- Buhari pledges transparency in football administration in Nigeria
Tobi Soniyi and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President of world football governing body (FIFA), Gianni Infantino, has said that he will propose two more teams to come from Africa whenever the world football decides to increase the number of countries to participate in future World Cup tournaments.
Speaking with journalists after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday Infantino said Africa deserves more slot at the Mundial.
“If FIFA will be increasing more football teams in the World Cup competition, I will propose two more teams to come from Africa,” stressed the 46-year-old football chief.
He confessed to have had very useful discussions with Buhari on the way forward for football in Nigeria.
“I have had some intense discussion on football in Nigeria and Africa. We discussed how we can best develop football in Africa because there are talents, potentials and passion to do great things in football in Nigeria and Africa.
The FIFA president put to rest the protracted power tussle in the administration of the beautiful game in the country, insisting that there was no crisis in football management in Nigeria since there was an elected president in place and he was functioning as such.
“In a big country like Nigeria you are bound to see opposition, that is what you see happening,” the FIFA president observed.
While stressing that it was an honour to meet Buhari, the FIFA president however admitted that:
“When it comes generally to football development in Nigeria works still need to be done in organisational structures, setting up of training centres and better framework. A lot can still be done.”
Infantino asked the Nigerian authorities to pay attention to infrastructure and find a lasting solution to the problem of violence and insecurity at match venues.
‘‘I foresee Nigeria as a bedrock for the development of the game in Africa, however infrastructure, stability and security are needed to make this happen, ’’ he said.
Infantino was accompanied to the Presidential Villa by the Secretary General of the world football governing body, Fatma Samoura, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick and the President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Habu Gumel.
Earlier, while welcoming Infantino to the Presidential Villa, President Buhari had said his administration will pay keen interest to accountability and transparency to fast-track football development in the country.
Buhari challenged football administrators to fashion out strategic programmes to develop the game.
He congratulated the duo on their election, particularly Samuora who is the first African and female to be elected FIFA Secretary-General.
Buhari welcomed Infantino’s programme to reform the world game through transparency, anti-corruption and good governance.
The president pledged Nigeria’s support to FIFA president’s reform agenda, noting that they were similar to those his presidency had outlined to resuscitate Nigeria.
‘‘Majority of Nigerians are married to football. In the rural areas, when there is no electricity and there is a game to watch, Nigerians go to the extent of renting small generators, popularly known as ‘I better-pass-my neighbour’ to watch the game.
‘‘We will take the development of football very seriously and I encourage the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to behave itself and organise effective competitions for the good of the game,’’ he said.
‘‘Accountability is serious business and I welcome you (Infantino) into the club of accountable Chief Executive Officers,’’ the President said.
Also yesterday, President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki admonished football administrators to learn to accept defeat in the interest of the immediate environment and larger society, and not engage in ‘pull-the-house-down’ syndrome when things do not go their way.
Nigeria’s number three citizen spoke at the Senate President’s Conference Room at the National Assembly when he received Infantino and Samoura, alongside NFF President Amaju Pinnick, FA presidents from other African countries and members of the NFF Executive Committee and Management.
“The kind of global recognition we have today, as a result of this historic visit, challenges us to learn to allow peace and stability in Nigeria football. If people lose election, they should learn to accept defeat. People used to blame politicians for do-or-die attitude; politicians have moved, it is now football administrators who have this attitude! When you lose an election, you should be prepared to wait for the next poll.
“I call on those who are fomenting trouble or trying to divide the house to stop their act. The National Assembly is united in moving to restore peace in Nigeria football, and creating an enabling environment for the game.”
Saraki, who owns a football club (ABS FC, in the Nigeria National League), said the passion and love of Nigerians for football is incredible. “Football is a big unifying factor in our country. As governor of a state, I set up a football academy because there are so many talents out there waiting to be nurtured,” the senate president recalled while receiving the visiting FIFA chief.
In attendance were Senators Obinna Ogba, Philip Aduda, Shuaib Abdullahi, Barau Jibrin, Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai, Monsurat Sunmonu, David Umaru, Mao Ohuabunwa, Tijjani Kaura, Albert Bassey and Mohammed Hassan, and Honourables Goni Bukar Lawan and Danburam Abubakar.
Earlier in the day, the FIFA President and Secretary General inspected the new NFF headquarters (Sunday Dankaro House) located at the Package B of the National Stadium.
On Sunday, both leading world football governors attended a welcome dinner powered by the League Management Company and which also had Sports Minister Solomon Dalung, Mr. Christian Ohaa (Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports), Nigeria’s IOC member Habu Gumel, members of the diplomatic corps, African FA presidents, NFF chieftains, LMC directors, Corporate bigwigs and media representatives in attendance.