By MARIAH OLATUNJI
The 1st Vice President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi, and the League Management Company (LMC), Shehu Dikko, have indicated their preference for the introduction of age limit in the Nationwide League.
The sports big wigs disclosed this on Saturday evening at the finals of the NLO Super 8 in which FRSC FC, Abuja, defeated Racine FC of Lagos on penalties at the Agege Stadium.
Barrister Akinwunmi said he will raise the a motion for the amendment of the regulations of the Nationwide League at the meeting of the NFF board.
“My opinion is this league should have age limit at various levels. I have discussed it with my colleagues. We are going to raise it at the board. This should be a feeder league for the professional league. I am sure we will get there because there is no point having players who are on the wane playing in the feeder teams.”
In consonance with Akinwunmi, Shehu Dikko said there is a need for higher bodies to get involved in order to safeguard the future of Nigerian football.
“I was discussing with my colleagues that by next season we will try to introduce age limit here (NLO), may be for the first division, under-20s but few over age, second division, under-18 plus few over age, so that we can get more young people. Enyimba team was playing here as well, many of them will end up being Enyimba players, so we have to be part of it. It is the bedrock of football development.”
Chairman of Osun Football Association, Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi also suggested that young players should be the foundation of the tournament in the future.
“When I first came in and saw the teams, that was my first observation but I know that as time goes on, the organisers, I mean the committee that is in charge will be able to correct and amend that but with what they started with, we should commend the organisers. They have done a good thing, it is an eye opener, I hope we will continue with it in future. This is the feeder team to the NPFL and, definitely, we will need young boys to play in this type of category. I know that as times goes on they will do something about that.”
The secretary General of the Nationwide League One [NLO] Sola Ogunowo who praised fans for their massive turnout also revealed that the body will work on making the league fulfill the purpose for which it was introduced.
“What we are trying to do in the Nationwide league now is to put age restriction bar on the cross. We are trying to look at age restriction. Once we have the age restriction then we will be easing out the elderly ones in the league. Do not forget it is a non-professional league, it is an amateur cadre, so we don’t expect them to be full professional. In this wise, we cannot expect all of them to be youthful players. It is going to be youthful players mixed with the elderly ones and that is the essence of it.”
Ogunnowo explained that some players whose professional careers are in the twilight should find space to play and retire through the Nationwide League.
“So, some players in the Nationwide League are playing because they love football. They have been active in the past and they want to continue playing. It happens all over the world. You see some retired players in the premier league, professional league coming down to play because they still love the game of football and they want to be playing where it is less competitive and demanding. That is why you see some elderly ones and at the same time some youthful ones among them that are spurring them to do better.”
For the chairman of the NLO , Ibrahim Gusau, over age players play certain crucial roles in the league.
“The elderly players help to control and give direction to the younger boys. If you observe most of the players are within the age range. Do not forget that this is the highest cadre of the Nationwide league. We have division 3, we have division 2. You find a lot of young boys at that level. But at this level most of the teams are being drawn from the national league and that’s why you can see that some of them are a little bit older. But by the grace of God we are trying to put regulation that will stop all that and will give some percentage to over age players to participate in the Nationwide league.”