Nigeria’s football icon, Segun Odegbami, has joined Everton’s Alex Iwobi in condemning the poor state of Nigeria’s pitch at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja as the reason for the Super Eagles’ defeat to Guinea-Bissau last month.
The Super Eagles lost 1-0 to the Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau, a team that is ranked among the lowest in the world.
Iwobi, who plays for Everton in the English Premier League, had earlier blamed the pitch for the team’s poor performance.
Talking to The Beautiful Game Podcast (via Daily Post), Iwobi said, “If we had that in Nigeria, I feel like it would be difficult to beat us. I am confident enough to say that not many teams can beat us,”
“Having a good pitch, if we have that, I feel like we’d be unstoppable. Just a pitch with grass, no crops.”
While agreeing with Iwobi in his latest article on Complete Sports, Odegbami, who played for the Super Eagles in the 1970s and 1980s, argued that the poor state of Nigeria’s football pitches is the main reason for the team’s recent struggles.
He pointed out that Nigeria once had two of the best football grounds in the world, Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, and U.J Esuene Stadium in Calabar, which had playing surfaces comparable to the best in the world.
According to Odegbami, the Super Eagles’ young and talented players need a first-class playing surface to produce their best when they have little or no time to train together and be properly organized as a solid team before matches.
The poor state of the pitches in Nigeria, he argued, substantially reduces their effectiveness. He called on Nigeria to invest in modern technology for nursing real grass turfs, as well as training groundskeepers, to maintain them.
The 1980 Africa Cup of Nations winner said, “The players in the present Super Eagles squad, young and very gifted, individually, need to have a first-class playing surface to be able to produce their best when they have very little or no time to train together and be properly organised as a solid team before matches.
“The poor grounds on which they have been playing in Nigeria substantially reduce their effectiveness.”
State of the pitch
Odegbami’s comments come as Nigeria’s football authorities face mounting criticism over the state of the country’s football infrastructure.
In recent years, Nigeria has struggled to match its past successes, failing to qualify for the last two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. Many fans and pundits blame poor coaching, administrative incompetence, and a lack of investment in football infrastructure for the team’s poor performances.
However, Odegbami’s comments suggest that the issue of football infrastructure is more fundamental than coaching or administration. Without quality playing surfaces, even the most talented players will struggle to perform to their best.
The Super Eagles’ defeat to Guinea-Bissau is just the latest example of how Nigeria’s poor football infrastructure is holding the team back. If Nigeria is to recapture its past glories in football, it will need to invest in modern football infrastructure, including quality playing surfaces and well-trained groundsmen.