Sports

Nigeria: Amaju Pinnick’s NFF and Nigerian Football

It was always going to be difficult assessing how the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has faired under Amaju Pinnick. Where do you start from? What would be your parameters for consideration? Would you be evaluating what development he has brought to our football? What structures he has put in place to ensure that we have an efficiently run football federation? Should we judge his NFF from the point of view of the success of our football league and the participation of our teams in international competitions?

Whichever way you look at it, the ultimate mark of success is to see the development of our football reflected in how well it is is being run to produce excellent results by our teams whenever they take part in international competitions. Using that as criteria, the conclusion one would come to is that Amaju Pinnick’s NFF has not done well in the past seven years it has been in office. Where it has recorded some successes, one finds it difficult to see such achievements being due to any painstaking work being done. In such situations, it has been effective rather than efficient. Take for instance the moderate ‘success’ recorded by our senior national men’s football team in the seven years of Pinnick’s Presidency. We are currently the fifth-ranked football team in Africa yet our league has not produced any team good enough to qualify for the semifinals of any African competition during the period under review.

Ordinarily, our local league should produce players good enough for the Super Eagles yet in the past seven years not up to three have been considered good enough for a fringe role. Our team is largely made up of players who play outside our shores.

This is hardly unexpected because under Amaju’s supervision, our football league has been operating in fits and starts with participating clubs unsure of even when the new season would start in earnest. Even now there is a new talk of having an abridged league format for the new season. Worse still, the match officials for last season are yet to be paid!

Our age group teams have continued to fail. Once upon a long time ago, we were the dominant force in age-group competitions not only in Africa but also in the world. Not any longer. Qualifying for the U17and U20 FIFA World Cup is no longer our birthright. We have struggled against countries that are yet to find their football boots! The result of this malaise is that in a few years we will not be able to find replacements for the Osimhens, Awoniyis and Iheanachos who found their way to European clubs by being outstanding in age group competitions they took part in.

Women’s football is another minus for this administration. Our graph in this field continues to dip southwards. Gone are the days when our girls strike terror in the minds of would-be opponents. Now, countries that would in the past be afraid to look us in the face are bold enough to tap us on the chest and challenge us to a duel.

How did we get here? If you look at those in the NFF you will wonder why we have not been able to get a well-structured body in place. Years ago, Shehu Dikko (then running to be President of the NFF), sent me what he called his manifesto for changes he would effect as the helmsman. It was so well written that if I were in a position to vote I would have no problem voting for him. He didn’t win but became first Vice President. Seyi Akinwunmi is another man of repute in our Football House. He is in-fact, also a Vice President. I know one or two more people in the current Board who have a lot of experience as football administrators. I find it difficult to associate them with the ineptitude reflected in this NFF.

Some of my colleagues in the media are won’t to tell me that the problem with our country has always been reflected in our football governing body. They claim that the overall interest of our football is of secondary importance.