Open Letter to NFF President Mr. Ibrahim Musa Gusau Regarding Lack of Nigeria National Under-23 Team’s Participation in the Olympics

Nigeria National Under-23

Mr. Ibrahim Musa Gusau

President Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Head Quarter: Plot 2033, Olusegun Obasanjo Way, Wuse Zone 7, Abuja FCT Nigeria.

Concerns Regarding Lack of Nigeria National Under-23 Team’s Participation in the Olympics

Dear Mr. Ibrahim Musa Gusau,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and high spirits. I am writing to you as a concerned football enthusiast and a passionate supporter of Nigerian football. I would like to draw your attention to the recent disappointments surrounding the Nigeria National Under-23 team and their failure to qualify for the upcoming Olympics, as well as the lackluster performance in recent tournaments.

Nigeria National Under-23
Mr. Ibrahim Musa Gusau President Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

The Nigeria Olympic football team has always been a source of pride for our nation, representing Nigeria in international football competitions in the Olympic Games. The team’s achievements in the past, including winning gold in 1996, silver in 2008, and bronze in 2016, have brought glory and honor to our country. However, since then, our performances have been lackluster, and it is disheartening to witness the downward spiral of our once formidable team.

Nigeria National Under-23
Nigeria’s 1996 Gold Winning Olympics Team.

The fact that we failed to qualify for the Olympic Games for the second time in a row after being defeated by Guinea in Morocco earlier this year is deeply concerning. Guinea’s victory over the U-23 Eagles denied us the opportunity to compete in the 2023 African U-23 Nations Cup, which serves as the qualifying tournament for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Under the coaching leadership of Salisu Yusuf, who also failed to lead the country to the Japan 2020 edition of the Olympics, the Nigerian team’s performance has been consistently poor. Observers of the game were left perplexed as to why it took Guinea as much as 61 minutes to breach the U-23 Eagles’ defense in the recent match. Salisu Yusuf’s track record with the national teams, including the bribery scandal that tarnished his reign in 2018, raises serious concerns about his ability to deliver the ultimate prize in competitions.

Nigeria National Under-23
Salisu Yusuf, Nigeria National Under-23 Coach.

It is not my intention to solely blame Salisu Yusuf for the team’s failures. I believe those responsible for appointing him repeatedly, despite a series of failures, share in the responsibility. His previous coaching stints have yielded mediocre results, including a seventh-place finish at Enugu Rangers in the league, relegation of Kano Pillars, and failures at CHAN qualifiers and U-23 AFCON qualifiers. It is evident that a change in leadership is necessary.

Veteran analyst Desmond Ekwueme aptly described Salisu Yusuf as fortunate but unfit to lead any of the national teams. Yet, despite his unimpressive performance, he continues to receive appointments, shuttling among the U-23 Eagles, home-based Super Eagles, and Super Eagles. This state of affairs is untenable and does not inspire confidence in the future success of our national teams.

Losing matches is not an anomaly in football, but there are often avoidable factors that contribute to defeat. In the case of the Nigeria U-23 Eagles’ qualification loss to Guinea, it is clear that the cluelessness on the part of the Salisu Yusuf-led coaching crew played a significant role in our failure. The haphazard player invitations and lack of coherent team preparation reflect a lack of strategic planning and vision.

Therefore, I strongly urge the Nigeria Football Federation to relieve Salisu Yusuf of his coaching duties and explore alternative options for the Nigeria National Under-23 team. We have several capable homegrown coaches who possess the skills and dedication necessary to develop a competitive team and prepare them for international competitions, including the Olympics.

I would like to recommend the likes of Finidi George of Enyimba, Fidelis Ilechukwu of Rangers FC, Ayodeji Ayeni, Fatai Osho of Akwa United, Daniel Ogunmodede (Ija Ball) of Remo Stars FC, Bala Abubakar of Lobi Stars FC, and Bendel Insurance head coach, Monday Odigie. These individuals have demonstrated their competence and success at the club level and deserve an opportunity to contribute to our national teams. While they may have previously served as Salisu’s assistants, their roles were primarily to learn and observe rather than actively contribute their expertise. Given the chance, I believe they would excel in leading the U-23 Eagles.

It is crucial for the Nigeria Football Federation to recognize the urgency of the situation and take immediate action to rectify the issues surrounding our U-23 team. Time is of the essence, as our potential participation in the Milan Cortina 2026 Olympic Games hangs in the balance. By appointing capable coaches who can effectively recruit and develop talented players, we can reinvigorate our national team and restore Nigeria’s prominence in international football competitions.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I remain hopeful that the Nigeria Football Federation will prioritize the success and future prospects of our U-23 team. Together, we can reignite the spirit of Nigerian football and reclaim our place among the world’s elite.

Yours sincerely,

Isaac Sanyaolu (Futball Naija)

A blogger and football enthusiast.