NIGERIA’S FAMILIAR POST WORLD CUP BLUES

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DURO’S RUSSIA NOTES…

How can one begin to explain to foreigners that what is going on in our country about the purported sack of Amaju Melvin Pinnick through Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung’s interpretation of the Supreme Court judgment has become a ritual every four years at the Nigeria Football Federation? Since the story hit the airwaves, some of the African journalists here in Russia for the World Cup have been asking Nigerian sportswriters what was going on in our country? Are we ashamed? Of course, we are not only ashamed of the developments back home but no longer know what to say each time we come in contact with these our colleagues. There is this particular Ghanaian reporter who came in from the USA for the Mundial but is equally feeling bad that Nigeria like her country, Ghana has become the butt of jokes amongst our colleagues from Europe who we all hang out in the same section of the Media Centre of the St Petersburg Stadium.

“Every four years since 2006, Nigeria is always in the news for the wrong reason. Each time your team returns from the World Cup, it is always, war, war, war. Are you people never tired of playing politics with your football?” queried the lady as none of us have any answer to her query. How do I begin to tell her that instead of genuine football administrators, what we have in Nigeria are men (and women) who think of their stomach alone?

Though she admitted that Ghana has problems with Kwesi Nyantakyi who has been forced to step down from the GFA job but quickly stressed that what made the CAF vice president to quit was no related to the kind of intrigues that have plaqued Nigerian football since 2005 when Ibrahim Galadima was forced out of the Glass House for dare telling stakeholders that Eagles qualification for the 2006 World Cup was not a birthright but through hard work. Ever since, Nigeria football has known no peace since then as new personnel are always (forced?) on the Glass House immediately Super Eagles return from a misadventure at the Mundial. It was like that in 2010, 2014 and now 2018. Instead of doing a post-mortem of why Eagles failed to achieve the dream of 180million Nigerians, a tiny fraction of the stakeholders who have access to the seat of power in Abuja, always seize the rein of office from incumbent NFF presidents through trumped up charges to force their exits. It was like that in the case of Galadima (Eagles never made it to Germany 2006, anyway), Sani Lulu Abdullahi (2010), Aminu Maigari (2014) and now Pinnick (2018).

To answer my Ghanaian colleague here in Russia on her inquiry on whether our stakeholders will never get tired of intrigues, I want to say here that so long as we have never fully abrogated the NFA Decree 101 that makes the federation an arm of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports and by extension, the sitting minister the ‘Oga in Charge’ there will never be peace. And also, so long as the government keeps appointing men who do not know how many players make up a basketball team as sports ministers, we will keep having the type of situations we now finds ourselves after Russia 2018.

It is no ordinary that the NFA bill has been ‘stuck’ in the National Assembly for decades. The will to take Nigerian football away from government interference is lacking in the country. Football is seen as the ‘king of sports’ and that the Ministry of Sports will become uninteresting for whosoever that is appointed to oversee the place without football. The money in football is too tempting for any minister not to get involve in the affairs of football.

Instead of seeing football as business and allow the Beautiful Game to flourish as it is happening in saner climes, only ‘politically corrected’ elements are fostered to govern it. For once, an individual like Pinnick who has brought some elements of business into the administration of the NFF by attracting multi-nationals and big corporate players to partner it, is been hounded out of the place through unnecessary litigations. I truly share the sentiments of those angry that Eagles failed to fly in Russia despite the quantum of support extended to the team.

I am also of the opinion that unless we allow the structures put in place now to take proper roots, Nigeria may never truly realize her potentials in global soccer. A change of guard now will not only take our football back by over a decade, we may just be on the edge of a lengthy sanction from the world governing body, FIFA. And the rest of the world will not wait for Nigeria to do the catch up. Who wanna take a bet that this situation will play out again (that is if Eagles qualify) when we return from Qatar 2022 World Cup?