* Assures Super Falcons on AWCON entitlements
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Minister for Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung, has said that football governance in the country required an urgent surgical operation to stop incessant embarrassment to the government.
The minister said this in Abuja while explaining the inability of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to settle the victorious Super Falcons after winning the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) football competition held in Cameroon.
Dalung, who spoke to State House Correspondent after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, said until the NFF was overhauled, the football governing body would continue to embarrass the government.
He said the issue of non-payment of the allowances to the players and their coaches was not properly handled by the football governing body insisting that the footballers would have understood the position of the government if the NFF had properly engaged them.
Dalung said: “The problem can be compartmentalised into two things: One is the inability to approach government with request for intervention because what we need is intervention. The budgeting of the sports is done by the administration. Ours is intervention, just like when you have a fire disaster, if they have requested for funds in time, the process would have been easier and I think that was not done.
“And after the triumph it was not managed properly. There are issues of pending salaries of the coaches. The coaches have not been paid for a long time. The coaches too have these grievances alongside, I think it is a complex situation but the entire governance of football deserves an urgent surgery. If that surgery is not done we will always live with the embarrassment.
“I am talking about the governance of football administration in Nigeria. Government has to do the surgery because they have been at the receiving end of the embarrassment. We must be prepared to do this to save the future of football in Nigeria. We must come together to find solutions to see how these issues can be tackled.”
On how the surgery could be done at the face of non-interference policy of FIFA, the minister said “The non interference has been used to harass and intimidate government. But now that the government is being embarrassed by their activities, I don’t see anybody talking about interference. They used it to scandalise the government so the man who is at the receiving end has the responsibility to ensure that things must be done right so we must take steps to ensure that money meant for athletes gets to them on time as at when due. Football events are planned properly and executed according to plan.”
Meanwhile, Dalung has reassured African champions, Super Falcons that they will receive all their entitlements. The Minister, who was in company with NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, met with the players and officials at their Agura Hotel, Abuja yesterday.
“I had to make time out to meet with you ladies again after receiving you on arrival in Lagos. In the past few days I have heard so much about the team’s grievances, challenges and issues here and there.
“I have also discussed with the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation but I felt it is necessary for me to come and sit to discuss with you in order for us to understand ourselves better. The issues with the team date back to the All-Africa Games, bothering on allowances and bonuses. We are also aware that the coaches are also being owed.
“The point I want to make clear is that for this competition which this team have participated in and won, we are indeed overwhelmed by the performance of the team.”
Dalung urged the players and officials to be patient with the government so that their laudable achievement can be appreciated: “Personally, I don’t want this achievement to be rubbished with whatever challenges we are facing because one thing that will stand to the end is our achievements.”
He concluded by promising the Falcons that the process to sort out their money is in process, and it will be sorted out eventually.
“But one thing I want you all to know is that there are procedures for getting such monies from the Federal Government. It is not like an ATM that you will just go to and bring out cash. Government has processes on how things are done. We are still processing and pursuing the entitlements of the team,” Dalung concluded.