Expectations, As FIFA President Plans To Visit Nigeria | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Expectations, As FIFA President Plans To Visit Nigeria

Posted: May 22, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Steve Oma-Ofozor

LAGOS – The Nigeria football has continued to witness a slide in all facets, which culminated in the senior national team missing the Africa Cup of Nations three times in the last four editions.

Also, the leadership tussle between Amaju Pinnick, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, and Barrister Chris Giwa, has further dented the image of the game in the country.

The domestic league has not fared better under the current circumstances bedeviling the nation’s football. This is evident in the unceremonious exit of Nigerian clubs in the continental competitions in recent years.

The then coming of Pinnick, a former Delta State Football Association chairman, as the NFF president seemed to have breathed a new lease of life in the NFF, but the non-qualification of the national team to back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations might have put a doubt on the current board of the NFF.

Thus, Pinnick commenced the rebuilding of Nigerian football with his oversea trips, visiting some “anonymous” Nigerian players in Europe and elsewhere.

So his recent meeting with Gianni Infantino, the President of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) at the 66th FIFA Congress in Mexico City might also have underlined his commitment to move Nigerian football beyond the mediocre level it has been for sometimes now.

After the meeting, Infantino promised to visit Nigeria very soon, a move many have applauded as a step in the right direction,

Pinnick made the information known after he came back following a fruitful sessions the leadership of the NFF had with Pinnick at the Congress in Mexico.

Announcing his meeting with Infantino and his proposed visit to Nigeria, Pinnick said:

 “The FIFA President says Nigeria is a big country and a massive football nation that should help with the new FIFA leadership’s drive to truly develop the game. He is excited about our various capacity-building and youth development programs and that is why he is coming to watch the NFF/ZENITH Bank Championship finals.

 “He sees a lot of potentials and dynamism in the current NFF leadership and says he would love to work with the NFF for the general development of the game.”

Since the information spread, many commentators have asked questions on what becomes of the game in the country after the visit of the world’s number one football administrator.

Would the visit, it has been asked in several for a, help improve the welfare of Nigerian players in terms of payment of salaries and other entitlements they are always being owed by the NFF?

Would the visit change the rots in the NFF Secretariat where local coaches are owed months of salaries and allowances and the foreign ones even paid up-front with the best welfare packages?

The questions became pertinent because the major issue confronting the game in the country goes beyond the mere visit of Infantino to include good grassroots development programmes, adequate motivation for players and coaches and a dependable coach for the various national teams, among others.

Incidentally, these are areas FIFA has emphasized so much and devoted a chunk of money and other logistical programmes to develop for ‘smaller’ countries. For instance, FIFA has made it mandatory to rotate age-group competitions among upcoming football nations in order to help and develop infrastructure there.

This is one area the leadership of the NFF will have to pay attention to as it hosts Infantino. The new FIFA president will understandable come up with new programmes for all Federations. It is incumbent on the leadership of the NFF to liaise with the world’s number one football personality to see how the NFF will key into such programmes for the betterment of the game in the country.

Also, FIFA has always advocated for the development of a home-grown materials like coaches and players. Pinnick will have to discus extensively with the FIFA boss to look at how the global body will help Nigeria in this regard.

This is even as the NFF boss has always been an advocate of a foreign coach, as he once said of Nigeria’s World Cup qualifiers:

”I cannot put our World Cup hopes on a local coach; we need a world class coach to reshape our football.

 “That is why I cannot compromise my decision for a foreign coach. Egypt has so many professionals abroad, but Cuper used only five and he still went ahead to get the desired result. That is why I am insisting on a foreigner for the Eagles.

Also, the ‘taking FIFA back to the people and people back to FIFA’ principle of Infantino should be one of the cardinal points of the Pinnick-led Nigeria football as the FIFA president visits. Infantino, while explaining what he meant in a forum, said the global football body intends to be receptive and accommodative to issues bothering on the proper administration of the game in any country.

What we should ask ourselves as the visit approaches is, has the NFF done the same for the interest of the game in the country?

Speaking on the visit, Adegboye Onigbinde, who has worked with FIFA in its Technical Department, emphasized that the NFF should use the visit to learn what it has lacked in the proper administration of the game.

“I thank God that the man is coming to Nigeria. That is a right decision, but are we ready to receive him,” he asked rhetorically.

“Our football is lacking so many things and the visit is timely because we are not moving in the right direction. Look at the in-fighting in the house. We should ask questions and learn what we do not know on the way to administer football,” he said.

On his own, Henry Nwosu (MON), Super Eagles former captain, said the visit of Infantino has shown that the country is recognized, while also praising Pinnick for his effort in getting the FIFA boss to come to Nigeria.

“That is good to hear. It shows that Nigeria is recognized by them. Of course we are a big playing nation even though we failed to qualify for the Nations Cup. We should take advantage of the visit in all direction, “he said.

But a coach of one of the NPFL clubs, who craved anonymity, said the coming of Infantino will obviously expose the rot in the system, asking rather rhetorically who the FIFA president will meet.

“I have heard that he is coming but between Giwa and Pinnick, who is he going to fully interact with as the head of football in the country?

“To me, we should have put our house in order before this visit because Giwa I know will not let it lie low.

“In all, I think the visit is coming at the right time in the nation’s football if not for the leadership issues we are having now,” he said.

On the crisis at the leadership of the football house in the country, the Amaju Pinnick-led board will do the game a great good in Nigeria if it allows the FIFA president to have a full knowledge of the matter and possibly laid it to rest permanently.

If there is only one thing the visit should achieve, it should permanently laid to rest the leadership tussle threatening the game in Nigeria.