THREE DAYS TO BATTLE OF NDOLA
Five days after the communication department of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) denied in ‘strong term’ the reports that the Glass House is short of cash to prosecute the World Cup qualifying match against Zambia in Ndola this Sunday, the federation boss, Amaju Pinnick, wednesday admitted that the financial situation at the football house was critical.
The Super Eagles were initially supposed to travel tomorrow for the match on Sunday and due to financial position of the NFF, the plan has been shifted by one day to Saturday for the Day-one qualifying game of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“We are almost at zero level to honour the match on Sunday hence we strongly need government intervention at this point in time,” Pinnick confessed wednesday at Senate Committee on Sports hearing.
Nigeria is drawn in a ‘ group of death’ that also includes Cameroun and Algeria and like in the other groups, only the winner qualifies for the World Cup to be played in the former Soviet bloc for the first time in the history of the competition.
“Algeria is the highest ranked team in Africa. It is a group that goes beyond the group of death. The good news is that we have sound technical crew and a lot of players doing well at home and in Europe.
“But the missing link is our financial position which activates all we do on and off the field.
“Before now we have made a request to government for intervention because funds were not coming from our sponsors because it has been very difficult for them now due to the recession. So we did not have any choice than to resort to government for support,” admits Pinnick.
He said the Glass House is waiting to hear from the Presidency with barely days to the crucial game in Ndola.
“So we are awaiting a response from them and the game is just in four days. We’ve put all arrangement on ground already.
“We have discussed with Arik to go on a chartered flight and we are also about sending somebody to Ndola because there is a new hotel we have secured in Ndola but we could not pay for it.
“We are about to secure about 60 rooms but we could not buy their ticket because we owe our travel agent about N300million.
He also admitted that it is this precarious financial situation that forced the federation to ask the players to buy their ticket home to be refunded when they arrive.
“So there is no way we could get it and we have to request the players to come with economy tickets in reflection of what is happening to our economy and eighty per cent of them obliged our request,” he further confessed.
However, foremost football commentator and Managing Director of Complete Football, Mumini Alao suggested in his weekly column yesterday that it is not out of place if the team make use of the presidential fleet to travel rather than seeking to hire an aircraft without immediate means of settling the bill in the wake of outstanding debts confronting the Glass House!
“One of the reasons given to me by a former top civil servant in the ministry who originally sacrificed the National Sports Commission (NSC) in favour of retaining the Ministry of Sport is that the cabinet rank of the minister would facilitate better funding and other privileges for the sports sector directly from the President’s office; the minister would also be able to submit memos at Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings and lobby for approval.
“Well, the civil servants should tell Dalung now to use his cabinet access to tell President Muhammadu Buhari about the funding and logistic challenges facing the Super Eagles currently so that the President could intervene.
“For starters, could Dalung please write a memo to request for a plane from the presidential fleet to fly the Super Eagles to Ndola?
“Just think about that! Not only would Nigeria save money on hiring an expensive chartered flight, the resultant morale boost for the players (riding on the plane of Mr. President!) will ensure that they come back from Zambia with nothing short of a victory, ” the respected columnist suggested.