Some national football teams may be the first Nigerian sports to suffer the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic as they are likely to be dropped from international events in the coming year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted economic activities globally, leading to a frightening slump in the price of oil, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy.
THISDAY checks at the Sunday Dankaro House secretariat of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has revealed that paucity of funds may lead the federation into taking such a difficult decision of suspending these teams from international duties.
“As I speak with you now, we don’t know what is going to happen given the slump in oil price globally. Don’t forget our major sponsor is AITEO whose major product is oil and gas,” revealed the official who would not want to be quoted.
AITEO has a N2.5billion five-year ultimate partnership contract with NFF reached in April 2017. The value is N500million a year.
But fears in the secretariat now is that the slump in oil price (now about $12 from the $30 per barrel projection in the 2020 budget) could lead to a review of that deal.
For years, the embarrassment of owing national team coaches wages have hung like a millstone around the neck of the NFF chiefs.
Backing up all the way from Manfred Hoener, Clemens Westerhof in the late 1980s and 1990s, through Shaibu Amodu, Christian Chukwu, Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia, Stephen Keshi, Sunday Oliseh to Gernot Rohr, the story has remained the same until AITEO stepped in.
Even default in payment of players allowances and match bonuses were major headaches. It was the reason Nigeria was in the news for the wrong reasons at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 when Super Eagles boycotted training session ahead of a crucial second round clash with France.
“We know Nigerians are very passionate about their national teams and nobody would want any of the teams prevented from participation in a competition they have qualified for. But the reality of the moment means we have to sow our dress to the size of the clothe available not to our size,” the official further stressed.
Presently, Nigeria has 11 national football teams for both the male and female teams. From the Under-15 and Under-17 to the senior Super Eagles and Super Falcons, Nigerian teams are regular features in global football competitions. Only the Sand Eagles were placed on suspension from the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup following their dismal display at the last edition in Paraguay.
It is against this backdrop that the board meeting of the NFF holding today in Abuja will be crucial to the continuous well being of football in the country.
Sentiments will need to be put aside in deciding far reaching decisions on how to survive in these challenging period of the world.
Already, feelers from the secretariat are pointing in the direction of consolidating on the gains made by the senior male and female teams by giving them priority in the new order.
“Both the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons will get priority treatment in whatever decisions to be reached at Friday meeting in Abuja. The Amaju Pinnick led board can not afford not to give preference to Eagles and Falcons because the two teams are the major brand attracting sponsorship to the federation,” concludes the inform football official during the week.