Dr Rafiu Ladipo, president general of the Nigeria Football and Other Sports
Supporters Union speaks about the state of Nigerian football, his thoughts on
the way forward as well as plans to cheer on the national teams participating in
events this summer. Excerpt:
You have been on the side-line
watching as events unfold in our
football. Are you impressed with it?
For some time, our football is not
what it used to be. Every football loving
Nigerian has not been happy with the
state of football in the country. When we
played at the World Cup in 1994, with
our performance, the Nigerian team was
rated fifth best in the world but after that
one, we participated in the 1998 edition
– went out in the second round. By the
year 2002, we did not go beyond the first
round and since then, our achievements
have been up and down. Even the last
World Cup, we were bundled out of
the second round. We were aiming for
the quarter final, and maybe if we had
achieved that the history would have
been different. As it is now, we don’t
even have a team and if you look at the
Fifa ranking, we are number 46 which is
a far distance from what we used to be.
From fifth to 46th is very sad and for us
as football lovers, and those who have
followed all the national teams to every
part of the world with our money and
time even at the risk of our lives for over
54 years – some of us 30 years, we cannot
but feel sad about our state of football.
You have painted a rather sad picture
about the game, how do we bounce
back to reckoning again?
From sadness, what do we want? We
want a situation that can be better and
the only way is for the Super Eagles
coach to change. We won the African
Cup of Nations in 2013 in South Africa
and a year later, we could not qualify
for the following edition not to talk of
defending it. We want a Super Eagles
that is better and will make us happy,
and we can only get that if Stephen Keshi
and his assistants would get players
who are young, talented, committed and
determined to write the country’s name
in gold.
Talking about Keshi this time around,
some have said he will only succeed if
he’s not slipped by the banana peels
that felled him in his first stint with
the Super Eagles. What should be his
We have players scattered all over the
world, we have players in the Nigerian
league and we can form a formidable
team. No matter how good Stephen
Keshi is, the truth is that he cannot
do it all alone. He needs some hands
that would help him discover these
talents, work with him to develop them
and make the players world beaters.
Keshi was discovered while with
New Nigeria and he started playing
for Nigeria. Remember, he captained
the country to win the Africa Cup of
Nations as well as qualify for the first
Fifa World Cup in the United States of
America where we were adjudged to
be the fifth best team in the World. As
a coach, he also won the AFCON, so
he should look at how he got there and
use the same understanding to get us
good players that would be nurtured
to stardom. Don’t let me deceive you,
we have these talents in the Nigeria
U20 and U23 teams, all he needs to do
is look into these teams, invite the good
ones and let them form part of his team.
His assistants too should also comb the
Nigerian league and get good players
and groom them to become stars.
I’m sure you are in the picture of
the world football governing body’s
fight against racism. What effort is
your organisation taking to tame this
For us, racism can be discarded from
football. Ever since the Nigeria football
and other sports supporters club was
formed, that is what we have been
preaching against. At the 1994 FIFA
World Cup, our supporters’ club was
adjudged to be the best all over the
world. Not because of our singing and
dancing, it was because we believed
in the game and that we believe in a
football match, there must be a winner
and there must also be a loser. You may
lose a game but you don’t lose your
head. When you fight in the stadium
because you don’t win, you must have
lost your head and when you lose your
head, no one will help you find it. So
for us in the supporters club, we detest
violence and we detest racism. I am
also the president general of African
Football and Other Sports Supporters
Union and we have been meeting with
all African countries to preach against
racism and violence.
In a few weeks time, the Nigeria
U20 and senior women national teams
will be competing with the rest of
the world to make the country proud.
Have you any plans to cheer them to
We are already trying to collect
visas for our members in Canada
and New Zealand. The Falcons will
need our support and that is why we
have submitted 300 applications in
the embassy and I do believe that if
our visas are granted, we will be in
Canada to support the ladies. We are
the champions of Africa and we need to
prove that to the rest of the world. For
the boys, I mean the Flying Eagles that
is a perfect team – a team we believe
that could go to New Zealand and
conquer the world, a team that have
played several games and are yet to
lose any – beating all comers including
the senior teams in the Super Four. In
Germany where they are preparing for
the World Cup, they have been beating
opponents silly. These are talents and
we will definitely be there to support
Culled from Goal.com