Football psychologist, Kehinde Adeyemi has identified lack of intelligence as a major factor responsible for low productivity of Nigerian players which is now limiting their output in national U-17 tournaments and foreign trials.
An English Football Association trained Adeyemi who doubles as the Director of Sports at Olabisi Onabanjo University Ogun State made this call while reacting to the recent defeat of Nigerian Golden Eaglets at the WAFU U-17 Cup tournament in Lome, Togo.
The Golden Eaglets, despite the defeat, still picked the tickets to the 2021 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations billed for March 13-31 in Morocco after suffering 2-3 defeat in the hands of the Baby Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in the final of the cadet tournament in Lome.
The soccer expert in his reaction said “no doubt, Nigerian players have talents, great skills but most of them lack football intelligence and that is the reason why most Nigerian players in recent years fail when they go for trials abroad”.
His words: “We need to stop thinking that football is only a matter of the body (talent), Skillfulness will only grow if we understand better the mental (intelligent) part of developing a player. “Yes, natural talent is a factor and many players in Nigeria are blessed with genetic advantages, but the fact is that what talent really gives is an access code to knowledge. It plugs you into a network of high level coaching that will make a player become a finished product of high class”.
Adeyemi opined that intelligence is vital to achieve success in modern football, but football intelligence is about being mentally versatile to roles and responsibilities quickly. “Football Intelligence is about the quality of decision-making and the thousands upon thousands of decisions a player has to make during a match every second.
It involves cognitive readiness, improved perception, better mastering of time and space in combination with perfect motor functioning e.g scanning (checking) before receiving the ball in a congested midfield to speed up a pass collection, this will make a player more efficient in his role”.
While dissecting the factor, Adeyemi stated further that contrary to popular opinion that football Intelligence isn’t about thinking, he noted that it’s about bypassing the thought process and going straight to the perceived action.
“Football Intelligence is therefore a product of effective coaching and experience and how you adapt to it. There has to be a curriculum that focuses on ‘brain-centered’ learning. In modern football, some players are five yards quicker upstairs; knowing already what was happening before the ball came to them”. “Intelligent players don’t have a third eye, but the two they have are exceptional, modern football requires physical and mental training for any player to play at his optimal level”.
He opined that the coaches/trainers are to handle the physical training via technique, tactics and conditioning while football Psychologists should be the one to handle the players’ mental training.
Adeyemi added that some players are naturally slow, but they can reach the highest level of the game of football like Teddy Sherrigham of England during his playing years showed his detractors that a lack of pace could be overcome by intelligence.
He however pointed to one of Sherrigham’s quotations, where he said, “People had doubted me throughout my career from saying I wasn’t quick enough for Millwalls’ youth team. But I had been given something in life; a football Intelligence”.