Amaju Pinnick


*Portland Timbers offers to foot Adi’s bill to play for Nigeria

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

As part of measures to cut costs, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is considering the option of a regular scheduled flight to ferry Super Eagles players and crew to Egypt for the second leg of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Pharaohs on March 29.

Nigeria will meet her old adversaries in Alexandria four days after the first Group G tie in Kaduna on March 25, as the journey to reach Gabon, where the continent’s foremost football spectacle will be staged next year, gathers pace.

Briefing reporters yesterday of plans in place for the forthcoming fixtures, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, hinted that the Eagles might fly to Cairo aboard a regular Egypt Air that departs either Abuja, Lagos or Kano, before connecting Alexandria via a domestic flight or by road.

This alternative plan will save NFF about N35 million.
The quoted figures for a charter flight to Egypt, submitted by a Nigerian airline in negotiation with the ‘Glasshouse’ is $250,000 (about N80million at parallel market rate)
Even the company does not see any commercial gain in the given cost as it will pay landing fee in Cairo, in addition to packing fee and added on costs, if it flies to Alexandria.

Though no decision has been taken, Pinnick reasoned that the NFF, which is groaning under the effect of scarcity of foreign currency, can use the saved money in paying the bonuses of the players.

“It is not about ego, we can fly a regular flight, save minimum of N35 million which will be okay with government.

“We have an option to fly with Egypt Air which operates three flights out of Nigeria from Kano, Abuja and Lagos on a daily basis and arrive in Cairo on Saturday, March 26.

“We can travel to Alexandria by domestic flight or by road and arrive in time before the match that holds on Tuesday March 29. Our players have enough days to prepare. Our protocol officers will leave Nigeria next week’s Tuesday for Cairo to prepare ground for our arrival,” he said.

Pinnick, who said the players were highly motivated to confront the Egyptians, revealed that Portland Timbers of USA, where Fanendo Adi plies his trade had offered to split with Nigeria the flight cost to fly the player for the matches.

The yet to be capped Adi is one the 21 foreign-based players invited by stand-in coach Samson Siasia.

According to Pinnick, the 25-year-old striker approached his club president after he (Pinnick) informed him of the challenges before NFF to buy his return flight tickets.

“After Adi talked to his president about our challenges, Portland Timbers, resolved to cover half of the responsibility that the country will bear. The benefit is that the club will be mentioned whenever he represents Nigeria and is a great honour for him to play for his country,” Pinnick hinted yesterday.