NFF MUST PUT HOUSE IN ORDER

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The football authorities must ensure prompt payment of salaries

By the time Shuaibu Amodu died as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) technical director last year, the four-time former coach of the Super Eagles was being owed salaries for two months. Even at that, given his previous experience, that was not such a big deal. It has become a tradition in the NFF not to pay the salaries of whoever coaches the Super Eagles until the issue becomes a national scandal. From Adegboyega Onigbinde to Clemens Westerhoff to Bonfrere Jo and Stephen Keshi, it took a national campaign for their salaries to be paid, sometimes by the presidency.

It is therefore noteworthy that amid another of such scandal, the NFF got huge cash back up when a local energy company recently offered it a juicy sponsorship package valued at N2.5 billion. Indeed, the contract that was expected to be activated last week could be likened to Manna from heaven as it will enable officials to deploy part of the proceeds to the indemnification of wages of national coaches, including the Super Eagles manager, Gernot Rohr.
The Rohr treatment has been a public discourse of recent after it emerged that the Franco-German, who arrived the country last year, to handle the national team, was owed a staggering sum of $141,000, representing his salaries for the last three months.

As it has been the habit of the NFF board, but against international standards, the official excuse was that the Glasshouse was flat broke. But such a reason for failing to fulfil contractual obligations to Rohr, his technical back up staff and the other coaches that constitute the national teams, has become untenable. We therefore hope that the NFF will work towards putting its house in order.

Until the injection of funds by Aiteo Group which has sealed a five-year partnership with the football federation, genuine worries about the likely effects which the indebtedness to Rohr would have on the fortunes of the national team had been well expressed by concerned stakeholders. But the football authorities must be able to put an end to what has become an emblem of shame for our country.

As things stand, Nigeria cannot afford any distraction in the pursuit of the goal to redeem the flapping fortunes of the national team that has hit a barren patch in recent time, climaxing in the non-qualification for the last Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon in January. Come June, the Super Eagles will engage perennial rivals, South Africa in a crucial tie, leading to the Nations Cup in 2019, while in August/September, the team will play the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in home and reverse ties in their quest to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

It is noteworthy that there has been remarkable transformation in the fortunes, attitude and style of the national team since the arrival of Rohr, who notably was once in charge of the national teams of Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso. Nigeria has been unbeaten under his watch and are currently ranked 40th in FIFA monthly world ranking. They are also fancied to top their qualifying group comprising Cameroon, Zambia and Algeria in the race to Russia.

It is in this regard that NFF and the Ministry of Sports must work in tandem with the federal government to ensure that the issues of under-funding of the national team that has endured like cancer is nipped and not allowed to constitute a distraction.

Indeed the burden of organising competitions across all strata of the national teams in addition to fluctuating exchange rates have had some consequence on the effective running of football by the federation. But as the body that organises the game, the onus is on NFF to ensure accountability by developing programmes that will attract corporate support and funding.