Friday, March 4, 2016

Quandary: Kaduna as host city and the Nigerian Record

In the last few weeks, the tumult within Nigeria's football was enough to force out Coach Sunday Oliseh and bring back Samson Siasia to a position that he last held in 2011. One of the issues that triggered Oliseh's clash with Nigeria's Football Federation was the issue of a host city for the all important Cup for African Nations (CAN) qualifier against Egypt. While Oliseh preferred Port Harcourt, the NFF decided on Kaduna.

There is belief that hosting games in Nigeria's Northern cities, such as Kaduna, has not produced good results for Nigeria's Super Eagles. Most Nigerians would not prefer Port Harcourt either but in relative terms, they will likely select Port Harcourt over Kaduna. Ultimately, Nigerians believe that the best host city is Lagos and that a return to Lagos will be a return to winning home games. But is this really true? Is it just a myth or is there data to support such claims? Answers to those questions are provided here.

To be clear, Nigeria's home game against Egypt in late March is critical as Nigeria trails Egypt by two points in a group where only the group winner is assured of a place at the 2017 Cup of African Nations (CAN). In this blog, we look at the records to assess how Nigeria has done hosting games in Kaduna and find out if perceived performance in Lagos just a myth?

First, we compare efficiency scores from all games hosted by each city in Nigeria across all times and then in the last decade (2005 and after). Only cities with atleast three games are used in this calculation.  Efficiency scores are calculated from total points obtained in such games (a win has 3 points, a draw 1 point, and 0 for a loss) divided by maximum possible points from such games.

First, we note that Nigeria has hosted games in 13 cities across the country but three of such cities (Abeokuta, Bauchi, and Warri) have hosted less than three games each and are not used in our calculations of efficiency scores (see Table 1). Note also that we do not include Lagos for calculations in the last 10 years since Lagos has hosted just one game during that period!

Across All Times
Across all times, Port Harcourt has the best efficiency score of 1.00 in 8 games. Though Enugu also has an efficiency score of 1.00, it has hosted just three games (see Graph 1). The surprise result is comparing Lagos and Abuja, two cities that have hosted the most games. Abuja, it turns out, has a better efficiency score (0.88) compared to Lagos (0.77). This definitely flies in the face of the general belief in Nigeria where Lagos is largely believed to bring better results than Abuja. Though Ibadan has an efficiency score (0.82), compared to both Abuja and Lagos, it has not hosted a game that Nigeria lost at home in spite of the fact that Nigeria has played 11 games there. Also, Nigeria has neither drawn or lost in Port Harcourt and Enugu.

In the Last Decade
Graph 2 shows efficiency scores for the last 10 years i.e. since 2005. Port Harcourt and Kaduna have 1.00 Efficiency scores each to lead all host cities. Uyo's record is the poorest at 0.56 Efficiency score. In essence, this points to Kaduna as being a favorable home ground for Nigeria in recent time.

Competitive Games Only
Here, we use all time efficiency scores only because very few cities would be eligible if we are to use results from the last ten years. In fact, only Abuja, Calabar, and Port-Harcourt qualify if we are to use efficiency scores in the last 10 years. Please see Graph 3 for the data. Port Harcourt has the best efficiency scores (1.00) in competitive games. Enugu has same efficiency scores but in less games. Surprisingly, Abuja follows with 0.91. Nigeria is unbeaten in a competitive game in Abuja. The only loss was 0-3 in an international friendly against Brazil. The efficiency scores for competitive games in Lagos ranks fifth (0.81) behind, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Abuja, and Ibadan (0.85). Again, this raises doubt about the myth of Lagos as best home ground for Nigeria.

So What About Kaduna?
The game against Egypt in March is a competitive game but it will be the third such game ever hosted by Kaduna. Currently, Kaduna is 1-1-0 (Won-Drew-Lost) in hosting competitive games but has provided a winning venue for the only competitive game played there by Nigeria in the last ten years. It seems clearly that Kaduna has not done significantly worse than other Nigerian cities serving as host for Nigeria's game. It certainly is much better than cities like Benin and Uyo in hosting Nigeria's games.

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