All around the country, clubs have begun their preseason preparations. When does the league actually resume? Nobody can say for certain. We continue to observe.
But let’s look at the actual preparation. What does it entail? Is it needful for our purposes?
We live in a culture where it is acceptable to state the reason for doing something is that it has always been done. In other words – and if this offends some, so be it – we are slaves to tradition. We cherish our traditions more than our own well-being, even, and any attempts to ask questions is considered a challenge to them.
Right now, our players are probably running their behinds off. Yes, that is much of what preseason is in these parts. Running. Over and over. Over and over. Why? Because that is how it has always been done.
And friendlies. Lots of friendlies, often with little consideration as to their timing. Last season, we remember what happened with the “Ahlan Cup” that suddenly popped up almost out of nowhere while we were anticipating the Super (4? 6? Who cares?). We ended up playing matches almost every single day, in the name of building fitness for a new season.
That is somewhat minor, however. We understand that political concerns come into it now and again where friendly tournaments are concerned. But is there a reason why we feel the need to physically destroy our players in the name of preseason?
We understand that it is a time in which the players’ fitness is built up. However, can we remember that fitness is a means to an end, and not an end in itself? Preseason is also about working on the ideas of the coach on the training ground, getting acquainted with what is expected in terms of attacking and defensive organization, etc.
For a long time, we have cried out about the lack of any real identity or playing style. Does anyone have an idea what Enyimba’s pattern of play is? No. You know why? Because every year we get a new coach, who then spends the entire preseason putting the players through running drills. OK, great. You now have a team of excellent sprinters who have no idea where to sprint to with and without the ball. You might as well be training for the Olympics!
You wonder if the medical department tries to make any recommendations to the coaches regarding the limits that should be set when it comes to conditioning. In fact, you wonder if the medical department even knows any better. The Nigerian league season is a grueling one, especially when you factor in traveling by road. You finish preseason barely able to move, and then you immediately start spending hours cooped up in a bus traveling across the length of the country. Is there no allowance made for this?
There is a tendency to dismiss players’ complaints as laziness, but they aren’t machines. We are a club that spends a lot of money recruiting players. The least we can do is not shoot ourselves in the foot by rendering them useless after only a few weeks. Because that’s what happens when you over-train during preseason: once the season itself begins, you have players coming down with injuries all over the place.
No, it’s not juju. It’s not about getting priests or a dibia to pray and chant over the team. You played yourself by yourself. Sometimes, just demand that those who are paid to a job actually do it.