Nigeria still 50 years behind - Wein
The last time a Nigerian made the last three nomination of the African Footballer of the Year was eight years ago when Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha finished third behind Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba.
In international competitions involving the nation's senior team, the Super Eagles, last won a major trophy in 1994 in Tunisia during the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Nigerian senior women's team, the Super Falcons have also seen their dominance on the continent threatened as they surrendered their African title this year in Equatorial Guinea.
Players at youth national team level have found it hard to make the senior grades after stellar performances with Under17s, Under20s and Under23s.
In recent most months, this has led to the development and technical aspects of the sport in Nigeria being called into question.
And one man, Horst Wein, a famous football professor, believes that Nigeria is still operating on an old-fashioned model for football development.
Current state of football development
Wein during a recent trip to Nigeria performed free training demonstration of his 'Funino' model at the Agege Stadium in Lagos. The 'Funino' model is a three-versus-three-player training with four goalposts, which Wein believes is best for developing young footballers.
He revealed that during a practice session with two 14-year-olds in Lagos, he was shocked that their reaction to his training model bore a resemblance to that used about five decades ago.
"It is total abuse on the kids what is happening in football here (in Nigeria). The kids, who are under the age of 14, are treated like adults when they are not even ready and that's why you see them play in an animal-like manner. I took two 14-year-olds through few minutes sessions and they couldn't understand a simplified modern model of the game like three-versus-three.
"It shows these kids have been schooled in very old models used about 50 or more years ago where they are mostly allowed to play in 11-a-side games. It also shows that Nigeria is still 50 years behind in football model. And if they want to catch up they will need to change that. The children need to start the game first in their head and finish with their feet.
"So that's why 'Funino' is based on four critical phases of perception, understanding, decision-making and execution. This helps build the character of players for different match situations and this also include physical conditioning as well," he explained.
The German lecturer further explained the assimilation process in football development for different underaged players.
"The training pattern for an Under10 is different for a 14-year-old and so on. These kids shouldn't be thrown straight into 11-a-side football because at their age they are not just ready for such. With this kind of approach, the concept of intelligence in the game is defeated," he explained.
Poor development rating
Wein has identified Nigeria's problem in football development and somehow this correlates with the rating of Caf's Technical Committee on the nation being among the worst three in football development.
Nigeria's problem has also stemmed from mostly the absence of grading of coaches, according to Caf instructor, Adegboye Onigbinde.
“Let me tell you one thing, few months ago, we were in Seychelles for the annual technical committee meeting of Caf and Nigeria was rated one of the worst three countries in terms of football development,” he said to a Nigerian newspaper recently.
“Do you know why the rating bothers me? I can show you commendation letters from Caf, and the development programme Caf is running emanated from my recommendations in 1988. Yet, it was my country that was not moving.
“Ghana has trained no fewer than 200 C-License holders, the same with B-License. I was in Ghana months ago to supervise their A-License, but we are still battling with C-License in this country. I had to overstretch myself to make it a possibility.”
NFF's response to Wein
In spite of the alarm raised over time on football development, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) froze out Wein, according to Fifa/Uefa match agent based in Belgium, Julius Owen Ighodaro, who brought the German to the West African nation this month.
"He gave free demonstration at the Agege Stadium when he came recently. The kids had fun. But I spent my own money on (flight) ticket and hotel (lodgings) to bring Horst as the NFF refused to support us. They said no cash or budget for it. We hope they will recall Horst to Nigeria soon," Ighodaro told supersport.com.
The NFF has remained mum on the issue.
Wein's plan for Nigeria
The German despite of NFF's snub is proposing three strategic plans for Nigeria - starting well, staying involved and striving for excellence. The strategic plans are meant to help Nigeria's coaching education programme, according to Wein.
But he believes that huge investment should be made on youth team coaches to ensure that they become "more experienced, inspired and effective" in improving the level of football development in the country.
Beneficiaries of Wein's model
Reigning African champions, Zambia are one of the beneficiaries of Wein's model, according to Ighodaro. Eight years after the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) embraced Wein's plan, they emerged Afcon champions this year with a side largely made up of home-grown talents. Tunisia are the latest African nation to accept Wein's theory.
"He went to Zambia eight years ago and today they are African champions. Horst Wein has also gone to Tunisia (this month) to train their coaches and the Tunisian FA paid all his expenses," Ighodaro said.
Spain and FC Barcelona are one of the biggest beneficiaries from Wein's works. Many insiders believe Wein's book 'Fútbol a la medida del niño' (meaning 'Football tailored to the child') was adopted by the Royal Spanish Football Federation's centre of studies, development and research since 1993.
The book is believed to be a guide to an optimal coaching and learning model to unlock and develop the innate potential of young football players, which has helped Spain and FC Barcelona produced world-beaters.
Yet Spain are one of ten Fifa member nations yet to activate their Goal project with the world soccer governing body.
Dozens of European clubs including Arsenal, Sunderland, Leeds United, Villareal, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke 04 and Inter Milan as well as national associations like England, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Australia have adopted Wein's works.
His work also cuts across football as it has been applied in field and ice hockey by 19 nations affiliated to the International Hockey Federation.
Wein has mentored about 11,000 coaches in more than 54 nations and has published about 34 text books used by national football and hockey federations across the globe.