The Chief Executive officer of Team Nigeria UK Mr David Doherty has stated that the reason behind Nigeria’s failure in international sporting competitions is due to the nation’s lack of grassroots development in recent times. Speaking Exclusively to Wale Ayeni of LEADERSHIP Sports the Nigerian and Europe license football coach revealed that there is need to revamp grassroots sports if the nation want to conquer the world in international tournaments.
How can you describe the state of grassroots sports development in Nigeria presently?
The state of grassroots sports development in Nigeria is quite dismal, looking at my recent visit to Lagos a lot of facilities still remain in poor state, no training facilities, and no pitches where young people can really play football and other sporting activities
It is so sad to see that there are no developmental programs for grassroots sports in Nigeria to a great extent.
How did we find ourselves in the present quagmire that our grassroots development is facing, taking football as a case study Nigeria failed to qualify for the last U17 and U20 Africa championships followed by our quarterfinals final exit from the U20 Women’s World Cup in France?
I think the state is basically in decline as it used to be and no adequate attention has been given to grassroots sports development in Nigeria. All that we are seeing is just lip games and unfulfilled promises from those at the helm of Leadership in sport.
We do not give adequate attention to grassroots ever since and I think this is one reason why we have failed as a country also as a continent not only Nigeria, Africa as a whole.
I can see that few African countries are bringing on board the important of grassroots development, because at any sports you want to look at grassroots, it is pivotal to the development of sports in any country, and this is one thing we have been struggling and lagging behind, what we have been seeing over the years especially within the football sitting is that the football administrator like the Nigeria Football Federation are just particular about the Super Eagles.
What NFF and its leadership have failed to understand is that without grassroots football there would not be elite participants, so therefore it is key for us to pay maximum attention to grassroots football as much as we do at elite level Super Eagles. If we look at the area we have had much success in terms of football it is mostly at Grassroots level both male and female and yet less support or attention is given to them. I think we need to do more in this area for both boys and girls and ensure we do all what we can to provide an environment for grassroots football to thrive going forward.
You have travelled far and wide hunting for Africa young talents mostly especially Nigeria breeds what has been the motivating factor you think Nigerians who are passionate as you are for grassroots development can emulate
At grassroots level with all our expertise coming from being a player from Nigeria and playing in Europe, Then followed the path of coaching through English FA, Scouting, and Now an Administrator added to the passion in me to ensure we do all what we can to see that something positive is done back home to help develop our grassroots football going forward
What are the various ways you think Nigeria should employ to revamp our grassroots sports development?
First is put a plan and structure in place for at least 5-10yrs on what we want to do, how we hope to approach it, when we think we should be seeing some progress and outcome.
Secondly engage the right mind and hands that are passionate and has vast knowledge on how best to develop grassroots sports
Then we can then look at having good facilities in place.
Funding is a very important aspect to get grassroots to thrive better.
Proper Welfare structure in place for development of young people.
How can we ensure that talents harvested from grassroots developmental programs like the National Youth games can be nurtured in line with international best practices to represent Nigeria in future competitions
I think it Is in ensuring that we have a road map set out in this regard to ensure we have a complete data base and records of all our grassroots teams in the country through their various leagues, clubs and Set out rules in line with Nigeria Football Federation in to ensure all teams, clubs or leagues comply with it., As this will also help safeguard young players from being exploits.
Plus providing a good standard youth league with clubs and teams providing good welfare system for this youngsters to grow and develop within our league ranks.
Just like we proposed to begin a Youth league of international standard called “ FUSTAR Youth League” for both boys and Girls ages 8-16yrs.
I think i will want to use this platform to appeal to NFF, State FA’s, Sport Ministry, Cooperate bodies Independent bodies and Individuals to please do more and pay more attention in the development of grassroots sports in Nigeria for better outcome for all .