Pinnick is Only Recognised NFF Chairman, Says FIFA

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•    Confirms Qatar 2022 World Cup host

By Duro Ikhazuagbe in Moscow

The controversy surrounding the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was put to rest on Friday afternoon in Moscow as FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, maintained that Amaju Melvin Pinnick, remained the elected President of the federation.

The world soccer body also confirmed Qatar as 2022 World Cup host which will take place between November 21st and December 18th.  Infantino, confirmed yesterday at the final Press Conference on the 2018 World Cup in Russia that football leagues around the world had been informed on time for them to adjust their calendars to suit the tournament.

Infantino’s position is a veiled warning that Nigeria may be banned from the football any moment following the decision of Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung to install Chris Giwa as NFF president following his interpretation of Supreme Court judgment delivered on April 27, 2018. That same ruling by the apex court was interpreted to have restored the Federal High Court judgment in Jos that set aside the September 30 election that elected Pinnick in Warri

Dalung’s Media Assistant, Nneka Ikem-Anibeze, had said in a statement a fortnight ago that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN) requested the Sports Ministry comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

In response to a question on the situation in Nigeria at the final Press Conference to cap Russia 2018 World Cup, Infantino insisted Pinnick was the elected President of the NFF.

“Nigerian Football Association has a President, his name is Pinnick. He has been elected; we have been very clear about that already, sometime ago. I have heard this issue came up again.

“The situation is very clear. We have statutes, we have regulations, there can be no interference in the running of the association, of course, and for this reason, Pinnick is working here in an official capacity. 

“He is the President, he is the President for FIFA, he is the President elected by the members of the Nigerian Football Association and that is the end of the story.

“And if any external body thinks that they can change the situation, then of course Nigeria would risk to be banned like it’s happening in other countries as well, because we have processes, democratic processes, and they just need to be respected and it is a very clear cut and simple  case, as far as we are concerned.

“And we have made this very clear and if it is necessary we will make it clearer, maybe you can help us by transmitting that message if it didn’t come across yet clear enough.”

Before yesterday’s pronouncement on the NFF crisis, THISDAY learnt here in Russia that FIFA had earlier written to federation requesting for detailed report on what was happening at the Glass House but Pinnick was reported to be delaying the letter.

“He (Pinnick) knows the implication of the response to FIFA letter. He did not want Nigeria banned and so was delaying for a possible intervention on the crisis by the Presidency in Abuja,” revealed the top Nigerian official here in Moscow.

With Infantino’s pronouncement on the situation at the NFF, it is now a matter of days for the FIFA hammer to descend on Nigeria.

The first casualty will be the Under-20 female team who are going to miss the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in France they have already qualified to attend. Also, Enyimba FC of Aba will be automatically knocked out of the CAF Confederation Cup amongst other.

Nigeria’s qualification for AFCON 2019 is also under threat as qualifiers are expected to resume in September

Though the World Cup has always been hosted from June till July, when all the European football league season have ended, but this time it’ll be in the run up to Christmas break.

“Leagues around the world have been informed already, and of course they will have to adapt,” Infantino said.

“The World Cup in 2022 will be played from November 21 to December 18: the idea is to involve 48 teams.”

“We have agreements and a contract with Qatar, but it’s still too early to know if there will be 32 teams or more.”

“For now, anything is possible. With 48 teams, many ‘regional’ tensions would be solved so I don’t want to close the door to this opportunity,” he said.

The implication of a winter World Cup would mean several European leagues will have to break for several weeks before the tournament to allow national teams to have time with their players in the build up to the tournament and for several weeks after in order to give them a break.