soccer grounds. They met lots of the well-trained grounds males in among the stadia and have been shocked on the tales they have been advised concerning the whole lack of appreciation of the significance of the fields and of their work in sustaining them.

In their clime, soccer fields have been handled and nursed like new born infants.

As we adopted them round Nigeria I knew what their lamentation was all about, as a result of I had seen, skilled and performed via all of my soccer profession on the superb and well-tended area of Liberty Stadium, Ibadan which was pretty much as good as among the finest in Europe right this moment, even in these days. The every day upkeep of the Liberty Stadium area was a every day vacationer attraction in Ibadan. So, I knew what they have been speaking about utterly.

Unfortunately, nobody has been involved and reacted to my lamentation and advocacy for wonderful grass fields for all Nigerian stadia. Instead State and the Federal Governments listened to the yarn of my buddy, Dr. Amos Adamu, probably the most highly effective man within the historical past of Nigerian sports activities, then a strong member of CAF and FIFA, who efficiently marketed the set up of FIFA-approved synthetic grass surfaces in stadia across the nation.

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You can not give what you would not have.

Until you play soccer you can’t teach it. Until you play the sport as much as a sure degree you can’t absolutely recognize among the finer particulars, intricacies and sensitivities concerned in it.

A person who has by no means skilled ‘cold’ can not full recognize what ‘hot’ is.

So, my voice was misplaced within the midst of discordant voices.

A person that isn’t grounded in soccer won’t ever have the ability to absolutely perceive what distinction a enjoying floor makes in a match, within the growth of a participant, within the teaching of group methods and techniques, in packaging friendly-to-the-eye tv protection, within the general high quality of soccer performed by groups, within the advertising of soccer as an leisure package deal,

in reside attendances to matches, within the promoting of the rights of home Nigerian league soccer matches to overseas broadcasters, in creating job alternatives for specialists in groundsmanship and the facet of agriculture associated to grass fields, and so forth and so forth.

So, Nigerian soccer growth stagnated on a plateau the place it has remained because the late 1990s following the set up of astro turf in lots of Nigerian stadia, and the whole absence of any grass fields elsewhere for coaching functions.

Excellent coaching and match fields are, most likely, the one most essential objects in our football-development procuring checklist that may kick-start the largest revolution in Nigerian soccer, and make it depart the tarmac and head for the celebrities.

Let the transformation of our gamers begin from dwelling. One of probably the most important issues we require for this to occur are the great grounds for coaching and for matches.

Let us make the development of soccer fields with a sure minimal standard – flat, and wealthy inexperienced lush grass – in all of the nooks and crannies of this nation, a precedence.

Let us set a minimal acceptable customary under which the grounds in membership, Local Governments and State stadia should not fall.

I consider that once we repair the grounds in Nigerian soccer the actual revolution will start.

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The finest performances can solely be had on the perfect pitches. Great performances are inconceivable on unhealthy pitches. It is so simple as that. The area is so essential that on a foul enjoying floor even Lionel Messi can be lowered to the extent of a neighborhood participant bungling inconsistently from match to match.

Have you ever questioned why Nigerian gamers by no means finish their careers enjoying again at dwelling in Nigeria’s home league?

Have you ever questioned why overseas European golf equipment that used to return and play very freely in Nigeria previously wouldn’t dare to return right this moment at any worth?

Part of the reply is the unhealthy pitches for soccer matches.

A number of years in the past, on behalf of Chief Mike Adenuga, the Chairman of Globacom, I negotiated for Manchester United to return on a enjoying tour to Nigeria. Everything was easy crusing within the negotiations till they have been advised that the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos a good looking edifice, had an astro turf enjoying floor.

They wouldn’t come at any worth and play on such a floor. It is for that very same purpose that Arsenal FC would additionally not come to play after they have been invited some years in the past. Indeed, no European membership has agreed to return and play in Lagos because the National Stadium (even with its poor however grass floor) was deserted and matches moved to different stadia.

A poor pitch creates all method of challenges and issues for gamers, coaches, groups and match outcomes. It is a really unhealthy commercial for soccer. It is a nightmare for creative gamers and coaches. It can be the largest menace to the enterprise of soccer. When soccer is engaging it should promote. It is so simple as that.

Finally, allow us to declare the remainder of 2020 because the Year of the Football Field, when each membership, and each State and Federal authorities soccer stadium, shall be grassed or re-grassed to a minimal acceptable standard with enough provision for upkeep, personnel, and the instruments to maintain them.


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